May 15, 2014
Vegetable gardening is a growing trend across Ontario. Gardeners of all ages inspired by the local food movement and a desire for healthy eating are using whatever space in their backyards, patios or balconies to create edible gardens.

As Ontario and the GTA become more ethnically diverse, new Canadians have brought tastes for world crops from Asia, Africa and Latin America. Instead of tomatoes, think tomatillos; instead of green beans, think yard long beans.

Combining these two trends at Canada Blooms this year was the popular Edible Gardens Go Global booth, by Toronto Botanical Garden and the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation.

Thousands of visitors filled the TBG booth over the 10-day show to get ideas for growing their own world crops this summer. Volunteers gave out 4,000 free packets of okra seeds to interested gardeners.

Among the locally-grown vegetables on display were okra from West Africa, hot peppers from China and Thailand, South Asian yard long beans, and varieties of eggplant from China and India. A repeated question from visitors was, “Where can I pick up seeds to grow these myself?”

Garden centres throughout the region can now expand offerings to include world seeds and seedlings to meet the diverse needs of their consumers.

Some suppliers already stock world crop seeds. These include William Dam Seed, Ontario Seed and McKenzie Seed Company.

Vineland Research and Innovation Centre is working to commercialize production of some world crops with local farmers. They hope to tap into the estimated $730 million market in the GTA alone — a figure that will increase as more immigrants make the region their home.

This movement to grow local, eat global started in the greenhouses of research centres and with organizations like TBG, and is now taking off among the general public, many of whom want to grow world crops themselves.

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