Being an ethical omnivore is how I simplify food and cooking. We can’t know everything about everything, but a few helpful tips and facts help propel us in an ethical direction so we can feel good about what we eat and what we feed our friends and families.
A few weeks back, I went on a really interesting farm tour with Mushrooms Canada #Sponsored and Ontario Beef. The goal for this tour was to teach us about sustainable farming and the blend and extend concept–Blending nutrient-rich Mushrooms into everyday dishes, like salads or hamburgers, allows you to extend the nutritional value of your go-to dishes while adding great flavour!
Our first taste of the blend and extend concept came to us at lunch, courtesy of Borealis Grill & Bar. They served up their boxed lunch wild rice salad topped with a beef and mushroom terrine and pickled onions. This delicious salad gave new life to the term “boxed-lunch”, it tasted delicious and it fueled us for the rest of our tour.
The first stop was at YU Ranch where Farmer Bryan Gilvesy (a proud ALUS-Alternative Land Use member) explained how he does sustainable farming. He raises his grass-fed beef cattle on a large ranch where the cattle roam free and are grass fed. He was named as International Farmer Hero for Sustainability in 2016. He is also an industry leader in sustainable agriculture and I was humbled that he took the morning to give us a tour of his beautiful ranch and tell us all about how he plays his part in off-setting the environmental impact of raising beef cattle. He has owned this ranch for 35 years and loves his work.
His pride and passion was palpable throughout the tour. It was fun to ride in the back of his pickup, right into the field with the Texas Long-horn cattle roamed. They were beautiful and really friendly. He even smoked us some of his incredible beef to enjoy for our lunch!
Our next stop was Whitecrest Mushroom Farm. Besides wild mushrooms that I’ve seen grow in caves and forests, I had no idea how mushrooms are commercially farmed before this tour. It was really interesting to see the rows and rows of prepared soil that provide perfect conditions for these mushrooms to grow. Their mission at Whitecrest is conducting all growing and manufacturing operations in an environmentally-friendly manner. This farm in particular grows Crimini, portabellini and Portobello which are all essentially the same breed of mushroom, just different sizes (the Portobello being the largest). All Canadian mushrooms are picked by hand – and apparently it’s really hard to keep pickers (a tough job, no doubt!)
Unlike most vegetables in the produce section, mushrooms come from Canadian farms every day of the year, even during the winter months. Fresh mushrooms are harvested and delivered fresh to local stores every day. At Whitecrest Mushroom Farm, their mushrooms make it to grocery store shelves no later than 48 hours after they are picked.
Here are some fun facts about why mushrooms are pretty darn incredible:
-One portabella mushroom has the same amount of potassium as a small banana.
-Mushrooms are the only item in your produce department with natural Vitamin D (if you put the mushrooms in the sun before you cook them up, they’re Vitamin D content increases substantially!
I took the Blenditarian Pledge because this Blend & Extend concept is seriously legit! I love mushrooms already, but I had no idea how packed with nutrients they are. There are so many ways you can incorporate them into meals you already make, like tacos! I made these Beef & Portobello Tacos with Cotija Crema for my first go at the #blendandextend concept.
If you combine mushrooms and beef in recipes, you bring another serving of vegetables to the plate, add volume to the meal and extend portions. You can lighten up burgers, spaghetti sauce, pizza and tacos by substituting a portion of the ground beef with mushrooms. If you try it you will see that finely chopped mushrooms look similar and blend seamlessly with ground beef, so classics can be satisfying without losing taste or sacrificing texture.
We ended the tour with a delicious dinner at Borealis Grill & Bar in Kitchener. Their Blend & Extend menu launched on June 12th at both Borealis locations (Kitchener and Guelph) and is running through until July 15th. If you’re in the area, definitely try it out! My favourite was the blend burger project made with beef from YU Ranch!
Thank you to Mushrooms Canada for inviting me to attend this fun farm tour! I will never look at a mushroom the same way again! I love them even MORE now!
Disclaimer: This recipe was sponsored by Mushrooms Canada, however, as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I have always been a huge fan of mushrooms. As always, all opinions are my own.