Growing up on the shores of Lake Superior, Jane Reid didn't come across much farm-fresh produce as a kid.
"There was no farmland anywhere nearby," she recalled. "I'm old enough that the food-transportation system wasn't the well-oiled machine that it is today."
It wasn't until Reid moved to B.C. as a young adult that she discovered the abundance of fresh, flavourful produce available, sparking a lifelong passion that she chronicles in a new book.
"It's called Freshly Picked: A Locavore's Love Affair with B.C.'s Bounty, and it really is a love affair for me," said Reid, who has called Whistler home for the past 25 years. "I lived in wild and remote places in the rest of Canada, so when I moved to B.C., I discovered freshly grown B.C. fruits and vegetables, and I really had no idea they could taste like that."
While some get into the so-called locavore lifestyle for ethical or dietary reasons, it was the vibrant flavour of B.C.'s fruits and vegetables that was Reid's entry point—years before the term became ubiquitous in the culinary world.
"The flavour was amazing; it was a revelation. Something like corn or peaches, I just had no idea and I fell in love with them, one at a time. I've enjoyed them very much ever since," said Reid. "Ever since then, I've really tried to buy locally grown foods, and there are all kinds of reasons to eat locally grown foods, but certainly taste was what set me on that road."
Reid has been a staple of local writing groups for years, and has penned several articles on eating local for Edible Vancouver & Wine Country magazine. With that experience under her belt, she felt a book expanding on her ideas was the natural next step.
"I'd written about different subjects, and when I decided to first write about my encounters with fruits and vegetables, my personal relationship with them, I found I was home. It was easy to write about them," she said. "I enjoyed researching about them, because when I started writing about them, not only did I write about my personal stories, I also found fascinating facts about the vegetables."
Case in point: The fascinating sex life of corn, which botanists have called "a hopeless monster" for its inability to reproduce on its own. "There's no other plant like that. I mean, it's pretty strange, right?" Reid said. "The only reason we have corn is because man plants it. It does not reproduce itself, it does not seed itself. Man and corn have had this relationship for 6,000 years."
Freshly Picked includes a litany of personal anecdotes that gives it an approachable charm that can be lacking from your typical cookbook. Reid has arranged the book by season, with featured produce for each time of year. She's also included a handful of simple recipes meant to bring out the flavour of each fruit or vegetable she's writing about that uses ingredients easily found in any kitchen. Reid is hopeful to reintroduce readers to the seasonality of eating local in an era when consumers rely on imported food to satiate their cravings year-round.
"I talk about when and where (produce is) grown, because when a produce section looks the same 12 months a year, it's really easy to lose track of when things are grown, how they're grown and what they look like," she explained. "In the old days, they knew that stuff, and now we're losing that connection to the land and the farmers."
Reid hosted her book launch this week at the Whistler Public Library.
Freshly Picked is available for purchase at Armchair Books and wherever books are sold.