One of lesser known gems of Vancouver’s excellent culinary scene is the availability of fresh local Asian vegetables. We are one of the only cities in North America where a wide diversity of crops from East Asia are grown, creating a source of delicate greens to enjoy. Sadly many of these wonderful vegetables don’t make it to our local farmers’ markets yet, and are only sometimes available in the grocery stores, but smaller green grocers often carry some wonderful products. I was exploring Fraser street and found the display below at the Happy Farm Market. I picked up a bag of fresh local Yu Choy and fried it up with some garlic and oil for a wonderful plate of summer greens. What I liked about Happy Farm Market is that they have made a point of identifying their local produce. This is something that more restaurants and green grocers should be doing.
Why does Vancouver have such a diverse selection of local produce? In part we can thank the Agricultural Land Reserve and the small farms that it protects from development. Chinese-Canadian farmers have long been a part of the farm communities on the urban fringe; about 40% of farmers near Vancouver come from non-European ethnic groups, which is a rate three times higher than in BC and nearly 20 times higher than in Canada as a whole. These small farms began producing Asian vegetables in the 1970s, and have been quietly providing them to local restaurants and green grocers ever since. With an increase in labeling, they will tempt any locavore who is growing bored of kale. Most of the Asian vegetables available in Vancouver respond well to a light frying or steaming, and make an excellent addition to summer’s bounty.