Tender fruits roll out across Canada



Starting Sunday, Ontario tender fruits will be delivered across the country.


Rising from the bedrock of the Great Lakes is the Niagara Escarpment, a ribbon of ridges and forest that slices through the Niagara Peninsula. With its high cliffs and a Great Lake on either side, the peninsula is naturally insulated from icy winds; this also gives it the perfect growing conditions for tender fruits.


More than 12,500 acres of Ontario land is covered with orchards. Every year this time, their branches and vines grow heavy with peaches, plums, pears and grapes, all poised for delivery to fruit lovers across Canada.

For nutritionist, author and television host Hélène Laurendeau, the tender fruits of Ontario are a source of sweet nostalgia. “When I was young, I remember my mother and grandmother buying those baskets,” the Quebec native recalls. “Those peaches would arrive and they were so ripe and so perfect and so juicy.”

Ontario fruits are great eaten from the hand but they can also bring a dimension of flavour to a savoury dish. “When you use peaches or pears or plums, they bring this wonderful aroma that mixes well with pork or veal,” says Laurendeau.

Each region of Canada has a culinary darling to call its own and Laurendeau has some ideas for incorporating them with Ontario’s fruits. For those of us in cattle country, Laurendeau has revamped the classic roast beef sandwich by adding blue cheese and Ontario Coronation grape jam. “I love blue cheese and roast beef and I usually serve it with caramelized onion jam. So I thought, ‘Well, since onion jam is sweet, why not replace it with a grape?’” she explains. “It’s not too sweet and it also has some personality.”

A duck confit concoction is perfect for Quebeckers feeling lethargic from the summer heat. “Sometimes in the summer you don’t feel like cooking a lot but in Quebec, the duck confit can be ready to buy,” she explains. By adding maple syrup and some reduced balsamic vinegar, Laurendeau finds the dish is nicely accented with caramelized Ontario freestone peaches.

The trick when infusing your own recipes with Ontario tender fruits, says Laurendeau, is to substitute similar aromas, colours and textures; often, recipes calling for cantaloupe or mangoes can be substituted with peaches and ones asking for blueberries can be replaced with plums or grapes. Apples and pears are also interchangeable.

“You have all these possibilities,” says Laurendeau. “You can really use your imagination!”

Duck Confit with Caramelized Ontario Peach (Serves 4)

ONtario tender food producers photos


  • 2 tbsp olive oil (30 mL)

  • 2 endives, halved lengthwise

  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • 4 Ontario peaches, pitted and quartered

  • 2 tbsp maple syrup (30 mL)

  • 6 tbsp balsamic vinegar (90 mL)

  • 4 duck confit legs

  • 2 cups watercress (500 mL)

  • 12 cooked asparagus spears


In a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat, heat oil. Lay endives flat side down in skillet and season with salt and pepper. Cook until golden and crisp around the edges; turn and sauté other side until tender. Add peaches, and cook until slightly golden brown. Add maple syrup and vinegar, cook, stirring, until slightly reduced, approximately, one minute. Set aside.

In a large skillet, over medium heat, add duck legs skin side down and warm through for 7 to 10 minutes. Turn and continue to warm for another 8 to 10 minutes. To serve, arrange watercress on platter and top with warm duck. Add the asparagus, endive and peaches. Spoon remaining sauce from pan over the duck and serve immediately.