Crops & Plants

Heirloom varieties and heritage breeds

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Some Canadian farmers are looking to the past to find new niche products, growing vegetable and fruit varieties and raising livestock breeds that were more common 50 or 100 years ago. These are called “heritage breeds” or “heirloom varieties”. They often have unique flavours, making them popular with chefs and food lovers, and other traits, like disease resistance or drought-tolerance, that make them of interest to plant and animal breeders who are looking for ways to make improvements to more modern and productive varieties. However, heirloom plants and heritage breed animals can also be slower or more challenging to produce in other ways. This obstacle can make them more expensive.

Quick fact:

Cider was the first alcoholic beverage produced and consumed in North America, arriving with the first European settlers in the 1600s.

Wines, beers, and craft beverages

Some crops aren’t just consumed as food — they make excellent drinks too! Canada’s main wine producing regions are in Ontario, British Columbia, Québec, and Nova Scotia, with over 600 wineries, and more added every year. Cider, a fermented beverage made from apple or pear juice, has been consumed in North America for centuries. In recent years it has again become quite popular in Canada. Many of Canada’s new craft cideries use North American apple varieties like McIntosh, Ida Red, Northern Spy, Gala, and Russet in their products. Craft beer is also very popular. There are farmers who grow specialty grain and hop varieties to help craft brewers to create unique types of local beer. In 2019, there were more breweries in Canada than ever before — and most are small, local businesses. A growing number of Canadian distilleries are now making specialty spirits, and even using milk to make vodka! Non-alcoholic craft beverages are emerging too. This range includes kombucha — an antioxidant, probiotic-rich fizzy drink made by fermenting sweetened tea.

Did you know...

Ice wine is a dessert wine made from grapes that have naturally frozen on the vine before being harvested. Canada is known around the world for having very high-quality ice wine, as well as being the largest producer of the sweet drink. To make ice wine, grapes must be naturally frozen on the vine, harvested, and processed while the air temperature remains at or below -8 degrees Celsius.