Savour the flavours of Summerland
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ZenSeekers is teaming up with partners across B.C.’s central region, the Okanagan. Our correspondents will bring you exceptional video, photos and stories to inspire you to # ExploreBC and have your very own #OkanaganExploring adventures.
Rebecca Bollwitt (Aka Miss604)
True Grain Bread
The morning coffee crowd was descending upon True Grain Bread when I arrived to start my day in Summerland. The giant ovens were chirping out a pleasant tune to let the bakers know that the first batches of multigrain were ready to go. True Grain is a gathering place for families, retirees, and young professionals who all want to start their day with a great cup of coffee and a wholesome, fresh-baked treat.
It’s also a shopping destination - whether you’re picking up fresh-baked goods that are sweet (like the fresh ginger red fife cookies) or savoury (like a pretzel or cheese twist), loaves of bread, pancake mix or True Grain’s milled flour.
True Grain bakes exclusively with certified organic B.C. grown grain, they use organic butter, organic chocolate chips, sugar cane, raisins, you name it! Their specialty is freshly stone-milled ancient and heritage grains that haven’t been hybridized over time (einkorn, emmer, spelt, Khorasan, rye, and red fife). Their pastas are a new offering, and they’re quickly becoming a best seller.
Todd Laidlaw, owner of True Grain Breads.
Owner Todd Laidlaw says that when opening their three locations, Cowichan, Courtenay, and Summerland, they were looking for lifestyle communities in B.C. exclusively. We chatted about their organic B.C. flour until the oven timers chimed and we watched the unloading of more fresh loaves.
Maple sampling time at Maple Roch.
What do you get when you have a socially responsible business that supports highly talented niche farmers in New Brunswick and creative entrepreneurs in Summerland? Maple Roch Pure Canadian Maple Syrup! After retiring from the RCMP and settling in Summerland with his family Roch Fortin created a market for some maple craftsman back east that he came to respect and admire during his time posted there. With the expert artisan talent of these farmers, and the market Roch could supply them in Summerland, Maple Roch was born.
Now the Summerland community has decided to mashup and mix up Maple Roch’s superb Canadian syrups and sweets into tasty treats, using Summerland staples. When I stopped by for a maple sampling at the tasting room on Victoria Road, I got much more than organic syrup on my spoon.
I tried sea salt caramel maple, maple syrup water (a by-product of the process), a maple lip balm, a maple hand scrub, organic local granola, and candied walnuts made with Maple Roch that have been picked, packaged, and produced by two local high schoolers. Everyone has ideas for Maple Roch, and Roch is open to hearing them all, collaborating, and creating products that showcase and support Summerland.
Gift baskets galore at Summerland Sweets.
If you want a great history lesson about the orchards and fruit-growing legacy in the Okanagan, one of the best places to go is Summerland Sweets. Today their shop and tasting room offers jams, syrups, wine, and candies, but they started modestly with soft fruit jelly candies 1960s.
Summerland Sweets uses only tree-ripened fruit, and they produce 23 varieties of syrup - which, if you live in B.C., you’ve most likely seen on grocery store shelves. The blueberry is a staple in our house. They also produce 26 varieties of jam, known for their high fruit content. Their fruit leather is 100% fruit, and they add no colours, flavours, or preservatives.
They have such a great setup, that Roch Fortin from Maple Roch comes by to produce some of his syrup products too. It’s great example of the collaborative nature of businesses in Summerland.
Now run by founder Ted Atkinson’s grand-daughter Janet Braid and her brother in law Len, the family business continues to boom, and be a beacon of Summerland’s past, present, and future.
Summerland Sweets grows its own cherries, apricots, peaches, and other soft fruits are sourced in the Okanagan, like apples, pears. Berries come from the Fraser Valley, like blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries. They only have to bring in a few items from outside of B.C. like boysenberries and Saskatoon berries.
In 1992, they made a shift from simply manufacturing to add an agritourism component. You can visit their rows of cherry trees and spend time in the impressive gift shop that carries products and artwork from all over Summerland. Sample their jams, syrups and Sleeping Giant wines, or grab a scoop of ice cream (or two) and enjoy the orchard scenery outside.
Just down the road, you’ll come to the Trout Creek Bridge, part of the Kettle Valley Railway. Walking out on the trestle, you’ll see blossoming orchards below until you get midspan where you can follow the creek all the way out to Lake Okanagan.
Hike Giant’s Head
Get a broader lay of the land, and perhaps work up your appetite once more, by hiking Giant’s Head Mountain, which rises 500 metres up above the valley to provide panoramic views of Summerland. Lake Okanagan, and over to Penticton to the south.
From the parking lot at the top of the driveway, there are two trails that take 10 minutes to reach the summit. However, quite a few locals I ran into were starting their trek from the trailhead on Milne Road, hiking up the driveway to complete full a 350-metre elevation gain and 1.6-km ascension. The views are worth it, and you can take a load off under the Canadian flag where a centennial time capsule has been buried - to be opened in 2067.
When I got to the top I started craving pancakes. Then I realized that it was the maple sugar scrub on my hands that was still emanating a sweet aroma. This delicious scent is now something I associate with being on this precipice, overlooking this orchard-covered corner of the Okanagan. With swallows zipping by overhead, I was able to grab some photos of my vantage point.
Whether you start or end your day at Giant’s Head, you’ll get to know Summerland a little better - and not just from the views. This lakeside town is active, social, and full of locals who love to work together to savour the very best the region has to offer.
If You Go
Check out the Summerland's website to start exploring the area.
Uncover more about the Okanagan’s offers for adventure. Check out ZenSeekers #OkanaganExploring Expedition page to see how you can have an adventure like this.
Rebecca Bollwitt is a Seekers' correspondent and award-winning blogger based in Vancouver. Follow her travels on Instagram and Twitter @Miss604.