The South Okanagan is a true summer sanctuary, world renowned and matchless in its unfeigned diversities, its expanding panorama, natural resources and organic produce. It is a place of refuge for those seeking glory in sunshine, courage in untapped beauty, lightness of heart in the buoyancy of our fresh waters, and hearty satisfaction spirited by an ingenuous way of life. The roads leading to and from this oasis are speckled with an array of homespun family markets, where fresh fruits and legumes, direct from the field to your hands, are a triumph of everything wholesome. Like a glass of carefully cultivated wine that compels the harmonious blend of science and art, each bite transcends, as if one can close one’s eyes to imagine the fields where the fruits and vegetables grew; feel the integrity and graciousness of sun and rain upon one’s face and taste, in the fullness of flavour, the richness of the earth out of which they grew. The South Okanagan is mother to many such organic produce, with an ideal balance of seasonal climate and geography, it produces a variety of cherries, (the first fruit in season), followed soon after by peaches and apricots, and then apples, pears, and plums, harvested nearer to the end of August and through September. From the dark bold crimson stain upon our lips, to the sweet sticky nectar on our hands and faces, the almond shaped pits of the stone fruits of the South Okanagan litter the ground in a festive array of summer decadence – reminding us of perfection in simplicity and the appetite of our souls. These yielding fruits make for a plethora of scrumptious summer recipes, from delicious desserts, jams, jellies, preserves, canned peaches, pears, cherries and apricots and fresh fruit salads, (to simply name a few).
Among the extending orchards and vineyards, which seem to ebb and flow along the uneven crown of clay bluffs like the ocean tide, there is a summer retreat one must visit while in the South Okanagan. Summerland’s historic Ornamental Gardens, across from Sun-Oka Beach, off Highway 97, is open daily to the public, and is the perfect outing for a picnic, a shady stroll through parklands, or a stimulating jaunt along the many nature trails. The space commands such scenic splendor, filled with floral mosaics, decorative gardens, grassy knolls, and stunning views of Lake Okanagan. The many trails circumvent the extensive property and lead to the historic Summerland trestle, (across from which is the famed “Summerland Sweets”). Situated adjacent to the Pacific Agri-food Research Centre, and owned and operated by Agriculture Canada, the 320 hectare site was established in 1914 and is celebrated for its research programs designed to serve the tree fruit, grape and the local and national food processing industries. The three principal areas of expertise at the Centre are Food Science, Horticulture and Environment, and Biotechnology. While the Pacific Agri-food Research Centre is a world leader in food processing technology and tree fruit research and development, it continues to supply a wealth of knowledge, skill and technology to the Okanagan’s organic food industry. Of the many different plant and flower species you will see in bloom, there are several varieties of the Prickly Pear, the Blue Hill Flowering Sage, Green Lavender Cotton, Wormwood, Bluebells, Shasta Daisies, Sunflowers, Hydrangeas, Lilies, and Roses, to name but a few. The gardens are open to visitors from 8 am to 8pm, and admission is free. You can visit their website for more information on tours and bookings at: http://www.summerlandornamentalgardens.org/
The South Okanagan is a legendary landscape full of wonder, obscurity, majestic splendour and an enduring spirit that echoes its ancient histories and epochs. Standing amidst the orchards and vineyards, to look upon the sparkling waters below that seem to glide along the valley floor, it’s easy to envision eternity – for such beauty has no beginning nor end – it is continuous and everlasting.