Alongside the strawberries, rhubarb, asparagus and other fresh produce spread out on the tables of the Old Saint-Lambert Farmer’s Market, the fruits that Paula Andrea Angarita is selling on this Thursday afternoon are out of place. Although their color is vibrant, raspberries, blackberries and kiwis have a certain je-ne-sais-quoi.
“Are you familiar with freeze-drying?” asks the owner of Lyoterra to the curious crowd in front of her booth.
If its fruits have such a particular appearance, it is because they have undergone this preservation method which consists, roughly speaking, of dehydrating the food after freezing it. Unlike the process used to produce the dried fruits that we are used to consuming, freeze-drying uses cold rather than heat to remove water from food.
“The fruit keeps all its characteristics like color, taste, size, smell… In the process, there is nothing added. No sugar, no preservative, no coloring. They are just fruit. If the product was sour, sweet or sour, it will stay that way,” says Paula Andrea Angarita.
Intrigued by this description, parents, children and La Presse journalist happily agree to taste some fruit.
Whether it’s a raspberry, strawberry, blackberry, blueberry or a piece of banana, the taste is surprisingly very similar to fresh food. We also have a huge crush on the very sweet pineapple slices.
The texture, however, is more reminiscent of rice cakes or baby biscuits, as the fruit crunches under your teeth before melting in your mouth.
“It almost gives the feeling that you are eating chips,” notes the Saint-Hyacinthe-based entrepreneur. “Healthy potato chips,” she points out with a smile.
Long presented as the food of astronauts or that of lovers of forest excursions, freeze-dried foods are slowly beginning to reach a wider audience. Marketed under the name “Lyobites”, the various fruits of Lyoterra are a light snack to carry to school or the office, argues the one who runs the company alone.
Paula Andrea Angarita nevertheless observes that freeze-drying remains an unknown method of preservation. “That’s why I shop. […] To be close to people, to show them the process and to let them taste the products, ”explains the one who will visit different cities, including Montreal and Chambly, during the summer.
She herself did not know about freeze-drying a few years ago. It was a bit of chance (or fate) that led her down this path.
When she immigrated to Quebec five years ago, this industrial engineer from Colombia wanted to start a business importing fruits and vegetables, since she had already worked in this field.
However, his volunteer involvement in a food bank in Saint-Hyacinthe made him aware of the extent of food waste.
While visiting an international fruit trade fair in Germany, she discovered this preservation method.
In his eyes, it was the perfect way to help save food.
“We take fruit that is at risk of being wasted because of its ripeness,” says Paula Andrea Angarita, noting that she sources her supplies from Montreal distributors. Depending on the season and arrivals, some fruits come from Quebec, but not all.
“The circular economy is the most important thing for me,” she continues.
It also develops other products, including fruit powders that can be used in baking, and is also working on a range of vegetables.
And for those with a sweet tooth, you can also find among Lyoterra’s offer… ice cream sandwiches!
The atmosphere was festive at the Farmer’s Market in Old Saint-Lambert during La Presse, at the beginning of June. It celebrated the fifth anniversary of this meeting, which is held every Thursday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., from May to October, in front of the multifunctional center. However, without the will of citizens, the market would most likely have disappeared a few years ago. In 2018, when the old public market was about to close, volunteers came together to breathe new life into it. The team is still in place and firmly believes in its mission to bring producers and citizens closer together. “People have really embraced us,” said Natalie Lemieux, president of Pot Luck, the nonprofit behind the creation and management of the market. Compared to “the steps of the church” by some, the Old Saint-Lambert Farmer’s Market “brings collective wealth”, according to Natalie Lemieux.