Healthy Living in the North

Foodie Friday: Grow your own

Rebecca's daughter waters the garden at their home.

Rebecca’s daughter waters the garden at their home.

As the days continue to get warmer and we spend more time outside, my thoughts always turn to gardening. I love watching the tiny seeds I plant turn into something green and then, with luck, something edible. After a crazy day of work, I find gardening to be a huge de-stresser – whether I’m pulling weeds or just sticking my fingers in the dirt, my stresses melt away. Gardening has some great health benefits and is a fun activity to do as a family as well. My daughter’s favorite activity is watering!

Gardening has the following great benefits:

  • The food is local and you know exactly how fresh it is.
  • It tastes great.
  • It can be cheaper.
  • It is a source of physical activity.
  • It teaches your children where food comes from.

Some vegetables that grow well in our climate without a greenhouse include: potatoes, Swiss chard, spinach, lettuce, carrots, peas, beans, beets, radishes, zucchini, cucumber, turnips, and parsnips.

If you have leftover zucchini, here are some ways to use it up:

BBQ:

Turn your BBQ on to medium heat. Take a small zucchini and cut it in half lengthwise. Brush olive oil on the zucchini and then sprinkle with herbs such as oregano, rosemary, salt, pepper, etc. Grill the zucchini for four minutes on each side or until a fork goes in easily.

Stir fry:

Because zucchini cooks quickly, it can be cut into small pieces or rounds and added to a stir fry.

Make relish:

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • ½ tsp mustard seed
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 2 zucchini (~12 oz), finely diced
  • ½ red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp vinegar
  • 2 tsp cornstarch

Instructions:

  1. In a saucepan combine the oil, onion, mustard seed, turmeric, salt pepper, and red pepper flakes (if using) over medium heat, stirring often until the onion softens (about 6 minutes).
  2. Stir in zucchini, red bell pepper, brown sugar, and vinegar and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
  3. Stir in ½ cup of water and bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes until the zucchini is tender.
  5. Whisk cornstarch with 1tbsp of water and add to the mixture.
  6. Cook, stirring until the mixture thickens.
  7. Pour into an airtight container and let cool.
  8. Store in the fridge up to 2 weeks.

What are some of your favourite things to grow in your garden and how do you like to serve them?

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Seedy Saturday in Prince George

Seedy Saturday in Prince GeorgeA star is born and we named it kale. It’s funny how food trends come and go, then cycle back around in a different disguise. We must recognize that the media plays a big role in how we live and what we eat. Journal articles, newspapers and T.V. stations pooled together to target kale as their latest victim. The media has cloaked this green leaf veggie in a sequined shawl and thrown it on the run way for the world to see in a new light. But how “new” is it?

Kale has been grown and eaten around the world since 2000 B.C.  It likes to bath in bright sunlight and grows best in moist soils. It flourishes in colder climates and can withstand light frost. When grown in northern BC, it can be harvested from August into November – depending on when the snow sticks. For these reasons, it’s easy to understand why so many northerners grow and enjoy eating this hardy vegetable.

What makes it good for me?
Kale is a ‘dark green’ leafy vegetable high in vitamins, minerals. Vegetables are highly promoted in Canada’s Food Guide and bring bright color and delicious tastes to our plates. Kale can taste bitter to some people so zest it up by stir-frying it with garlic, lemon juice and pepper or add it to your winter soups! Explore the internet to find recipes that tempt your taste buds!

Now that you know what all the fuss is about, what’s the next step?
Seedy Saturdays of course! If you haven’t heard about these community events before, let me bring you up to speed. Seedy Saturday in Prince George (other communities across BC also have them in the winter) provides you with lots of great information you need to get growing a healthy garden. This is a great opportunity to possibly pick up some kale (and other) seeds and plant them for the summer. You can bring a friend along to listen to enthusiastic workshops outlining effective ways to grow your own food. By attending this event you are supporting local farmers and contributing to the local eating initiatives in BC. If you are living in an apartment and don’t have access to a garden … don’t sweat! There are often options available to rent out garden spaces. Connect with your local community gardens networks.

Seedy Saturday is organized by Community Gardens Prince George and supported by the Exploration Place as a Heritage Week event: Saturday February 22, 2014 from 10:00 am – 3:00 pm at Exploration Place, Prince George.

Celebrate local food, build community, learn new skills, and taste the difference!

Laura Ledas

About Laura Ledas

Laura is UBC Dietetic Intern completing her 10 month internship with Northern Health. Even during the Prince George winter, Laura dreams about her summer garden. She loves spending time being active outdoors and is looking forward to enjoying more seasonal vegetables as the weather begins to warm!

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The return on investment of green thumb training

Gardening

What’s your return on investment of gardening?

I grew up in a house of green thumbs so as a young person, I never had to take on any “green” chores – everyone else loved doing it, which meant I was excused by association. My husband and I inherited a yard and a greenhouse when we bought our first house seven years ago, so now I have a yard of my own to maintain (at a minimum) and very few skills to support that task. As such, the learning begins.

My yard has a couple of different gardens, some for flowers and some for vegetables. Mostly, I think of it as chores that the summer brings. However, I am inspired to garden because people tell me it is good for me… and others seem to enjoy it?

On an intellectual level, I understand that if I grow my own food, then I am more connected to the food and have more respect for the food and the environment. People also tell me that being out in nature is a healthy thing to do. I get that, but I question the return on investment of my timed… after all, it just seems like a dirty chore. That being said, I am giving it the old college try.

As I dig in the dirt some nights after work, I think about what I am doing. I am digging in the earth and I couldn’t grow healthy plants if the dirt isn’t healthy. The plants won’t be healthy if the air isn’t healthy and it isn’t given enough water. Then, I get to thinking about the meaning in that. If we are what we eat, I want to be healthy and grown in an environment that supports health. I think I am starting to see the connection and the return on investment doesn’t seem that bad. And, it turns out, getting dirty is kind of fun!

What’s your return on investment of gardening?

Chelan Zirul

About Chelan Zirul

Chelan Zirul is the Health Promotions and Communications officer for Northern Health. As a graduate from UNBC, she did her Master's of Arts in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies. She explored regional development decision-making and is an advocate for policy that is appropriate for the needs of northerners. This, combined with her personal interest in health and wellness, drew her to work in health communications. Born in northern B.C., she is learning to take advantage of the access to outdoor living. She enjoys hunting and exploring the backcountry with her husband. She stays active with CrossFit and enjoys finding ways to use local foods.

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A true community garden

Frequent visitors to the garden.

Locals from the neighbourhood, pictured right after they planted the plum tree. L-R: Wayne, James, Laura, Ginny, and Max the dog in front.

Several years ago, Laura Sandberg, an active senior citizen in Prince George, decided that she wanted to beautify the neighborhood. With donations from community businesses, youth groups and others, Laura transformed the vacant lot located at the corner of 10th avenue and Vancouver Street into an inspiring little garden.

As time goes by gardens can get to be a lot of work. I was admiring the lilacs last June when I met Laura. She told me the garden had become an overgrown jungle.

I offered to come and weed the garden and, as the story goes…one thing led to another. We ran a garden hose from the neighbor’s house. Soon we were watering and weeding on a regular basis and we trimmed the low hanging branches from the trees. The neighbors started to notice and two young guys came by in a pickup truck and hauled away the debris. Someone else came by with a weed eater. Plants started to magically appear. It seemed everyone liked the idea of reclaiming that little garden on the corner.

Irene and grandchildren watering flowers.

Irene with grandchildren Dredon and Jordin, watering the flowers.

This year, thanks to generous donations of lumber from Maple Reinders, a contractor working on the new RCMP building on Victoria Street, steer manure from Bryant Electric, and plants from neighbors and local contractors, we built raised beds for the vegetable garden. We also received a very much appreciated community enhancement grant from the City of Prince George.

Laura, the master gardener, works in the garden every day and she always has cakes and cookies to share with me while we wait for the vegetables to grow. We had our first taste of the radishes last weekend. The peas and beets are another month away.

The number of people who come by is quite phenomenal. The garden has an open space feel so it’s no surprise that neighbours come by to visit as often as they do.

Come by and say hello if you’re nearby, and don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty!

Building the garden beds

Laura (back left) with neighbours Shelly and Bill, building the garden beds.

Planting geraniums

Laura and local resident Christina planting geraniums.

Planting zucchinis.

Local resident Nelson planting zucchinis in the garden.

James Haggerstone

About James Haggerstone

James is proud to call northern B.C. home. He is currently the regional manager of health information analysis at Northern Health. His passion is to make health information more accessible to northerners through our Community Health Information Portal. When not at work, James can be found digging in community gardens or working on his MBA through the UNBC school of business.

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