Healthy Living in the North

What have I learned in the garden? 10 tips from an amateur northern gardener

Garden with a rainbow in the background.

Before any seedlings emerged, a rainbow (with hints of a double rainbow) touched down in the garden! It’s going to be a good year!

Since moving to northern B.C. from the Lower Mainland, a hobby of mine that has ramped up considerably is gardening.

What used to be one tomato plant and a few pots of herbs on a small apartment patio has grown into a full patch of dirt about the size of that same Vancouver apartment! My crop has expanded from tomatoes and herbs to zucchini, peppers, kale, potatoes, spinach, green onion, lettuce, carrots, beets, peas, beans, corn, pumpkins, cucumber, six different herbs, raspberries, and some flowers thrown in for good measure.

For me, gardening is a great way to stay active, get outside, enjoy the sun, and eat healthy, super local food!

I am most definitely an amateur in the garden, but figure there are more than a few folks like me out there, so I thought I’d share my own top ten list of things I’ve learned over the last two years of gardening. I’m not talking pro tips – chat to an experienced local or check out the most recent issue of A Healthier You for those! – I’m talking about the realizations that I’ve had while fumbling around in the garden.

Ten things I learned in the garden

Frog on zucchini plant.

Perhaps the garden’s newest protector will keep the deer at bay?

1. Deer aren’t easy to fool. My first attempt at a deer repellent was to plant a wall of sunflowers in front of my veggies. If the deer can’t see the veggies, I figured, then they won’t eat them. This hypothesis was proven to be false.

2. Get organized! Visitors may poke fun at the spreadsheet that I’ve mounted in the greenhouse telling me when to thin seedlings, how far apart to space my plants, and how to harvest and prune, but I love my spreadsheet and you should, too!

3. Speaking of thinning plants, for me, this is undeniably the hardest part of gardening. When you grow something from seed, it just feels wrong to pluck it out of the ground simply to make room for other seedlings. I feel your pain.

4. Freeze raspberries on a baking sheet before putting them in a bag or container. My raspberry crop last year was amazing. And then I thought: “Hey, I should freeze these for loaves, muffins, and smoothies all winter long.” And then I thought: “Hey, I’ll just throw this bucket of raspberries in the freezer.” This worked very well until I went to grab a raspberry or two and found a massive frozen block instead. This year, to avoid having to chisel raspberries, I’m freezing the berries on a cookie sheet first. So far, so good!

Raspberries in a colander

How to properly freeze raspberries (and which Instagram filters make raspberry pictures pop) are just two things that took a full season of fun, first-time, error-filled gardening to learn.

5. Salads rock! My summer diet consists mostly of some variation on Carly’s full-meal-deal salad. A quick trip from the kitchen to the garden to snip some lettuce, grab some tomatoes and cucumbers, and cut some herbs is about all the dinner prep time I needed.

6. Deer and gardeners can co-exist. My neighbours have suggested fences, hanging soap, motion-activated sprinklers, and sprays to keep the deer at bay. My preferred approach (after the sunflower barrier failed): plant 10 times more than I could possibly eat and let the deer eat to their hearts’ content – being sure to snap pictures, of course, since the novelty of wildlife in the garden has yet to wear off for this new northerner.

7. Gardening can be great physical activity! Often when I’m in the garden, I lose track of time. Also, as an amateur, I probably do things a bit slower than the seasoned pros. It’s usually the setting sun that snaps me back into focus and reminds me that I’ve been outside for 2-3 hours bending, lifting, walking, shovelling, and just generally moving around!

Gardening information on a wall

The first year garden saw a handwritten spreadsheet (pictured). This year’s upgrade is a computer printout and has more information on pruning, harvesting, and fertilizing. No word yet on what next year’s version will look like.

8. Seniors are undeniably the best go-to source for local gardening information. Why were my cucumbers bitter? Why did the pumpkin leaves turn black? How should I prune my raspberries? I could spend some time Googling the answers and find some information that may or may not be applicable to Vanderhoof or, as I’ve done a few times now, I could draw on the wisdom of a seasoned local gardening veteran and get the right answer every time!

9. Gardening makes for colourful, jealousy-inducing pictures. Take many and share widely!

10. If I can do it, so can you!

Whether you try a single pot of herbs on a windowsill or dozens of rows and beds, give gardening a shot this year! It’s not too late (I was out planting some new seeds just yesterday!) and the healthy rewards are amazing!

Do you have any tips from your gardening experiences?

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog.

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It takes a community to raise a garden

Vanderhoof community garden.

The Vanderhoof Community Garden has evolved – and continues to evolve – into an amazing gathering space that celebrates local food, community, and knowledge sharing.

Since moving to Vanderhoof a couple of years ago, one of the neatest things that I’ve seen happen is the emergence of an amazing community garden from the ground up. Having seen community gardens in neighbourhoods in Victoria and Vancouver, I had a certain idea of what a space like this might look like. For me, the Vanderhoof Community Garden blew those expectations out of the water!

The very first line of Growing Together, a knowledge-sharing book created as part of the Vanderhoof Community Garden project, reads:

It takes a community to raise a garden.

For me, these simple words capture the essence of the Vanderhoof Community Garden and the journey that it has taken from a small idea to a space that celebrates local food, community, and learning.

When I spoke with Maya Sullivan, one of the drivers behind the Vanderhoof Community Garden, she shared her thoughts that “this is truly a community project … the fact that a small seed of an idea could become such an amazing space for connection, such a healthy community space, continues to amaze me.”

The story of the Vanderhoof Community Garden is one of dedicated volunteers, extensive partnerships, overcoming challenges, and celebration. The small seed that grew into this beautiful space was planted over 10 years ago when a small group of community members volunteered their time and energy to start a modest community garden near the Vanderhoof Community Museum. That particular location was never ideal – lots of moose, heavy clay soil, no space for tools, and spring runoff that washed away manure that had been tilled into the garden – but a number of passionate volunteers kept that project going for a number of years. After a particularly difficult spring in 2012 when melting snow created a creek through the garden that carried off valuable soil, the group went back to the drawing board.

It is from this drawing board that the current community garden, officially opened with a harvest celebration in September 2014, emerged. A look around at the grand opening event revealed a magnificent garden, a beautiful covered space to gather, two greenhouses, dozens of raised beds, on-site water and a wheelchair-accessible flush toilet, and hundreds of smiling community members. Partners had come together, volunteers devoted thousands of hours to planning and work bees, kids got their hands dirty, seniors shared their knowledge, and the end result was a beautiful space to gather, grow, share, and learn.

Three gardeners in a greenhouse

Knowledge-sharing aplenty happens in the Vanderhoof Community Garden. In the shared greenhouse space, gardeners get tips on how to prune suckers.

The garden is a place to work together

The list of project partners for the beautiful community garden in Vanderhoof is impressive. The Nechako Valley Food Network and their amazing volunteers provided the spark that began this project, the energy to keep pushing it forward, and a hub for interested individuals and groups to connect and collaborate. The Integris Community Foundation provided the first significant grant to breathe life into the idea. The District of Vanderhoof and School District 91 collaborated to find and donate a new site for the garden. The Farm to School program at WL McLeod Elementary School connected with the garden to produce local food for hot lunches. The Seniors Connected program became involved to improve accessibility in the garden, create mentorship opportunities, and share knowledge. Northern Health provided grant funding to support the initiative. Countless local businesses and volunteers donated time, materials, expertise, and labour to the project. The garden would not have happened without this support and, importantly, the garden continues to attract new partners, ideas, and projects.

The garden is a place for everyone

Early on in the project, accessibility was a key consideration. The raised beds – most of which were built by local high school students – were created to be wheelchair accessible and to minimize bending. The garden includes an accessible flush toilet, a covered structure for respite, and shared tools thanks to a recent donation. The raised beds and garden plots themselves are open to everyone who signs up at no charge. The community garden is successful in part because it has eliminated so many potential barriers to entry and welcomes gardeners of any age, skill level, neighbourhood, or income level.

The garden is a place to connect

The garden creates a space where people can connect, meet, and share knowledge. These people may not otherwise have a reason to meet but local food and the community garden provide that reason. The garden site supports this connection. It is central, close to schools and homes, and connects to the Vanderhoof community trail system.

The garden is a place to get away

With a beautiful view of the Nechako River and lots of space to enjoy, the garden is also a place for relaxation and quiet reflection. With nothing but the sound of the river to distract you, the garden provides a peaceful place for community members to spend a warm summer evening reconnecting with themselves and with nature.

Gardener holding a zucchini and watering plants.

There’s no shortage of fresh, delicious produce in the garden!

The garden is a place to grow

When talking to volunteer organizers and garden users, it is surprising how long it takes before the issue of food actually comes up! All of the connections, partnerships, and learning have created a bounty of local food! A walk through the raised beds and greenhouse structures reveals tomatoes, peppers, squash, leafy greens, strawberries, peas, carrots, beets, and more! There are plans for potatoes, fruit trees, and berry bushes this year. Individual gardeners take their bounty home and the students, parents, and teachers from WL McLeod Elementary School harvest their crops and spend a day preserving so that the kitchen staff can use them in hot lunches throughout the year.

Older woman showing a young girl how to sow seeds.

The garden is a place to learn! On any given day, you might see more experienced gardeners sharing their skills with first-time seed sowers!

The garden is a place to learn

On any given day in the Vanderhoof Community Garden, you might see a class of elementary school students with mentors, a group of seniors sharing their vast knowledge, or simply two people – previously strangers – swapping tips. Some of this learning has been formalized as the local Seniors Connected group created a book, Growing Together, that shares their collective 600 years of local gardening knowledge. There are plans to offer gardening workshops in the space this year.

With all of these amazing garden qualities, it’s no wonder that the garden organizers are still in awe of how far they’ve come. Maya sums it up this way:

This has truly evolved beyond my wildest dreams and it keeps evolving based on what different members of the community bring to it.

That evolution will surely be fun to watch, as despite all of the incredible successes of the Vanderhoof Community Garden thus far, there is still half of the garden site left to be cultivated and transformed. The growing, learning, sharing, and connecting have just gotten started!


A version of this story first appeared in the May 2015 issue of A Healthier You magazine.

 

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog.

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Celebrating First Nations traditional foods

Community garden in greenhouse structure

At community gardens like this one in Cheslatta, First Nations communities are building on the knowledge and skills of Elders to ensure access to healthy food for all. Have you tried any First Nations traditional foods?
(Photo credit: Hilary McGregor, Aboriginal Health, Northern Health)

Many Elders and health providers from First Nations communities have shared their knowledge with me about traditional foods. I am repeatedly surprised by the flavour, nutritional value and health benefits of traditional foods. I tell my significant other, who is a member of the Kitselas First Nation, that his canned salmon is like “pure gold” because of how much work and care he puts into harvesting and processing the fish – not to mention how amazing it tastes!

Working as a dietitian, I have learned nutritional information about traditional foods that I didn’t know before. For example, seaweed is an excellent source of protein, calcium, iron, B vitamins, and vitamin C. Moose is rich in protein and B vitamins. Most wild game is higher in nutrients than livestock and food products made from livestock like bologna and wieners.

My children are Nisga’a and we were fortunate to be given some eulachon this year. Eulachon are small, oil-rich fish that spawn in rivers along the west coast. They are high in vitamin A and calcium. Vitamin A helps our bodies to fight infection and keeps our eyes and skin healthy while calcium helps to keep our bones and teeth strong.

In addition to the nutritional value of the food itself, another great advantage of traditional food gathering is the health benefits from harvesting such as connecting with the land and with one’s culture and family, as well as exercise. These are important aspects of holistic health and well-being.

Gardening is another way to access fresh and nutritious food, connect with family, and be physically active. In my work, I notice more First Nations communities across the north developing community gardens and harvesting or growing traditional plants and medicines. Many of these communities are remote and have limited access to healthy store-bought foods, which is all the more reason to build on the knowledge and skills of Elders to ensure access to healthy food for all.

There is so much to learn, celebrate and sustain! For more information on traditional foods and nutrition, check out the First Nations Traditional Foods Fact Sheets from the First Nations Health Authority.


This article was originally published in the May 2015 issue of Northern Health’s A Healthier You magazine.

 

Victoria Carter

About Victoria Carter

Victoria works in Northern Health's Aboriginal health program as the lead for engagement and integration. She is an adopted member of the Nisga’a nation and was given the name “Nox Aama Goot” which means “mother of good heart.” In her work she sees herself as an ally working together with Aboriginal people across the north to improve access to quality health care. She keeps herself well by honouring the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual aspects of her life through spending time with her friends and family, being in nature and working on her own personal growth.

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Use your muscles where your food is

Adult showing child how to sow seeds.

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach him to fish and you will feed him for a lifetime.” Photo credit: Christine Glennie-Visser

Using muscles is about more than getting the recommended 30 minutes of exercise daily for adults. Research strongly reminds us that we need to sit less and move more and the term “sitting disease” is becoming more widely used. What does this have to do with food, you might ask?

Two of the easiest things we can change personally to build and maintain health is healthy eating and active living. One of the messages we use to remind everyone to increase their physical activity throughout their day is “use muscles not motors,” which comes from the Canadian Society of Exercise Professionals and is part of the promotional messaging for the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines.

You may still be wondering what this has to do with food. Many of us use the motors in our vehicles to drive to the local grocery store as the easiest option to get groceries. There are many ways to be active and get your food – pushing a shopping cart around your local grocery store is just one option. HEAL (Healthy Eating and Active Living) in northern B.C. began in 2001 with a focus on getting people more active in order to be healthier. More importantly, though, HEAL focused on gardening as a means to both be more physically active and eat healthier. Gardening is a win-win way to be active! It provides not only full body exercise, blood, sweat and sometimes tears, but you get good food as a result of your efforts.

Perhaps you aren’t really into gardening and would rather get your fruits and vegetables by walking down to your local farmers market or pushing that cart around a local store. Most farmers markets offer meat and sometimes fish in addition to fresh fruits and vegetables, but imagine the fun physical activity you would enjoy if you went hunting or fishing to stock your own freezer for the winter, or to enjoy a succulent grilled fish you have harvested from a northern lake, stream or ocean. As a parent raising a family, and now as a grandparent enjoying grandchildren, there is a well-known philosophy that has been a constant current beneath my family’s relationship with food:

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach him to fish and you will feed him for a lifetime.

This is the perfect time of year to go outdoors, turn over some soil, plant and nurture some seeds, and look forward to the harvest. It is also the perfect time of year to grab a fishing pole, some bait and go fishing. Maybe you love hunting and you spend time in the summer getting ready for the fall hunting seasons. Whatever your connection to food, consider putting not only your own muscles to work to grow, gather and harvest your groceries but involve a child, too, so they can learn where their food really comes from and be more physically active while they learn.


This article was originally published in the May 2015 issue of Northern Health’s A Healthier You magazine.

 

Christine Glennie-Visser

About Christine Glennie-Visser

Christine is the regional coordinator for the HEAL (Healthy Eating, Active Living) Network in northern B.C. Christine loves to share good healthy local food with family, friends and co-workers and is passionate about making the healthy choice the easier choice for everyone. Although she is currently limited in her physical activity choices for medical reasons, she has become creative at fitting in activity and spends many happy hours deep water running and using gentle resistance training and stretching to maintain muscle strength. Christine can often be found in her kitchen, developing or testing recipes, and conspiring with her six grandchildren to encourage their parents to eat more fruits and vegetables!

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A Healthier You (May 2015)

Cover of A Healthier You

The May 2015 issue of A Healthier You is all about local food and gardening, with tips, tricks, and insights for the north, from the north!

If you’re anything like me, this week’s sunny weather – which seems to be warming every corner of our region – has you thinking about gardening. Since moving to northern B.C. a few years ago, I’ve come to realize that for many, the May long weekend is the opening day of gardening season. The other thing I’ve noticed is that local gardening knowledge can be hard to find! Sure, there are books about patio gardening in Vancouver or kitchen gardens on Vancouver Island, but our zones seem to be forgotten!

This is why I’m so excited that the newest issue of Northern Health’s quarterly healthy living magazine, A Healthier You, is now available. The issue, available online and in print in various locations around the north, is all about local food and gardening!

For me, a few highlights in this issue include:

  • Tips on how to make the most of our short growing season.
  • How gardening, berry-picking, and farmers market visits can help me get my minimum 150 minutes of weekly physical activity.
  • Valuable information on how to stay safe while fishing this spring and summer (because, let’s be honest, while the May long weekend is the start of gardening season for me, it’s the start of boating season for others!).
  • Some insights on how my humble garden might tie into big picture issues of food security and healthy communities.
  • A jealousy-inducing look at local food on Haida Gwaii.

I hope that you enjoy the newest issue of the magazine! And remember that all past issues are also available online!

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog.

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Foodie Friday: Spice up your life with herbs!

Fresh mint leaves in tea.

Fresh herbs are easy, healthy, and versatile. Whether it’s fresh mint from the garden or chives from a windowsill pot, spice up your life with fresh herbs this year!

It’s spring time! The air is fresh, the sun is warm again and maybe you are actively thinking about what to plant in your garden or flower pots this year!

Have you ever tried to grow your own herbs?

A wide variety of fresh herbs can be found at any garden centre. Adding herbs to pots on your windowsill or making a big herb variety pot for your patio can be quite cheerful! Plus, this keeps them within reach to help add some flavour to your cooking in an easy way!

Fresh herbs are fragrant, add a different kind of flavour to your cooking than dried, and even have some antioxidants that help fight disease! Using more flavourful ingredients also decreases our tendency to use a lot of salt, which can help keep your blood pressure under control.

Here are 10 of the best herbs to grow fresh and how to use them! Get in the garden and have fun!

1. Basil is an easy to grow plant and can be grown in or out of doors.

  • How to use it: Goes well with Mediterranean foods like tomato sauce and pesto, meat or seafood. Add fresh basil at the end of cooking as the heat ruins most of the flavour.

2. Chives are grown easily and don’t need much light to flourish. They grow well in a container.

  • How to use it: Just snip some off when you need a gentle onion flavour without the bite. Add at the very end to maximize their color and flavour.

3. Cilantro should be planted in full sun and well-drained soil. It needs lots of soil depth due to its root so it will need a deep pot or to be planted in the ground.

  • How to use it: You either love it or hate it! Some people find it “soapy,” but regardless, it’s one of the world’s most popular spices! The bright refreshing flavor is common in Latin and Asian cooking. Cilantro is usually eaten raw, added after a dish has been cooked.

4. Dill grows best in deep, loose soil.

  • How to use it: This aromatic herb goes with salmon, borscht or other stews and a variety of vegetables (especially carrots and cucumbers).

5. Mint need to be watched as this easy-to-grow herb will quickly take over your flower bed if you let it! Plant mint in its own planter or raised box to keep it contained.

  • How to use it: In sweet desserts as well as savoury dishes from the Middle East and North Africa. Fresh mint is perfect for summer-fresh salads, to liven up a sauce, or to brew fragrant teas.

6. Oregano loves sunlight so make sure it gets lots for optimal flavour.

  • How to use it: This pungent herb is primarily found in Mediterranean and Mexican cuisines. Add it into soups or stews as well.

7. Parsley needs moist soil. Don’t let it dry out or it will wilt and won’t want to spring back.

  • How to use it: This versatile spice is great in pasta dishes, sprinkled on fish and chicken, or added to potatoes. It’s one of the most common and versatile herbs used in Western cooking. Flat-leaf or Italian parsley has the best texture and flavour for cooking.

8. Rosemary likes full sunlight, well-drained soil, and frequent watering.

  • How to use it: Its woodsy flavour works well with a variety of roasted or barbecued meats (like chicken, pork and salmon) or mixed into sauces for a more subtle taste. It also blends with tomatoes, spinach, and mushrooms. Because the flavour is strong, it’s best to add rosemary sparingly at first and more if needed.

9. Sage likes plenty of sunlight, good soil, and watering every other day.

  • How to use it: With a slightly peppery flavour, sage is great with sweet fruits and veggies like apples and squash, but it also adds a punch to poultry dishes, potatoes or cheese. Don’t worry about overcooking as this powerful spice’s flavour holds up well when cooked for long periods of time.

10. Thyme likes lots of sunlight.

  • How to use it: One of the most popular herbs in American and European cooking, thyme can be paired with nearly any kind of meat, poultry, fish, beans, eggs or vegetable. To use fresh thyme, peel off as many of the leaves as you can from the woody stem by running your fingers along the stem.

Fresh brewed mint tea

Ingredients:

  • Fresh mint

Instructions:

  1. Snip off a few leaves of mint from your plant. Alternatively, you can dry your mint leaves in the fall and use them the same way.
  2. Pour boiling water over leaves and allow flavour to infuse for about 3-5 minutes or until desired strength has been reached.

Enjoy!

References:

Food Network Guide to Fresh Herbs

Amy Horrock

About Amy Horrock

Born and raised in Winnipeg Manitoba, Amy Horrock is a registered dietitian and member of the Regional Dysphagia Management Team. She loves cooking, blogging, and spreading the joy of healthy eating to others! Outside of the kitchen, this prairie girl can be found crocheting, reading, or exploring the natural splendor and soaring heights of British Columbia with her husband!

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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?

Rebecca Larson

About Rebecca Larson

Rebecca works in Vanderhoof and the surrounding communities as a dietitian. She was born in the north and returned after her schooling. Rebecca loves tobogganing with her daughter in the winter, gardening and camping in the summer and working on her parents cattle ranch in her spare time.

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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 Regional Manager for Health Promotions and Community Engagement 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 takes advantage of the access to outdoor living. She enjoys hunting and exploring the backcountry with her dog and husband 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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