Healthy Living in the North

Foodie Friday: Nature provides

Fiddleheads

Fiddleheads are one of several edible plants available in our region.

Spring is here. I can feel it. Can you feel it too? The sun is out and I just want to be outside as much as I can. I can’t wait to get my fingers in the earth. I’m excited by the new shoots showing up. This is a great season to learn about the gifts that spring gives to nourish us.

My partner is from the Kitselas First Nation and he has gathered ostrich fern fiddleheads for years. He watches the signs of spring and knows just when and where to find them. It’s quite an art. Without his help, I would probably gather the wrong thing. Last year, we harvested stinging nettle, too. It was so delicious! I could almost taste the nutrients dancing in my mouth. Of course, we had to use thick gloves to pick it and cook it so as to avoid a nasty sting.

Want to try gathering and cooking fiddleheads this spring? Here’s how!

For centuries, First Nations and Aboriginal people have been harvesting plants. This has been an important part of their diet and medicine. Nutritional information shows us that wild plants are often much higher in nutrients than other, store-bought vegetables.

Mint

Wild mint is another edible plant available in northern B.C. Check with elders or knowledge holders in your community before heading out to gather!

There are some great resources available on edible plants. The spring is a great opportunity to take one of these books, get outdoors with your family, and enjoy nature’s treasure hunt. I am no expert, so I encourage you to check with elders and knowledge holders in your communities to learn what is safe to gather, when to gather it, and protocols you need to respect and areas you should or shouldn’t gather in. Also, take care not to overharvest and to avoid zones that have been sprayed to avoid environmental contaminants.

Here are some great resources to start you out on your gathering journey:

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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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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