Joy from the Garden, Healthy Pantry & Soul Food

It’s that time of year to celebrate really fresh garden food. Our gardens are places of work, learning and joy. Plus, we realize how grateful we are to the farmers who feed us the rest of the year.

  Right away I want to thank all of the growers who bring their goodies to sell at the local farmers markets. And thank you to all the gardens I visit where I can take in the wonderful life force.

  In our garden, I am thrilled by the sight of the strong stand of broad beans, acclimatized after 20 years of collecting seed. I gave some to friends who had never tried them, who said they loved the meatiness and flavour. Try some from your local growers, and if you like them, they are also easy to freeze.

  During garden seasons the potlucks bring gorgeous green salads in abundance. At a hippie wedding years ago in Oregon, there was a most spectacular (and obviously memorable) garden salad, laden with colourful veggies and topped with flowers. I felt it a privilege to have the opportunity to visit the garden where these veggies grew, where there were towering stands of deep red amaranth flowers. As my luck would have it, they were winnowing the tiny amaranth grain that day, and so I got to see how much work it took to harvest the food.

  Here’s a thought for those who like to take big salads to a potluck… please remember that some of us are lactose intolerant and if you grate cheese into it, we cannot eat the salad.

  Celebration foods can be any type of food. One person’s happy food is another’s poison. Many love deep fried foods, even knowing that they are full of those nasty free radicals. French fries, samosas, spring rolls…they get gobbled up pretty fast.

  Does anyone else find it curious that people, even those who are mainly health conscious, consume junk food when they celebrate? Such as the ubiquitous Chip. It is often one of the last junk foods that those of us into healthy food are attached to…and just like the famous commercial, it’s hard to eat just one. If you are curious, take a look at the label stating the calories and fats in a small handful of chips And unless they are baked, even the ones sold in health food stores are deep fried.. and in what oil?

  Perhaps the most universal celebratory food is Ye Olde Birthday Cake, loaded with refined carbs and sugar. Humans have created all sorts of traditions that are not questioned from the perspective of health. To justify our desire for sweets, we often refer to them as “soul food”. They do seem to exist to sweeten our lives, helping us to forget our troubles for the moment we enjoy them. My favourite sweet is a chocolate classic, rich chocolate brownies, only using organic ingredients….which we enjoy by freezing them first, then each piece is like fudge. I also enjoy the much simpler damson plum conserves that I put up every year from the plums on our tree and local honey. As Molly Katzen of the famous Moosewood Cookbook would describe those conserves, there is a “sweet tart tension”.

  Other sweet food memories come from the fresh fruit category. I have fond memories of picking super-ripe sun-drenched fresh apricots in the Okanagan, dripping juice into my hand as I plucked them from the tree. And there’s nothing like that surge of vital life force from fresh organic blueberries! 

  Then there is the fresh tomato category…after enjoying tasty and juicy tomatoes in Morocco in 1972 (and also inexpensive), upon returning home I could not buy the sad looking tomato wannabes in the supermarkets….until tasting a most full-bodied Bulgarian variety grown by a friend’s father-in-law.

  I can even get excited about whole grains. During our hippie 70s, we ate mainly short grain brown rice and veggies, which we topped with olive oil, tamari and yeast. I still love the chewy goodness of perfectly cooked brown rice…it feels so healthy. I will miss it if transportation costs become too high to bring it here from California.

  Back then there was no exotic quinoa to buy. Lets enjoy it now also, for it comes from the South American Andes, and is celebrated as the only grain containing all essential amino acids, making quinoa a complete protein. We also ate millet, which the indigenous people of Africa called “queen of the grains” for many reasons…and the one that stands out is that it is the only alkalizing grain, and can therefore balance acid-alkaline conditions.

  I am truly blessed to appreciate a rich variety of foods, and that my body mainly responds well to my choices. Our children grew up eating food prepared by my partner, who is a very good cook of the exotic variety, and by their hippie mom whose focus was and still is “homespun” healthy food. One day our teenage son was bored, so he decided to make croissants, and there just happened to be fresh figs in the house to eat with them. This son is now a wonderful chef.


Tsiporah is a Gabriolan of 35 years and keen observer of our times and evolutionary potential as compassionate human beings.