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Volume 28 Issue 3
September/October 2022

The State of Local Food in Saskatchewan

The Liver and Its Role in Detoxification

Back to Your Roots

Forever Young in Mind, Body, and Spirit

How to Cope with Stress and Anxiety During Your Next Doctor’s Appointment!

Your Confidence Becomes You Through Self-Awareness and Mastery

Do You Have a Fear of Growing and Changing?


Back to Your Roots
by Hélène Tremblay-Boyko
Hélène Tremblay-Boyko

The garden harvest is upon us and what a difference a year makes! Last summer, due to drought, many vegetables germinated sporadically, or not at all. This year, although spring was cool, carrots germinated well in advance of weeds, potatoes bloomed early, beets bounced to full leaf, and onions grew beautifully! In this region’s gardens, root vegetables hold a special place, as they can withstand our typically early frosts. Around here, in East Central Saskatchewan, most gardeners need to keep a wary eye out for early September frosts in order to cover or harvest tender vegetables like tomatoes, squash, and beans. Generally, I don’t harvest potatoes, carrots, or beets until Thanksgiving, when all other vegetables have been safely tucked into cold storage or preserved. In addition to being frost tolerant, root vegetables are packed with nutrients.

Over the years, healthy eating guidelines have touted the beneficial effects of eating plant-based foods. We have all heard Michael Pollan’s admonition: Eat Food, Not Too Much, Mostly Plants. Indeed, the Canada Food Guide recommends between seven and ten servings of fruit and vegetables per day, depending on gender and age. However, Dr. Daniel Wang, from the Faculty of Medicine at Harvard Medical School suggests up to five servings of fruit and vegetables per day.1 According to his report, fruits and vegetables are high in carbohydrates and should therefore be limited to five servings per day, ideally, three servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit. The most effective fruits and vegetables include leafy greens and those high in vitamin C and beta-carotene, including berries, citrus, and carrots. Interestingly, his Harvard University study, published in 2021, reported that starchy vegetables such as peas, corn, and potatoes did not improve health outcomes.

Of the most common root vegetables, alliums have been shown to be incredibly health promoting. As a matter of fact, Dr. Mark Hyman claims that they are one of the foods highest in glutathione, an antioxidant he calls the “Mother of All Antioxidants.”2 Included in this category are garlic, onions, leeks, scallions, chives, and shallots, among others. “Garlic consumption has been shown to help with cardiovascular health,”3 specifically by reducing cholesterol and LDL cholesterol.

One of the great things about growing garlic, the hard neck varieties, is that you can enjoy its benefits early in the summer as garlic scapes. These are the tender seed stems that the plant shoots up from the foliage to produce bulbuls. As most garlic growers know, the production of scapes slows the growth of the root bulb, so the scapes are removed to promote the growth of the root vegetable. If you know a garlic grower, check to see if you can “help” harvest the scapes and take some home for salads, soups, and pesto in early to mid-summer. Garlic scape pesto is one of my favourite ways to preserve the wonderful flavour of this potent herb/vegetable.

In the fall, when garlic bulbs are harvested and the roots trimmed, it is easy to store garlic in a braid, or cured until the stems break off and then stored in netted bags, in a cool dry location. I like to use the small and damaged bulbs to dry and pulverize as garlic powder. This is easily done by slicing them and placing them in a de-hydrator. Once they are dry, it is simple enough to blow the skins right off before placing the dried garlic in a blender to pulverize. One trick that my husband learned the hard way is to use rubber gloves when slicing the garlic, especially if you are doing a lot. This protects your hands from the juices of the garlic which can eventually irritate your skin.

Onion consumption has been shown to associate with lower risk of many cancers and leeks are high in the polyphenol kaempferol, which has been shown to protect against heart disease and some cancers. Garlic and onions can also have a significant impact on gut microbiota, promoting the growth of beneficial microbes. This is due to their high content of prebiotic and anti-bacterial components. Of course, onion or leek soups have been staples for generations of gardeners and farmers all the way back to our ancestors in the “old” country. While I don’t often make strictly onion soup, I include them in most of my soups, stews, and stir-fries, along with other vegetables. I usually harvest onions earlier than other root vegetables, in August, and cure them on tarps until the stems break off and the bulbs have several layers of light brown, dry skin. Then I store them in netted bags in a cool dry location. Since they don’t take a lot of room in the garden, I like to grow several hundred and find great pride in having home grown onions well into the spring.

So, what about the other root vegetables growing in our Saskatchewan gardens? The most common of these is the mighty carrot. They top the charts in nutrition as they are “brimming with vitamins A and K, as well as the important anti-oxidant beta-carotene.”4 The carotenoids contained in carrots may be linked to lower risks of certain types of cancer and may protect against age-related macular degeneration. Finally, eating carrots has been linked to lower cholesterol levels.

Besides being frost tolerant, the ubiquitous carrot is also easy to store. Over the years we have tried many storage ideas and have finally settled on the one that works best for us. After harvesting, preferably on a cool day when the ground is dry, we rub most of the dirt from the carrot root and snap off the leaves. Once the carrot has dried a little (a couple of hours at most), we bag them in saved apple bags that have the best perforations to allow the carrots to breathe, and we keep them in a separate “vegetable” fridge. It is best to place them in the fridge when they are already cool as this reduces the risk of them sweating in the bag. In this way, the carrots generally last well into the following summer. They are then easy to access and use in all manner of dishes: soups, stews, with roast chicken, turkey, or beef, as a side vegetable, and grated in coleslaw and salads. Your imagination is the only limitation.

Finally, let’s get to the root of the lowly beet. During the summer, young, tender beet leaves are a colourful and tasty addition to any salad. However, beets are usually grown for the root. This pungent vegetable is not everyone’s cup of borsch. Still, I favour beets sliced and lightly pan fried in coconut oil and sprinkled with a bit of salt and powdered ginger, as a side to any fish, and there is no denying the ethnic value it held and still holds among Ukrainian and Polish settlers. It is not surprising then that “beets are one of the most nutritious of root vegetables available, packing a good amount of fibre, folate, and manganese into each serving.”5 Studies have shown that eating beets can lower blood pressure, improve heart health, and increase blood flow to the brain.

Beets are also easy to store. Just rub the dirt off, trim the leaves to about 1 inch from the beet and keep the root intact. Place them in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator. Alternatively, they can be frozen. Cook the beets until tender. Cool, then rub the skin, root, and stem from the beet. Cut into cubes or julienne before freezing in containers sized for one meal. Many cook them into borsch and freeze the soup for quick use anytime during the year.

With all the goodness and versatility in root vegetables, it should be an obvious choice to select these over the exotic, imported vegetables we find in grocery stores. Most vegetables that have travelled long distances are past the peak of their freshness and nutritional value. If you aren’t a gardener yourself or don’t have the space for a large garden, you can easily find a local farmer/gardener and buy your vegetables in bulk from them. You might even be able to go out and harvest your own. Besides being easy to integrate into your diet, root vegetables are easy to store.


Garlic Scape Pesto

Coarsely chop 4 cups of garlic scapes.

Place in blender with 1 tbsp walnuts, almonds, or pine nuts.

Gradually add olive oil (first cold-pressed, extra virgin) and buzz until all scapes are pureed and the pesto has a thick, porridge-like consistency.

Place in 1 cup storage containers and freeze. I prefer to use 250ml sealer jars even though they are not sealed.

When you thaw it for use, you may add 1/4 cup of grated parmesan. (optional)

Carrots as a Side Dish

Peel and slice 2 to 4 cups of carrots into bite-sized chunks. If you want to be extra fancy, cut the carrots on the bias and get lovely oblong pieces, or julienne them in your mandolin.

Steam the carrots to tender crisp. Drain and add 1 tbsp butter, salt to taste, and a generous sprinkling of tarragon (up to 1 tbsp).

30-Day Coleslaw

(This recipe is inspired by More Cooking Favourites from St Andrew’s Ukrainian Orthodox Ladies’ Auxiliary)

1 medium head of cabbage
3 to 4 medium onions
4 to 6 large carrots
1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 cup of sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp mustard seed, optional
1/2 tsp celery seed, optional

I like to process the vegetables in a food processor, so I cut the cabbage and carrots into chunks and quarter the onions before buzzing them in batches.

Others prefer longer strings of vegetable, so the cabbage is thinly sliced, the onion is chopped fine, and the carrots shredded.

Prepare the brine in a small saucepan, heating the rest of the ingredients on medium until the sugar is dissolved.

While still hot, pour over the vegetables and stir until well mixed.

This mixture will keep crisp and delicious for several weeks.

Christmas Eve Borsch

(from U.C.W.L. Cook Book – Ukrainian Traditional and Favourite Recipes)

1 cup grated carrots
1 cup diced celery
2 cups grated beets
2 medium onions, chopped fine
6 1/2 cups cold water
1 cup shredded cabbage
1/2 cup canned or dried mushrooms
2 cups tomato soup
2 tbsp flour
3 tbsp butter
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp lemon juice

Mix carrots, celery, beets, and 1 chopped onion with the water, add salt and pepper and simmer for a half-hour. Fry 2nd chopped onion in butter until transparent. Add cabbage and mushrooms. Simmer about 5 minutes. Add to the borsch. Cook the vegetables until tender. Stir in the tomato soup and lemon juice. Dissolve the flour in 1/4 cup cold water and add to the borsch. Bring to rapid boil and remove from heat.

1 www.health.harvard.edu/nutrition/how-many-fruits-and-vegetables-do-we-really-need
2 www.organiclifestylemagazine.com/alliums-powerful-health-benefits
3 www.thepaleomom.com/health-benefits-alliums-onions/
4 www.healthline.com/nutrition/root-vegetables
5 Ibid.

Hélène Tremblay-Boyko is a local farmer and gardener, passionate about food issues. She and her husband, Al Boyko, operated a certified organic, mixed farm for 40 years. They raised grass-fed, certified organic beef cattle as well as a variety of certified organic cereals and oil seed crops near Canora, SK. They are now retired. Their land and cattle herd have been leased by Stacey Wiebe and Dale Maier of White Owl Farm. See The Farmers’ Table display ad on page 9 of the 28.3 September/October issue of the WHOLifE Journal.


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