As I turn on the television every day, it looks like what is happening around us is not getting any better, but I never lose hope! Instead of being depressed about it, I turn around and make food to nourish my whole self and get feeling better.
We all admire those well-manicured farms and thick forests. They’re perfect scenery of good life, but to understand, learn and use what’s within those beautiful places for better health is one of the best things I gave to myself.
I went to visit the very first place I lived when I came here to Canada and my previous bosses – my friends. The loving and warm atmosphere never changed, it never fades. It was a precious moment to be with them and not only that, I always look forward to seeing what’s in their backyard garden and the forest beside it; it is always a reminder of my great memories growing up on the farm and going to the forest to gather fire logs. Those hard-working memories and the present moment activated all my senses to see closer, touch and smell whatever is there….to transform those plants and wild-growing weeds into a simple meal that nourishes and heals.
There are garlic, onions, swiss chard, kale, cucumbers, squash and as we walk to the forest, there are a lot of herbal plants that people often ignore. There is burdock, scurvy grass, plantain, gotu kola (Indian Pennywort), dandelions, mint and nettle. When I saw bushes of nettle, I thought they were harmless because of their young and looking fragile – I picked some of the leaves crushed them in my finger to taste the juice and figure out how it smells..and ohhh man, they do really sting and it doesn’t fade right away, it took three days before they let go of me. Even plants know how to defend themselves-another lesson learned.
It is a small plot of vegetables and wild herbal plants growing everywhere, full of ideas just waiting to be utilized. The gold of health and gold of goodness does really exist around. I’m always excited to be there because I know what I get. Sometimes we don’t need to wait for a perfect recipe to make use of them. The first thing that comes to mind when I prepare vegetables is for nourishment not just to eat because it’s time to eat ( I think I learned a little from yoga, being “mindful”). Herbs and spices are not only there to help create delicious food, to enhance flavour or for garnish, but it also gives a deeper function. Some add freshly ground black pepper to make their food more palatable, which is very popular in the restaurant that a waiter walks around holding a big pepper mill ready to offer to their customer. But do you know pepper also helps our body to absorb the nutrients of what we are eating? That is the main reason why I always give a few grinds of pepper in my food. But then again; what is good for me can be bad for you.
Nettle, I would like to quote exactly what Rosalee De La Foret in her “Alchemy of herbs” book. She said, “In the age of exotic miracle herbs imported from all over the globe, stinging nettle remains an unsung champion for improving health in many powerful ways”. According to herbalist Susan Weed, “nettle infusions are recommended for those wanting to stabilize blood sugar, reset metabolic circuits to normalize weight, reduce fatigue and exhaustion, restore adrenal potency to lessen allergic and menopausal problems and eliminate chronic headaches.” and she’s not exaggerating! nettle’s nutrient-dense qualities, as well as a myriad of other beneficial constituents, make it a powerful ally for a variety of health challenges.
Dandelion, when I was a nanny to a redheaded girl (now she’s my photographer -thank you); blowing on a seed puff dandelion offers cheap entertainment instead of fighting with each other. At the same time, a very generous plant that offers food and natural medicine from its every part – leaves to roots. Yet, the excitement to harvest this free and healthy food is so less because it makes the lawn imperfect. There’s a war instead of embracing what it freely offers. Research published in the journal, Planta Medica in 1974 confirmed that dandelion leaves are a powerful diuretic. Also, a study in 2004 laboratory study showed that roots have marked anti-cancer activity.
The popularity of kale as one of the superfood, enticed me to make and drink vegetable juice. It looks disgusting but I know what I’m getting at. A bunch of clean kale, 2 large carrots, 3 stalks of celery, 1 cayenne, 1 knob of ginger, 2 large apples and one cucumber- in the juicer and there, more than enough to share with my kids.
My daughter’s favourite, smoothie. A hand full of washed and chopped kale, slices of pineapple (I freeze some of it), a tablespoon of good quality matcha powder (for extra boost), a few grinds of black pepper and ice cubes (sometimes I use frozen pineapple juice, for extra sweetness) throw it all in the blender and blend for few seconds or so, enjoy!
How about swiss chard, I just sauté with garlic and red paper flakes, easy and nutritious. I like it with plain rice ,freshly homemade bread, or store bought crusty sour bread.
KALE – PEPITAS PESTO
- food processor/blender
- 3/4 cup raw pepitas
- 1 garlic clove
- 3 cups chopped kale
- 3 tbsp lemon juice plus zest
- 3/4 cup extra -virgin olive oil plus extra according to your liking
- 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup nutritional yeast(optional), or use parmesan cheese
- Pulse the pepitas and garlic for 30 seconds in a food processor. Add the kale and pulse again. Add the lemon juice, zest, salt and pepper; pulse again. Drizzle the olive oil and continue pulsing. Stop, scrape the sides and pulse again until smooth. Pulse in nutritional yeast or parmesan cheese if desired. Add more seasoning if needed. *See note