Late Spring Garden Edibles
by Stacey Tress
As I’m writing this, I imagine many of you have already started some of your garden seeds indoors, and by the time this article goes to print, you will be hardening off those plants and maybe doing some late spring sowing/planting. Our winters are long, here in Saskatchewan (although this winter was quite pleasant), but it’s comforting to know that no matter how long the winter is, spring is surely to follow. And with spring comes everything new and fresh again. Winter is great for garden planning, spring for starting seeds, but early summer is where the fresh foraging starts to happen!
For me, the first things to pop up once the snow melts are self-seeding spinach, dandelion greens, and asparagus. If you have a south facing wall (garage, house), you could have a nice protected spot (micro climate) for harvesting some early summer goodies; or use a cold frame (a warm, protected outdoor enclosure with glass top) to get a jump start on lettuces, green onions, kale, and more. We’ve had kale over-winter against the north side of our house, of all places!
Why We Need to Eat Vegetables (Organic and Raw) Every Day!
Vegetables supply an incredible amount of health-promoting water-soluble vitamins. Our bodies require these nutrients daily because, unlike fat-soluble vitamins (such as vitamin A, E, and D) that our bodies can store for future use, the water-soluble vitamins (vitamin C and vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, and folic acid) can only be stored in small amounts or not at all. Since vitamins cannot be produced by the body and can only be obtained from the food we eat (of course, vitamin D is absorbed from being in the presence of the sun), they are called “essential nutrients.”
Eating the recommended five (or more) servings of vegetables a day helps promote optimal health. Our bodies are very adaptive and can survive on less, but not without long-term costs to our health. Negative effects may be subtle and go unnoticed for awhile because they may take a long time to fully develop. Without adequate servings of vegetables, we deprive our bodies of excellent sources of vitamins and minerals essential to proper physiological functioning as well as dietary fibre and protective phytonutrients. The effects of not eating enough vegetables may range from low energy levels to reduced immune function and many types of degenerative diseases. Eating vegetables every day is the way to ensure that we feel our very best. Eating vegetables that are raw (or slightly cooked) gives us the maximum nutrients and enzymes. Enzymes are catalysts for digestion. Some folks have trouble eating a lot of raw vegetables and may even suffer from acid reflux or heartburn, as a result. Eating raw foods that have been sprouted or fermented (pre-digested, so to speak) are easier for the system to digest and assimilate. Sprouted and fermented vegetables are jam-packed with nutrition and the fermented vegetables have probiotics, too! Eating sprouts, such as alfalfa, broccoli, and lentils, and fermented vegetables (sauerkraut, kimchi, fermented beets) are how we typically get through the winter without having to buy a lot of store bought vegetables—and believe me sprouting and fermenting will save you a ton of money and do wonders for your health!!
Spinach is an excellent plant-based source of iron that is low in calories and fat. Spinach is a rich source of phytonutrients and vitamins C, K, A, B2, manganese, folate, magnesium, calcium, and potassium. Carotenoid phytonutrients such as beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin provide antioxidant protection against damage to cell structures.
I love how sweet and fresh garden spinach tastes. We love to go out with our basket and pick fresh early summer spinach to add to soups, scrambled eggs, salads, and smoothies. If you can get your hands on some ghee I would suggest doing up some scrambled eggs and fold in some ribbon-sliced spinach and top with melted cheese and salsa—delicious for breakfast or supper!
Spinach is a delicate vegetable, so it is very important not to overcook it. Spinach cooked for as little as one minute longer than al dente will begin to lose its chlorophyll and its bright green colour. Overcooking spinach will cause it to become soft and mushy and significantly decrease its nutritional value.
Spinach is a cool season crop and is best in early summer and again late in the fall. It bolts (goes to seed) pretty fast—just leave the seeds on the plant till fall and collect when nice and dry. You can do a late fall sprinkle of those seeds, and again in late spring to ensure you’ve got lots of new little spinach plants coming up! There are tons of seeds on the spinach plant, which is why I call it self-seeding as some surely drop and come up again in the spring! What to do with all those spinach seeds? Across Canada in the spring there are “Seedy Saturday” events—bring those seeds (or any others you may have) to swap for something different at the Seed Swap table! www.seeds.ca
Shout out to the one I help organize in Yorkton, which is the second Saturday in March—Yorkton Seedy Saturday.
In my opinion (IMO), the queen of spring is asparagus! You may remember a past article I wrote for WHOLifE dedicated solely to this amazing vegetable—see link for full article. www.wholife.com/issues/21_1/01_article.html
Asparagus always starts to pop up around Mother’s Day (here in Yorkton, SK), which, I think, is kind of cool! Some vegetables I can handle buying in the store but not asparagus. Nothing compares to the taste of fresh garden asparagus and I will go without if I have to. When you eat seasonally, you can adjust your recipes and ways of eating around what is fresh and in season.
When we bought the house next door, it came with an already established asparagus patch—in the late fall my then neighbour would cut the dried fronds down and pile over the asparagus patch, and then uncover in early spring. She taught me the proper way to harvest the asparagus and to be mindful to not over-harvest—you can learn so much from your neighbours!
I prefer to eat asparagus raw—just dive into a side dish of raw asparagus—divine! My second favourite way to eat it is charred a bit on the BBQ (seasoned with salt/pepper and drizzled with olive oil). I am one of those who succumb to that asparagus pee smell—I think one in four of us are susceptible. We harvest the asparagus daily and continue to harvest from around Mother’s Day to around July—best to leave a few asparagus tips to frond, in order to supply nutrients down to the root for next season’s crop.
Asparagus is a very good source of fibre, folate, vitamins A, C, E, and K, as well as chromium, a trace mineral that enhances the ability of insulin to transport glucose from the bloodstream into cells.
Tips from my father-in-law on green onions—he plants the bulbs in early spring (as soon as you can get into the garden!) and enjoys eating the green tips all late spring and summer! They become multipliers (1 bulb usually becomes about 10 bulbs), so in the fall let them dry up a bit, and then harvest them. Dry them well—he uses a mesh wire rack system on wheels for this step. Store them in a cool place to be re-planted in the spring!
Green onions are super versatile and add a lot of flavour to salads, soups, rice dishes, and more. Some people just like to eat them whole, dipped in salt! They freeze well, too. When there’s an excess of green onion, just chop them up and put in a freezer bag to use later.
A single, 12 gram green onion stalk contains nearly 20 micrograms of vitamin K and 1.6 milligrams of vitamin C.
According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, onions, such as green onions, are a rich source of phytochemicals, especially flavonoid compounds such as quercetin and anthocyanins.
Lettuce loves an early sowing in spring—as soon as you can get into the garden! Lettuce is full of enzymes, moisture, energy, and dietary fibre. The minerals and vitamins found in lettuce include calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, sodium, zinc, along with vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, vitamin B6, C, A, E, and vitamin K. Lettuce is great in salads as you can gorge on a big bowl of it (drizzled with olive oil and kombucha vinegar) with minimal calories and zero guilt! One of my favourite lettuce varieties is circa 1850 called Black Seeded Simpson—it’s an early leaf lettuce with large light-green curly leaves. (Prairie Garden Seeds)
Any Lettuce Salad
1 large head or 2 small heads of any lettuce (or greens mixture)
1/2 cup walnut dressing
2 tablespoons crispy walnuts
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Wash and dry lettuce. Toss with dressing and divide between four plates. Sprinkle on walnuts and cheese.
Makes about 1/2 cup
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
2 tbsp unrefined walnut oil
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Like flax oil, walnut oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Buy unrefined walnut oil and store in the refrigerator. Place all ingredients in a bowl and stir with a fork.
Makes 4 cups
4 cups walnut halves (or pieces)
2 tsp sea salt
Mix walnuts with salt and filtered water and leave in a warm place for at least seven hours or overnight. Drain in a colander. Spread walnuts on a stainless steel baking pan and place in a warm oven (no more than 150 degrees) for 12 to 24 hours, turning occasionally, until completely dry and crispy. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
The World’s Healthiest Foods by George Mateljan
Any Lettuce Salad, Walnut Salad Dressing, and Crispy Walnuts from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
Stacey Tress, a Holistic Nutritional Therapist (HNT), lives in Yorkton, Saskatchewan, with her husband and two daughters. She is the owner of Garden Therapy Yorkton which offers fermenting workshops, design work, organically-grown produce, and more! To learn more, please contact her at 306-641-4239, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, www.gardentherapyyorkton.ca, or on facebook “Garden Therapy Yorkton.” Also, see the display ad on page 9 of the 22.1 May/June issue of the WHOLifE Journal.