In January, Foods Trump Flowers

In January, Foods Trump Flowers

Snow-frosted trees
Snow-frosted trees

January in Nova Scotia is not conducive to outdoor gardening, except for specific winter vegetable beds (see Niki Jabour’s yearroundveggiegardener advice) and, with no Chester Garden Club meetings scheduled for this month,  club members were pleased to receive an invitation from a neighbouring club.  The Basin Gardeners Association (and no, it doesn’t mean they confine their efforts to container gardening; they are located in the community of Chester Basin) have invited a nutritionist to speak on “live food” on January 28. The event is scheduled for 2 PM at the AEnon United Baptist Hall in Chester Basin.

Guest speaker Georgia Barnwell, a nutrition consultant,  will talk about the benefits of growing tasty sprouts and focusing on uncooked food for a healthy lifestyle.  Georgia views sprouts as nature’s superfood – “they bring the highest nutrition density of any food, and cost pennies a day. They are full of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and protein and can energize your winter diet.”  At the meeting, members will  learn how to grow sprouts in jars and soil, and taste the goodness of a variety of sprouts such as alfalfa, pea, buckwheat, radish and sunflower.  To learn more about Georgia’s background and her views on many types of “live food”, check out her website “cuisineforlife.ca”

Another website with a food focus this month is the perennial favourite:  Dave’s Garden newsletter.  An article on Quinoa by Diana Wind (January 11) startled some readers with the heading:  “The General Assembly of the United Nations has declared 2013 as The International Year of Quinoa!”   Who knew?!?

Quinoa (pronounced Keen-wah) is an ancient grain that grows best in cool mountainous regions. It has long been a staple food cultivated by Incan tribes in the Andes Mountains of South America.  Today, most Quinoa in North America is imported from farms in Peru and Bolivia. The article describes the grain as a natural food, high in nutritional value, with a unique botanical classification.

Quinoa is one of the few plant protein sources considered to be a complete protein by itself. In addition to outlining Quinoa’s nutritional value, the author provides tips on buying, storing and cooking the grains.  [In a curious coincidence, as I was writing this blog, a member of Chester garden club showed up at the door with a huge cauldron of chicken/vegetable/quinoa soup , which she assured me would do wonders for my dreadful head cold.  It was delicious!]  Although most people can find Quinoa sold commercially in larger centres, for those interested in growing their own plants, Quinoa seeds are now available from garden seed suppliers.

Dave’s Garden newsletter also contained an article written by Amber Royer (dated January 10) which, although not specifically related to food, is focused on tea, a beverage that accompanies many foods.  All tea (herbal tisanes aside) comes from the same plant (camellia sinensis), but the liquid made from the leaves tastes widely different depending on where it was grown, when it was harvested, and how it was processed – and how you brew it.  Teas possess a wide variety of flavor characteristics according to the blend of different types of tea or the added flavour elements, such as bergamot that gives Earl Grey its particular flavour.  The author also adds that one of the biggest factors in determining how a tea tastes is the level of oxidation, by which the leaves have been exposed to the air.  Green tea has been exposed to minimal oxidation and black tea to a much greater extent. White tea refers to tea made from the unfurled leaf buds.

Rhododendron buds wait for Spring
Rhododendron buds wait for Spring

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