You're stocked up on canned goods, your freezer is overflowing, and you have toilet paper for days. But what about the fresh, healthy goodness that you can buy from local farmers?
As we enter fully into spring here on Vancouver Island, a greater variety of fresh produce will be coming available with each passing week. This is great news for several reasons: fresh foods are higher in nutrients that will keep you healthy, you can directly support your local farmers and our vulnerable Island economy, and your foods will have a much lower carbon footprint when sourced locally.
Keeping your pantries stocked is wise, but I highly encourage you to include freshly grown ingredients as well. We are lucky on the island to have such variety, and today I have selected three local ingredients that can be purchased pretty much year round. Each will provide a beautiful array of nutrients, plus they are affordable and have great shelf lives!
I'm talking about beets, cabbage, and lentils. Each of these ingredients are easily grown on Vancouver Island and can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. Let's talk a little about what each of these foods will provide to your physical body, and some ways to enjoy them on your plate.
Beets are truly one of my favourite foods. They are rich in iron and nitric oxide, which both help to support our cardiovascular system and the health of our blood. Beets also provide fibre, antioxidants including vitamin C, and magnesium. Beets can be enjoyed fresh while shredded into salads, cooking them into borscht-style soups, roasting them up as a side dish, or adding half of one to a smoothie for a beautiful, crimson colour.
The humble cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable full of sulforaphane, which is a compound highly supportive of liver function. A higher intake of sulforaphane can lead to increased production of glutathione, which is a powerful antioxidant that is key to the body's natural detoxification processes. Cabbage also provides fibre, vitamin K, folate and vitamin C. Cabbage can be enjoyed raw, shredded into coleslaw, sautéed in stir-fry dishes, fermented as kimchi or sauerkraut, added to soups and made into cabbage rolls. It's also a key ingredient in borscht!
Last, but not least, are dried lentils. These are my favourite legume, and I love the fact that red lentils are grown just down the road from where I live, at Saanichton Farm. They are high in protein, B vitamins, folate, antioxidants and fibre. They can be soaked, sprouted and added to salads, as well as turned into soups and stews. Lentils can also be used to make veggie burgers, dips and pates.
So, as I said, these three ingredients can be found locally all year round, they are very affordable, and highly diverse. But what about putting them all together in one dish? I've got you covered with my delicious borscht-style soup recipe! Check it out below.
Feed the Fire Borscht-Style Soup:
1 Large Onion, diced
5 Beets, chopped
2 Potatoes, chopped
2 Carrots, diced
1/2 cup Red Lentils, rinsed
6 Garlic Cloves, minced
1/2 head Purple Cabbage, thinly sliced
3 Pieces of Seaweed (kelp/kombu)
1 litre Bone Broth (or veggie broth)
2 Bay leaves
2 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
1/2 tsp Oregano
1/4 tsp each of Coriander, Cayenne, Nutmeg
Hot water & Bouillon Powder in ratio, to preferred volume
Salt + Pepper to taste
Sautée onion in olive oil on low-medium heat with spices and crumbled seaweed. Add chopped beets and potatoes, cover with lid, but stir frequently. Make sure they don't stick.
When those are partially cooked through, add diced carrots, lentils, and garlic. Stir intermittently for a few more minutes before adding the rest of the ingredients and simmering to desired textures and flavour.
For a smoother soup, use an immersion blender.