Food Matters – Nourishing Traditions

Nourishing Traditions

Nourishing Traditions

It’s a rather plain looking cookbook. No photos, plain line drawings and some vaguely cryptic colour sketches on the cover depicting various ethnicities and food production. The subtitle on the book Nourishing Traditions, however, does attract attention: The Cookbook That Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats. And it attracted my attention.

This book was first quietly published in 1999 but has continued to find a place on bookstore shelves since then. It’s part cookbook, and part dietary information and advice that as the subtitle says, sometimes challenges many preconceived notions about how we now cook and eat our food. But the challenges are all about concepts that are kind of coming back in vogue now, concepts like eating more butter, whole raw milk, organ meats, bone broth and cod liver oil.

The main author is Sally Fallon, the president of the Weston A. Price Foundation. Sally traveled to Victoria last week from San Francisco to give some lectures at Pacific Rim College and was able to spend a few minutes with me before she got started. Weston A. Price was an American dentist, born 1870, died 1948, but is known less for his ability to filling cavities and more for his theories on the relationship between nutrition, dental health, and physical health. He formed his theories by studying so-called traditional peoples around the world.

His theories conclude that aspects of a modern Western Diet (particularly flour, sugar, and modern processed vegetable fats) cause nutritional deficiencies that are a cause of many dental issues and health problems. The dental issues he observed include the proper development of the facial structure (to avoid overcrowding of the teeth) in addition to dental caries. This work received mixed reviews, and continues to be cited today by proponents of many different theories, including controversial dentistry and nutritional theories. (from Wikipedia)

While he looked at different ethnicities of people in different countries, they may have been healthy but they wouldn’t have eaten all the same foods. So he started to look at some of the underlying principles of their diets to see if there were some commonalities. Based on that research Sally says he came up with three different diets, one was no refined or denatured foods, no modern foods, two, all the cultures he studied ate animal foods, there were no vegan cultures, and they placed a large emphasis on those foods, but the third diet, and most important in her mind, involves the principle of nutrient density. No matter where they were living, they were eating foods with far more nutrients than we get in our diets today. And that’s partly because of what they chose to eat and how they prepared the foods for themselves. For example, Sally says, they ate the organ meats and fats first, because they had much more food value. The prime ribs and steaks? She says they threw them out.

Nourishing Broth

Nourishing Broth

Eat the liver and throw away the steak is definitely a different take on what many nutritionists might recommend today. And other researchers who have looked into Price’s research say either he was misguided, or his recommendations have been misinterpreted over the years. The Nourishing Traditions cookbook is also big on advocating the consumption of raw milk, which has caused the Weston A Price Foundation to come under some fire from the US Food and Drug Administration, and of course here in Canada the debate about the benefits and the risks of consuming unpasteurized milk rages on. However, none of the controversy the Foundation raises daunts Sally Fallon in the least and she has just published another cookbook called Nourishing Broths, which will probably prove to be less controversial as who doesn’t love a good bowl of soup! But we’re not talking pure vegetable soup here, the broths are made from things like chicken and beef bones.

And so, in the interests of science and health, I made two soups for Jo-Ann Roberts to try today made from a broth recipe in the Nourishing Traditions cookbook. So I made the broth, and then my wife Ramona, who is a much better soupmaker than I am, did her magic and changed some of the broth into a chicken and coconut soup, and more of the broth in to the pork and shrimp wonton soup.

 

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Food Matters – Non-processed Meat Substitutes

Last week there was quite a bit of news about the problems a company from Seattle was having with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Field Roast Grain Meat Company doesn’t have approval to sell its products in Canada because it hasn’t met labelling and test regulations for a meat substitute product. The company manufactures vegetarian sausages, burgers and roasts, among other products. The whole discussion over these meat substitutes got me thinking about ways to go vegetarian without having to rely on these so-called ‘meat substitutes’.

I have tried these meats substitutes in the past. Not from this particular company that’s been in the news, but over the years I’ve tried many products all the way from Yves Veggie Cuisine burgers and dogs to the Schneider’s Au Naturel line of chicken nuggets and so on. Yes, that Schneider’s. Some were better than others, I actually wrote a story for BC Business magazine on how Yves was developing a veggie burger for McDonald’s and it was all about getting the right mouth feel and how it chews and making it as much like a regular burger as possible.

Companies develop these products, in part at least, so that people who want to eat fewer meat products have something that still resembles a food that they’re used to. But these meat substitutes are usually made of highly processed ingredients and I figure, why not just use all the great ingredients we have right here around us to make something really tasty that doesn’t have to have meat in it. To that end I have a couple of great suggestions that can be both vegetarian and vegan, and gluten free!

Scraping Gills off Portobello

Scraping Gills off Portobello

First there is this grilled Portobello mushroom recipe from the Cooking on the Weekend blog. One neat thing I learned about grilling portobellos is that you should scrape off the gills from the mushrooms before you marinate and grill them. Apparently the gills can get quite bitter when you grill them.

 

 

Sliced and drizzled with sauce

Sliced and drizzled with sauce

The recipe advises you to keep the marinade and use it to drizzle over the mushrooms after you’ve grilled and sliced them. But I took the marinade, heated it in a small pot and added a big tablespoon full of brown miso to stretch it out a bit and add extra flavour. Perfect!

The other recipe is from local Victoria chef Heidi Fink. I asked her for this recipe when I was preparing a magazine article about roasting, but it didn’t end up getting used, which is a shame because it is such a great recipe! You’ll find the recipe in full at the end of this post.

The Portobello mushroom dish is vegan and gluten free depending on the kind of soy sauce you use, make sure it’s not one made with wheat, and the acorn squash dish is gluten free and vegetarian, it can be made vegan simply by using a vegetable oil instead of butter to roast the squash and sauté the vegetables for the pilaf.

I have to admit I am a confirmed omnivore and there will be a free-range turkey on my Thanksgiving table, but I wouldn’t hesitate to serve these two dishes as main courses on any other day of the year. If you still need advice on how to do some real roasting, I have the cover story on this fall’s edition of Flavour magazine, which you can find at most private liquor stores in BC, but here’s a link to that as well. For confirmed meat eaters, you might want to try Stein and Dine at the Victoria Public Market on Friday night, that’s a real Oktoberfest celebration with plenty of dishes like Grilled Bratwurst, Rotisserie Chicken, Crispy Pork Rinds and Pork Knuckles, along with beers from some of the region’s best brewers.

Thermomix, amazing cooking machine!

Thermomix, amazing cooking machine!

But if you want more vegetarian dishes I will be offering up some at a free Thermomix cooking demo at the Victoria Market on Saturday at noon, which will include homemade Nutella…did you know that there might be a big increase coming in the price of Nutella because of a hazelnut shortage?

And if you just want to explore the world of cocktails you can catch up with me at the Grand Tasting at Art of the Cocktail Saturday night at the Crystal Gardens and I’m emceeing the Art of the Cocktail Bar Games event on Sunday night. I will need to take a big rest on Monday morning.

Here’s the Roast Acorn Squash Stuffed with Quinoa Pilaf recipe from Chef Heidi Fink:

Roast Acorn Squash with Quinoa Pilaf

Roast Acorn Squash with Quinoa Pilaf

Surprise your guests with a decorative centrepiece – a whole French pumpkin – which opens to reveal a fragrant filling of delicious herb-studded quinoa pilaf.  This full-flavoured pilaf can be served either as a side dish, or as a vegetarian main. Bake in mini-squashes for individual servings, or larger squashes for sharing.

Squash and pilaf can be prepared and refrigerated up to two days in advance. Add 10 to 15 minutes to the baking time to make up for the chill of the refrigerator.

 

Serves 6 to 8 as an entrée

Prep time: 40 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes for pilaf; 10 to 20 minutes for final baking

 

INGREDIENTS

Winter squash:

Use either 6 to 8 individual-sized squash (e.g. sweet dumpling), 4 medium-sized squash (e.g. acorn), or one very large squash (e.g. Turban or Rouge Vif D’Etemps)

Melted butter

Salt

Pilaf:

3 tbsp (45 mL) butter or oil

1 medium red onion, diced fine

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp (30 mL) minced fresh thyme

1-1/2 tsp (7 mL) minced fresh sage

1½ cups (375 mL) white quinoa, well rinsed and drained

2¼ cups (550 mL) vegetable broth

2/3 cup (160 mL) chopped dried apricots (use oiled scissors to cut them)

¾ tsp (4 mL) salt

½ tsp (2 mL) black pepper

1 cup (250 mL) pecan halves

½ cup (125 mL) minced fresh parsley

1 cup thawed frozen baby peas

 

DIRECTIONS

Squash:

1.  Preheat oven to 400 F.

2. If using small squash, cut a small slice off the bottoms (without going into the cavity) so the squash will sit flat, then cut off the tops and scoop out the seeds and membranes.
If using medium-sized squash, cut in half through the stem end and scoop out the seed and membranes.

If using a large squash, cut off the top and scoop out the seed and membranes (usually these squash will sit flat of their own accord).

3. Every type of squash, once trimmed and cleaned, will need to be brushed generously with melted butter and sprinkled with salt. Place prepared squash, cut side up, on a baking sheet and roast in the oven until three-quarters cooked (tender while still holding its shape), about 20 to 25 minutes for small, 30 to 35 minutes for medium, and 45 for large squash. Once cool enough to touch, transfer squash to oven-proof serving dish, if desired.

Pilaf:

1. Heat butter or oil in a 2 or 3-litre saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add onion and sauté until translucent and soft, 7 minutes.  Add garlic, thyme and sage and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add the well-rinsed and drained quinoa and stir to coat with oil.  Add the broth, the chopped dried apricots, the salt and the pepper.  Bring to a boil, stir briefly to redistribute the heat, cover, reduce heat to lowest setting and simmer for 20 minutes without disturbing.  Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes. (This last step allows the quinoa to firm up so it will not be mushy when the final ingredients are stirred in).

2. Meanwhile, place pecans on a rimmed baking sheet. Place in the oven and roast, stirring once in the middle of roasting, for 6 to 8 minutes, until fragrant and a few shades darker. Remove from oven and let cool. Chop pecans roughly and set aside.

3. After the quinoa has rested 10 minutes, remove cover and gently stir the pecans, parsley, and peas into the quinoa.

4. Gently pile the quinoa pilaf into the prepared squash, which are ready in an oven-proof baking dish, return to the oven and bake 10 to 20 minutes (depending on size of squash) until hot through, squash has finished cooking and top of pilaf is nice and crispy.

 

 

 

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Savour Cowichan, Weekend One

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 1.29.44 PMThis past weekend marked the kickoff for Savour Cowichan, a rebranding of the 15-year old Cowichan Wine and Culinary Festival.  I came on board in a big way this year, agreeing to have my mug plastered on the cover of the Valley Voice as well as be the official greeter to everyone coming to the festival on the website and in the official program. One of the local papers took my role a step further and called me the ‘unofficial ambassador’ to Savour Cowichan and I have discovered the name has stuck. Photo galleries of the events are below the main body of this post.

 

 

Me and Richard Lewin of Golda's Pesto

Me and Richard Lewin of Golda’s Pesto

On Friday night and Saturday night my wife Ramona and I took part in two events on the barge that was moored at the end of the Mill Bay Marina. Barge On In was a great kick-off to Savour Cowichan, and the sold out Sip, Savour and Support event on Saturday raised lots of money for the Canucks Autism Network. Canuck’s star defenceman Dan Hamhuis was on hand to help auction off some Canucks sweaters and special game tickets which garnered thousands of dollars once the auctioneer was ‘all done’.

 

Paella at Cherry Point Estate Wines

Paella at Cherry Point Estate Wines

On Sunday we headed to Cherry Point Estate Wines  where our gracious hosts Xavier and Maria Clare Bonilla plied us with Xavier’s special paella and glasses of the Cherry Point Coastal Red, made from Pinot Noir grapes but fashioned like a Spanish Rioja and a perfect accompaniment to the paella. Xavier and Maria Clara had been up at 4 in the morning to start the paella, 600-odd servings of it, loaded with chorizo sausage, chicken, mussels and red pepper. So delicious! Apparently making the paella is a ‘man’s job’ in Spain, just as manning the bbq is here in North America, and according to tradition, the grandfather of the family is usually in charge. All the winemakers and grape growers I’ve spoken to over the past couple of weeks have been very happy with this year’s crop and are anticipating a great vintage year.

Hilary Abbott, Cheesemaker

Hilary Abbott, Cheesemaker

From Cherry Point we dropped in at The Creamery at Cheese Pointe Farm, where Hilary Abbott was busy making cheese while his daughter Bronwyn kept busy in the shop, doling out samples of Hilary’s products, beautifully served on delicate Belgian endive leaves, and selling lots of yogurt and flavoured cream cheeses as well as his longer-aged cheeses like St. Michel and Youbou Blue. What a great day!

 

 

 

 

Screen Shot from More Than Honey

Screen Shot from More Than Honey

What’s Ahead: Thursday night marks the launch of the Cowichan Valley Film Festival, a great lineup this year including films about food. The launch film that evening is called More Than Honey, an award-winning documentary about bee colony collapse disorder.

On Saturday, October 4th at noon at the Victoria Public Market  I will be doing a free demonstration of the Thermomix cooking machine. It’s a German-designed, French-manufactured device I’ve been using for a few years now on an almost daily basis.  It can replace most, if not all of the kitchen gadgets you have cluttering your counter.  I’ll show you how it can grind, knead, chop, cook, steam, stir, juice and even make homemade Nutella!

And there may be something happening on Sunday night, but that is still TBC. Stay tuned!

Photo Galleries:

From the Barge:

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From Cherry Point Estate Wines:

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From The Creamery at Cheese Pointe Farm:

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Food Matters – Stowel Lake Farm

The idea of eating more locally-produced ingredients is slowly getting into our food culture but we are a long way from growing our raising most of our food in this region. But I take great delight in discovering farms that are doing their best to feed their neighbours. Last Friday night my weekend kicked off with part of the Salt Spring Sip and Savour Festival, a Farm to Table Wine Pairing dinner at Stowel Lake Farm with Road 13 Vineyards from Oliver. (shout out to Chris Smith at WayWestWines!) And I can safely say it was only the wine that came from as far away as the Okanagan. Everything else came from extremely close by, including the wild salmon on the menu.

Stowel Lake Farm

Stowel Lake Farm

Stowel Lake Farm is on the south part of Salt Spring, right next to David Wood’s Salt Spring Island Cheese and the farm also counts Moonstruck Cheese as a neighbour. The farm itself is a collection of families with lots of kids. 12 adults, 10 kids. Some of the adults work on the farm and others have full-time jobs off the farm. The farm itself is multipurpose. It produces lots of fruits and vegetables as well as seeds from many of the vegetables that are then sold through Dan Jason’s Salt Spring Seeds company. There is also accommodation ranging from private or shared rooms and even yurts, and meeting space, so the farm is used for retreats and conferences. It’s come a long way from when the land was purchased decades ago by Lisa Lloyd. Lisa is still on the farm growing amazing organic strawberries and her daughter Jennifer, who grew up on the farm, is now back as one of the farmers. Jennifer told me the farm has changed a lot since her mother moved the family there when she was five years old: “We moved from the city, she moved us, the three children, it was just a huge piece of land, in disarray, I would say, and she just started off with some sheep, and away she went. It was a lot of work. Now we have one of the largest market gardens on Salt Spring, a large flock of chickens, a couple of cows…and a llama.”

Setting Sun in the Garden

Setting Sun in the Garden

I didn’t get to meet the llama, which is a pet, but I did see the chickens and the dogs and the kids, all running around in the late summer sun, and Jennifer gave the dinner guests a tour through the market garden where we were invited to pick whatever we wanted to nibble on as we walked around. In the meantime, Haidee Hart was toiling away in the kitchen. Her husband Josh plays a large role in the farm operations, while she has grown into her cooking role, as the chef who caters to all the events and retreats at the farm. Earlier in the summer they decided to do a farm to table dinner, it was a great success so they decided to do another one for the fall harvest. It all added up to a fantastic meal.

 

Jimmy Nardello Sweet Peppers

Jimmy Nardello Sweet Peppers

Even the salt for the dishes was produced on the island, yet another sea salt producer has sprung up in this region, I think that makes it four now. I didn’t try to recreate any of Haidee’s dishes for guest host Khalil Aktar today, but I did bring him a fresh red pepper to taste that went into the opening canape, a sweet red Jimmy Nardello pepper, beautiful colour, flavour and aroma, looks like it should be hot because it’s long and thin. Haidee told me it almost didn’t make it into the meal: “All of a sudden I realized I hadn’t put the peppers on the list for our farmers to pick, so I sent one of the farmers literally running out to the greenhouse, and within a few minutes she had picked a whole bin and I put them on the barbecue and you could see the condensation on these peppers from the humidity of the greenhouse and the heat of the barbecue and just a few minutes later they were in the canapés, it was just beautiful.”

Chef Haidee Hart

Chef Haidee Hart

There’s no mistaking Haidee’s enthusiasm about what she does, and it’s the kind of enthusiasm we need in this region if we hope to regain some of our food security and grow more food right here. It’s the same kind of enthusiasm I saw a couple of weeks ago at Saanichton Farm where the Rashliegh family has thrown itself into a new interest in locally grown grains and pulses, and Jennifer Lloyd says it’s the enthusiasm at Stowel Lake Farm that makes it all worth the effort.

The food festival season continues this weekend, and I hope to see some folks at the Savour Cowichan opening events this weekend on the barge at Mill Bay, there are only 100 tickets left for Barge On In on Friday night, and I just found out the Sip, Savour and Support event on Saturday night is sold out, so you’re lucky if you got your hands on tickets for that.

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Food Matters – Avoiding Lunchbag Letdown!

BC teachers are voting today on the tentative agreement reached this week, and if the vote is yes, kids could be back in school as early as next Monday. (Update: Teachers voted yes and kids will be back at school on Monday) For some parents, if they haven’t been making lunches for kids going to day camps, this will mean a welcome return to routine, but also presents the age-old question, what do I make my kids for lunch? I’ve been giving this some thought, so brought in my version of a good lunch for Jo-Ann Roberts on Food Matters this week.

Cookies!

Cookies!

The idea of me making good lunches is kind of funny, because my school lunches were probably the one meal where my mom did not use the bounty of our garden we had at home. My lunches invariably consisted of peanut butter and jam sandwiches on white bread, or a ham sandwich with a slice of processed cheese, iceberg lettuce and Kraft sandwich spread. There was also usually an apple or a banana, and a Thermos of milk. But, the cookies packed with the sandwiches were always home made, usually chocolate chip. Today I’m sure I would really turn my nose up at those lunches (except for the cookies), hope my mom isn’t listening!

I don’t have kids, but I’ve had a few picky nieces and nephews I’ve had to feed at one time or another, so I know it can be tough to please everyone. I also reached out to my Facebook friends for their take on lunches they prepare for their kids.  I noticed a few trends in their comments. Sandwiches are out. No one said they make sandwiches for their kids. Now wraps, that’s a different thing. And leftovers are big. Salad jars. So are Bento box style lunches, where you have all these little containers that can each hold a different taste treat.

Veggie Rice Paper Rolls in Lock&Lock

Veggie Rice Paper Rolls in Lock&Lock

So our packaging technology and embracing ethnic foods has changed the style of our lunches over the years. I’m a big fan of the Lock and Lock containers, which really provide a water-tight seal so there is no danger of soup or other liquids spilling out in transit. Thermoses are better are keeping hot things hot and cold things cold, and of course more attractive in design. What I’m not a fan of are the convenience foods that are out there now, designed to easily put in lunch boxes or bags, but are usually made up of processed foods that can be very high in fat or sugar. And those little baby carrots? Those are really just big carrots whittled by a machine into that baby size; I’m always wary of those sitting on the shelf too long and growing dangerous bacteria. Take the time and peel and cut up your own veggies…hard things like carrots and celery will last for days if you put them in a container of water in your fridge, so you can take some out every day to add to a lunch. Tortillas and other wrap-style flatbreads like pita pockets are great because you can take your leftovers and stuff them in those flatbreads and they will hold almost anything.

Edamame with Chai Salt

Edamame with Chai Salt

My modern-style lunch I brought in for Jo-Ann today consisted of edamame with Vancouver Island Salt Company chai salt, rice paper veggie rolls, figs wrapped in spicy cappicola salami, and my new favourite oatmeal chocolate chip and dried cranberry cookie recipe from Rosie Daykin’s Butter Baked Goods cookbook. For more ideas, check out this blog from Amanda Hesser. She’s the respected New York City food writer, the mother of twins, who has a regular column about what she sends her kids off to lunch with every week. My friend Rebecca Coleman dedicated one of her Cooking By Laptop columns to back to school and if you’re looking for ‘official’ Bento box ware check out this link.

Announcements:

I made a point of using Vancouver Island Salt Company salt today because it was just announced that owners Andrew Shepherd and Scott Gibson have won first place and a $100,000 cash prize in the Small Business Challenge contest, sponsored by Telus and The Globe and Mail. It’s a really great story of a business starting off very small with a great product and slowly expanding to meet the demand for its product world-wide. They will use the money to hire more employees and fine-tine their production processes.

Winners have also just been announced in this year’s edition of the We Heart Local awards and we have some Vancouver Island winners…including:

Natural Pastures Cheese Company in Courtenay for the Favourite Local Cheese Maker.  Coastal Black Estate Winery in Black Creek, just north of Courtenay, as the Favourite Local Winery. Hoyne Brewing Company of Victoria tied with Howe Sound Brewery for Favourite Local Brewery, and the Glen Alwin Farm of Courtenay was voted as the Favourite Local Meat and Poultry Supplier, I haven’t heard of them before, but apparently they are best-known for their beef and lamb. So congratulations to those companies, and if you haven’t visited them in the past, you certainly have a good reason to visit them now. I’ll be at the Coastal Black Estate Winery on Sunday for the North Island’s Gourmet Picnic with stops in Salt Spring and Nanaimo for other food events. For fun photos from this weekend, check out my Don Genova – Food Journalist page on Facebook.

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Food Matters – Saanichton Farm

All the dry weather this summer has been a mixed blessing for Vancouver Island farmers. Ideal harvest conditions for many crops, but at reduced yields. Any adversity in his fields hasn’t stopped a Saanich Peninsula farmer from growing some unusual crops for this region, as I related to Jo-Ann Roberts this week on CBC Victoria’s All Points West.

Red Lentils

Red Lentils

Let’s start with the unusual crops… like chickpeas for a start, and lentils. I’ll get back to the chickpeas in a bit, but if you remember back in May I talked about a marketing push by Saskatchewan farmers to get us eating more lentils. At that time I found out that red lentils are grown right here on the Saanich Peninsula and I was determined to visit the farm this summer. Turns out I called Bryce Rashleigh of Saanichton Farm at just the right time a couple of weeks ago as he was just completing the harvest of the lentils. Bryce is a third generation farmer, his grandfather came to Canada in 1912 and originally settled in Coombs, then Qualicum Beach and finally to Saanichton in 1957. The farm was originally mixed use, and big on dairy, but like many of the other dairy farms on south Vancouver Island, stopped milking cows and Saanichton turned into primarily a farm that grew hay for horses. Bryce told me it wasn’t until the next generation of Rashleighs that the idea of growing grains and lentils came along when his son went to agricultural college: “I had done grains on the farm up until the early 80s, but then we got totally into dairy. And you just do one thing, we just ordered the grain in from Top Shelf Feed in Duncan, and we sold our combine. But now we’ve come back into the local thing again, and that’s where my son came in, he’s got the knowledge on how to run and fix the machines and I’ve got the knowledge of the farms around here (to rent more land to grow grains). We’ve hooked up with some families in Alberta who have been a great help to us, almost like a sister-city kind of thing, every fall I go back to this little town and I’ve learned more and done more.”

Turkey Chicks

Turkey Chicks

Saanichton Farm is a very busy place. It’s right off of Stelly’s Crossroad, and the first building you see is a large garage, where the many machines used on the farm are repaired and maintained, along with an office where sales of lentils, whole wheat berries and flour is sold. Bryce had just taken a delivery of turkey chicks, so there’s a special enclosure for them, and a larger chicken run. There’s a small hut for packaging of the lentils, and a giant metal and plastic barn containing grain silos, it has a smooth concrete floor where the lentils and other grains are cleaned, sorted and dried before being siloed.

60-year old grain and seed cleaner

60-year old grain and seed cleaner

Bryce showed me a cleaner and sorter he sourced from a Prairie farm, a wood and metal contraption he figures is about 60 years old and still chugging along. Now, I have never actually seen a lentil plant. And since I got to the farm a couple of days after all the lentils have been harvested, I still haven’t seen one. So I asked Bryce to describe the plant to me and how it is harvested: “The plant is a little bush that grows about 8 inches tall. And it’s a huge challenge because you need to have a level field, and have one where the geese and the deer and the rabbits don’t get into, because they’d totally graze it off, AND you need a flat field that doesn’t have rocks, because you don’t want to pick up rocks in your combine. I’m fortunate enough to use some land where the owners have fenced for deer, so I grow some lentils there. When we combine the field the machine removes the lentils from their pods, one or two lentils per pod, and then we run them through a drying and two cleaning processes before we get them into the bags. With the drought this year we’ve seen a lot of lentils and a lot of the chickpeas with just one seed in a pod.”

Sum Total of the Chickpea Harvest

Sum Total of the Chickpea Harvest

This Year's Chickpea Harvest Turned into Cattle Feed

This Year’s Chickpea Harvest Turned into Cattle Feed

The dried red lentils are not the hulled and split red lentils we usually buy, they are whole, but you can see they have a reddish tinge under the green. Now to the chickpeas, another crop we don’t associate with Vancouver Island, Bryce and I picked some out of the fields as we wandered through where they had been grown, but later Bryce showed me his entire 2014 harvest of chickpeas. It fit into a tiny jar in his office. This year there were so many weeds infesting the chickpea field he couldn’t really harvest them properly. So he cut them all down and baled them into those big green marshmallows you see in hayfields, everything in there will ferment and then be suitable cattle feed. In the meantime, some of his neighbours combed the field for these leftovers and managed to make a few meals out of them. Bryce isn’t giving up, though, as he just met a retired businessman in Victoria who used to be the largest chickpea processor in the Prairies. He told Bryce he’ll help him choose proper varieties of seed and advise him on growing, so he’ll try chickpeas again next year.

Jill Rashleigh Bagging Lentils

Jill Rashleigh Bagging Lentils

You might be wondering if it’s worth all the trouble to grow these now non-traditional crops on Vancouver Island, but Bryce really believes it is. He is now growing barley which is being purchased by local brewers to make beer with, and there is even a large malting facility being constructed so the barley doesn’t have to be sent off island for malting, and a new grain mill is also coming on line because there are now enough farmers growing wheat and other grains to justify it being built here. Bryce also grows wheat, but he had to send it to Chilliwack to get milled into flour. He says the pendulum is shifting back to the days of mixed use farms, and there is enough public support: “When I grew up, before my grandpa passed the farm down to my father, we had a real mixed farm. You had your grains, your animals, your vegetable garden. You did it all, and now we’ve simple come back full circle to that way of doing things. It’s all local, and it’s been hugely received by the local community, it’s fun to be a part of it, you meet people who are excited to be buying your product and that makes you excited to grow it for them.”

Lentil and Black Bean Salad

Lentil and Black Bean Salad

Spicy African Lentil Dip

Spicy African Lentil Dip

You’ll find the lentil salad recipe I brought in for Jo-Ann on this page from Saanichton Farm. And here is the link to the African spiced lentil dip from chef Marcus Samuelsson. It makes a lot, so unless you’ve got a big gang of people coming over you might want to cut the quantities in half! Happy cooking…

 

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