Focus on Food: Local Greens are Here Again

Tisporah Grignon

Tuesday, April 28 2015

Sounds like the name of a song - isn’t springtime on Gabriola something to sing about?  Our surroundings are beautifully lush and verdant, and, we are gifted with a large variety of the season’s edible greens.

A few market garden stands are already open on the island. If you see one of their signs, slow down, and take note of when that stand is open - for they offer the freshest and healthiest food we can eat, much of it grown without chemicals.

Perhaps some of these foods, such as mustard greens, may be new to us. Ideally, if we could learn to like the new-to-us greens, our bodies will thank us, the growers will thank us, and ultimately we become more sustainable as islanders. 

For we too will be affected by California’s worst drought in 1200 years. The state’s largest agricultural area, the Central Valley, has for decades been producing enormous quantities of vegetables, fruits and nuts, that travel to plates across North America, and beyond. It is in this valley that 80% of the world’s almonds are grown! But in 2014, the drought ravaged the Central Valley - where about 15,000 farmers received zero allocations of water. 

Farmers there are being forced to figure out a way to conserve and share the water that remains. An outdated system of water allotment rights exists that serves senior users who have farmed longer than junior users, who will undoubtedly go without water. Some farmers are forced to leave land fallow; others are ripping out water-thirsty crops such as almonds. (It takes 1 gallon of water to grow 1 almond!) Without water, there is less food, less income, less work available for farmworkers - and heartbreak.

This is why it has never been more important to act locally regarding our food supply. Besides learning to like the greens being grown by our friends and neighbours, there are wonderful wild greens that pop up here every spring. Plentiful on Gabriola is vitamin-rich Miner’s lettuce, which got its name because the Gold Rush miners ate it to stave off scurvy, caused by a Vitamin C deficiency; they very likely learned this trick from the local First Nations. Chickweed, considered a weed to some, is  a wonderfully nutritious salad green - high in chlorophyll, vitamins and minerals. And of course there are nettles, an iron-rich spring tonic.

Tis the season to become fans of local food.