Dark Green Leafy Vegetables!

Eat Your Dark green Leafys!


Leafy Greens: Kale, Swiss Chard, Spinach, Mustard Greens, Beet Tops, Turnip Tops, Kohlrabi Greens, Broccoli Rabe, Pea Shoots, Bok Choy(and many more) are delicious and jam-packed full of nutrition.  They also all grow really really well in Canmore.

Baby-sized, you can pick the leaves to eat raw in a salad.

Pea shoots: When thinning your peas, keep the shoots.  You want to pick off the tendrils, and break the stalks into 3” pieces with some leaves on each.  If the stalks are really coarse you can remove the leaves and discard the stalks.  If the shoots are very tender they can be added raw to a salad.  Or you can stir-fry them.  Wash them and then dry very well before stir-frying.

Spinach:  Spinach should be cooked with the stalk left on.  If you have the root of the plant you can peel and cook it as well in most dishes.

Kale:  I remove the thicker stalks of Kale (as well as chard and beet tops) and save them for broth.  Some dishes like casseroles and stews are really great for using the stalks.

Giant Red Mustard: No need to remove stalks unless you have really large coarse leaves.  Has a strong spicy flavour and can be used sparingly to add kick to a dish, or cooked up on its own.

Chard, Beet tops, Turnip Tops:  According to Guns Germs and Steel these are descended from the same plant and were bred for different features.  That explains why they look the same above ground.  In the Communal Garden this year, if you see a row or patch of all white stalks, those are turnips, all red or all yellow, those are beets, and a bazillion different colours mixed together will be the Swiss chard.  I remove the thicker stalks of these as with kale, and these can be used interchangeably with kale, spinach and mustard in many recipes.

Freezing your greens for later:  You need to blanche or steam your greens before freezing so they hold their texture and colour.  I prefer to steam most of them.  Remove stalks as needed, chop coarsely, and place in saucepan with steamer insert with a couple inches of water in the bottom.  Cover with lid, bring water to a boil.  At this point it is probably done.  You want the greens to be just barely wilted and turned a brighter colour.  Remove immediately and plunge into ice water to stop the cooking process.  Remove from the water and wrap with a towel or paper towels, squeezing as much water out as you can (if you are going to use this for stews it’s not such a big deal but if you want to use for frittatas you want as little extra water in there as possible).  Put in ziplock baggie, label and date, and put in deep freeze immediately.

For frittata instructions, see this blog http://canmorecommunitygardening.org/kale-frittata/

Basic method for cooking greens: Wash, de-stalk and chop your greens, leave water clinging to leaves.  In a large frying pan with a lid, heat a generous amount of olive oil over medium heat.  Sautee a chopped onion (or garlic, or shallots or leeks…) until soft and just starting to turn brown. Stir in a bit of salt and pepper.  Add your greens and stir well to coat leaves with oil.  Turn heat down and cover for a minute or so, checking often.  It is ready when the greens are just barely wilted.  Serve immediately. This timing works well for the tender greens we are growing in the communal garden.  If you have tougher greens the cooking time will change, you may even need to add some liquid (broth or water).  Experiment with adding different flavours; try adding mustard seed, hot pepper, cumin, ginger, sesame seeds, sundried tomatoes, raisins, cashews, peas, beans, chickpeas…


Basic Kale Chips: Line cookie sheets with parchment paper and preheat your oven to 300.   Wash, dry well, de-stalk and tear kale into 2-3” pieces into a big bowl.  Pour a little bit of olive oil on your palms and begin to massage oil into the leaves to coat thoroughly with a very fine layer.  If you need more oil add it a drop at a time.  You can always add more but if you add too much it’s just gross.  Lay the oiled leaves out in a single layer on the cookie sheets being careful to minimize overlap.  Sprinkle a sparing amount of salt to stick to the oiled leaves.  Bake for about 10 minutes keeping a close eye on them.  You want them to be completely dried without turning brown.  My opinion is that kale has so much flavour on its own that it doesn’t need anything else, but if you want to try out some different flavours you can google kale chips recipes for ideas. My friends really like adding smoked paprika to their chips.  The key thing to remember is that you only want to add enough oil to just barely coat the kale leaves.  You can also try making chips with any thick-leaved veggie.  Try broccoli leaf chips or cabbage or kohlrabi!

Stir Frys:  Any of these can be added to a stir fry. Chopped stalks will go in around the same time celery would, and the leafy green part usually only needs about a minute, so at the very end.

Crudites:  Chard stalks in particular are delicious raw and can be cut up and served on a veggie tray with dip or cheese.  They have the same texture as celery but the flavour is very different.  The bright colours look amazing.

Juice It:  Leafy dark greens taste great juiced with beets, apples, carrots or lemon for sweetness and the mild flavours of celery and cucumber are also a good match in a glass of kale or chard juice.






Rhubarb Part 2


It is rhubarb time again in the Bow Valley!  Last year in my post I said to harvest by cutting the stalks.  I have been corrected.  You want to grab the stalk close to the ground and wiggle it loose, pulling out as much as you can.  This will encourage the plant to continue to produce more stalks.  You still want to cut off the leaf and put that in the compost right away.

If you want your own rhubarb plant, in the Fall or the early Spring (April around here!), find a friend who has a rhubarb plant that needs to be divided (they should be divided every 5 years or so- when the stalks seem to be less robust than they used to be).  It is easiest to see the crown and buds when it has just woken up.  Dig up the plant being careful not to damage the crown, and cut it apart with sharp spade, shovel or knife.  Then you will have several plants.  For full instructions please visit  http://www.rhubarbinfo.com/propagating and  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-qgehGT3Ds


Flowering:  All our plants have been blooming really early this year.  (they probably need dividing)  While I am told flowering does not affect the taste, it does affect the production of the plant as it redirects its energy into flowers and seed production.  When you see a flower stalk forming, cut it out as close to its base as you can.  This can go in the compost.

Rhubarb keeps really well in the deep freeze.  Wash and chop it and fill ziplock bags, according to the quantities you would need for a recipe, for example, one medium ziplockfull would be the right amount for a rhubarb crisp.  Then you can enjoy this taste of summer all winter long!

To make rhubarb compote:  Wash and chop your rhubarb.  Put it in a saucepan with a little bit of water and sugar to taste and cook it down.  You can add other berries if you like.  Serve over ice cream, cake, with baked brie, or whatever else you can imagine.


Link to Audrey’s Rhubarb Sour Cream Pie  http://farmbox.ca/audreys-rhubarb-pie/


Insect Pests in Our Garden Part 1: Cutworm


In Canmore, we don’t have as many pests as they have in warmer climates, however we do have some.  This blog will review some of the bad bugs we have in our Community Garden, and what we can do about them.

When we notice a pest, it is important to assess several factors in order to decide what action to take (know your enemy!).

  1. What are the signs indicating the problem?  A lot of the time we won’t actually see the bug right away so it is important to be tuned in to our plants and notice anything out of the ordinary.
  2. What is the insect’s life cycle? Often it is one stage of the life cycle that causes the damage, so it is important to know if the insect has one generation or several within a season.  How/where does the insect overwinter?
  3. What is the insect’s behaviour?  How does it cause damage and can we do things to interfere with this behaviour that would reduce the damage?
  4. What are the insect’s natural predators and are they present in our garden?  Sometimes we can sit back and let Nature do pest control work for us.
  5. Is there something the insect loves even more than our food?  Sometimes if we offer them something better they will leave our crops for us.
  6. How bad is it, really?  Is the insect causing major damage to our crops, and if so how quickly is it moving?  Will it spread to other areas of the Garden or will it stay in one spot?  Is it as bad as it looks?  Often we have a gut reaction to seeing insect damage and go to the extreme of pest control when the reality is the insect will munch a little bit then move on with its life, leaving most of the crop for us.  I have a farmer friend whose mantra is “Bugs get some, I get some”.  He also takes it as a good sign when he’s buying produce if there are bugs and worms on it because that means there isn’t pesticide on it.  When we’re gardening organically, we have to take a good hard look at what’s really necessary when it comes to pest control, even organic pest control.



The most destructive pest we had in our garden last year was cutworm.  It almost completely decimated our brassicas crop.  Read on for more information, but in a nutshell, our early frost-resistant crops are the most susceptible as they are what is there when the cutworm are at their destructive larval stage.  We can best protect new seedlings with collars (toilet paper rolls work well!), hand-picking at night, and sprinkling corn meal for them to eat instead of our plants.  Save some seedlings and be ready to replant later in June if necessary.  It is important to note that they can appear in any garden bed and are not necessarily localized to the same bed from year to year.

Signs:  You won’t likely see the little guys.  You will go in to the garden one day to find that your seedlings appear to have been mowed down at the soil surface.

What it is:  Cutworm is actually a little caterpillar that is the larvae of a largish brown moth.  The caterpillars are smooth and come in several colours from brown to greenish to pinkish.

Life cycle:  Eggs that overwintered in the soil hatch in early spring and the voracious larvae go looking for new seedlings.  By mid-June they have started to pupate in the soil, emerging as moths in the summer.  At the beginning of Fall the moths look for good places to lay their eggs and the whole process starts again the following Spring.  One generation.  This explains why cool-weather crops like brassicas are more affected than warm-weather crops like squash; because they are in the garden at the right (or wrong) time.

Habits:  They live in the soil just below the surface.  At night, or on cloudy days, they will come out and crawl across the surface of the soil to the seedlings to feed.  They do this by wrapping their little bodies around the little stem and start chewing.

How bad is the damage:  It’s bad.  They are capable of killing everything in the vicinity.

What we can do:  This Spring:

  1. Protect new seedlings with collars around their stems, pushed about an inch into the soil so the worms can’t crawl under.  Toilet paper rolls work well, but any kind of collar is fine, so plastic bottles, tubing… if you cut a slit in the collard to get it around the plant, make sure to tape it back together well so the worms can’t crawl through a gap.
  2. Putting a larger stick right next to the stem of the seedling will also prevent the worm from wrapping itself around the stem.
  3. Hand-picking.  Go out at night with a flashlight and look for them on your plants, pick them off and squish.
  4. Cornmeal.  Sprinkle cornmeal around your garden, cutworms apparently love it but it kills them.
  5. Wait until later in June to plant, when the worms have gone on to the next stage.  Be prepared to replant parts of your garden if needed.
  6. Molasses.  Paint a ring of molasses around your seedlings.  When the worms crawl towards the seedlings they will get stuck and eventually die.  Caveats:  this can kill good bugs too, it needs to be replaced after rain or watering, and spreading molasses in our garden is probably frowned on in Canmore (do bears love molasses?  Want to find out?)
  7. Diatomaceous earth.  This is ground up fossil.  It can be spread around the seedlings and works by cutting the worms so they dehydrate and die.  Egg shell powder has been suggested for the same use, reports have been mixed.  Caveats:  Will kill good bugs too.  Doesn’t keep the worms off the plants immediately; they take a while to die.
  8. Predatory Nematodes are very effective and safe.  You can get them from most good garden supply websites.  Make sure the variety you buy is rated for the cutworm.  Caveats:  Expensive, and you have to reapply every spring as they don’t survive the winter here.

What we can do: In the Fall:

  1. Over the summer, create a messy weedy environment that is more appealing for the moths to lay their eggs, then mow it down just before winter and remove the material from the garden to the landfill or fire pit.
  2. Turn the soil to expose eggs to the winter
  3. Don’t mulch.



UPDATE:  Sebastien’s report from last year (photo soon)

These are what we found around june 15th although I remember seeing evidence of their presence at least a week before digging up the soil to find these guys. They were only found in the brassica side of the garden. The smaller plants were cut down but the larger ones seemed unaffected. All the plants in the area did have holes in the leaves but that was probably cabbage moth or something else. We put corn meal around each of the plants(apparently they eat it and it kills them) and collars around some of them. This may have helped but we also spent a fair bit of time digging them up. We dug up close to 100 worms/cocoons and the problem slowed.



Annual Fundraiser on February 27, 2014


It’s time to dig yourselves out of hibernation and come out for a fantastic fun night at the 2014 Canmore Community Gardening Society Fundraiser!   Featuring the talk “Be A Weed” by founding member and Farm Box owner Chrystel Vultier, a dance party with local the Celtic band The Last Order and lots of great stuff to bid on at the silent auction.  It will be hosted by Communitea Café on Thursday February 27.   Doors open at 6:30pm.  Cover charge is $5 for Members, $10 for Non-Members.

About the Guest Speaker…

Chrystel Vultier is a founding member and past president of the Canmore Community Gardening Society.   She is a true local food purveyor for her home town of Canmore, AB. Over the past several years she has been instrumental in creating the Canmore Community Garden which now provides plots for over 100 gardeners in the city and area. She also co-owns the business Farm Box which sources local and organic food directly from farmers in Alberta and BC, and distributes it to over 130 families in a weekly CSA program, as well as making the abundance of healthy produce available to the whole city through a booth at the local farmers’ market. In 2011 she attended the Verge Permaculture course.  Chrystel was one of the presenters at the first TedX Canmore event in 2013.


About the band…

The Last Order:  Using the energy of one thumping bass drum, next add a sprinkling of bass and 12 string guitar to capture the attention. Once properly warmed up, add the tin whistle and mandolin for a dash of celtic flare, stir thoroughly and finally add harmony vocals and the subtle use of the harmonica to create a night of Celtic flare & energy. Mix in some Celtic folk, country and Bluegrass to achieve a unique taste for all audiences. Having played throughout New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, U.K., The channel Islands and Canada, It’s the perfect recipe for dancing, and always leads to a good nights craic.

The band is made up of

  • John Paul Mcbride    (vocals, guitar, harmonica and drums)
  • Tara Brehaut                         (vocals, Tin whistle, Piano)
  • Grant Hilts                 (Vocals, Mandolin, Harmonica)


A trio of musicians from different parts of the globe, each with a love of Celtic Music and beyond. Just stick a microphone and a pint in front of us and, let the party begin…


About the Silent Auction:  We have once again had a very generous outpouring of wonderful donations from our community for you to bid on at the silent auction.  Businesses who have donated items include:  Mountain Lady Greenhouse; Paint Box Lodge; Mercato; The Iron Goat; Fireweed Glass Studio; Spring Creek Mountain Village; The Nordic Centre; Yoga Lounge; Crossfit; Vales Greenhouse; Sunny Raven Gallery; Good Earth Café; Onward Up; Natural Mama; An Edible Life; Canmore Homes; Back At It Massage; Music In The Mountains; JK Bakery…





Communal Gardeners, we have lots of zucchini.  If you look deeply into the plants, or under the weeds, you will find the largest specimens.  Right now we are in the midst of a late-summer heat wave, however this is bound to end soon.  When it does, when we get our First Official Frost Warning, all the zukes that are not covered should be picked before the frost hits, regardless of the size.  Now, be aware that it is what is open to the frost that will be damaged.  Zucchini grow big leaves and anything below these leaves, whether other leaves or fruit, will be protected from light frosts.  As the season progresses the plant will be worn down.  So harvest accordingly, and check your email and the Facebook page frequently for notifications.

I have been asked several times how to cook the zucchini.  You can refer to the previous blog on Grilled Vegetable Salad for ideas, as well there are many great recipes for all kinds of things from zucchini gratin to zucchini loaf to zucchini fritters on the internet.  Here is what I do with all my zucchini (when not making the grilled veg. salad):

Cut the ends off the zucchini.  Slice it in half lengthwise.  Rub the slices down with a bit of olive oil.  On the cut side, sprinkle with a bit of salt and some minced herbs (thyme and/or rosemary or whatever you have handy).  Grill on the barbeque.  If you don’t have a barbeque you can cook in a frying pan on your stove.  Cut up to serve, or plate the whole halves, depending on the size, and number of people you’re feeding.  Okay, so there is always something to watch for and with zucchinis, it’s that you don’t want to undercook them.  With little ones it’s easy.  The big ones, you have to test them by poking, or squeezing, like you do with potatoes.  Overcooking is another hazard, but they will still taste good, just be a little hard to grab with a fork.

There you have it.  Don’t let your garden-fresh zucchinis sit in your fridge.  Cook them up right away for best results.  If you don’t eat it all, cooked zucchini freezes really well.  Chop it up and freeze in about ¼ cup volumes which you can thaw to use in sauces and pastas, sandwiches and wraps or on pizza.


Kale Frittata

A very long time ago, in a galaxy far far away… I was at a dinner party at my friend Ginny’s house, and one of the dishes she made was a fritte.  That’s what Italian-Canadian farmers call them.  The rest of us say frittata.  Anyway, her sister-in-law was over the moon at how fluffy it was.  “How many eggs did you use?!  I always have to use at least 8 eggs and mine never turns out this fluffy?!”  Ginny shrugged and replied she used 2 eggs.  “No way!”  another shrug and that’s it for my memory.  I was new to food.  In those days I still ate Alphaghetti out of the can during my busy season.  What I realize now is that Ginny got her eggs from the next farm down the road, organic and super-fresh.  She never used grocery store eggs, and whether she pointed that out to her sister-in-law at the party I don’t remember.  But that is the first trick to making a fantastic frittata.  Fresh eggs.  The eggs you buy at the store can be months old already by the time you buy them.  They do have a long shelf life.  But nutrition aside, there is no comparison between Industrial grocery-store eggs, even “organic” or “Omega-3” eggs, and what you buy from a farmer with happy chickens.  Just as a material, the way they work, the results you get.  $6.50/dozen from Farmbox.  You could totally make a frittata with 2 eggs.  I use 6 because I want to eat more eggs.

The next trick is to beat them well.  I mean, top speed on your mix master.  Crack them into the bowl, turn the mixer on, and then prep the rest of your ingredients.  You can do it with a hand mixer, or by hand, it will just take you a lot longer.  If you have a blender you could use that to beat your eggs.  You want them good and fluffy.  Add your salt and pepper in this step.  When you add the rest of the ingredients, fold them in carefully trying not to collapse the eggs.

The trick with the cooking part is pre-heat a seasoned cast-iron skillet well over medium heat, I always add a drop of olive oil even though theoretically you don’t need to if it’s seasoned (black). If the oil is smoking a tiny bit you’re good to go.  That keeps it from sticking.  Covering it with something (lid, cookie tray…) helps it cook more evenly, and I turn the heat down a bit once I’ve poured the mixture into the pan.  Then I finish it in the oven so the top gets nice and golden.

So here is my “recipe”: (this is basically what I brought to the potluck in July)

Beat 6 eggs (fresh, Farmbox). Salt & pepper. Fold in chopped kale, shallots, tomatoes, oregano, feta, garlic scape pesto. Pour into large pre-heated cast iron skillet, cover. When mostly cooked sprinkle with parmesan and move to hot oven. May need broiling.

Regarding the ingredients: use anything. Last time I used beet tops. Chard is great in this. Nice thing is you can just clean out your fridge with this one. Use any herb.  The oregano plants in the garden right now are huge and STRONG. But sage, thyme, or rosemary would be nice too.  Just stick with one herb though. Use anything oniony or garlic-y.  Chives, green garlic or green onion tops… I’m trying to use up this garlic scape pesto that turned out to be not so great raw, but is super-yummy cooked into stuff.  Beans are ready in the garden; this might be great with blanched, chopped beans.  How about some grilled zucchini?!  Or leftover baked potatoes?!  Artichoke hearts, roasted peppers, roasted eggplant… Also, change it up with the cheese.  I’m a vegetarian so I never think to include meat, but I bet it would be great with leftover chicken, ham, bacon or maybe even fish.  Bake it in a pie crust and you have quiche.


Harvesting and Storing Potatoes

Potatoes are formed and can be harvested once they start blooming.  However you can leave them in the ground a lot longer, until the plants die back, and the potatoes will keep growing. They can be safely left in the ground for up to 6 weeks after the tops have died back as long as the ground doesn’t freeze and you don’t forget where they are.  It is best to dig potatoes early in the morning when the ground is cool, and to dig them when the soil is dry. (CCGS Communal Gardeners note: The Peas and Potatoes Team is managing the timing of the potato harvest to maximize the yield so we Communal Gardeners wait for their go-ahead to harvest.)

When you are ready to dig up your potatoes use a pitchfork to loosen the soil about 12-18 inches around the plant (depending on the variety).  You can pull the whole plant out and often there will be potatoes attached to it.  Then with a hand tool or your hands, dig around in the soil for more potatoes.  You want to be careful not to scar the skins with a tool. The plants can go on the compost pile.

With a dry rough cloth (like an old face cloth) or vegetable brush, clean the dirt off your potatoes and inspect them.  If the skin is damaged, or there are scabby bumps, set these aside to eat up right away.

The rest of your potatoes, the ones with skins intact, need to be “cured” for about 1-2 weeks to prep for winter storage.  Lay them out in a single layer on a screen that is propped so air circulates all the way around, in a cool dark place that is protected from sun, rain and wind. Spread them out on newspaper if you can’t get your hands on a screen.  If your Cool Dark Place is also very dry, you can put a bowl of water near or under them to give a bit of humidity.  This “curing” helps toughen the skins and heal minor nicks, think the difference between the potatoes you buy in the winter and the ones farmers are selling you right now with the thin flakey skins.  Without this step, your potatoes will last 4-6 weeks in the fridge.

To store your potatoes, you can put small batches in boxes or burlap bags and keep them in a cool dark corner of your basement, or alternately if you have limited room, I have had good luck keeping them in a crisper drawer in my fridge through to April.  They need a damp, cool spot.  High humidity, around 90%, and a temperature of about 4-8 degrees Celsius.  At a lower humidity and/or higher temperature, they will go soft more quickly.  At a colder temperature the starches start to turn to sugar making them taste odd.  This can be fixed by letting them sit at room temperature for a few days before cooking.  Freezing will ruin potatoes.   They bruise easily so handle with care.

Enjoy your potatoes!

-Nicole Tremblay

Grilled Vegetable Salad

Grilled Vegetable Salad

Last night I made what is possibly the most very best version of the Grilled Vegetable Salad I have ever made.  Ever.  I saw a recipe for something resembling what I make a couple of years ago in the local newspaper when I was visiting my parents in Osoyoos, and it has become my favorite way to eat vegetables.  In fact it is my #1 favorite way to feed dinner guests, because I can make it ahead of time, adding the vegetables to the platter as they are ready and letting them soak in the marinade and the best part is that it is as delicious served at room temperature as it is served warm or hot, so I can have it all ready before my guests arrive and then I can just visit, instead of worrying about the food.  For this reason, if I have you over for dinner I am very likely to serve you this always, although you might not notice because it is different every time I make it.

This is not a recipe.  It is a description of how I made this delicious meal, specifically how I made it yesterday.  I make it differently every time.  The details are important.  You can go to the Safeway or the Superstore and get all the ingredients and make pretty darn good food, and I do that sometimes, especially in the winter, but the details are the crucial element, in my world, to making pretty darn amazing food.

First of all, I need to have a home garden.  Since my space is very limited, I triage what I need to grow.  Peas for my awesome young neighbors because all kids need to have fresh peas when they are playing, beans because you can never have too many beans, and herbs, because you just can’t buy the same quality as what you can grow.  Right now, in my planters behind the garage, I am growing sage and oregano, and in front with the flowers I have orange mint and Kentucky Colonel mint for the mojitos.  Some years I will also grow thyme, or something else, and Genovese basil inside, but this year it’s just the sage and oregano.  At the end of the season, before it gets killed by the frost, I cut it all back, puree it with olive oil (not the mint though-yuck-I usually just bring it in and it gets sickly and aphid-infested by February- I’m thinking this year I might try making chocolate coated mint leaves) and then store the paste in my deep freeze.  Then I chip some out when I need it.  Point being, I have this homemade oregano paste in my deep freeze and it is one of the ingredients in the marinade.

The other ingredients in the marinade (the specific one I made last night) are:

-3 cloves Farm Box green garlic, crushed

- 1 Tablespoon whole mustard seeds from Spice Sanctuary, crushed well with a mortar and pestle

- Olive oil, about 2-3 times as much as the vinegar

- white balsamic vinegar (because that’s all I had.  Usually I use white or red wine vinegar.  I think it’s important I had run out of that and used the white balsamic this time.)

-some chopped green part of a spring onion from the Garden

-generous pinch of salt  (I use the pink Tibetan salt because it’s pretty, but the important thing when choosing salt for your cooking is that it does not have any chemical additives.  So a good quality sea salt or even Kosher salt would probably taste as good.)

Confession time.  In addition to being a Communal Garden member, I have a Single Farm Box share.  I really would recommend this as it fills in a lot of the blanks as we wait, in our Zone 2B, for example for the zucchini to be ready to harvest in our garden, with top-quality food from small organic farms in Alberta and B.C.  So yesterday afternoon, I already had in my fridge 4 zucchinis, about 2 pounds of potatoes, a pound of beets, and 1-1/2 bunches of the yummiest little carrots that I had been hoarding for this meal.  I also picked up a couple of yellow peppers at the grocery store. ( I would have liked to get an eggplant too but they were kind of mushy and with eggplant freshness is so important.  Any vegetable you can fit onto a barbeque can go into this dish.  Cabbage, broccoli, asparagus, parsnips, turnips, tomatoes, beans, fennel, anything.  Whatever you want.  I used what I had in the fridge and topped up with a favorite.)  I stopped at the Garden and picked the largest spring onion I could find, and several baby Walking Onions.

I also picked flowers for a little bouquet.  Remember, the details are important.

At home I prepped the veggies for the BBQ.  The beets and potatoes I chopped up and wrapped in foil pouches.  The baby Walking onions I pulled apart and put in with the beets.  These packets go on first and come off last.  Nothing ruins my day the way biting in to a raw potato does.  The carrots were tiny so were left whole.  Zukes, onion and pepper were cut in half for the BBQ, to be chopped further after they came off.  These were all rubbed with a little olive oil and grilled.  As they were ready they came off the BBQ and were cut up as needed, and placed on the platter when ready.  This is great because sometimes you don’t always have room on the BBQ for everything at the same time and it’s no problem.  Drizzle the marinade over the veggies as they are ready.  This dish is great with some bocconcini cheese.  Because some of my guests don’t eat dairy, I made extra marinade and tossed the cheese in the marinade bowl when the veggies were done, and people could add it or not to their meal.  If it’s not an issue I put the cheese on when the potatoes go on, and it melts a bit.

So that’s it.  My favorite way to eat vegetables.  You can try all kinds of combinations of herbs/spices, oils and vinegars in the marinade.  They make fantastic leftovers and will keep for days (some vegetables better than others ), and are great on a pizza or in a wrap, hot or cold.

Both Spice Sanctuary and Farm Box are at the Canmore Farmers Market every Thursday.



- By Nicole Tremblay


We have loads of greens growing in the Communal Garden right now so I thought I would write a bit about salad and greens and herbs.

Lettuce and other greens grow really well all season long in our cool climate.  As soon as the leaves are big enough to eat you can pinch them off from around the outside of the plant and leave the plant to keep growing and producing. Pick what you need only for the evening’s salad and the rest will stay most fresh if left in the garden.   This goes for lettuce, herbs, and “cooking greens” like spinach, chard, mustard, kale, and beet greens.  The greens are lovely raw in a salad when you pick them at their “baby size” and can be incorporated into your standard salad mix. The flowers of many of these are delicious too.

Building your salad:  My Foodie Mentors taught me to skip the store-bought salad dressing in favour of and herb, an oil, and a vinegar(acid-could be lemon/orange/lime juice)  So, a salad would be made, for example, by tossing greens with lots of fresh tarragon leaves, with olive oil and white wine vinegar.  Done.  Get fancier by adding any chopped veggie or fruit, a cheese and a nut or seed for a crunchy texture.  Some combinations of the above work really well, others not so much.  Taste your herbs and greens and think what would go well with them, a sweet cheese and fruit?  Sharp cheese?  You can also look at different cuisines for what flavours have traditionally been put together; the Caprese salad is a classic, with sweet basil, tomatoes, mozzarella/bocconcini, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  The classic Greek salad basically trades out the basil for oregano, the bocconcini for feta and the balsamic for lemon juice.  The classic Ethiopian salad is tomato with minced green jalapeno as the herb, and lemon juice.  You can fill out any of these with loads of mixed greens out of the garden for a nice big salad.

Some hints:

1- Toss your greens in the oil first to coat well, then add the vinegar or lemon juice. This will slow the wilting.

2-start with a scant amount of oil, and add more if you need it.

3- Just a splash of vinegar or lemon juice will usually suffice.

4- Treat cheese as a seasoning.  Buy good quality stuff and use it sparingly.

5- Toast your seeds and nuts and let them cool before adding to the salad.

6- Try out different vinegars.  Apple cider vinegar will give you fruitiness, while white balsamic is milder than regular balsamic, but still sweet.  Also try out different oils.

7-Mash a ripe avocado in your bowl and thin with a tiny bit of oil for a creamy, super-nutritious dressing base.

8- Use onion sparingly.  Slice a little bit as thin as possible and let it sit in the bowl with the olive oil while you prep the rest of the salad.  Try shallots.

9- The calendula are blooming, edible and nutritious, and sooo pretty so put the petals in all your salads.

To help you get inspired I picked the brains of several gardeners who are also passionate about their salads.

From Donna Vultier: “ Hands down our favorite is a mix of as many greens as we can find with some leaf lettuces mixed with the spicier greens like arugula, mustard and mizuna.  Our house dressing is a vinaigrette with a herb infused white wine vinegar from Switzerland called Kressi (available at Valbella), garlic, Dijon mustard, a touch of chili garlic hot sauce for heat and then half and half olive and canola oil. In the summer we often use this as a base for our evening meal and add grilled chicken, broiled steak sliced up, duck confit or baked arctic char on tp. Mmmm…summer!”

From Dea Fisher:  “My personal favourites [herbs] are cilantro, nasturtium leaves and oregano. They blend well with such combinations as goat cheese/blueberries, or orange/blue cheese/pecan.  Marjoram is also a wonderful choice and we should consider [planting] it for next year.

Chive leaves are well known and a salad isn’t complete without them for me, but few realize you can also eat the flowers.  They do make a salad look beautiful.  Mint makes an interesting addition that really freshens the flavour, and lavender can give a delicately fragrant surprise that again marries well with goat cheese.  Dill is wonderful in summer salads, but is strongly flavoured, so a little goes a long way.  It teams well with creamy flavours.  Fennel is another one, but I don’t recall whether we planted any.  Thyme is a good herb to use where a stronger and more earthy flavour is wanted and strengthens your flavours to team well with barbecued meats, for example.  Stems are woody. So the tender leaves should be stripped from the stem before adding them.

The star of the garden for flavour is sweet basil.  While there are many ways to use it, you can’t beat the simplicity of treatment the French and Italians give it:  slice rich, ripe tomatoes; add slices of fresh mozzarella; tear up some basil leaves to sprinkle over, and then drizzle with balsamic vinegar and grind over some fresh black pepper.  Voila!

Don’t forget those nasturtium buds and flowers!  They look beautiful in a salad and are so delicious.”

From Graeme Williams: “ Mostly I will make a simple vinaigrette with olive oil, white wine vinegar & Dijon mustard & just toss my freshly picked leaves in this dressing – sometimes with toasted walnuts & crumbled goats cheese.”

From Tasha Sawyer: “As for greens, I like a green salad with the addition of avocado and sunflower seeds. For the dressing, I like to make cilantro coconut vinaigrette.”

Tasha also gave me an almost-recipe for the amazing delicious mustard we are growing:

“(You can also use kale and chard in the same way.)

For every 500g of cleaned, chopped greens: 2 slices bacon, finely chopped; 3 cloves garlic minced; 1 t sugar; 250 mL chicken or veg stock; salt and pepper

Cook the bacon over medium heat until it releases its fat. Add in garlic and sauté 30 seconds or until it is softened. Add in chopped greens, sugar and stock. Braise about 10 minutes until greens are soft. Salt and pepper to taste.”

Sometimes you need a fruit vinaigrette.  For example, for a salad made with spinach/chard/kale; dried or fresh cranberries, peaches or apricots; and  almonds or pecans; drizzled with melted brie, you need to toss it with a Saskatoon or raspberry (locally picked but not from the Community Garden of course) vinaigrette which is easily made by putting your berries (a cup or two) in a blender with enough white wine vinegar to get it saucy (start with a bit and add more as you need to), a small dollop of honey, drop of avocado oil and pinch of salt.  (By the way, it doesn’t store well.  I tried, don’t bother.)

Here are some websites for more inspiration:





And if you’re wondering about what to do with all that gorgeous hyssop (this isn’t a salad mind you, but we should be starting to harvest carrots soon…),


-by Nicole Tremblay with thanks



Best Things to do With Rhubarb


June is Rhubarb Season!  And don’t let me catch anyone paying their hard-earned money for rhubarb around here; the stuff grows feral all over the place in Canmore, almost as prolifically as dandelions.  Grab a knife and a bag or a basket and go pick some.  There are a few young plants growing around the Community Garden, but if someone beats you to them, or you are not a Member of the Community Garden, not to worry.  There are gorgeous huge plants all over the place.  The best spot to find rhubarb is probably by the river below Prospect Heights.

When harvesting rhubarb, you want to select larger stalks, usually growing around the outside of the plant, and cut or twist them off close to the ground.  Leave the smaller stalks to keep growing.  Cut the leaf off, it is poisonous (we never eat the leaf, my little neighbors have been read the Riot Act about this), and keep the stalk, the stalk is what we’re after.  As with many plants, it tastes the best if you harvest it before it starts to flower.  Note that not all rhubarb has a red stalk, and some of the yummiest varieties have pale green stalks.  Also, keep in mind that as abundant as the rhubarb harvest is, you want to pace your consumption and don’t overload on it as it contains a substance that if eaten in large quantities can cause kidney problems.  Rhubarb is a special treat.  It freezes well and you can store rinsed, chopped rhubarb for months in the freezer to cook later.

-Useful in the garden:  Lay rhubarb leaves on your garden beds to help keep weeds down.  The leaves are also good to compost.

-Fresh and Raw the Old-Fashioned Way:   rinse your freshly picked rhubarb stalk, and dip in a bowl of sugar.

-Rhubarb fool–easiest dessert ever:

This recipe has yoghurt.  Just using whipped cream works too.

 450g rhubarb, coarsely chopped

 150g caster sugar

 juice and grated zest of 1 orange

 3 cardamom pods

 100ml double cream

 100ml yoghurt

  1. Mix the rhubarb, sugar and orange juice and zest together and place in an ovenproof dish. Add the cardamom pods. Cover and bake in an oven preheated to 190°C/Gas Mark 5 for 30–45 minutes, until the rhubarb is completely soft. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely. Take out the cardamom pods and purée the fruit.
  2. Whip the cream with the yoghurt until it just holds its shape. Carefully fold the purée into the cream so you have a ripple effect, then transfer the mixture to serving glasses. Chill before serving.

-Best Rhubarb Crisp Ever: (For Ginny!)

Combine:         1 cup AP flour

¾ cup rolled oats

½ cup melted butter

1cup brown sugar

1tsp cinnamon

Pack half the mixture firmly into an 8×8 or 9×9 square baking pan.  Save the other half for later.  Cover with 4 cups chopped rhubarb.  You can substitute some rhubarb with apples or berries, whatever you have.

Syrup: Combine in a saucepan:

1 cup brown sugar

2Tbsp. cornstarch

1 cup water

1tsp vanilla bean powder

Cook syrup over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens.  Pour over rhubarb then top with remaining oat mixture. Bake at 350F for one hour.


-Grand Finale:  My most favorite thing to do with rhubarb.  Rhubarb Cocktails.

Step 1- Make Rhubarb Syrup: I got this recipe from World Vegetarian by Madhur Jaffrey (Everybody should have this cookbook)

Chop 3lbs rhubarb into 1 inch pieces, (I usually go with about 8 cups chopped) put in stock pot with about ¾ cup water, bring to a simmer and cook it down for about ½ hour.  Strain (a jelly bag/strainer works fantastic for this step) and put the liquid in a clean pot with 4-3/4 cup sugar (just use plain old white refined sugar.  You will see this isn’t about being healthy and everything else I have tried gives the syrup an unwelcome flavour, for way more money) and a bottle of RealLime, or if you prefer, the juice of 10-16 fresh limes, approx. 2 cups.  Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until it starts to thicken and get syrupy.  Store in jars with non-corrosive (plastic) lids. You can stop here and mix it to taste with club soda for a rhubarb Italian soda.


Step 2 – Make the mojito:

Muddle a sprig of fresh mint in a glass with a shot of rum (dark rum tastes best but the clear rum will make the prettiest cocktail)

Add 1-2 oz. (to taste) rhubarb syrup

Add ice cube, top up with club soda, give it a stir, garnish with a wedge of lime or a sprig of mint.


Step 3 – Variations:

Rhubarb Margarita:

In the glass you are using to serve the cocktail, fill with ice, a shot of tequila, and rhubarb syrup.  Dump contents into blender, blend into a slush, return to serving glass.  Garnish with lemon or lime wedge.


Rhubarb Gin’n’Timber:

Muddle 3-5 fresh sage leaves with a shot of gin in a glass.  Add 1- 2 oz. rhubarb syrup to taste, juice of half to one lime, top with tonic water (or club soda) and ice, stir, garnish.


–By Nicole Tremblay and Sandra Grad

You can buy Madhur Jaffrey’s “World Vegetarian’ from Amazon.  It really is the most essential cookbook out there.