From Loon Lake Road – Fresh food makes a healthy difference

Barbara Hendricks' monthly column of life and activities in Loon Lake.

Everything is growing and it really satisfying to see fields and trees come back to life.

Cattle are out on the range so do drive with extra care when the cattle are near the road.

In the garden there are  greens to be harvested along with the asparagus; however it is nearing the time to stop picking the asparagus to let the bushes grow strong for next year. I am always surprised by those who think asparagus is a difficult and tender crop. In my experience it is very hardy and readily self seeds with the help of birds and I find it growing in the driest most exposed places, often on the south side of a fir tree. In the winter it is the Solitare that I see fluttering around the asparagus tops to get to the berries.

I read with concern a report widely publicized recently that Canada can expect to have cancer rates increase by 40 percent in the next 30 years. This is deeply troubling considering how much money has been put into cancer research. More  needs to be done to identify the causes of cancer.  Many cancers now can be treated if diagnosed early enough. That requires access to doctors and diagnostic facilities – so should we all sell out and move to Kelowna so we can be sure we can access treatment? The other troubling aspect of the study as it was reported by the journalists is that there appears to be a widely accepted view that cancer is a lifestyle disease, eat right, keep active, don’t smoke or consume alcohol, protect your skin from the sun and tanning beds, and you are less likely to get cancer, is the mantra.

Well really. What about all the chemicals that are listed as cancer causing or suspected of causing cancer that can be the environment? Some problem areas are construction materials, especially in a new home, new furniture, in food wrappings and packaging. I miss the focus on ensuring the environment we live in is clean and free of chemicals that are known to cause cancer or have not been proven to be safe.

It is easy to say “eat right” but it is much, much more difficult to put into practise when the regulation on labelling manufactured food is so weak in Canada. In a discussion on labelling GMO products, I heard a spokesperson for one large factory recently dismiss any new labelling – because if they did, people wouldn’t buy it! Well, duh, that is the purpose of labelling; to let people make informed choices in what they will eat.  And there are more problems with labelling, like telling how much sugar of all forms really is in the product. You need to be a chemist to truly understand some of those labels. And then of course you need to carry a magnifying glass with you to the store to be able to read the contents label on some products. If the contents label is very long and in very small printing, I don’t use the product. I know of no evidence that GMO products cause cancer; however I am a strong advocate of adequate labelling so the consumer can make an informed decision, especially when it appears that those choices we make come home to us when we are told that our lifestyle and what we ate caused our ill health.

I am glad I have a piece of land with good soil and I can grow many fresh vegetables and fruits for my use. I am also very pleased to see the growth of local food producers for example, to see Horsting Farms back in production and using the land to offer people healthy food. Desert Hills Ranch provides enough boxes of tomatoes and peppers and bags of onions that are made into sauces, salsas and preserved to last the whole season until the tomatoes are ripe again in August. These producers make it much easier for us to eat healthy food. Local ranchers provide eggs as well as lamb, pork, beef and chicken. Now if only I could grow coffee beans without a greenhouse I would be well provided for.

Speaking of tomatoes, I read last year in a farm magazine that you can take cuttings from your tomato plants in the fall before the frost and root them it is easy in a jar of water. You can keep the small plants in the house over the winter and get extra early tomatoes in the spring. I did that last fall with one tomato – a Latah variety, and in mid May I was picking fresh vine ripened tomatoes from it. My challenge is giving the plants enough light during the winter and to keep the pests off the plant. Mine went down with mites and never really recovered but there still are tomatoes ripening on it.

Nature has been showing off its best crown jewels in the past month. The hummingbirds in the sun flash bright jewel like colours that outshine anything a jeweller can make. At Loon Lake Road we have three kinds of hummingbirds – Rufous, black chinned and Calliope. Some people have reported seeing the Anna’s here in the interior but so far I have seen none. And these little guys are hard to miss – in fact it is more an issue of near misses as they swish past so close that you can almost feel the air from their wings. They really do like to tease humans and I do wonder what response they are looking for. It’s not only when one is near a feeder that they do this, they also do it out in areas away from the feeders and it is unlikely that there is a nest nearby. I think they just like to tease us, because they can.

The other jewels on display are the butterflies. In my observations there are more butterflies around this year than previous years. There are small ones, medium sized ones and the big Western Swallowtail. They are yellow, blue, and white with orange tips, dark grey with copper spots as well as the tortoiseshell and checkered ones.

Every time I try to study one so I can better identify it – it flutters off quickly so I have difficulty identifying them. But that is okay, they know who they are, although I would like to know what kind of food the larva eat.

I can identify the White cabbage butterfly though and my cabbages are securely behind insect net to keep that butterfly away. Cabbage full of holes somehow just isn’t that appetizing to me although it may be healthy. I agree with the French that appetizing and well prepared dishes, enjoyed in good company, go a long way toward good health. Good health everyone.

Barbara Hendricks