Monthly Archives: March 2015

The Changing Face of Soup and Bread by Alison Colwell

Soup and Bread (formerly known as Meals for Seniors) is one of the most loved and successful projects the Food Program runs. I’d love to say we planned it that way—but of course we did not.

We started making soups for seniors in May of 2011, and in that first kitchen we put 95 soups in the freezer. The project began as a response to the need for good, low cost, nutritious meals for seniors on our island. We worked with the Tuesday Walking Group to distribute those soups to seniors who wanted them, and I used to knock on doors at Page Drive. Local farmers help supply produce when they can (they still do). We had 6 kitchens that first year.

In the Spring of 2012 we started opening up the hall for lunch. We thought that as we all took a break from the kitchen and sat down to eat together, the community might want to come and join us. Now, three years later, we are open for soup twice a month, and sometimes more than fifty people come eat with us. Those people that can pay $5 for lunch do so and support the program, but no one is ever turned away hungry.

In 2012, in response to grumbles from seniors who were getting tired of just soup, we started making frozen meals. That year we had 8 kitchens and made 70 meals.

Fast forward two years. In 2014 we had 22 kitchens and made more than 1200 meals! Compare that to 6 the first year. At least 95% of those meals go to seniors (55+). Did you know that our frozen soups and meals are available for $5 at the Tuesday Walking Group at the Lions, the Health Care Centre and the South Hall? Soups are distributed through the Food Bank and the school. Over the last four years the project has been continually changing, and growing and feeding people in this community.

We have a super group of community volunteers who make all those meals and soups, and we couldn’t do this without their amazing dedication. As the program grows, they need help! It doesn’t matter if you can’t stay the whole time—a new person peeling potatoes or washing dishes is always appreciated! There are lots of different jobs, and no experience is necessary— just the ability to follow directions and have fun. Everyone is welcome.

2018-05-31T20:00:02-07:00March 28th, 2015|Categories: Community Meals, Food Program|0 Comments

The Chemistry of Bigleaf Maples By Colleen Doty, School Food Program Coordinator

December was ushered in with the Great Bigleaf Rake-Up at the school garden. With maple leaves buried under a dusting of crunchy snow, blue sky above, Galiano School kids gathered around two large maple trees on the school property to learn about densely rich maple leaves and the value they bring to other plants when composted. The kids were divided into four teams: Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, and Nitrogen, and each team learned some interesting facts about these four elements that figure prominently in maple leaves. What also became quickly apparent was how humans and plants require the same nutrients in order to thrive! For example, blossom End Rot in tomatoes and osteoporosis in humans are both related to calcium deficiency. In another example, magnesium is required by plants to process and use amino acids, vitamins, and proteins, and similarly for humans, magnesium is used to process other elements, notably calcium and potassium. Whereas magnesium deficiency will result in yellow, veiny leaves in plants, a deficiency in humans will impact the functioning of muscles and organs.

The teams then gathered up fallen leaves and laid them around garden beds and the fruit trees in the school garden. Our garlic, kale, chard, and fruit trees were tucked in with several layers of rich maple leaves.

In our fragile Coastal Douglas Fir ecosystem, bigleaf maples can be seen as competitors to slower growing species such as the hemlock, Douglas fir, grand fir, and sitka spruce (Thomas, K.D., 1999; Haeussler S. et al 1990). Bigleaf maples have a large canopy that blocks light to trees below; their heavy litterfall can smother slower-growing saplings; maples have a shallow and wide-spreading root system that likely has a competitive advantage in shallow soils. However, bigleaf maples can play a significant role in nutrient cycling (Turk, 2003). As the leaves decompose, elements inside the leaves make nutrients available for biological growth. The forest floor around bigleaf maples is significantly high in available nutrients, most notably nitrogen, potassium, calcium and magnesium, and contains higher levels of most nutrients than conifer litterfall. Another bonus for the garden is that maple leaves decompose and lose their mass relatively quickly, thus rapidly cycling nutrients.

Bigleaf maples also play an important role in enhancing biodiversity by hosting a large number of epiphytes. An epiphyte is a plant that grows non-parasitically upon another plant, and derives its moisture and nutrients from the air, rain and sometimes debris from other organisms. Ferns, lichens, and mosses are examples of epiphytes. Maples are very popular hosts!

As we arranged the leaves over the beds and stood back to admire the russet hues against the snow, my mind jumped ahead to spring. It won’t be long before we’ll be drizzling syrup over Maple Blossom Fritters.

2018-05-31T20:06:59-07:00March 25th, 2015|Categories: Food Program, School Projects|0 Comments

Saving Seed with Dan Jason – Sat April 25th 12:30-3:30pm

How can I make my food supply more local? Why can’t I find seeds for those varieties my grandmother grew in her garden? How do I save seeds from plants that cross-pollinate? What do we need to do to start a seed bank on Galiano?

Join Dan Jason of Salt Spring Seeds and learn how to take part in the age-old practice of seed-saving, and answer these questions and more. Understand the importance of heritage seeds in the modern food system and enjoy a hands-on demonstration of harvesting seeds in preparation for this season, including harvesting, cleaning, storing and labelling.

Dan Jason is the founder of Salt Spring Seeds. An active critic of genetically-modified seeds, patents on living organisms and industrial agriculture in general, he is a dedicated educator on sustainable organic gardening and farming, food politics and seed saving. He is the author of Saving Seeds As If Our Lives Depended On It.

$15-$25 Please register at:

2018-05-31T20:04:17-07:00March 25th, 2015|Categories: Food Program, Workshops|0 Comments

Community Garlic Co-op

The Garlic Co-op is a group of garlic enthusiasts who collectively grow a few varieties of organic premium garlic, with scapes, in a large, shared, sunny plot at the end of Morgan Road, at the south end of the island. Together we learn about this easy-to-grow, hardy crop, share the load of bed-preparation, seeding, weeding, mulching and harvesting, and enjoy some delicious garlic. We also explore various soil-building and composting techniques. Everyone is welcome, and no previous experience is required to join. If you’re interested, come on out to a work party. Email for more info.

Nutrient Analysis of Nettles – Colleen Doty, School Food Program Coordinator

I knew nettles were good for us, but really, how good? To find out, I was inspired to get a lab sample of one of Galiano’s most prominent forageable foods. I then compared the analysis against the nutrient values of kale, broccoli, lettuce, spinach and 2% milk (you’ll see why) and the results blew me away. The data on the foods below came from the USDA Nutrient Database and the Canadian Nutrient File.

Most surprising to me was that nettles have the highest calcium content of all these foods.

Food    Calcium Value per 100g

Nettles, Blanched    481mg

Kale, Raw    150mg

Milk, 2%, with Vitamins A & D 128mg

Spinach, Raw    99mg

Broccoli, Raw    47mg

Lettuce, Green Leaf, Raw    36mg

One would have to drink over three times as much milk to get the same quantity of calcium as one portion of nettles.

Nettles also exceed on the dietary fibre front:

Food    Fibre Value per 100g

Nettles, Blanched    6.9g

Kale, Raw    3.6g

Milk, 2%, with Vitamins A & D 0g

Spinach, Raw    2.2g

Broccoli, Raw    2.6g

Lettuce, Green Leaf, Raw    1.3g

Two other mineral comparisons I thought I’d mention are magnesium and potassium. As you see in the chart below, nettles have relatively high amounts of both minerals. Comparatively, spinach has the highest magnesium and potassium value; and kale also exceeds nettles in potassium value.

Food    Magnesium Value per 100g    Potassium Value per 100g

Nettles, Blanched    57mg    334mg

Kale, Raw    47mg    491mg

Milk, 2%, with Vitamins A & D 14mg    162mg

Spinach, Raw    79mg    558mg

Broccoli, Raw    21mg    316mg

Lettuce, Green Leaf, Raw    13mg    194mg

There were many other interesting comparisons, but the ones above were the main highlights. As we head into an early spring, with nettle growth well underway, I’m going to try to make the most of nettle harvesting, drying and storing. Move over milk and make way for those nettle smoothies!

2018-05-31T20:12:21-07:00March 20th, 2015|Categories: Food Program, Nettlefest|0 Comments