Cultivating Diversity and How to Eat Nasturtium Leaves

  • By Andrea Potter
  • 30 Jul, 2017

Not only edible, but beautiful, tasty and spicy!

Five years ago, I finally got a patch of dirt that I could cultivate in my backyard! Having a rural roots, I had always planted a food garden with my Mom and Grandma. As a transplant into city life,  I yearned to have a little patch that I could tend- even if just for some herbs and a few greens. 
My garden is in a pretty paved-over area in East Vancouver, there are not a ton of green spaces around. When I got started, I had the purely utilitarian sense that I would plant veggies and herbs that would save me money and be more nutritious than those in the store. I planted radishes, zucchini, kale, herbs, peas etc. My first year or two were not very productive. I had missed one major thing... attracting pollinators!
Enter flowers.
Of course I needed to invite the bees and other pollinators to my yard! I started planting nasturtiums and other flowers to attract bees, but have realized that nasturtiums are edible and delicious too! I now recall that as a kid, I would bite off the end of the pointy end of the flower and suck out the tiny amount of sweet nectar from inside. And sometimes I'd collect the flowers and put the petals on spaghetti bolognese (I don't know why I chose to decorate spaghetti, but I guess my aesthetic sense as a cook was developing!) The flowers are a little peppery and perhaps elevated that spaghetti in more than just a visual way. But I had to resist eating all the flowers if I wanted to invite the bees to my garden party.
The leaves of the plant are abundant in relation to the yellow and orange flowers the plant produces and out of curiosity, I tasted one. Peppery! Tasty- just like arugula (which I adore.)
So I have taken to harvesting the leaves instead of the flowers. I even found this variegated variety this year- adding interest to the patch. 
I have learned a lot from my little backyard food garden; well beyond just how to grow food. Having floral plants that live among the veggies and herbs has added beauty, variety and incidentally, also function to my garden. Stopping to smell (and taste) the flowers has reminded me to slow down and notice the function of beauty of diversity in my community. Diversity of plants, of people and the necessity of art and beauty in everyday life.
And with this- I'll suggest a few directions to take with your nasturtium greens in the kitchen. If you don't have them, substitute arugula leaves or mustard greens.

Nasturtium Greens Pesto 
Roasted Balsamic Beets with Nasturtium Greens
Sesame Summer Greens





Rooted Nutrition Healthy Recipes and Holistic Nutrition and Lifestyle Articles

By Andrea Potter 30 Jul, 2017

Roasted Balsamic Beets with Nasturtium Greens

Ingredients

6 medium beets (red, Chioggia or yellow)

1 handful of nasturtium leaves (or substitute arugula), whole or slightly torn

A few leaves of basil, Thai basil or mint, or a combination

¼ cup balsamic vinegar, divided

2 Tbsp olive oil

Salt to taste

To Make

Preheat oven to 350F

Clean beets, cut off greens and reserve for another use (use as any other cooking green.)

In a roasting pan or pyrex dish, pour about ½ inch of water and add beets. Add half of the balsamic vinegar to the dish and cover with a lid or aluminum foil.

Bake for about 45 minutes, or until you can poke the beet with a knife without it sticking.

Cool beets enough to handle and using a kitchen towel (that you don’t mind staining!), slip the skins off of the beets.

Chop the beets into big-ish bite-sized chunks and add to a mixing bowl with other ingredients, adding the rest of the vinegar, olive oil and seasoning with salt to taste.

This makes a nice warm or cold side salad. Add goat’s cheese for a decadent touch.

By Andrea Potter 30 Jul, 2017

Sesame Summer Greens

This inspired by one of my Japanese cuisine favourites- Gomae. I change it up a bit and am pretty loose with which greens I use and how they are seasoned. I also enjoy this both warm and chilled. It’s a wonderful way to get a ton of greens on your plate and in your body! Adding lemon juice or vinegar greatly enhances the ability for us to absorb the calcium. Lemon juice enhances absorption of iron from the greens as well, as it is a source of vitamin C.

Ingredients

1 lb (450g) of fresh cooking greens. Include kale, chard, nasturtium greens , arugula, mustard greens, turnip greens, bok choy or spinach, or a combination. A spring variation can be enjoyed with stinging nettles and radish tops. Wash well shake dry.

2 Tbsp sesame oil (toasted)

2 cloves garlic, minced or grated. Substitute for 2 garlic scapes, finely chopped if you have them.

2 Tbsp tahini or any nut or seed butter

Juice of ½ a lemon, or about 2 Tbsp rice vinegar

Tamari, soy sauce or sea salt to taste

Sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds

To make:

In a wide-bottomed pan or pot with a lid, over medium heat, add sesame oil, being careful not to over-heat oil (it should never smoke!). Add garlic and greens, stirring before putting the lid on top to steam the greens.

Steam for about 2 minutes, or until you peek in and see the greens wilting down.

Add tahini, lemon or vinegar and your choice of tamari, soy sauce or sea salt to taste.

Take off of heat and plate the greens- sprinkling with sesame seeds to garnish.

These greens taste good both hot and cold.

 

By Andrea Potter 30 Jul, 2017
Five years ago, I finally got a patch of dirt that I could cultivate in my backyard! Having a rural roots, I had always planted a food garden with my Mom and Grandma. As a transplant into city life,  I yearned to have a little patch that I could tend- even if just for some herbs and a few greens. 
My garden is in a pretty paved-over area in East Vancouver, there are not a ton of green spaces around. When I got started, I had the purely utilitarian sense that I would plant veggies and herbs that would save me money and be more nutritious than those in the store. I planted radishes, zucchini, kale, herbs, peas etc. My first year or two were not very productive. I had missed one major thing... attracting pollinators!
Enter flowers.
Of course I needed to invite the bees and other pollinators to my yard! I started planting nasturtiums and other flowers to attract bees, but have realized that nasturtiums are edible and delicious too! I now recall that as a kid, I would bite off the end of the pointy end of the flower and suck out the tiny amount of sweet nectar from inside. And sometimes I'd collect the flowers and put the petals on spaghetti bolognese (I don't know why I chose to decorate spaghetti, but I guess my aesthetic sense as a cook was developing!) The flowers are a little peppery and perhaps elevated that spaghetti in more than just a visual way. But I had to resist eating all the flowers if I wanted to invite the bees to my garden party.
The leaves of the plant are abundant in relation to the yellow and orange flowers the plant produces and out of curiosity, I tasted one. Peppery! Tasty- just like arugula (which I adore.)
So I have taken to harvesting the leaves instead of the flowers. I even found this variegated variety this year- adding interest to the patch. 
I have learned a lot from my little backyard food garden; well beyond just how to grow food. Having floral plants that live among the veggies and herbs has added beauty, variety and incidentally, also function to my garden. Stopping to smell (and taste) the flowers has reminded me to slow down and notice the function of beauty of diversity in my community. Diversity of plants, of people and the necessity of art and beauty in everyday life.
And with this- I'll suggest a few directions to take with your nasturtium greens in the kitchen. If you don't have them, substitute arugula leaves or mustard greens.

Nasturtium Greens Pesto 
Roasted Balsamic Beets with Nasturtium Greens
Sesame Summer Greens





By Andrea Potter 30 Jul, 2017

Nasturtium Greens Pesto

Enjoying a diversity of greens is what my summer garden is all about! When I learned that nasturtium greens are edible and full of peppery goodness (just like arugula greens!), I got all excited and started adding them to pesto, salads and cooked greens. 

Enjoy this pesto as you would any other fresh summer herb sauce: on omelettes, on fish, as a sauce on pasta or gnocchi, add to mayonnaise for a nice sandwich or wrap spread.

Ingredients

Collect a couple of good handfuls of leaves (or substitute arugula) Wash and pat or spin dry.

Add some basil leaves if you like
1 clove garlic, or 1 garlic scape (the curly sprout of the garlic that comes up about June)
lemon juice, to taste (or if you have it- sorrel is a lemony-sour herb)
olive oil
optional- hemp hearts (a couple tablespoons adds a creamier texture)

Salt to taste


To make pesto:
Add all ingredients except for olive oil to a blender or food processor (or an old-school mortar and pestle) and blend to combine, adding enough olive oil to blend smooth.

Adjust lemon and salt to taste and pour into a clean jar.

Pesto like this one keeps for about a week in the fridge, or freeze well for longer storage.

By Andrea Potter 01 Apr, 2017

What is a cleanse? What is a detox?

I am often asked ‘what is the right  cleanse ? Do I need to  cleanse ? There is a confusing array of cleansing pills and boxed supplements out there. These can be bought in health food and supplements stores. They are readily available, but choosing the wrong one for you may be ineffective or even dangerous!  The safest and most effective way to cleanse is actually by eating everyday, cleansing whole foods! There is no one size fits all cleanse!

Let's start with some terminology:

Cleansing: The body’s natural breakdown process. Removal of buildup. The composition of certain foods and drink can be used to aid in the bodies cleansing process. 

Detoxification: Removal of toxins from the body or neutralizing or transforming them through abstinence from food, increase in hydration or through the use of specific nutrients, treatments and herbs. A specific type of cleansing.

Why cleanse? Cleansing can reduce symptoms of congestion, let the organs rest, to slow down, help us to lose excess weight, improve flexibility, rejuvenate the body and mind, and can help us to become more organized, inwardly focused, conscious, clear, attuned to nature, energetic and relaxed.

This said, cleansing is a process that is happening all the time in your body. Cleansing especially happens when the organs of digestion are at rest, so by all means, any 'lightening of the load' of digestion (intermittent fasting is gaining popularity), consuming liquids only (like a bone broth cleanse)helps the liver do the work of filtering the blood most effectively.  For most of us, following everyday healthy eating habits like not eating before bed, chewing our food very well, choosing fresh, wholesome foods that are in season... all of these practices help support the body's cleansing process to keep everything running well. 

Signs and times that you do not need to cleanse are: constant coldness, underweight, serious blood sugar problems and also do not cleanse deeply during building times, like pregnancy or during childhood and adolescence.

All this said, everyone lets their self-care practices slide sometimes as life gets busy. Eating well is a form of self-care that sometimes we need a reminder about. And springtime is a natural time of renewal, so let's review some practices that help us to cleanse!

____________________________________________________________________________________________________


1) Phase out non-foods like refined sugar, caffeine and non-prescription drugs.

You can do this one step at a time. Start by cutting down one cup of coffee. Substituting naturally energizing green drinks like a spirulina smoothie is a great way to reduce reliance on sugar and caffeine. Click here for green smoothie recipe!

2) Support your cleansing process by taking lemon juice and water or unpasteurized apple cider vinegar and water.

Both of these tonics help to cleanse the liver ( hint: the taste sour  stimulates the liver and gallbladder). They also increase digestive fire, maximizing our digestion and therefore absorption of nutrients.

Check out this recipe for tonifying warming and tasty apple cider vinegar tea! Click here for stomach fire tonic recipe!

2a) Drink more pure water!

Water transports toxins. Cleansing without adequately hydrating causes toxins to re-circulate. Water comes in many forms- from sipping on herbal teas to enjoying broth soups and eating refreshing vegetables like cucumber and melon, you are contributing to deep hydration. Remember that drinking water, especially ice water with or just before a meal actually extinguishes your digestive fire!

3) Reduce congesting foods and Include more cleansing foods 

Step three is where you can really customize your cleanse. Starting exactly where you are in your diet, choose congesting/ building foods and replace them with cleansing foods. What on earth are congesting foods? The biggest culprits are poor quality fats (deep-fry, cheap 'vegetable' oils, processed foods, packaged baked goods) and refined sugars (as in sugar in all it's names as well as flour. Even the GF refined flours like white rice or cornstarch)

An example of this is to replace potato chips with snacking on sprouted mung beans or raw veggie sticks.

Check out this Liver-Loving Salad recipe that I made especially for a nice and tasty spring cleanse dish.

4) Eat lighter- don’t stuff yourself! Especially at night.

As a general rule, eat until you are 2/3 full. You will benefit from more sustained energy and smoother digestion. Chewing well increases absorption and satiation. Healthy fats like coconut oil and flax oil are great during cleanses. Eating too little fat causes sugar cravings and hunger.

5) Light exercise and reduce stress. Rest and relax

Cleansing happens in the body naturally when we are in a relaxed state. Take time to go inward and listen to your body during your cleanse.


I wish you renewed energy and the sense of freedom that comes from shedding the winter 'coat' (both mentally and physically!)

-Andrea

By Andrea Potter 01 Apr, 2017
In my practice as a nutritionist, I recommend this tonic so often!
It's such a common complaint to feel tired after a meal, bloated, to get heartburn...
This tonic helps reduce those uncomfortable symptoms, but more than that, it actually helps re-balance your stomach's own production of acid. When our stomachs are producing acid properly, we can absorb more of the nutrients from food and not have to suffer from the bloat and other digestive ailments. 

It's so simple, all you need are a few quality ingredients:

Stomach Fire Tonic
2 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV). Get the raw/unpasteurized stuff (sometimes labelled 'with mother')
1 tsp raw honey
1 cup warm (not hot!) water

Put all in a mug, stir and enjoy. 

Drink on an empty stomach in the morning or as a sipper after meals to avoid heaviness and heartburn.


By Andrea Potter 01 Apr, 2017

Genuine energy comes from nourishment, not stimulation!

Increasing the green foods in your diet benefits on a daily level by increasing energy levels and decreasing cravings for junk food. Add this smoothie to your daily routine and especially to your cleanse!

Caution- more is not necessarily better! Spirulina’s cleansing properties can cause stomach gurgling and loose stools if over-done. Start with 1 tsp and work up to 1 Tbsp gradually.

Make this smoothie your breakfast or as a mid-afternoon pick-me up instead of coffee.

Ingredients

1 banana, preferably frozen

¼ cup frozen berries (optional)

3 Tbsp hemp seeds (Optional but awesome!)

1 tsp spirilina powder

Water up to the 8 oz mark on the blender, or use 4 oz yogurt or almond yogurt and 4 oz water.

Optional:

1 inch of ginger, grated

pinch of cinnamon ( especially for cold people)

1-3 tsp bee pollen (Note- stay away from bee pollen if you're allergic to bees!)

1-tsp- 1 Tbsp flax oil

Directions

  • By adding frozen banana pieces, your smoothie is nice and cold without having to dilute the dense nutrition with water!
  • Pop all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.
  • Add 1Tbsp flax or hemp oil towards the end of blending. You don’t want to over-oxidize these fragile oils!
By Andrea Potter 01 Apr, 2017

The energetic nature of sprouts are UP and OUT! All the potential life energy of the plant, breaking through the seed’s protection. Sprouts are an enormous source of energy! The first spring foods- baby sprouts and quick-growing veggies like radishes help to kick us out of our winter slumber and prepare us for lighter times ahead! This recipe uses sprouts as well as a host of liver-helping foods. Keeping the liver in tip-top shape is very important for overall health. It accomplishes an enormous amount of work to keep us ticking!

Functions of the liver include:

  • It is the ‘holding tank’ and filtration for the blood. Nearly all toxins from our diet, ( synthetic foods, pesticides, synthetic hormones, even toxic by-products from our own intestinal bacteria!) are filtered through the liver.
  • Toxins from our environment are also processed through the liver.
  • It has a role in digestion as bile is secreted from the gallbladder into the small intestine to help emulsify fats and break down foods for absorption.
  • Nearly all nutrients must do a conversion in the liver before becoming bio-available.
  • It stores sugars for the blood to be released when needed.
  • It synthesizes proteins for growth and repair.
  • It is the only organ capable of regeneration. 75% of a liver can be removed and the remaining 25% can grow into a full liver! An organ that the body covets so much must be imperative!

Ingredients

Salad

1 bunch radish, 8 small or 3 medium sized. Use 1 or 2 watermelon radishes instead if you can find them.

2 medium beets, peeled

2 carrots

1 green apple

1 handful of sprouts (try alfalfa, broccoli, mung bean, sunflower…)

Essential Salad Dressing

 

This is enough for about 2 recipes of salad. Extra dressing should be kept in the fridge and can be used for green salads as well.

Ingredients

Dressing

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1/3 cup flax oil

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, grated or minced

pinch chili flakes, cayenne or black pepper (opt)

pinch sea salt

To make dressing:

– Put all ingredients into a mason jar.

-Put the lid on tightly and shake before using.

– Keep in the fridge.

-Make small amounts at a time and use quickly.

 

Directions

-Grate or julienne hard veg and apple, mix in sprouts, add desired amount of salad dressing, enjoy!

  • This salad keeps for at least 5 days in the fridge if you skip the sprouts and add fresh before serving.
By Andrea Potter 12 Jan, 2017

Apple Pie Granola

Makes about 2 Liters, or 8 cups

Store-bought granola is marketed to seem healthier than boxed cereal, but it is usually just as ridden with sugar! Those tasty clusters are so tasty; the bad news is that they are mostly crystallized sugar.

Save yourself from the blood-sugar roller coaster by making this tasty cereal from scratch instead! The high proportion of nuts and seeds (half the bulk of the recipe!) gives you lots of protein and good fats to get your day started right. And enough whole grain to keep you feeling full till lunch.

 

Ingredients

4 cups slow-cooking rolled oats

1 cup cashews or almonds (whole, raw or sprouted)

1 cup seed of your choice (I like pumpkin seeds)

1 cup dried, unsweetened coconut

1 pinch salt

 

Spices

1 Tbsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp cloves

(Or substitute 1.5 Tbsp apple pie spice if you have it)

 

In Blender

¼ cup chia or ground flax seed

½  cup honey, maple syrup or coconut nectar

2 cups unsweetened apple sauce OR just core, chop and blend 3 apples in the blender for ‘lazy’ raw apple sauce!

1 Tbsp vanilla

3 Tbsp coconut oil, melted

1 cup dried raisins (optional) or un-sulphured dried apple pieces

 

Directions

In a blender, combine chia or flax with apple sauce (or raw apple pieces if doing the ‘lazy’ version), sweetener, melted coconut oil and vanilla in blender until smooth.

In a mixing bowl, combine oats, spices, salt, nuts/seeds. Add with blended mixture to the dry mixture and stir well to combine. This part is important because once the flax or chia gets moist from being mixed into the blender mix; it starts to thicken, giving you nice clusters!

Spread mixture evenly and not too thick onto 2 parchment paper-lined baking sheets and bake at 320F, checking and stirring regularly. This takes about 1-2 hours, or just until it is dry to the touch.

Store it

Stir in dried fruit, cool and store in ziplock bags or airtight containers.

Keeps for at least a month.

Eat it

Enjoy with milk or alternative, on yogurt, over stewed fruit, eating out of hand, make granola bars or add a crunchy sprinkle  to ice cream etc.

 

By Andrea Potter 31 Dec, 2016

 

       Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a plant-based baker. I was trained in Bread and Pastry Arts at North West Culinary Academy of Vancouver and after working in chocolate, catering and restaurants, I found my happy place as a baking instructor. If I was stranded on a desert island and could only choose 3 foods it would be beer, bread and chocolate. If I could only choose two, it would be beer and bread and if I could only choose one food, it would be sourdough bread!

      What inspired you to teach healthy cooking/baking?

When I was training in pastry, I became more and more aware of the need for baked goods that did not rely on highly refined products (i.e. white flour and white sugar), wheat, eggs and dairy products. I get a lot of satisfaction from helping people and so I wanted to create and share recipes for great baked goods that were friendlier to people’s specific diets, allergies and or ethics. I also gain so much from others experience and knowledge so teaching lets me create, share and learn all at the same time!

       What do you love most about healthy cooking/baking?

Plant-based baking is a very creative process for me. I get a lot out of the process of testing, failing and eventually problem solving baked goods that match our sensory memories (such as a brownie or ice cream). I also grow my own veggies so getting to use them in my baking is really satisfying! Most of all, I love sharing treats with others and seeing them experience joy at being able to eat them.

       How does learning to use whole and plant-based foods benefit you and those who you teach?

In addition to helping people find foods and recipes that they can reintroduce into their diets that suit them, I think it provides connection, inspires confidence in people and pleasure in cooking and baking. It also enhances the quality of our nutrition by integrating new and more plant based foods into our diets.

       What makes your cooking/baking classes different from the norm?

I strongly believe that great plant based baking is a combination of good technique and the right ingredients. So I really try to make baking methods approachable, low tech, and accessible to students so that they can gain confidence and have fun in learning new recipes and new skills without feeling intimidated. I also have no expectation that people who are in my class are plant based. There is no expectation that you need to change any of your practices or eliminate anything from your current diet. It’s simply about learning new things and having fun no matter where you are at in your food journey.

       What was your favourite experience cooking/baking healthy?

Getting to work with Andrea Potter who inspires me to be a better teacher and baker and seeing folks who had previously given up on sweets being able to integrate them into their diets again!

       How has healthy cooking/baking enhanced your life and the lives' of your students?

Honestly, it has helped me to find my place in the world! Working in this area of baking/food is very meaningful to me and keeps me learning all of the time: from my own mistakes, from my students, from the continuing sophistication of ingredients and methods. I see it enhance the lives of students when they tell me how they are able to eat the foods that bring them joy and gain confidence in their own cooking so that they share it with others.

       Any advice for students thinking of getting into healthy cooking/baking?

Our classes are really approachable and we are open minded so just give it a try. We’re here to offer you plant based options and then you then can decide for yourself what you want to try and integrate! No fancy equipment needed. Oh, and it’s delicious!


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