Chronicles

The vegetables of New France

The vegetables of New FranceSince the time of New France, the summer has always been a prosperous time in terms of food. People were able to trade turnips, cabbage, onions, peas, parsnip, beans, lettuce and cucumbers. Even today, despite the possibility of importing products year-round, nothing tastes better than freshly picked vegetables.

In his book Voyage de Pehr Kalm au Canada en 1749, Pehr Kalm wrote, “The purple onion is the most common plant in the vegetable patch, followed by the pumpkin, carrots, and lettuce; the settlers also plant red currants, occasionally kidney beans (Phaesolus vulgaris) and fairly good quantities of cucumbers in their gardens...”.

For the summer period, Maison Saint-Gabriel offers you a series of chronicles on the history of the vegetables mentioned by Pehr Kalm along with recipes so that you can sample them and better appreciate them. You can either grow these vegetables in your own garden or find them in the public markets.

These chronicles complement the horticultural lectures presented every Sunday during the summer, in the farmhouse garden at Maison Saint-Gabriel.

Click on a title to access an episode or to close the tab.

First episode
Parsnip, a root vegetable

Parsnip, a root vegetableThe Greeks and Romans of antiquity used the ancestor of the parsnip we know today abundantly. A dietary staple in the Middle Ages, the parsnip was eclipsed by the arrival of the potato. The current variety is one of the hundred or so plants grown by monasteries included in the “Capitulaire De Villis”, a decree issued by Charlemagne. It was only in the 17th century that the parsnip was introduced into North America. It was grown as a vegetable, but also as a fodder plant – livestock ate it from root to leaves.

The parsnip belongs to the same botanical family as the carrot: the umberlliferae or parsley family. It may be round, oval or long. It is coming back into popularity today as a result of renewed interest in old-fashioned vegetables as well as for its qualities as a healthy food. An excellent source of dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals, it is particularly rich in potassium, folic acid, and magnesium, as well as Vitamins B1, B6, and C. It can be eaten raw, grated in a salad or cooked. It is not necessary to peel it; brushing is sufficient.

Recipe

Parsnip purée with yogurt

Ingredients
2 lbs parsnip
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 cup plain yogurt
1/4 tsp ground ginger

Preparation
Peel parsnip and cut into 1-inch cubes.
Cook in boiling salted water until tender.
Drain and mash.
Combine salt, pepper, yogurt and ginger.
Add to parsnip.
Warm over low heat or place in oven at 350°F, for 10 to 15 min. or until warmed through.

Makes 6 servings
Approximately 107 calories per serving

Source: Soeur Berthe, Ma cuisine au yogourt, VLB éditeur & Aliments Delisle Limitée, 1981, p. 198.

We invite you to return on July 28, 2009. Meanwhile, bon appétit!


Second episode
The cucumber... a refreshing vegetable

The cucumber... a refreshing vegetableThe different varieties of cucumber found in the public markets all come, to a certain extent, from the wild cucumber. This climbing plant, with its bitter yet refreshing fruit, grew for thousands of years along the border between India and China, at the foot of the Himalayas. Following India and Egypt, numerous civilizations domesticated it, including the Romans, who ate cucumbers with salt or honey in order to cut the bitterness. Starting in the 16th century, the Europeans introduced this garden plant to North America. As a result of progress in genetic research, a multitude of varieties have been developed and we now have species that contain no seeds or no cucurbitacin, the antibiotic substance that causes the fruit’s bitterness.

The cucumber belongs to the same family as the melon and the squash, namely the gourd family. It consists of 95% water, but also contains an appreciable quantity of vitamins (A, C) and nutriments (potassium, phosphorus, calcium). Finally, this vegetable has diuretic, depurative and calming properties. Basically, it is eaten raw, sliced or in salads, although it can also be eaten in a fricassee.

Recipes

Cold cucumber soup

Ingredients
3 cups of plain yogurt
1 1/2 cups cottage cheese
3 cups of cucumbers, peeled, with the seeds removed and diced
1/3 tsp dill
1/3 tsp salt
Pepper
Parsley

Preparation
Place yogurt and cheese in blender.
Cover and blend perfectly.
Add cucumbers, dill, salt and pepper.
Cover and mix.
Place in refrigerator for at least 1 hour before serving.
Garnish each soup bowl with parsley.

Makes 8 servings
Approximately 110 calories per serving

Source: Soeur Berthe, Ma cuisine au yogourt, VLB éditeur & Aliments Delisle Limitée, 1981, p. 92.


Cucumber salad

Ingredients
3 cups of plain yogurt
1 1/2 cups cottage cheese
3 cups of cucumbers, peeled, with the seeds removed and diced
1/3 tsp dill
1/3 tsp salt
Pepper
Parsley

Preparation
Place yogurt and cheese in blender.
Cover and blend perfectly.
Add cucumbers, dill, salt and pepper.
Cover and mix.
Place in refrigerator for at least 1 hour before serving.
Garnish each soup bowl with parsley.

Makes 6 servings.
Approximately 50 calories per serving

Source: Soeur Berthe, Ma cuisine au yogourt, VLB éditeur & Aliments Delisle Limitée, 1981, p. 109.

We invite you to return on August 11, 2009. Meanwhile, bon appétit!


Third episode
Cabbage

CabbageA bulky, dense and nutritional vegetable, the cabbage, which has been grown since the days of Antiquity, is a pillar in our diet. Much like several other species, it first existed in the wild state, in southern and western Europe. From the very start of its domestication, the Greeks attributed a legendary symbolism to it: a sign of fertility, cabbage was served in soup to newlyweds, the morning after their wedding night – which gave rise to the idea that children were born in cabbage patches. Several popular expressions, moreover, provide evidence of the important place this vegetable holds in several cultures. The Chinese were the first to store it in brine, in the third century before the Common Era, during the construction of the Great Wall of China. Later, it satisfied the needs of sailors and soldiers who appreciated it for a well-known virtue: preventing scurvy.

The green, red and Savoy cabbages are the three principal categories of the common cabbage. Like broccoli and cauliflower, they belong to the crucifer family and are very resistant to cold temperatures. Easy to grow, they are eaten both raw, in salads, and cooked, in soups, sautéed or in stews. The red cabbage is less sensitive to pests than green cabbage is and adds a splendid element of colour to salads and vegetable dishes. Almost as rich in Vitamin C as the orange is, it also contains numerous minerals, including phosphorus, potassium, calcium and magnesium. Finally, the cabbage is appreciated for its diuretic, mineralizing and anti-anemic qualities.

Recipes

Red cabbage with yogurt

Ingredients
1 red cabbage
Butter
Salt - pepper
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 cup plain yogurt

Preparation
Remove the hard core of the cabbage.
Place the cabbage in a casserole. Add boiling, salted water.
Bring to a boil, cover and let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until tender.
Drain and chop finely.
Heat butter, add chopped cabbage, salt, pepper, nutmeg and cook for 1 or 2 minutes.
Remove from heat. Gradually add yogurt.
Return to low heat, but do not allow to boil.

Makes 6 servings
Approximately 93 calories per serving

Source: Soeur Berthe, Ma cuisine au yogourt, VLB éditeur & Aliments Delisle Limitée, 1981, p. 185.


Cabbage and beet salad

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups chopped cabbage
1 1/2 cups chopped lettuce
1 cup cooked beets, diced
1 cup plain yogurt
2 tsp prepared mustard
1 onion, finely chopped
Salt - pepper
Chopped parsley
Lettuce

Preparation
Mix cabbage, lettuce and beets.
Mix yogurt, mustard and onion.
Pour this mixture over the vegetables, salt and pepper.
Mix gently, sprinkle with parsley.
Serve on lettuce.

Makes 6 servings
Approximately 93 calories per serving

Source: Soeur Berthe, Ma cuisine au yogourt, VLB éditeur & Aliments Delisle Limitée, 1981, p. 108.

We invite you to return on August 25, 2009. Meanwhile, bon appétit!


Fourth episode
Carrot

CarrotSlim, purple, bitter and fibrous – these terms describe the wild ancestor of the carrot. Originally from Afghanistan, several varieties were later cultivated in Europe for their medicinal properties and their ornamental qualities: some had white flesh, while others were yellow, red, green, purple and even black. It was only in the 16th century, in the Netherlands, that the first full-bodied carrot, called the “Long Orange” first appeared, following the crossbreeding of red and white varieties. Since that time, growing orange carrots has replaced all other species, which are becoming extinct, and this vegetable has become a common element of our diet. Here’s an interesting fact: according to the writings of Pierre Boucher, the carrot and the parsnip were grown in 1654 in the vegetable garden of the Ferme de la Providence (operated by the sisters of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame, in Pointe-Saint-Charles).

The carrot, like the parsnip, fennel and cumin is a member of the umbelliferae family. It is economical, easy to store and, as a result of its structure, is relatively resistant to mild freezing. Its nutritional richness and its anti-oxidizing properties help maintain good health. Rich in fiber and beta-carotene, as well as Vitamin B1, B2, C and E, it also contains high levels of minerals (calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron). Finally, carrots are delicious raw (cut into sticks or grated in a salad) or cooked (steamed, roasted in the oven, in soups or pureed).

Recipes

Carrot soup

Ingredients
3 cups chicken broth
1 lb carrots
Butter and oil
1 onion, chopped
1 1/2 tbsp curry powder
1 1/2 cup plain yogurt
Salt – pepper, chopped parsley

Preparation
Heat the chicken broth, add carrots and cook until tender.
Heat butter and oil, sauté onion, add curry powder and heat 2 minutes, stirring.
Pass everything – carrots, broth and onions – through blender.
Put the purée back into the pot, and add broth, if needed.
Bring to a boil and allow to simmer on heat for 5 minutes.
Add yogurt gradually, mix with a whisk, and heat without boiling.
Salt and pepper to taste and add parsley.

Makes 6 servings
Approximately 108 calories per serving

Source: Soeur Berthe, Ma cuisine au yogourt, VLB éditeur & Aliments Delisle Limitée, 1981, p. 89.


Carrot and pineapple salad

Ingredients
2 cups of grated carrots
1 cup of diced celery
1 can (14 oz) diced pineapple
1 1/2 cup chopped dates
1 cup plain yogurt
Salt
Lettuce

Preparation
Combine carrots, celery, pineapple and dates.
Chill.
When ready to serve, salt and add yogurt.
Serve on lettuce.

Makes 6 servings
Approximately 109 calories per serving

Source: Soeur Berthe, Ma cuisine au yogourt, VLB éditeur & Aliments Delisle Limitée, 1981, p. 107.

We invite you to return on September 8, 2009. Meanwhile, bon appétit!


Fifth episode
Onions

OnionsThe onion is one of the most frequently grown vegetables in the world. Although there are several varieties, which are distinguished according to origin as well as the size and color of the bulb, all have the same ancestor: the wild onion, which originated in western Asia. In Mesopotamia, 4,000 years BCE, the onion was the first bulbed garden plant to be cultivated by man. In fact, it held an important place in the diets of the Sumerians, Assyrians and Babylonians. They were followed by the Greeks, the Romans and the Gaulois, in Antiquity, as well as the Egyptians who, in addition to eating it, also placed it as an offering on the tombs of their dead, as a symbol of longevity. A source of multiple therapeutic virtues, the onion was eaten in the Middle Ages and in modern times to prevent scurvy, the plague, cholera and gangrene. It also serves as a disinfectant for treating scratches and bites. In the 18th century, in the St. Lawrence Valley, the settlers ate this vegetable in large quantities, raw and with bread. The writings of Swedish naturalist Pehr Kalm, who visited Canada in 1749, stated: “The common people can be recognized by their breath when you meet them since so may of them frequently eat onions.”

Like garlic, shallots and leeks, the onion is a bulbous plant that belongs to the lily family. It is rich in Vitamins A, B, C and E, as well as minerals such as potassium, calcium, phosphorus, sulfur and silica and trace elements (iodine and iron). An antiseptic, antioxidant, diuretic, expectorant and laxative, this vegetable is also known for its properties to fix calcium in bones, prevent the formation of blood clots and facilitate mental work. Some people also claim that it has aphrodisiac qualities and is effective at preventing drunkenness. Finally, the onion can be eaten raw, candied or cooked. An excellent condiment, it is also delicious in salads, soups or cooked dishes.

Recipe

Vegetable salad with yogurt

Ingredients
1 cup sliced cucumber
1 cup sliced onion
1 cup sliced tomatoes
3/4 cup plain yogurt
1 tbsp vinegar
1 tbsp prepared horse radish
1 tsp honey
1 tsp salt
Endive* or lettuce

Preparation
Mix cucumbers, onion and tomatoes.
Mix yogurt, vinegar, honey and salt.
Combine both mixtures.
Serve on endive or lettuce.

* Broadleaved endive.

Makes 6 servings
Approximately 43 calories per serving

Source: Soeur Berthe, Ma cuisine au yogourt, VLB éditeur & Aliments Delisle Limitée, 1981, p. 115.


Eggplant and onions with yogurt

Ingredients
2 eggplants
Butter or oil
3 to 4 onions, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 piece (2 in.) freshly chopped ginger
2 green peppers, finely chopped
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin
Salt
3/4 cup plain yogurt
2 tsp sugar

Preparation
With a well sharpened knife, make 3 or 4 openings in each eggplant. Place in a gratin platter.
Bake in oven at 350 °F, for 50 to 60 minutes or until cooked.
Allow to cool enough to be handled and peel them. Mash pulp. Let sit.
Heat oil/butter, and cook onions until golden. Add garlic, ginger, and peppers and cook a few minutes.
Add coriander, turmeric and cumin; add eggplant purée, salt and check seasoning.
Add yogurt and sugar.
Place mixture in serving dish and serve.

Makes 6 servings.
Approximately 280 calories per serving

Source: Soeur Berthe, Ma cuisine au yogourt, VLB éditeur & Aliments Delisle Limitée, 1981, p. 177.

We invite you to return on September 22, 2009. Meanwhile, bon appétit!


Sixth episode
Pumpkin

PumpkinWe will conclude this series of chronicles, on the theme of The Vegetables of New France, with the pumpkin, a vegetable-fruit that originated in North America and has become the emblem for Thanksgiving and Halloween.

First grown for the nutritional characteristics of its seeds, the primitive pumpkin was domesticated almost 7000 years ago by populations in Central America and later by the Maya of Pre-Columbian Mexico. Through crossbreeding, the vegetable’s leathery pulp became tender and, as a result of the geographic migration of the Aboriginal peoples who grew this vegetable-fruit, it quickly reached North America. In the 17th and 18th centuries, following in the footsteps of the Amerindian peoples, the Europeans who settled in the St. Lawrence valley included the pumpkin in their diets and agriculture.

At the same time, the arrival of Irish settlers in New England contributed to the spread of a Celtic tradition that dates back over 2500 years: the festival of Samhain (October 31). During this harvest festival, rituals were conducted at night to ensure a good year to come. These rituals could not be complete without a lantern made from a turnip, which protected mortals against evil spirits. Although the rituals have been set aside and the turnip has been replaced by the pumpkin, which is easier to carve, the festive aspects of the event have been maintained, with children going from door to door in the village or neighborhood to collect candies. As for the term “Halloween”, it is derived from “All Hallows’ Even” which precedes All Hallows’ Day, which refers to All Saints’ Day, a festival for all saints which has been celebrated by Roman Catholics on November 1 since the year 900. Since the two events were quite close they were merged in common practice so that, today, decorating the Halloween pumpkin has become an activity that is widespread throughout both North America and the rest of the world.

Like the melon, the cucumber and the cantaloupe, the pumpkin is a vegetable that belongs to the gourd family. The more orange it is, the more beta-carotene the pumpkin contains. This plant has a high vitamin content. The flesh contains many nutrients that are found in larger concentrations in the seeds. These include: phosphorous, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and zinc. Rich in fiber, the pumpkin is a laxative, depurative and emollient. It is particularly tasty in a purée, soup or cake. And, pumpkin pie is the uncontested king of desserts at Thanksgiving. It should be noted that, originally, a mixture of milk, spices and honey was placed in the carved out pumpkin shell and cooked over hot coals... So, it’s not surprising that this fascinating plant has inspired so many tales!

Recipe

Pumpkin pie with yogurt

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups of puréed pumpkin
3/4 cup of honey
3 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup yogurt
1 9-inch pie crust, uncooked

Preparation
Mix pumpkin, honey and eggs; add cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice and salt.
Blend milk and yogurt. Combine with first mixture.
Pour into pie crust.
Place in oven at 425 °F for 10 minutes, then decrease temperature to 350 °F and bake for 35 to 40 minutes.
Serve with yogurt.

Makes 6 servings
Approximately 257 calories per serving

Source: Soeur Berthe, Ma cuisine au yogourt, VLB éditeur & Aliments Delisle Limitée, 1981, p. 277.

This brings the series of chronicles on vegetables in New France to an end.

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