Newsletter for the Indigenous Health Garden of the Indigenous Research
Partnerships, Faculty of Land and Food Systems, UBC
The Indigenous Health Research & Education
December 2nd 2015

In this newsletter:

  • Highlights from November

  • Upcoming workshops and volunteer opportunities

  • Join us for oca harvest and cooking

  • Guest blog: Deirdre Phillips

  • Recipe from October's Feast Bowl Meal: Rutabaga mash with caramelized leeks

Greetings from the darkest few weeks of the year! The winter solstice takes the sun so low to the horizon that some parts of our garden don't feel the sunshine at all during the day, leaving pockets of frost intact from sunrise to sunset. This is the time of year when our medicines and food plants lie dormant, all their energy concentrated below ground waiting for spring. We have been happy to spend this time reflecting on the season and enjoying the bounty of the summer's stored harvest; cured onions, potatoes, squash and garlic have filled our bellies and dried teas are being used to make medicinal tea blends.

These past six weeks, students in PHAR 457: Pharmaceutical Care in Aboriginal Health joined the Medicine Collective for a field trip to the garden, learning about plant medicines and how they are used in the community. The Feast Bowl hosted two well-attended meals, cooking with wind-dried salmon generously donated by Francine Billy to make a delicious soup and roasting squash and sage from the garden. We are excited to cook with oca at our upcoming December meal, a root crop indigenous to the Andes that we grew for the first time in our garden this year; read on for more information about how to help us harvest and cook this traditional food!

Volunteers wrapped up the season in the garden by mulching beds with leaves and straw, harvesting some final rose hips and fennel seeds for drying, and cleaning up the garden. Our volunteer sessions are finished for 2015 but will resume again in March 2016. However, please join us this month for the oca harvest - more information is below. Youth in the CRUW program mulched their garden beds for the winter and held their graduation ceremony at the end of October, celebrating all that they had achieved over eight months together at the Farm. Some of those youth are now participants in the Life Skills and Leadership program, where they develop concrete life skills to support their transition into independent living and they learn leadership and mentorship skills. Some of these youth will return to the UBC Farm program in 2016 as youth mentors.

In staffing news, Indigenous Health Research & Education Garden Coordinator Hannah Lewis has transition this fall into a new role. She will continue to support the same programming out of the garden but will also begin to support Children's and Indigenous programs at UBC Farm more broadly as the Community Education Coordinator in a more integrated relationship with the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems at UBC Farm. She was featured recently on the Good Food Jobs website sharing how she came to work in food systems change and what opportunities she sees for the future of food work; read her story to learn a bit more about her journey.

Don't forget to check out our website and Facebook page for regular updates, photos, volunteer opportunities, and more!
Highlights from November


Clockwise from top left: volunteers at our last garden session of 2015 clearing a bed of carrots to lay leaf mulch; chopping veggies for coleslaw at the October Feast Bowl meal; wind-dried salmon donated by student Francine Billy for November's Feast Bowl meal; participants at a mushroom workshop install a bed of king stropharia edible mushrooms in one of our pathways; january king cabbage sizing up in the fall sunshine; a volunteer helps us lay leaf mulch on our asparagus bed.

Upcoming workshops and volunteer opportunities
  • Tuesday December 15th, 1:30-3:30PM: Oca harvest volunteer session at the Garden
  • Wednesday December 16th: Feast Bowl community meal at the UBC Longhouse
  • Wednesday January 27th 2016: Feast Bowl community meal at the UBC Longhouse
  • Wednesday February 24th 2016: Feast Bowl community meal at the UBC Longhouse
How to volunteer for garden sessions: we work in the garden rain or shine, so come dressed for the weather. We have extra rain boots, gardening tools, and gloves to share. Bring a snack and water bottle - bring friends and family (of any age) too! No experience necessary. You will find us in the Indigenous Health Garden at the UBC Farm. The most up-to-date directions to the UBC Farm can be found here. Once at the Farm, you can follow the "Aboriginal Health Gardens" signs or follow this map to find our garden.

How to volunteer for the Feast Bowl: if you are new to the Feast Bowl, please fill out our volunteer sign-up form online so we can get to know you a bit better! Join us at the UBC First Nations Longhouse (1985 West Mall) at or after 9:30AM to help us harvest or cook, or 12:30PM to eat lunch with us. Extra help from any age or skill level is always appreciated, especially in the kitchen. If you can only join us for lunch, we encourage you to come anyway and we look forward to sharing a delicious meal with you!

Note: if you plan to bring a large group, please let us know ahead of time at

Join us for oca harvest and cooking
Join us to learn more about (and eat) this delicious traditional food from the Andes!

Oca tubers in April when first planted; lemony edible flowers and leaves in the garden in the fall.
This spring we were gifted a number of tubers from the oca plant (Oxalis tuberosa), a traditional root crop indigenous to the Andes in South America. We were very excited, as we are always looking to integrate more traditional foods into our garden and programs! It has been a great learning experience.

Known by many different names (oca in Peru, Ecuador and Colombia; ruba in Venezuela; papa roja in Mexico), oca has a long history of cultivation and has been an important part of diets in the Andes for thousands of years. Its flavour is similar to a potato mixed with sour cream, and is eaten cooked fresh or dried and ground for flour. It is a good source of antioxidants, it is low and fat, and is easy to digest. Typically grown at 3000m above sea level or higher and in a different climate, we were unsure how the oca would do here on the coast; however, the farmer on Vancouver Island who shared the tubers with us had been growing them.

Established in three plots around UBC Farm (near the perennial herb beds, in our garden, and in the Tu'wusht garden) the plants all seemed to root and grow very successfully. Harvest typically occurs a few weeks after hard frost kills back the tops of the plants. After the cold weeks of November killed the above-ground parts of our plants, it is finally time to dig them up and eat!

On Tuesday December 15th from 1:30-3:30PM we invite you to join us in harvesting our first crop of oca from the garden. We will dig up the beds, wash and clean the tubers, sort through them for quality, and prepare them for storage so we can eat them for many months to come. Come dressed for the weather and be prepared to take some oca home for your own enjoyment!

The next day, on Wednesday December 16th we will be cooking the oca at the year-end Feast Bowl meal. Join us to learn how to cook with this delicious traditional food any time after 9:30AM or come at 12:30PM to eat with us, in Sty-Wet-Tan Hall at the First Nations House of Learning Longhouse on UBC Campus (1985 West Mall).

For more information about oca, visit this Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations website.

Guest blog: Deirdre Phillips

This fall we had Deirdre Phillips from the First Nations Health Authority join us for the day to volunteer in the garden. She wrote a blog post about her experience and shared her reflections and photos with us. Thank you Deirdre for bringing your good energy and passion to this place! Her reflections are below.
I had a wonderful experience at the Indigenous wellness garden located at the UBC Farm - on the traditional, ancestral, unceded territory of the Musqueam people.
Along with a great group of people and the two UBC interns (Victoria Cooke and Jaylin Melnichuk), it was so nice to have my hands in the dirt helping with weeding, planting oats, pruning blossoms/seed heads from the traditional original medicine tobacco plants located in the centre of the garden so that all the energy goes into the leaves... as well as harvesting bee balm petals, echinacea, rosehips and pearly everlasting flower heads... oh and harvesting weeds!
The garden design is based on the Musqueam traditional spindle whorl used in weaving and features four prominent 'petals,' each containing plants for different treatments for the body: (1) cold and flu, (2) heart, (3) nervous system and (4) diabetes, kidney and bladder. At each 'petal' tip there are plants like calendula and comfrey that help with skin conditions.
The Indigenous Health Research and Education Garden grows over 40 varieties of medicinal plants that are native to the region. These are cared for and used by the Medicine Collective, a group of Indigenous Elders and Knowledge-keepers who lead medicine-making workshops and walks in the Garden with the community.

- Deirdre Phillips

Recipe from October's Feast Bowl meal: Rutabaga mash with caramelized leeks


Mashed potatoes are a big hit at this time of year, but why stop there? This dish from Feast Bowl intern Jaylin incorporates the rich taste of rutabaga with the sweetness of butternut squash, topped off with delicious caramelized leeks!
  • 1 medium-sized rutabaga
  • 2 leeks, white and pale green parts only (save those tops in your freezer for soup stock!)
  • 1 medium or 2 small butternut squash
  • Vegetable oil or butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Slice leeks and add to a pan on medium heat with enough butter or oil to coat, toss with a few pinches of salt
  2. After a few minutes, turn heat down to medium-low and let leeks cook down, stirring occasionally, until caramelized, about 15-20 minutes
  3. Meanwhile, roughly chop rutabaga and butternut squash
  4. Cook in a steaming basket or immersed in boiling water until soft but not breaking apart
  5. Strain rutabaga and squash and mash together in a large bowl until smooth; add a bit of butter or oil for consistency if needed
  6. When leeks are caramelized (browned and soft, but not crispy), mix into rutabaga and squash
  7. Season with salt and pepper to taste
Recipe from Feast Bowl intern Jaylin Melnichuk.
Indigenous Research Partnerships
UBC Faculty of Land and Food Systems
2357 Main Mall Vancouver, B.C. Canada
V6T 1Z4
Phone: (604) 822-5092
To unsubscribe from this list, please reply to this e-mail with "unsubscribe" in the subject line.