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Native Food: A Fountain of Health That Grows Year-Round

I wish First Man and First Woman were here now; I’d have so many questions, and I’d want to tell them so much, too. For one, there are many of their children who are sick with a disease that is caused by diet, a bad diet. I would tell them there are many who are trying hard to correct these health problems by eating right. I know several people who have diabetes and control it with diet. I’ve said before that every person who has it is different, their treatment plans are different; it is an individual thing and if you have it, your health professional will help you customize it to your needs. 

The need to be ultra aware of what you eat was brought home to me a couple of weeks ago. One of my daughters was hospitalized with numbness from the waist down, then tingling in her fingers. She is in her thirties, and after a lot of tests, they diagnosed her with MS, an auto-immune disease of varying severities with no known cause. There are many treatments available to relieve the symptoms; she’s already on one that is helping. The more we read and learn about the disease on the internet, the more important we realize it is to eat the right foods. Dairy, gluten, legumes, even soy products are out. Of course, leafy greens, certain seaweeds, meats and fish are in. The bottom line is, a basic Paleo diet has proven to work for many sufferers. I’m just skimming the surface of what works and what doesn’t; there are entire books on the subject, and many helpful videos.

There are two really basic foods that stood out to me as I read about this MS. One was kale, the other salmon. There are so many more, but I was impressed by the nutrient value of kale. Like spinach, it readily grows and does so well into the cold weather, and it is easy to harvest too. It lives in warm climates but thrives in colder ones. A member of the cabbage family that doesn’t head, it has been cultivated for over 2.000 years all over the world. Kale contains large amounts of beta-carotene and has almost 10,000 IU of vitamin A, which is almost twice the recommended daily allowance. It also has a lot of vitamin C, calcium and is high in fiber and potassium. So even if you are perfectly handsome and healthy, you can’t go wrong eating this vegetable. I know a few producers are trying new products with kale like chips with some success.

A good way to fix kale is to remove the stem and pull the curly leaves into bite size pieces. A bunch of kale seems really big but cooks down quite a bit. I fill a large pot with about an inch or two of water—you can use vegetable broth if you prefer—and add all the cut up pieces at once so it can steam down. Add some salt and a squeeze of lemon juice and let it cook for 15 to 20 minutes. It doesn’t hurt to cook it longer. Cover the pot. When done, drain, return to pot and add some butter or a bit of cider vinegar. As a kid, I loved it with vinegar and butter.

Dale Kale Soup

2 large onions, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, crushed

4 cups water OR

4 cups vegetable broth

2 cans, 15.5 oz, cannellini beans

8 ounces of fingerling potatoes, cut or sliced

½ bunch of kale, pulled from stem and chopped

1 can diced tomatoes

½ teaspoon each: oregano, basil, sage, thyme, parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

Saute the onions and garlic in olive oil in a soup pot. When tender and translucent, add the water or broth, and rest of ingredients including seasonings. Simmer for 30 minutes.

Dale Carson, Abenaki, is the author of three books: New Native American Cooking, Native New England Cooking and A Dreamcatcher Book. She has written about and demonstrated Native cooking techniques for more than 30 years. Dale has four grown children and lives with her husband in Madison, Connecticut.