Daikon and Bok Choy and Okra, Oh My!

Jul 16, 2015

I had a really good childhood pal, who told me I’d travel far one day. He said, “Congratulations, today is your day” when I graduated university last May, promising, “You’re off to great places! You’re off and away!” (Yes, my friend is Dr. Seuss). A year later, I’m still in Toronto, and I’m hungrier than ever to check destinations off my travel list. But I’ve found other ways to see the globe - you can travel the world with your taste buds, you know. If you’re lucky enough to live in Southern Ontario, multicultural epicenter of Canada, you’ve tasted the flavors of the world and traveled its oceans and skies in mouthfuls and bites. In fact, you might not know that many varieties of ethno-cultural food crops are growing in our Greenbelt! So whether it’s Callaloo, Okra, or Bok Choy you seek, the world is at the tip of your tongue, right here in Ontario.

Many varieties of ethno-cultural crops are already successfully grown in the Greenbelt, making it easy for various cultural communities in the Greater Golden Horseshoe to find foods from back home. The Toronto Environmental Alliance (TEA) has published four incredible guides to finding fresh, locally-grown Chinese, South Asian, African Carribbean and Middle Eastern products at grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and farms in and around Ontario’s Greenbelt. If it’s not already growing though, it might be soon; an amazing initiative is underway at the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, a facility in Niagara dedicated to horticultural and agricultural research. Researchers are testing the feasibility of growing newly introduced ethno-cultural crops to the market, and what types of conditions crops from places like India and China need to survive in the soils of Niagara. So keep your eyes peeled for items like Yard Long Beans and Chinese Hot Peppers - they might soon be in a store near you!

Bok Choy is in season in the Greenbelt now, and is a spectacular source of Vitamin A and Potassium, Vitamin C, Folic Acid, Vitamin B6, Calcium, and Iron. Close to Swiss Chard and Cabbage, Bok Choy comes in many varieties and sizes. I made a really simple Asian-inspired stir-fry; I usually add ingredients by eye, so it’s safer to use this as a guideline and to change ingredient quantities to suit your liking!

Ginger Sesame Bok Choy Stir-Fry

1 package tofu, chopped
3 bok choy, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
1 head broccoli, chopped
1 sweet red pepper
1 large onion, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tbsp. grated ginger
¼ cup water
¼ cup soy or teriyaki sauce
3-4 tbsp. vegetable oil for cooking
1-2 tbsp. sesame oil
1-2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. chili powder
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat vegetable oil in a frying pan, and add onions, ginger and garlic. Cook until onions are browned.
2. Add vegetables and water, and cover for about 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
3. Directly into pan, stir in soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, chili powder, and salt and pepper.
4. Add tofu (or meat) to vegetables and mix. Cover pan and reduce heat. Let simmer for 5-10 minutes, then mix, and serve over rice or noodles!

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