Into the Dirt

This week I dug into the dirt. Not outside. It is cold outside and there are several feet of snow on the ground. The herbs that enjoyed a glorious summer outside on my back balcony IMG_3267-1that were living inside by my kitchen window were looking pretty drab.

I loved the little garden that I had last summer. My thumbs are not green by any means, but I did have some good success. I had a small collection of herbs, amaranth (for decoration) tomatoes and flowers. One plant I cannot keep alive is Rosemary. Funny, eh? She is a picky plant, needing a lot of attention. I am on about my sixth Rosemary plant, my most recent one drying up after total neglect over the holidays. This last plant was a strange one. It grew a lot last winter indoors, however during the summer I don’t think it grew more than a centimeter. When I brought it inside this winter it shot up again. The next Rosemary plant may be the one the one that grows as big as a small bush.


Along with saying goodbye to my Rosemary, this week I dug into my basil plant. It was actually doing quite well and still had a considerable amount of green plants, but really was not growing. I am sure it would have been fine for the winter, but I decided to snip it to eat and use the pot to plant some micro greens. Nothing has sprung up yet, but I will keep you posted about how they are doing.


It is always good to put your hands in the dirt, even if it is on your kitchen island. A few weeks ago I come across a piece of writing I did last spring. “There is something so childlike about putting your hands in dirt. Last weekend I planted some morning glories. Morning glories are incredible. Each morning this week I have gotten out of bed so excited to see if anything it popping up. Finally, on Friday, a few small plants. Soon they are going to be growing off the poles.” Those morning glories actually took much longer than usual to grow, but still ended up beautiful.

So far I have been enjoying winter in Montreal. We have had some beautiful snowfalls and it has not been crazy cold for long periods of time (though yesterday was around -20° C). I like the winter, it allows you to slow down and think. I have a few plans for my garden next year. I would like to start my herbs from seed, just of the challenge of it and I am planning on installing a vertical garden on the balcony. And of course I will be getting a new Rosemary plant.


Parsnip Apple Sage Soup


There are moments when you are brought right down to earth. Or in the case of this soup- almost drawn into the earth. This is one of my favorite soup recipes. It has been a while since I have made it- almost a year ago- but the memory of it is vivid in my head. I was sitting at our dinning room table, we had a nice meal ahead of us, a chicken dinner of sorts with some good wine, but first we had this soup. I remember how with the first taste I was transformed to a new place. It was a mixture of nostalgia for the wild rural lands of Nova Scotia combined with a sense of being grounded and connected to the earth. It was a powerful feeling. I guess root vegetables do that to you.


Parsnips being a root vegetable are pretty rooted in the ground. They are an interesting vegetable- shaped like a crazy carrot,  a relative to parsley and often confused with turnip. I love the look of parsnips, they are truly wild. I also love that parsnips need frost to mature into the sweet vegetable that they are, making them a perfect vegetable for right now, considering we have several feet of snow outside. I also learned today from Rebecca Wood’s Whole Foods Encyclopedia that ounce for ounce parsnips have the same amount of calcium as milk. Interesting!

Parsnips are a vegetable of love or hate. Though some find these root veggies way too pungent for their tastes, I love them. They have a sweet, earthy nutty taste and I often can put several of them in my mouth after taking them out of the oven. The make great additions to soups, stir-fries or on their own, baked or steamed.

 The first time I encountered this soup I was at the Wooden Monkey, a popular restaurant in Halifax. I ordered it from the menu, gobbled it up and then recreated it immediately when I returned home. It is a soup that can easily be played with: change up the type of apples or change them up for pears. I think it would taste good as a curried soup, or spiced with some nutmeg. Below is the version that I have created. Be aware- this recipe makes a big pot! Enjoy!


Parsnip Apple Sage Soup


  • 2 lbs parsnips
  • 3 granny-smith apples (or another tart apple)
  • 2-3 medium sized onions
  • 4 sticks of celery
  • 6-10 cups of chicken or vegetable broth
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dried sage
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-2 tablespoon butter
  • salt to taste

Start by roasting the parsnips. Trim the ends and give them a good wash. Cut them up into chunks about the size of your thumb.  Put the parsnips into a baking pan, drizzle them with olive oil and cover with foil. Bake at 350 F for 40 minutes. Remove the foil, add the cloves of garlic and roast for another 15- 20 minutes. Roasting the garlic adds a nice deepness of flavor. While the parsnips are roasting chop the onions and celery. Sauté in a large soup pan with the butter until clear and translucent. Add the parsnips to the onion and celery. Add in 6 cups of broth and bring to a simmer, allowing to simmer for around 20- 25 minutes. Meanwhile peel and grate the granny smith apples. Add the apples as well as the thyme and sage and simmer and additional 5 minutes. Turn the heat off and allow to cool.

When the soup is cool blend until smooth. I use an immersion blender for this, but a food processor or blender work fine.  Add additional stock to bring the soup to the consistency that you want. Because of the starchiness of the turnips, the soup can get pretty porridge like. I find it is better to thin it out a little.  Reheat and enjoy.