DARK GREENS – Nutrition Champions

Dark greens are great sources of calcium.  Calcium is the mineral that makes our bones and teeth strong.  It is also needed so that our muscles will contract and helps blood from a cut or wound heal and clot. Spinach and other greens such as kale and chard can contain at least 10% of our daily value requirements for calcium.  Spinach is also a great source of iron, which our bodies use to form hemoglobin and myoglobin—these are the proteins that carry oxygen throughout our bodies.  Greens are also very high in beta carotene (vitamin A from plants) and vitamin C.greens

Wild Greens—Gifts from the Creator

thCAV0VRATGreens were traditionally eaten as fresh shoots and new

leaves in the springtime, before they became bitter and tough in the summer.

In the early spring, after the snow melts and the ground thaws, tender shoots begin to appear.  Traditionally, these new shoots and leaves were eaten like we eat salad today, although there were many variations.  Since salt was not used, salads were flavored by herbs, oil pressed from seeds and especially with a type of vinegar made from fermented, evaporated uncooked maple sap.  In addition to salads, the new shoots were eaten in soups and cooked with meats.

After the long winters of the north, these springtime greens were a beloved reminder of new life, thus this meal was always surrounded by celebration.  Customarily, there would be huge salad eating feasts, enjoying the new leaves and shoots before they became tough, bitter and inedible later in the season.

fiddlehead-food-fern-springWild greens that were traditionally eaten by Ojibwe included wild onions, wild leeks, ostrich ferns (fiddleheads) and many more.

Today the greens in our diet can be eaten all year round.  Even with modern day conveniences, it seems that our bodies begin to crave greens in the spring.  Our greens have moved away from the wild ones of our ancestors.  Now it is much more common to see spinach, lettuce, romaine, radicchio and swiss chard in the salad bowl.



In the spring, Ojibwe people would gather morel mushrooms, or wazhaskwedoonsag.  Morels fruit in early to mid May.  They are some of the most sought after edible mushrooms in the  Great Lakes region.  Today people search for wild mushrooms throughout the season, collecting delicacies of all colors, sizes and shapes.  It is very important to know exactly what you are harvesting before you eat anything harvested in the wild.  Although only 10 percent of all mushrooms are poisonous, eating the wrong kind can result in sickness and even death.  No matter what, always be 100 percent sure before you eat it.

Maple Glazed Salmon

Salmon is a great source of omega-3 fats.  These fats help reduce blood clotting in the arteries and protects from hardening of the arteries.  Our bodies do not produce these fats so it is important we eat foods—like salmon and walnuts—that are good sources of them. 

Maple syrup in a food that is central to Ojibwe culture and food.  Because it was labor intensive to collect the sap and boil it down into syrup, it was often used sparingly as just a seasoning by Ojibwe ancestors.  In modern days, we know that maple syrup is high in natural sugars so using it sparingly – as Ojibwe ancestors  did – is still a wise idea.

INGREDIENTS Maple Salmon 500

  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp garlic power or garlic salt
  • 1 pound salmon


  1. In a small bowl, mix maple syrup, soy sauce, minced garlic, garlic salt or powder and black pepper.
  2.  Place salmon in a shallow glass baking dish and coat with the maple syrup mixture.  Cover the dish and marinate salmon in the refrigerator, turning once.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  4. Place the baking dish in the preheated oven and bake salmon uncovered for 20 minutes or until easily flaked with fork.

Per serving:  265 calories; 12.4 g (9.9 g are healthy fat); 14.1 g carbohydrate; 23.2 g protein.  Serves 4

Sugar Bush

For centuries, maple trees have been tapped for their sweet sap by the native woodland peoples.  Maple syrup was the main seasoning ingredient for the Ojibwe people. 20130502_sugar_bush_lg_5[1]

Maple syrup has been called “one of the world’s healthiest foods” (The World’s Healthiest Foods, Essential Guide to the Healthiest Way of Eating by George Mateljan).  A one quarter cup serving of maple syrup contains more calcium than the same amount of milk and more potassium than a banana.  Maple syrup is also a great source of magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and iron.

Maple-flavored syrup, on the other hand, is made up of mostly high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), preservatives and artificial flavorings.  HFCS is an added sugar.  That is, not a naturally occurring sugar.  Added sugars have been linked with many health concerns including type 2 diabetes, overweight and obesity, cardiovascular disease and inflammation.

Maple syrup in small quantities provides an all natural sweetener.  Despite it’s high sugar content, pure maple syrup is a much healthier sweetener than refined white sugar or HFCS which have been stripped of all their natural nutrients in manufacturing.

Maple syrup does have high levels of natural sugar so it will raise blood sugar levels in people who have diabetes.  For that reason, maple sugar should be used in small amounts and only sparingly.thCAGQTBKU