Gardening Tips for Seedy Characters: Time to Feast

What to do this week


You’ve put 38 weeks’ worth of hard and noble labor into your fall harvest, now it’s time to enjoy it.

Michelle Smith and Madeline Yakimchuk are taking a well-deserved week off, so the Spectator decided to ask some of the people involved with the local food scene for their favorite Thanksgiving recipes made from local ingredients. We’re also including a handy guide to finding local ingredients — the ones you didn’t produce yourself this season — so get ready to feast.

Here are our sourcing suggestions:

Cape Breton Food Hub

The Cape Breton Food Hub maintains a list of local producers which could give you all sorts of ideas for a traditional  or non-traditional Thanksgiving meal. (The Spectator skewed seriously non-traditional last year, taking advantage of an unseasonably warm Thanksgiving weekend to first swim in the Bras d’Or Lakes and then barbecue chicken legs, salmon, zucchini and eggplant.)

Cape North Farmers’ Market

I’m starting my list of Farmers’ Markets with the Cape North Farmers’ Market because it runs from June 24 to October 7, which means it closes this Saturday! It takes place from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm at the Cabot Fire Hall, and features vendors selling a variety of products including “fresh produce, fish, maple syrup, honey, preserves and baked goods.”

Cape Breton Farmers’ Market

Located at 340 Keltic Drive in Sydney River, the Cape Breton Farmers’ Market runs year-round on Saturdays from 8:30 am to 1:00 pm. The market is home to about 50 vendors, many of whom sell things you could eat at a Thanksgiving dinner.

Baddeck and Area Community Market

The Baddeck and Area Community Market takes place on Wednesdays, from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm, from June to October, at 526 Chebucto Street in Baddeck. You can purchase, “chicken, fish, beef, fresh vegetables, plants, and herbs, sauces, jams, wild-flower honey, honey wine, breads, and beans,” along with non-edible products like jewelry and pottery.

Cheticamp Farmers’ Market

Running from June to “late October,” the Cheticamp Farmers’ Market takes place on Saturdays from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm at 15118 Cabot Trail. Vendors offer “fresh fruits and vegetables, rolls, and cakes,” none of which would go amiss at your Thanksgiving dinner.

Mabou Farmers’ Market

This is the one Michelle Smith calls home. The Mabou Farmers’ Market happens on Sundays, from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm, from June to mid-October, at the Mabou Athletic Centre. Offerings include “fresh seasonal produce and berries, eggs, meat, fresh baking,” and more.




Michelle’s Vegetable Poached Eggs

(Recipe Courtesy Michelle Smith)

One large onion (chopped)
Oil or butter for sauté-ing
Variety of vegetables
Cheese (grated, optional)


Take a chopped onion and saute it in some oil or butter in a large frying pan. Add a variety of vegetables cut in large chunks. Definitely some tomatoes, spinach or chard, peppers, zucchini — what’s growing in your garden? Use that! If you want a hearty meal, include some potatoes. If you like it spicy, add some hot peppers. Maybe some herbs like basil or oregano. Simmer it all until the hardest vegetables — the potatoes, for example — are just tender. Then crack an egg or two, more if you have company, onto the top then cover and poach until the eggs are the way you like them, firm, runny, or in my case, loose. If you want, you can sprinkle some grated cheese on top. It’s different every time, but it’s always delicious!


Curried Kale, Potato and Lentil Soup

(Recipe courtesy Minimalist Baker, via Georgia McNeil, Food Program Coordinator, Ecology Action Centre)

1 T coconut oil (or sub a neutral oil, such as avocado)
1 c diced yellow or white onion
1 t minced fresh ginger
2 whole carrots, peeled and chopped
Pinch sea salt + black pepper, plus more to taste
4 cloves garlic, minced (~2 T)
3 c diced potatoes (I used 1/2 peeled sweet potato, 1/2 unpeeled baby yellow potato)
1 1/2 T curry powder
5-6 cups vegetable broth
1 c green lentils, thoroughly rinsed and drained
optional: 1 T coconut sugar, plus more to taste
4 c chopped green or purple kale
For serving (optional):
Fresh chopped cilantro
Lemon juice


Heat a large pot over medium heat. Once hot, add oil, onion, ginger, and carrots. Season with a pinch each sea salt and black pepper and stir. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently, until onions are soft and fragrant.

Add garlic and potatoes and stir. Cook for 3-4 minutes to brown slightly, and then add curry powder. Stir to coat. Cook 2 minutes more.

Add 5 cups vegetable broth and increase heat to medium-high. Once at a low boil, add lentils, stir, and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 20-25 minutes, uncovered, or until lentils and potatoes are tender.

Taste and adjust seasonings, adding coconut sugar for a little sweetness (optional), more curry powder for intense curry flavor, or sea salt and pepper for more balance. I added more of each.

If the soup has thickened too much, add remaining 1 cup vegetable broth, stir, and cook until warmed through.

In the last few minutes of cooking, add the kale and cover to steam until tender but still vibrant green – about 2-3 minutes.

Serve immediately as is or with cilantro and fresh lemon juice (optional).


Swiss Chard Salad

(Recipe courtesy Alexandra’s Kitchen, modified by Jody Nelson of LocalMotive Farm)

2 bunches Swiss chard
1 c extra virgin olive oil, divided
3 c bread crumbs
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
2 lemons
1 ½ c grated Parmesan cheese


Swiss Chard: Wash the Swiss chard, and cut out the stems, which can be saved for later use. Tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces and place them in a large salad bowl. Zest the lemons into the bowl and add the grated Parmesan.

Dressing: Squeeze the lemons into a mason jar. Add 1/2 c olive oil, salt and pepper.

Breadcrumbs: Warm ½ cup olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and cook, stirring regularly, until they are crispy and brown (about 5 minutes). Add the chopped garlic, salt and pepper. Toast for another minute, then remove from heat.

Assemble: Toss the breadcrumbs and dressing with the rest of the ingredients in the salad bowl. Serve warm.


Kale & Beet Salad

(Recipe courtesy Jody Nelson of LocalMotive Farm)

2 pounds beets
2 bunches kale
Protein of choice (bacon, sausage, feta cheese, walnuts, hard boiled eggs, etc.)
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup vinegar or lemon juice
2 T maple syrup (or other sweetener, like honey or sugar)
Salt and pepper
1 clove garlic, chopped
Herb of choice
1 T mustard


Beets: Wash the beets and remove the greens and stems, which can be saved for another use. Put the beets in a pot with water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and cook until beets are tender when pierced with a fork. Remove from heat and drain. Run cool water over the beets until they are cool enough to handle. Under running water, rub the skins off with your fingers. The peeled beets can then be sliced for the salad.

Kale: While the beets are cooking, wash the kale, strip the leaves from the stems, tear them into bite-sized pieces and place in a large salad bowl.

Protein: If you are using a protein ingredient that requires cooking, cook it now.

Dressing: Combine the salad dressing ingredients in a mason jar. Secure the lid and shake until the contents are well blended. Pour half of the dressing over the kale and massage it into greens with your hands.

Assemble: Layer sliced beets and protein ingredients over bed of kale. Drizzle with remaining dressing.



Main Courses

Honey-Glazed Rack of Lamb

(Recipe courtesy Adèle LeBlanc, Baddeck Farmers’ Market Manager)

For the marinade:
1 frenched rack of lamb (7-8 ribs per rack, each rack weighing 1 ¼ lb to 2 lbs. Each rack should feed 2-3 people)
2 T fresh rosemary
1 T fresh mint
1 T Dijon mustard
1/4 c olive oil
3 T honey
8 cloves of garlic
2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
For the glaze:
3 T honey
1/4 c soy sauce
For the reduction:
1/2 c dry red wine
1 T balsamic vinegar
Dash of salt and pepper


Rinse your lamb rack and pat it dry. Leave it at room temperature for 30 minutes.

In a food processor or blender, combine all the marinade ingredients until the garlic is finely minced and the ingredients are completely combined.

Reserve 1 T of the marinade and set aside. Rub the remaining marinade on both sides of the meat.

Let the meat rest at room temperature for another 30 minutes-1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 450⁰F.

Transfer the meat to a lightly greased cookie sheet and place in hot oven. Brown rack of lamb for about 10 minutes.

While lamb is browning, whisk together the glaze ingredients.

Reduce oven temperature to 300⁰F and gently baste the lamb every five minutes with marinade. It will take about 15-20 minutes for it to reach medium and approximately 25 minutes for medium well. For the most accurate cooking, USE A MEAT THERMOMETER!

For medium rare: when inserted in the thickest part of the rack, meat thermometer should read 135⁰F.

For medium well: thermometer should read 145⁰F.

No matter how well done your lamb, keep in mind that letting it rest for a few minutes will yield juicier meat, and some carryover cooking will occur that will raise the internal temperature of the meat by about 5 more degrees.

Remove the lamb from the oven and let it rest for 20 minutes.

While the meat is resting, heat the reserved marinade in a small skillet on medium-high heat for a couple minutes to toast the garlic through. Then deglaze the pan by adding the red wine and balsamic.

Lower the heat to medium-low and allow the mixture to reduce, stirring occasionally. You want a nice thick, dark-colored reduction.

Slice the lamb into individual ribs and drizzle with the wine reduction.


Stuffed Pork Chops or Chicken Breasts with Cheryl’s Apple Butter

(Recipe courtesy Cheryl Durham of Just4U)

2 thick-cut pork chops or chicken breasts
Fresh Parmesan cheese
1-2 t Cheryl’s Apple Butter (your choice of flavor)
Small amount of canola oil
Apple juice (for basting, optional)
For stuffing:
1 c Panko or bread crumbs
2 T green onions, leeks or chives
1 T fresh Parmesan
1 T olive oil
2-3 T apple juice


For the stuffing:

Mix the Panko (or bread) crumbs with the green onion (or leeks or chives), Parmesan, olive oil and enough apple juice to moisten everything.

For the meat:

Cut a pocket opening 1/2 way into the pork chops (or chicken breasts).

Season meat with salt & pepper.

Place 1 1/2 t of Parmesan cheese in each pocket opening.

Add 1-2 t Cheryl’s Apple Butter (use the flavor of your choice – Cranberry, Garam Masala, Maple, or more traditional versions).

Fill each pocket with stuffing, leaving enough room to almost close the flap. Sprinkle with tiny amount of Parmesan to hold the flap in place.

Place a small amount of canola oil in an oven-proof frying pan over medium heat and sear the chicken breasts or pork chops until gold brown (about 5 minutes each side)

Place the pan (uncovered) in the oven at 350⁰F and continue cooking until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 160-165⁰F (about 20-30 minutes). For added flavor and tenderness, baste with additional apple juice.


Side Dishes

Coconut Fried Beets

(Recipe courtesy Adèle LeBlanc, Baddeck Farmers’ Market Manager)

4 large beets, grated
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T coconut oil


In cast iron skillet, melt coconut oil. Sweat onion and garlic for two minutes. Grate beets directly into frying pan. Stir-fry beets for 10 minutes or until desired doneness is reached. Season with salt & pepper.


Isle Madame Cranberry Sauce

(Recipe courtesy Claire & George Kehoe of Claire’s Variety Produce, D’Escousse, Cape Breton)

10 c cranberries
8 c water
8 c sugar


Bring all ingredients to a boil. Simmer until cranberries are soft and jelling (approximately 40 minutes to 1 hour).



Pumpkin Harvest Cheesecake

(Recipe courtesy Kim Tilsley of Glenryan Farms, Margaree Forks, Cape Breton)

½ c chocolate wafer crumbs
¼ c gingersnap crumbs
1/3 c finely chopped pecans or walnuts
3T melted butter
1 ½ c cooked pumpkin or squash
3 eggs
½ c packed brown sugar
1 ½ t cinnamon
½ t each ginger and nutmeg
3 – 250g pkg cream cheese
½ c sugar
1 T cornstarch
Walnut or pecan halves and chocolate to drizzle for decoration if desired.


Crust: Heat oven to 350⁰F. Combine first four ingredients. Press into 9” springform pan. Bake 10 minutes.

Filling: Whisk together pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar, and spices. Beat cream cheese, sugar and cornstarch in another bowl. Blend in pumpkin mixture. Pour over crust. Bake 50-55 minutes until just set in the centre. Remove from oven and run knife around rim. Cool thoroughly to room temperature. Refrigerate. Decorate with drizzled chocolate, chopped nuts and/or halves, edible flowers, etc. Go nuts!


Vanilla Ice Cream with Cheryl’s Wild Blueberry Balsamic

(Recipe courtesy Cheryl Durham of Just4U)

Top vanilla ice cream with fresh fruit of your choice, Cheryl’s Wild Blueberry Balsamic and whipped cream.


Featured image: Still life with fruit, roast, silver and glassware, porcelain and columbine cup, Abraham Hendriksz van Beyeren, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons.




Market gardener, farmer, workshop leader, seed-saver, political candidate and mother, Michelle Smith has spent over 30 years coping with the challenges of our bioregion and in the process has built a store of practical and technical knowledge. The Inverness resident has served on the board of Seeds of Diversity Canada and represented Alternative Producers with the Federation of Agriculture but can do nothing about her hair. She is pictured with a head of Club Wheat, a seed that shares her approach to hairdressing.




Backyard food gardener Madeline Yakimchuk caught the food-security bug in the early ’90s through Cuba’s Urban Agriculture Department, taking her first permaculture course and planting her first garden. She can often be found discussing food security, nurturing a plant-based lifestyle or trying to give away vegetables. Professionally, she is GRYPHON media productions but sometimes uses la bruja in her volunteer work, most notably in managing the garden column, which begins life as a telephone interview.