Part two of our report on how food can be used as medicine through the eyes of Sonia Carr-Steyns.

Words Nirali Shah-Jackson

‘MothersFinestMonchique,’ Sonia’s brand, is dedicated to the two most important teachers in her life. 

Firstly her mother, Miss May, who always had a small vegetable patch where she planted her favourite herbs; Thyme, Rosemary and Bay leaf, all with diverse medicinal properties. These were added to most meals she cooked. Her wisdom and determination have given Sonia the powerful tools to live and maintain an amazingly full life. She explains thoughtfully, “My mother was a very quiet, humble person who didn’t say much, so I feel Mothersfinest has become her voice, and now in her memory, Mothersfinest gives me the platform and privilege to express all she didn’t say.”

Secondly, the name is dedicated to ‘mother nature,’ which provides her with an abundance of nurturing ingredients. For giving this, she will always be respectful and grateful.

As a child, Sonia grew up in a village in the north of England in the 1970s. Being the only Jamaican family was “challenging.” Getting to school meant taking a half-hour, very noisy bus ride from home, which made her anxious and nervous so she decided to walk to school every day instead. 

Her stroll took her through rolling green hills, rivers, forests and farms. This became her meditation and the first place she fell in love with nature. 

When she discovered her land in Monchique, the first words that appeared in her head were “I’m home.” It resembled her childhood walk to school, which gave her so much peace and inspiration.

She is totally obsessed with plants and nature, her days are filled with watching what plants are growing around her and integrating them into her life through food, cosmetics and more. She prefers not to be called a ‘Chef’ because she considers what she does a lifestyle rather than a vocation.

“I want to show people that when you start cooking your own food, you take back your power (health) by being in control of what you eat. No one knows your body better than you do. Learning about your body and becoming in tune with what makes you feel good will naturally encourage you to take control of your own health, physically and mentally. Just imagine the freedom from illnesses like colds and flu being a thing of the past.”

Her mission is to empower people to experiment with ingredients and flavours and to understand how food combinations affect people’s mental and physical well-being. She wants others to experience the same freedom from illness that she and her family have. 

Most importantly, she believes that children must be aware of where their food comes from and how to cook from scratch as this is the most important life lesson for their long-term overall well-being.

Sonia’s philosophy revolves around what she calls “The Five F’s.” 

The first three F’s – Food, Family and Fasting –come from her mother who passed on all these traditions, and the last two – Fermentation and Freedom– evolved from years of dedication to learning about nutrition. 

Sonia’s ‘Five F’s’ Guide:

Words Sonia Carr-Steyns

Food

Food is the material you build your house (body) with, and if you stay close to whole foods, nature has an intelligence that will always give us health in return. 

Family

Eating together at meal times was something we did as a family every day, everyone having their own chores to fulfil before and after the meal. Eating together has a big social impact, it promotes family togetherness which brings happiness to the home. This feeling of happiness is then extended outside the home and in society. It provides better nutrition, saves time and money, encourages conversation and most of all good eating habits.

Fasting

Fasting is something I have done all my life and continue to do every day. The benefits are clarity, energy and health. This is called Autophagy, which is your body’s natural recycling system which happens after short-term fasting. 

Freedom

The benefits of fasting give the freedom to enjoy life. I’ve become so in tune with my body through fasting that if I do get sick, I usually know what it is making me ill and stop doing it! I can not think of any higher reward than the freedom of living a pain-free life because you have more time to do the things you love. 

Fermentation

The beauty of ferments is that they extend food’s shelf life without any cooking involved. In many colder countries, people will ferment vegetables so that they are available to eat during winter. For example, Sauerkraut, simply made up of salt and cabbage can be left on the kitchen counter to ferment. Within three to four days the bacteria and yeasts have transformed the starches into lactic acid, making what was once just cabbage and salt turn into an amazing pre and probiotic food, rich in vitamin A, B6 B12,C, K2, potassium, magnesium and calcium. Nutrients from fermented foods are more readily absorbed by the body and are extremely beneficial for gut health. If you can eat it, you can ferment it.

Keep a look out for her upcoming workshops on @mothersfinestmonchique

Sonia Carr-Steyns, Holistic Food Coach

Health & Nutrition Workshops

Follow: @mothersfinestmonchique

Garlic as Medicine

Garlic has been used for centuries not only as food but also as medicine, due to its antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiallergic, antioxidant, antifungal and antiviral properties. 

Consuming garlic on a daily basis (fermented or raw) may help prevent the common cold, and flu, detox from heavy metals, lower blood pressure, and boost the immune system, because of its antioxidant properties of Allicin (a member of the onion family). 

Allicin contains sulphur, which is released when garlic is crushed, chopped or chewed. This is what gives garlic its immune-boosting properties. Unfortunately, it can also be deactivated by heat. Garlic is also immensely beneficial to regulate blood pressure and blood sugar level because of its ability to increase the release of insulin. 

While garlic is also an excellent source of manganese, vitamin C, copper, selenium, phosphorus, vitamin B and calcium, it is the sulphur compound of garlic that makes it a powerful nutrient in terms of overall health. People who don’t like the taste of garlic find that they can eat fermented garlic. 

After fermentation, the sharp taste of garlic will soften and become more flavourful. Fermented garlic can be used where you would normally add salt (salt can then be eliminated) like in a salad dressing, dips, drizzle over cheese, pesto, marinades, even topically for spots, mouthwash for ulcers. If you feel a cold or flu coming on, you can take a fermented probiotic shot that you can prepare using the recipe in the purple box. 

Fermented Garlic Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 garlic bulbs
  • 200ml brine (Use 200ml of non-chlorinated water and add two tsp of a non-iodised salt mix until the salt is dissolved)

Method 

1. Peel the garlic, discarding any centrepieces

2. Pour the brine over the garlic leaving a small head space at the top of the jar so that any carbon dioxide gas that builds up (this is a natural process of fermentation) can be released during the fermentation.

3. Screw the lid on finger tight and place it on the kitchen counter to ferment.

4. Open the lid daily to release the (carbon dioxide) pressure. 

5. Within three to seven days it will start to bubble.

6. Allow to ferment for about one month on the kitchen counter and eventually the fermented garlic will turn a rich golden brown colour. Then store in the fridge, it will last for six months or longer.