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Hangry July 18, 2020 An apple a day

My mom would have turned 87 yesterday, she died in late summer last year. I cooked for her whenever I was in Manitoba to visit. I didn’t like the food she got in the Assisted Living place, but my sister often had her over for supper so she got good meals there.

My mom’s dad died before I was born, of a perforated ulcer. I wondered if his diet had helped or hurt him.

We now know that ulcers can be caused by “corkscrew-shaped bacterium called Helicobacter pylori, or H. pylori for short,” which Barry Marshall helped discover in the early 80s. But until then, it was thought diet and stress contributed to it.

Was he stressed? Raising a large family on a small farm nine miles out of Plum Coulee, Manitoba in the 1930s: probably.  When my mom was nine the family moved to the larger town of Steinbach where he painted houses for a living. They had a sturdy house and a large garden.

Diet: in “Role of dietary polyphenols in the management of peptic ulcer,” Mohammad Hosein Farzaei et all tell us what to eat. “Dietary consumption of a significant amount of “natural” protective supplements in early life leads to prevention or delayed peptic ulcer. […] Apples (Malus spp., Rosaceae) represent an excellent source of polyphenols.”

Nope, no apple a day for him. When I was growing up in Steinbach, there was one kind of apple, the Mcintosh. Every fall my family would buy a big box and store them in the garage. They were BC apples and some group organized the sale as a fundraiser, I think the Kinsmen. And when they were gone, no more apples til next fall.

Next, curcumin. “It has been characterized that curcumin is a strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory substance.” Not a chance grandma was cooking with this in Plum Coulee or Steinbach.

“Gallic acid is naturally found in various vegetables and fruits, such as gallnuts, Tragopogon species, sumach, grapes, pineapple, Phyllanthus spp., and zinger.” I don’t know what most of these are, but I recall grapes only occasionally and never pineapple. “The grape, a fruiting berry of the woody vines (Vitis spp.) from the family Vitaceae, is an essential source of nutritional phytochemicals such as flavonoids and anthocyanins.” I rarely had these growing up; he probably did not eat grapes at all.

“Green tea polyphenols.” No. My peeps immigrated to Manitoba from Prussia in 1874, where they may have had a wild tea tradition, but I don’t think it translated to the prairies of Canada.

“Pomegranate polyphenols and ellagic acid.” No. I discovered pomegranates as an adult. I don’t think my parents ever ate them.

“Quercetin is a flavone present in a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, and is the major flavonoid in the human diet.” Google tells me “Foods that commonly contain quercetin include onions, apples, grapes, berries, broccoli, citrus fruits, cherries, green tea, coffee, red wine, and capers.”

These were not available or commonly used or grown locally. In fact, as a habit from the depression, grandma didn’t drink coffee; she drank Postum, a powdered roasted-grain beverage. I ate wild berries in season: saskatoons and the most wonderfully flavourful tiny red strawberries.

“Resveratrol ,  a natural phytoalexin from the stilbenes subgroup, is isolated from berries, grape skin, and peanuts.” Growing up, all us kids got a tüte, a small paper bag with two Mandarin oranges and a handful of peanuts in the shell, Christmas Eve in church. Although we had peanuts at home, and oranges (but Mandarins were only available in stores around Christmas time), it still felt like a special treat.

“Peptic ulcer disease has been a major threat to human health over the past two centuries. Despite medical advances, the management of peptic ulcer and its relevant complications remains a medical challenge, due to its high morbidity and mortality. Therefore, there is a growing interest in dietary factors as supplements for the prevention or remission of gastritis and gastrointestinal ulcers.”

I have a memory – it must’ve been a dream  – of Grandpa Harder coming to our house, and lifting me up with his long, strong arms.


Farzaei. M. (2015.) ”Role of dietary polyphenols in the management of peptic ulcer.” From

Marshall, B. et al (2008.) “Helicobacter pylori: A Nobel pursuit?” From

Watts, S. (2020.) “He Poisoned Himself to Find a Cure for Stomach Ulcers — And Won a Nobel Prize.” From


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