Beautiful herbs, for culinary use and medicine.

Not only do herbs add flavor to our food, herbs are also a wonderful, natural medicine. Let’s look at the four most common herbs grown in gardens today. Oregano, Rosemary, Basil, and Thyme.

Oregano tastes wonderful in spaghetti sauce, pizza, stews, and soups, but did you know if you take a handful of fresh leaves and pour boiling water over them it makes a wonderful tea for anyone suffering from a cold? Oregano has anti-bacterial  qualities that inhibit the growth of bacteria. It is also a powerful antioxidant as it contains many phytonutrients including thymol and rosmarinic acid, both of which prevent oxygen-based damage to cell structures all throughout our bodies. All of this and it is a good source of fiber and a wonderful source of vitamins!

Oregano is a perennial herb which means it will continue to grow yearly. It is sometimes touted as the world’s healthiest food!

Fresh oregano is preferable to the dried as it has more flavor. It is also easy to grow and propagate annually. 

Rosemary is well known to boost memory and improve one’s  mood, it also reduces inflammation, relieves pain, Is a protector of the immune system, It stimulates circulation, helps detoxify the body and helps  protect the body from bacterial infections,

Rosemary is full of flavor and aroma, but it is also a wealth of beneficial health effects if you add it regularly to your diet. Just the aroma of rosemary alone has been known to reduce stress and improve memory. Rosemary is also an excellent breath freshener, just steep some leaves in a cup of hot water then gargle and swish to eliminate bacteria and give yourself the freshest breath!

H. pylori bacteria is the bacteria that can cause stomach ulcers, but studies show that rosemary has been shown to prevent its growth when consumed. Rosemary is also linked to preventing Staph infections.

Rosemary is slightly diuretic in nature, so it can help flush toxins out of your body more efficiently during urination.

Most recipes call for rosemary leaves, which can be easily removed from the stem, by gripping the stem and running your fingers down it. You can even add the whole sprig to season your soups and stews. 

Use fresh or dried rosemary in eggs, use it to season chicken and lamb, even add it to butter or oil for a fresh dipping sauce for bread.

Basil Baby! If you only buy a few herbs, basil should be one of them. Its fragrant essence combines well with other herbs like rosemary and thyme. Basil provides the body with vitamin A, which contains beta-carotenes, these are powerful antioxidants that protect the cells lining, as well as a number of other body structures, including blood vessels, from free radical damage. This preventative measure keeps cholesterol in blood from oxidizing, helping to prevent atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and stroke.

Basil is wonderful in meat dishes, with fish, vegetables, soup, eggs, and even cheese. It is one of the main ingredients in pesto, along with pine nuts and parmesan cheese.

Basil is one of my favorites herbs because it has so many uses. Everything from soups to sandwiches is simply better with the addition of its fresh, full-flavored leaves. It also contains oils and flavonoids that protect the body from illness and infection. Very small concentrations can kill harmful bacteria, but still be very beneficial, even preventing atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and stroke.

Basil is known to help with asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Basil is also a good source of magnesium, which we all need more of since the soil has become so depleted. Magnesium promotes cardiovascular health by helping muscles and blood vessels to relax, thus improving blood flow.

Thyme is an evergreen shrub that has been used in medicinal and culinary applications for thousands of years.

It has one of the highest antioxidant concentrations in any herb, thyme has been praised for thousands of years as an overall health booster. The antioxidants in thyme eliminate free radicals throughout the body. Free radicals are dangerous to your healthy cells by causing spontaneous mutation.  Antioxidants like these help to prevent oxidative stress in all of your organ systems, and neural pathways, also your heart, eyes, and skin.

Thyme has a high concentration of iron making it ideal for the production of red blood cells,

Circulation: The high concentration of iron and other essential minerals in thyme make it ideal for stimulating the production of red blood cells, thereby boosting your body’s circulations and the oxygenation of essential organ systems and extremities throughout the body.

Heart Health: All of the antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins in thyme have many small effects on the heart, but the potassium and manganese are particularly important. Potassium is a vasodilator, meaning that it can reduce the stress on the cardiovascular system by relaxing blood vessels and lowering blood pressure. This can extend your life by preventing atherosclerosis and avoiding strokes, heart attacks, and coronary heart disease.

Vision Booster: With carotenoids and vitamin A that are found in thyme, it is no wonder that it makes it an effective antioxidant agent for your eye health. Carotenoids can neutralize the free radicals in your ocular system and slow the onset of macular degeneration and prevent cataracts!

Immune System: Vitamin C is abundantly found in sage making it a natural immune booster. It stimulates the production of white blood cells, Your body’s first line of defense. Vitamin C also plays a crucial part in the production of collagen, which is essential for the creation and repair of cells, muscles, tissues, and blood vessels.

Reduce Stress: Vitamin B6 helps certain neurotransmitters in the brain that are linked to stress hormones. Implementing thyme in your diet can help to boost your mood and ease your stress.

Respiratory Issues: One of the most well known and long-standing uses for thyme in traditional medicine is as a respiratory health agent. If you are suffering from bronchitis, chronic asthma, congestion, colds, flus, blocked sinuses, or seasonal allergies, thyme acts as an expectorant and an anti-inflammatory substance, eliminating phlegm and mucus from the respiratory tracts, easing inflammation to help breathing, and prevent microbial development that can lead to illness. Thyme leaf tea is a powerful tonic for respiratory ailments.

A Final Word of Warning: For those with sensitive stomachs, high intake of thyme can cause gastrointestinal distress, but generally, this herb is not known as an allergenic substance and can be consumed regularly in your diet.

So there are four ways for you to get not only wonderful flavouring for your food but a little medicine that will go a long way!

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=73

Why should you shop at your local Farmer’s Market?

Farmers-MarketLet us count the ways!

I love getting up Saturday mornings because that is the one day a week I can go to the farmer’s markets in town! I get to mingle with other like minded folks, while enjoying healthy and fresh fruits and veg and other homemade items.

Not only can you take the whole family but you can meet some of the local artisans and farmers in your area and get a first hand look at where your food is coming from.

Great tasting Produce

Not only is locally grown food close by, cutting down on carbon emissions, it is also picked fresh and not trucked halfway across the planet, giving you a better tasting fruit and veg. Better tasting veg equals better tasting food!

Nutrition

Produced that is shipped from far away is almost always harvested prior to being fully ripe.

Research suggests that food picked at peak ripeness is higher in vitamins and other healthy nutrients. Tomatoes will actually be higher in Vitamin C if they are allowed to ripen on the vine. That is why when selecting tomatoes I always pick the ones on the vine, that way the tomatoes are still getting the nutrients they need even tho they have been picked. Local farmers don’t need to pick their produce too far in advance, allowing the plants to fully ripen the way nature intended.

Economy

When you shop at a farmers market you are supporting your local economy. You are putting a child through dance lessons or hockey. You are contributing to the people in your community. When you choose your local community you are voting the best way I know how… with your dollars.

Carbon Emissions

Are you concerned with carbon offsetting? With produce so close to home we are choosing to use less fossil fuels, pesticides and fertilizers that are used at commercial scale farms. So you know you are not contributing to the demise of our mother.

Seasonal Treats

You know you are always getting the freshest most readily available produce for you and your family. When you live in places that get snow for winter you will find veg that is okay with the cold season or veg that cellars well. Veg like spinach, potatoes, carrots and turnips. Sometimes this means that you will be getting some weird stuff you have never heard of before, like celerac or parsnips but there is no time like the present to learn how to make something with these funky foods! Most vendors will have recipes or suggestions of how they might prepare these foods.

Shopping at a farmers market is awesome. You get to meet people that you will get to know and the freshest veg possible!  The only thing more awesome than shopping at the farmers market is growing it yourself!

Feeling Stressed out?

Feeling stressed out? Fact is most of us are. We live in such a fast paced society some of us don’t even realize it, it has just become a way of life.

If youfreshrolls have done any research on the matter then you already know that exercise and meditation are two things you can do to start combating stress today. However what about your food choices? Is what you put into your body contributing to your stress levels? The answer very well could be yes.

Don’t feed the stress!

When our bodies get stressed our cortisol and adrenaline go up and our fight or flight response is ready for action. Except there is no real danger so our bodies are not using the energy to fight or flee so it stores it for later use. Here comes the muffin top.

Do you take comfort in food when you are stressed? What is it you are eating? Convenience, pre packaged, processed foods?  Well while these foods are fast and convenient when you don’t feel like making anything they are not good for your health, your stress and are contributing to your muffin top.

Thinking one more cup of coffee might help get you through the day? Try sipping green juices or chamomile tea instead of sugary pop, juice or coffee. Although the initial pick me up is tempting you will inevitably crash leaving yourself feeling more stressed and agitated.

Craving something sweet? Skip the cookies and try a couple of dates and handful of nuts or an ounce of dark chocolate. Cookies may be tempting but they come at the cost of raising your insulin resistance and weight gain.

Skip the convenience of pre packed processed foods. While it is tempting to just grab something quick at the store, take a moment and think about all the extra sodium and sugar that these foods are typically laden with. Sugar and processed foods are actually contributing to the release of these stress hormones. Instead eat low sugar fruits, plenty of veg and high quality proteins like salmon and fresh rolls. These foods will feed your calm and not your stress or your muffin top.

As much as you may crave them they will just be contributing to the release of more stress hormones.

Remember when stress hormones go up, your mood goes down.

 

 

Raw Food Diet

cleanse-homepageI have been studying and experimenting with raw food for over twenty years.  I first heard of food combining (that is for another day) and raw food back in my early twenties. I ate only raw food for two months. I felt wonderful and really enjoyed some of the cold soups that I made along side of the salads. But let me tell you that the raw food diet has come a long way in twenty years! So many more recipes… and of course the internet is great for accessing all kinds of recipes!

The raw food diet has been around for many years. Our ancient ancestors started out eating raw food, before we mastered the art of fire. So it is something that has been around for generations and gets revisited by many people.

What is the first thing you think of when you think raw food diet? I use to think of  people munching down on salads and thought, Wow, is that all these raw foodists eat? I mean I like salads don’t get me wrong and fresh salad right out of my garden is the best around no doubt, but it does leave me to wonder how does one survive on salad alone?

So why eat a raw food diet? Some people are using a raw food diet to kickstart their way back to healthy eating, while others end up really liking the way they feel when they eat this way, that it becomes a way of life for them.

Personally, I am a curious girl. I started experimenting with this as it seems to be a healthy alternative to the western diet and I am always looking for something new to eat that is different, nutritious and keeps me healthy, and hey adding more veg to your diet is something we can all do to make us healthier.

It makes sense to me that, as humans we started out eating only raw food as we hadn’t mastered the art of fire, but I have to tell you that I love cooking! So I choose to eat a mixed diet of both raw and cooked food.

Is raw right for you? Well, the Ancient Greeks fasted for health and Pythagoras was a vegetarian who fasted for 40 days and lived on raw food consisting of figs, olives, fruit and vegetables.

However, only you will know what is right for you. Listen to your body and go ahead and experiment a little. Read up on all the different foods you can try. There are so many ways to get all the excellent nutrients you need to be a vibrant you!

Dolmas! (stuffed grape leaves)

IMAG1165[1]I am excited to share that I made dolmas over the weekend! My love brought me some grape leaves from his backyard. Two of my favorite things together! Fresh foraged food made into a handheld package for eating and Boris.

I perused many recipes over the weekend to see how other people have made them, then put together what I thought would be good. See my recipe for them here.

I will have to go pick some more as they are good blanched and frozen for up to 6 months, that way I will have some at Christmas time that I can stuff with dried cranberries and apples! MMM… so tasty.

You can buy grape leaves canned in a store or as I like to do, pick them fresh in the late spring early summer when they are still young and not too tough and chewy. I wanted them fresh so that I knew where they were coming from and know that they are not sprayed with all kinds of pesticides as any type of fruit bearing plants typically are.

I picked 24 beautifully shaped leaves, stems attached and no holes. I then blanched them, immediately plunged them into cold water and set them on a tea towel to dry. I left the stems on so that they were easier to work with and to keep them from tearing. The leaves are quite delicate, so some care is needed when handling them.

Shiney side down, lay them flat then carefully clip off the stem. Add your stuffing, (I made 12 vegetarian and 12 with meat) fold in the sides then carefully roll them up. Place on a steam rack and steam for 30-45 minutes. Tada! You’re done! You can serve them hot or cold. I like to serve them with a cucumber yogurt dip.

It seemed strange to me that the recipes I read all said to cook the rice until  it was only half done, but when you are steaming them the rice gets fully cooked and not mushy.

You could take the basic recipe and add cranberries instead of currants and walnuts instead of pine nuts and I think they would still be very good with all the spices.

Are your Seedlings in Trouble?

Green_Seedlings_Growing-

When staring a garden, nurturing your wee seedlings requires attentiveness, love and some patience. To keep your sensitive seedlings safe and healthy you will need to recognize when they are not well. Here are some signs that your wee ones are in trouble and what might be the culprit:

  1. No germination – Causes could be that it is too cold or hot, growing medium dryed out, seeds were planted too deep or not deep enough, seeds are old, not enough light or improperly stored or seeds rotted in the soil. (damping off disease)
  2. Mold or Moss – Causes could be that there is not enough air circulation or too much moisture.
  3. Decaying or falling over– this could be damping off disease. Damping off disease is a horticultural disease or condition, caused by a number of different organisms that kill or weaken seeds or seedlings before or even after they germinate.  This can be caused by the soil or the containers not being sterilized. Before you reuse your containers be sure to sterilize them! Other causes include not enough space for your seedlings to grow, poor air circulation, too much moisture, low light or cool temperatures.
  4. Stunted growth – is possibly caused by poor nutrients in soil or low temperatures.
  5. Spindly growth – could be caused by overcrowding your seedlings, not enough light or too much fertilizer.
  6. Leaves that curl under–  Could be too much light or too much fertilization.
  7. Pale or discoloured leaves – May be insufficient lighting, too much water, not enough nutrients or fertilizer burn.
  8. Poorly developed roots–  Some causes include low temperatures, poor soil nutrients, poor drainage and compacted soil that doesn’t leave enough air for the roots.

These are just a few things to keep an eye out for when you are germinating your wee ones.  Your seedlings need just the right conditions to grow up to be vibrant plants, so get out there and grow!

 

Succession planting

succesion plantingSuccession planting is an important part of gardening if you want to utilize your space to get as much food as possible. You can avoid situations where the whole crop comes in at once and you will have an ongoing supply of veg throughout the season. It is nice to have a steady supply ready for harvest over a long period and this reduces the risk of crop failure by having another crop ready to  come in.

Here is a sample of some crops that I have successfully succession planted:

  • Cucumbers -every three weeks. I like this so i can have fresh cucumbers and have lots to make into pickles
  • Kale – every three weeks. Kale is prolific. As long as you are trimming it, it will continue to grow. It is nice however to have some fresh baby kale throughout the season.
  • Beets– every two weeks. Mmm beets and beet greens!
  • Green beans– every ten days.
  • Melons – every three weeks
  • Sweet corn- every ten days. There is nothing like fresh organic corn in the summer time!
  • Radish– every week.
  • Spinach – every week. When I have a surplus of spinach I like to blanch and freeze it for the winter months.
  • Carrots, Cabbage, Cauliflower and Broccoli – twice a season. This way you can have a summer crop and some in the fall to store for winter.
  • Basil – every two weeks. A nice way to store extra herbs are in ice cube trays with olive oil… Freeze and re thaw when needed.
  • Tomatoes and peppers can be planted a couple of times as well if you have the space.

Replacing crops that have finished producing with a new crop in the same place is another way to succession plant. Just be sure that you are planting something that works well for the time of year you are planting. For example, plant peas in the spring then cucumber in the summer and Kale in the fall. This way you will get a wider variety of veg in the same amount of space and your vibrant garden will never be empty throughout the growing season. By varying the types of veg that you grow in each succession you will be preventing the depletion of some nutrients. Crop rotation is important so that you are nourishing the soil which will in turn give you higher yields. Also make sure to feed your soil in between planting to keep production high. I like to add a bit of compost to my soil in between and or sometimes watering it with some compost tea.

I use my google calendar to keep track of when I need to plant my next crop… any calendar or journal will work as well for you to keep track of yours. I like to keep a journal of where i am planting what as well, so that I can utilize succession planting from year to year to ensure good crop rotation.

 

Plan to be healthy

healthyyouWe make new year’s resolutions, we commit to losing weight or getting healthier, but then it all seems to fall by the wayside and we are back into our comfortable settings, eating convenience foods or food like substances as I call them. Getting healthy can be daunting. But anything worth doing is worth doing right. You don’t have to do it in a day either. It is all about one step at a time, making small changes every day or every week so it becomes a habit to be healthy.

  • Get busy in your kitchen – Cooking doesn’t have to take long and can be a wonderful experience if you are doing it with loved ones. We all have to eat right? Teaching children how to cook will help them make healthy habits.  There are lots of healthy meals that can be prepared and ready in as little as 30 min. Find some great recipes on our recipe page.
  • Organize your pantry – Get in there and toss the junk! Go thru everything. Can you read what’s on the label? If you can’t it is not healthy for you. Stock your pantry with staples, whole grains, beans, nuts and lentils. If you can see the junk food it can stimulate cravings so get rid of it or at the very least hide it somewhere out of site until you are ready to treat yourself.
  • Use smaller plates– plate sizes are increasing. When you are filling your plate check it’s size, if you put less on your plate you will eat less. Also if you fill your plate and then sit down instead of having food within reach it will give you pause before you eat again resulting in knowing if you are full, therefore reducing your intake.
  • What’s in your fridge- Fill your fridge with healthy food. Fill your crispers with lots of colourful veg! If you find that you are not using all of the veg in a week, then it is time to make soup or blanch and freeze your extras so that you always have some veg on hand. If you have meal items on hand you are less likely to eat out or find something “convenient”
  • Along the outside- The next time you need to grocery shop i would hope you wouldn’t go the traditional grocery store, but if that is where you find yourself go only to the outside perimeter of the store. This is where the organic and less likely to kill you food is. haha
  • Chew slowly- pacing how fast you eat helps your body to register when you are full. So go ahead a savour your food instead of gobbling it down. this will aid in better digestion and mindful eating.
  • Turn off the TV- mindlessly eating in front of the tv or any screen is going to lead to poor food consumption and choices. Making food together can be bonding and eating together can lead to conversation!
  • Increase your vegetable intake- vegetables are the best way to protect your heart and body against obesity. You can add them to omelets, baked goods, pasta and of course smoothies! You can even substitute pasta for spaghetti squash or zucchini ribbons. Find some fabulous recipes here.
  • Keep temptation to a minimum- the closer you are to the crap the more likely you are to eat it. Keep it hidden or better yet don’t bring it into your home.
  • Eat healthy fats– Switch out your unhealthy fats for healthy ones. It is easy to swap your butter for coconut oil or avocado. We need fats in our diet to help absorb our fat soluble vitamins.
  • Bye bye sugar– You know by now that white refined anything is bad for you… white refined sugar will kill you. Cut it out! Stick to natural sugars found in fruits and veg.
  • Cayenne pepper- if you are not eating this, you should be. Not only does this boost your metabolism but can cut sweet, fatty and salty food cravings. Sprinkle it everywhere.

It is okay to treat yourself once in awhile, but if you want to start your healthy lifestyle then find a way to do each of these things everyday. Like I said, you don’t have to do it all in one day but plan to be healthy and one step at a time you will suddenly find a more vibrant you!

 

Get out of the Grocery store

farmers-market-local-produce-520What is with the grocery stores these days? It is the place we all go to shop for food, but I find that there is little actual food in these stores. Have you stopped to read the labels on some of the products in there? It’s frightening! For me my rule of thumb is, if I can’t read it, it isn’t food and I am not going to be eating it or feeding it to my family.

With all the marketing and clever disguises the food companies assault us with it is no wonder disease is on the rise. We are no longer eating food we are eating food like substances.

So what are our options?  Some people say that eating local and organic is expensive or that they don’t have time to make meals. Have you calculated the cost of being sick lately? A little prep time once a week goes a long way in terms of eating healthy and getting healthy meals out to your family in a timely manner.

Here are some other options for frugal and healthy shoppers, that want to vote with their dollars and get away from the grocery store nightmare.

  • Join a food co-op or CSA (community supported agriculture) -this is a great option a real tangible way to vote with your dollars.  You can signup and receive weekly fresh produce from the people in your community. With co ops, they will require a membership or volunteer time in lieu of payment. Definitely a great alternative to the traditional grocery store.
  • Grow food in your space plant in containers of all kinds, vertical gardening is a wonderful way to utilize space, find a sunny window sill to grow kitchen herbs or turn your backyard into an urban farm!  Not only is gardening cheaper than therapy but you get tomatoes and you know exactly where your food is coming from and what went into it.
  • In season produce– cheaper and nutritionally superior, this is the way to go for healthy and frugal shoppers alike and when it’s local you are helping your community. If you buy too much you can always blanch, freeze, dehydrate or can your extras for the winter months.
  • Buy local– change your shopping habits and buy from your local farmers. You get to know where your food is coming from and get to know and support the people in your community. Find a local farmer here http://croptouring.com/
  • Buy your staples in bulk– buying in bulk quantities reduces the prices to lower or equal to the prepackaged items found in a traditional grocery store.
  • Forage– this is one of my personal favorites as there is so much food/medicine out there that we overlook every day. Lots of greens, berries, fruits and something for every ailment. After all our mother earth is here to sustain us. Don’t forget tho if you are taking from her it is a good idea to give back. I like composting as my giveback to the earth.

With making these few changes we are voting with our dollars and saying no to harmful pesticides, chemicals, gmo’s and artificial processed ingredients. Say no to the traditional way of shopping and get involved with your community at the same time.

 

Vertical Gardening

garden-in-wall Vertical gardening is a wonderful way to make use of your space when growing veg.

If you have raised garden beds like I do for instance, you can utilize some vertical space by adding a short wall the the north side of your garden and growing some of your veg upwards on the south side. Peas, squash, beans can all be trained upwards along the wall or you can add pockets to the wall and grow some micro greens.

You of course can also grow other plants in your vertical garden as well and create absolutely beautiful works of art! I have seen some beautiful wall pieces that incorporate herbs, others with beautiful succulents. I am of course all about the food!

If you are planning on growing food vertically you will need to find a location that gets at least 6 hours of sunlight and you will need to be mindful of watering regularly as with any garden.

You can start your vertical gardens in containers or a raised bed or even directly into the ground. Using trellises and hanging containers you can add addition veg.

Utilizing your vertical space has many benefits including:

  • saving space, you can grow and harvest your veg in space that otherwise would be lost.
  • Easier harvest, veg is easier to reach when it’s ready to pick.
  • Air Circulation, around the plants provides ideal conditions for them to grow
  • Veg is off the ground, this prevents mold and soil borne disease as well as crawling insects.

Starting with your food supply is a great way to help you live more sustainably. Grow food in whatever space you have, whether it is a back yard,  or a patio with containers or vertical gardens or even a community plot is a great place to start! Starting a garden is a rewarding experience and you will be on your way to a more vibrant you!

 

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