Posts Tagged ‘vegetables’

Caring For Your Reusable Shopping Bags

I volunteer at my local farmers’ market where I’ve gotten to know many of the farmers. One farmer told me about the rules and regulations for vending at the market, all designed to keep food clean and safe. That’s reassuring, but he also expressed his frustration that no matter what he does to keep food clean, there is always someone who touches the produce with dirty hands or who sneezes on it. It is obviously important to wash your produce before eating or cooking with it, but he also thinks that reusable shopping bags are part of the problem with food contamination. Our conversation inspired me to write this post.

Green wtih Betsy Market Bag

It’s exciting to see the reusable bag movement catching on, but it is imperative to wash the bags just like anything else when it gets dirty. Canvas bags can be washed in the washing machine on hot and then dried in the dryer. Recycled plastic bags should be washed by hand with warm soapy water (don’t forget the seams where grime can collect). Nylon bags should be washed inside out by hand in warm soapy water and air-dried. Occasionally you will need to replace the bags with new ones.

Two more important points

  • Use separate reusable bags for meats and produce.
  • Never keep your bags in your car or trunk. Heat can cause the bacteria to breed even faster.

Do you wash your bags? If so, great. If not, don’t let the idea of washing your reusable bags deter you from continuing your new eco-conscious habit. It’s as easy as washing your dirty clothes!

Some information compiled from http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

 

 

 

 

“Eat Your Vegetables Day” on Friday!

According to my calendar, Friday, June 17 is “Eat Your Vegetables Day” (who designates these days?!) While everyday should be “eat your vegetables (and fruit) day”, it’s always good to bring awareness to the importance of healthy, seasonal eating.

By eating with the rhythms of the season, Mother Nature provides us with just about everything we need. Take watermelon, tomatoes and strawberries for example. Their high water content helps to keep us hydrated and protects and preserves skin cells so the skin is tighter, smoother and better able to retain moisture.  Their high lycopene content is a powerful antioxidant and helps ward off sunburn. A health and wellness coach I know calls these fruits “edible sunscreen”. When are watermelons, strawberries, and tomatoes in season?  In summer, when we need it most!

Nectarines and cherries are also summer fruits, which contain nutrients that help correct sun damage from the inside out.  They contain vitamins and minerals that control inflammation and free radical damage. Cherries contain inflammation-fighting anthocyanins and melatonin, which may boost UV protection and encourage cell growth.

Cucumbers are 96% water and contain most of the vitamins and minerals you need everyday. Take them along on your kayak or bicycle outing – they make a great energy boosting snack and help keep you hydrated even better than sports drinks. Cucumber is especially beneficial for the skin when eaten or put directly on your skin.  (Rub a slice of cucumber on your cellulite and wrinkles to tighten the skin.) Celery is another nutrient rich summer vegetable high in water content.  Green leafy vegetables are full of powerful beneficial nutrients that are good for just about everything! Loaded with potent anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory proprieties, it’s important to eat them everyday.

In this abundant time of year, summer fruits and vegetables are the perfect way to stay hydrated and cool and maybe ward off a sunburn! And nothing tastes better or is better for you than fresh, local fruits and vegetables. Make everyday “eat your vegetables day”.

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Growing Food in Small Spaces

Once you start eating freshly picked vegetables, you realize that’s the only way to go. Fortunately, growing your own food, or at least some of your own, is easy to do, even in small spaces.

Last night's dinner of fresh-picked asparagus

Last night’s dinner of fresh-picked asparagus

 

There are as many ways to garden in small spaces as your imagination will allow, but listed below are a few ideas.

Container Gardening

Containers range from traditional clay pots to self-watering ones to antique ice chests and even old work boots. All are perfect for growing herbs or small vegetables, just make sure there is sufficient drainage and good soil.

Raised Beds

A raised bed garden is a garden built on top of your native soil.  The basic idea of a raised bed is that instead of battling against poor soil conditions, you build above ground where you have absolute control over the soil texture and ingredients. You can make a raised bed garden any size you want and any height. They are easy to weed and easier on your back. Check out the advantages here.

Vertical Growing

Vertical growing is also ideal for small spaces, allowing you to actually grow a lot as long as you have enough sun. The idea is to grow up, not out, like with beans, tomatoes, peas and cucumbers, on trellises for example.

Though garden catalogs are filled with expensive vertical growing containers, you can also upcycle things you already have or invest in cheaper things like shoe pockets, a great idea for lettuces and herbs, old pallets or gutters mounted on a fence. Check out this website for fun ideas.

Sunny Kitchen Windows

Don’t forget sunny window sills, which are perfect for growing herbs, microgreens, and some vegetables like spring onions, even all year long.

 

Whether you are an apartment dweller with a sunny balcony or a new gardener with a tiny yard, discover the joy and satisfaction of growing your own food.  Don’t let it intimidate you.  All it takes is sun, good soil, adequate water and a little time.  Bon appetit!

 

Some information compiled from bostontreepreservation.com and inhabitat.com.

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

 

Dig a Five-dollar Hole for a Fifty-cent Plant

“It’s better to dig a five-dollar hole for a fifty-cent plant than to dig a fifty-cent hole for a five-dollar plant.” goes the old garden adage and how true that is. A good plant won’t grow in poor soil, but a poor plant will grow in good soil.

Spring means planting and after a long winter, nothing is more exciting than preparing your vegetable garden or potting pansies to liven up your front porch. The key to a healthy and thriving garden is a rich, nutritious soil with the right mix of organic amendments.

What’s the right mix?

Organic amendments vary depending on the need of the soil and the plant. For example, the soil pH may need fixing, or certain plants like roses, azaleas or tomatoes may require specific minerals. Fish, blood or bone meal, charcoal, kelp, humic acids, earthworm castings are great amendments. Or, you can simply supplement your soil with compost, or decomposed organic matter, the most important and beneficial soil amendment. Compost builds soil structure and improves drainage; it helps with water/nutrient retention and air exchange; it introduces beneficial biology; it is vital for healthy roots, and healthy roots produce healthy plants.

Using compost made from your decomposed kitchen waste is gratifying, but if you haven’t started composting yet, you can buy good quality compost from a garden center. There are many different types of compost like manure, worm castings or decomposed leaf and wood litter. All are good, just make sure the compost is 3-year finished.

Digging the Hole

Dig the hole twice the diameter of the root ball of the tree, shrub or plant and then mix the existing soil with the amendments. Don’t plant too deep – “plant it high it won’t die, plant it low, it won’t grow.” With extra soil, make a well around the plant to hold water.

 

It’s easy to just throw the plants in the ground without much thought to the soil, but by taking the time to improve your soil, you will get a higher yield from your vegetables, more blooms on your flowers and a better start for your shrubs or trees. Last year, one heirloom tomato plant produced more than 100 tomatoes in my raised bed garden filled with super soil.

 

So, go play in the dirt with some compost and watch your plants thrive!

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 Information compiled from bostontreepreservation.com.

Have You Joined a CSA Yet?

CSAs, or Community Supported Agriculture, have grown in popularity over the years. In a CSA, consumers can buy local, seasonal food directly from the farmer. The farmer offers a certain number of shares, or boxes of vegetables or other farm products to the public. Customers in turn pay in advance for a share and receive a box or bag of seasonal produce each week during the farming season.  There are several different CSA formats – half shares, seasonal shares (with more produce grown in hot houses, you can now get winter shares), biweekly shares, or market shares where you choose your own produce. Fish, local meat and flower CSAs are also available.

There are advantages for both the farmer and the consumer with the CSA model. For farmers, they receive early payment, which helps with their cash flow at a lean time of year, and they have the chance to meet the people who eat the food they grow. For the customer, they eat just picked produce, which is at its most flavorful and nutritious. They are often introduced to different kinds of produce and new preparation ideas. They have the opportunity to get to know the farmers who produce their food, a rare option today with conventional supermarkets where produce is cellophane-wrapped and has traveled 1500 miles from farm to plate.

I’ve been a member of several CSAs over the years, but the spring CSA I am participating in now is clearly the most unique. Fresh produce is limited in spring in New England, but my CSA bag is full of thoughtfully chosen and healthy items.   Run by nutritionist Nicole Cormier, her bags of “locally sourced, fresh picked, handmade, sustainably grown, non-toxic, real food” are designed to be nutritionally complete.  They contain items like sunchokes, pea greens, fresh chevre goat cheese, homemade almond milk, local cornmeal, black beans, herbs, spices, honey, farm fresh eggs and locally grown mushrooms and grains. I have received locally made skin salves, delicious homemade granola and dried fruits, green juice drinks and even a locally made reusable sandwich and snack bag.  Nicole also includes recipes and nutritional information.  Her CSA model is a little different from the typical one in that she uses many farmers who all grow something different.

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I can hardly wait to see what’s in my CSA bag – it’s apparent each bag is packed with love and care. Check out the CSAs in your area. You’ll not only enjoy eating the freshest and most nutritious produce possible, but the convenience of pre-chosen food too. And, you’re helping to support local farmers.

Information compiled from http://www.localharvest.org/csa/ and deliclioiuslivingnutrition.com.

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Farmers’ Markets Are Back!

It’s that time of year again; farmers’ markets are back!  Lettuces, kale, swiss chard, pea greens, radishes, strawberries – there’s lots of early spring produce, especially with greenhouse grown vegetables.  You can also get locally raised eggs, meat, and poultry, fresh-baked goods, locally produced cheeses, potted plants and herbs, handcrafted soaps and lotions, and artisanal items.  Every week it’s something different.

I’m thrilled that the farmers’ market concept has caught on.  The average food travels 1500 miles from farm to plate, consuming large quantities of fossil fuels and generating major CO2 emissions. Produce is picked unripe, then gassed to ripen, or processed using preservatives or irradiation, losing important nutritional value.    With farmers’ markets, food is grown locally using organic or sustainable farming practices and picked at peak ripeness.  Fresh and nutritious, there is nothing tastier than a vegetable or fruit straight from the farm.

English: Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris) with vari...

Photo by: Wikipedia

There are many other advantages.  When you shop at a farmers’ market, you are supporting local farmers and the local economy. The farmer sells directly to the customer; middlemen are eliminated and the farmer gets to keep more of his profits.

In this era of prepackaged foods, there is little direct connection to our food.  At a farmers’ market, you meet and get to know the people who grow your food and they get to know the people who eat the food they grow.  Today’s children will grow up understanding that their food doesn’t just come in a plastic bag from a giant supermarket, instead someone actually plants the seeds, cares for the tender plant and then harvests the fruit or vegetable.

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Mashpee Commons Farmers’ Market

Farmers’ markets bring the community together; they are a place for neighbors and friends to connect.  Participating local musicians, food trucks, art shows, and children’s activities make food shopping a real event.

Local farms help preserve open space, protect the land and promote healthy ecosystems.  With sustainable farming, the soil isn’t contaminated with toxic chemicals, keeping our waterways safe.

I participated in the Mashpee farmers’ market on Cape Cod last weekend answering green living questions.  Shoppers and vendors were happy, enjoying the warm summer day.  Customers chatted with the farmers and admired the fruits of their labor.  One vendor even sings opera! Farmer’s markets provide an old-fashioned respite from our fast-paced, wired lives.

Mashpee Commons Farmer's Market

Mashpee Commons Farmers’ Market

So, take a break and visit the farmers’ market in your town.  You’ll enjoy more than the delicious and nutritious produce grown in your area, you’ll enjoy the whole experience.

If you are in the Mashpee area on Cape Cod, stop by the Farmers’ Market at the Mashpee Commons and say hi.  I’m there most Saturdays – the market runs from 1:30 – 6:00!

Some information compiled from winchesterfarmersmarket.org.

 

Greener Garden Accessories

 

We’ve spent the last few days happily planting vegetable seeds on our farm.  As every gardener does, we are hoping for a prolific harvest.  To achieve that of course you need a combination of sun and rain; in dry spells you have to water.

Traditional garden hoses use a lot of water and are manufactured with toxic materials. Fortunately manufacturers understand the importance of and the growing market for “green” household products and are now making eco-friendly hoses with patented water restrictors.  The restrictors control pressure and use at least 50% less water; they also help with puddling and soil erosion.  Earth friendly hoses are made from at least 50% recycled material, usually polyurethane, rubber or a combination, and are generally much lighter than the common rubber hose.  (It is important to choose a hose with UV protective coating to prevent cracking from direct sun exposure.) And on those hot days when you need a drink of water, you can safely drink from an eco-friendly garden hose.  They can be found on-line at greenhome.com.

100% recycled soaker hose

Conserving water is always a concern and using a rain barrel to capture rainwater makes good sense.  The spouts can easily be attached to your garden hose and you can put two or more barrels together for more water!  Check out these rain barrels from Gardener’s Supply.

Rain Barrel

To mark your plants in the garden, here’s a clever upcycling tip.  If you have some old venetian blinds hidden in your attic, cut them in pieces for garden stakes and label them with a sharpie.  It keeps the blinds out of the landfill and saves you a few dollars.

Show off the fruits of your hard labor and spotlight some of your plantings or light up a garden path with solar lighting.  They last for years and work just as well as conventional lighting.

Gardening is naturally a green activity, but make it even more so by using greener garden accessories.

Raw Food Diet

English: A close up of a fresh raw food dish

English: A close up of a fresh raw food dish (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I recently attended a raw food cooking class. A raw food diet is just what it says – food that is eaten raw or heated to no more than 115 degrees. According to raw food experts, the advantages are that raw food contains beneficial live enzymes that make it more digestible and that it has a higher vitamin and nutrient content.   Heating or cooking chemically alters food causing it to lose its ability to provide energy.  Cooking also destroys certain vitamins. A raw food diet can cleanse and heal. The raw food diet as a health treatment was first developed in Switzerland in 1897 by Dr. Maximillian Bircher-Benner, the inventor of muesli, after he recovered from jaundice by eating raw apples.  His health center is still in operation today.

In summer when fruits and vegetables are abundant, preparing seasonal, local, raw food is easy. A strict raw food diet year round however, is more involved and does not include any processed foods.  To make crackers, breads and other “baked” goods can be time consuming and requires advance planning.  Blenders, food processors, juicers and dehydrators are all needed equipment.  Sprouting and soaking are necessary to eat grains, legumes and nuts.  Nuts are a large part of the raw food diet and are used to make cheeses, crackers, breads and soups.

What appealed to me about the class was its emphasis on creating warming uncooked meals.  We learned simple tips like bringing all food to room temperature for a couple of hours before preparation and using lots of warming spices like cumin, curry and nutmeg.  Our meal started with a delicious raw butternut and green apple soup, followed by zucchini chive canapés, a zucchini slice smeared with chive cream cheese made from cashews – even better than “real” cream cheese! For dinner we made a Brussels sprout and pumpkin seed slaw, a wild rice and chickpea salad, kale and shallot pizzettes with 3 kinds of cheese (again, cashew based; the crust was made from flax seeds and vegetables “baked” in a dehydrator) and a fresh fig and lemon tart for dessert.  The dinner was fabulous and you never would have known it was uncooked!

I could never be an extreme “raw foodie”, but I do love experimenting with new and healthy cuisine.  I read somewhere to make 50% of your diet raw, so challenge yourself and give it a try. Below is a simple recipe for Cashew Parmesan cheese that rivals the real thing!  Email me for more recipes…

½ cup dry cashews

1 clove garlic (chopped)

¼ teaspoon sea salt (coarse)

Grind cashews and sea salt in food processor (with ‘s’ blade) until fine, almost powdery.  Add garlic and pulse food processor until texture resembles Parmesan.  Use on everything!

Information compiled from The Raw Truth, The Art of Loving Foods, by Jeremy A Safron and Renée Underkoffler,  http://en.wikipedia.org/, onesmallpatch.com.

BE HEALTHY!

Fresh vegetables are important components of a...

Image via Wikipedia

I’m a firm believer in learning from other people’s expertise, experiences, wisdom and even well founded opinions.  This weekend I attended Be Healthy Boston, a 2-day urban wellness retreat with keynote sessions and workshops.   It was fabulous! Renowned doctors, naturopaths, nutritionists, physical therapists, psychologists, architects, designers, chefs, musicians, yoga instructors and green living experts, shared their knowledge with eager people who wanted a healthier lifestyle. I’d like to share some of this knowledge with you.

One main message was empowerment.  The resources to manage your own health and well-being are plentiful – we are lucky in the Boston area to have access to so many health care professionals of all levels – and there is no lack of information on the Internet.

One session that I especially enjoyed was “Food as Medicine” given by Dr. Mark Mincolla, a nutritional and natural health therapist who has transformed the lives of thousands of patients over the past 30 years.  He spoke extensively about inflammation, the root of many diseases including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, allergies, autoimmune diseases, arthritis, and others, and how we can control chronic inflammation through diet, exercise and stress reduction.   Dr. Mincolla suggests trying an anti-inflammatory diet for three weeks (give yourself a break on the weekends if it seems impossible) just to see if you feel any difference, which consists of:  fatty fish like salmon, vegetables, fruits, legumes, brown rice (whole grains), olive oil, soy, tofu, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and yeast-free bread.  Eliminate inflammatory foods such as dairy, wheat, egg yolks, fatty red meats, sugar and alcohol. The anti-inflammatory foods, high in Omega-3 essential fatty acids, are an extremely important part of disease prevention and overall health. I urge you to read more about inflammation or visit his website maxhealing.com to better understand the inflammation/disease connection.  Check out his NECN program called “You Are What You Eat”.

I have long been an advocate of prevention and maintaining a healthy immune system through diet, especially in this time of virulent and unusual germs and viruses.  It’s exciting the medical community, the media and programs such as Be Healthy Boston focus on taking charge of your own life and embracing wellness.  As Dr. Mincolla says, “the best medicine is the medicine you will never need to take.”

An irony of all ironies – I picked up a flu bug from the Be Healthy Boston retreat!  Life is funny….

Some information compile from “Food is Medicine” by Dr. Mark Mincolla.

 

 

RAISED BED GARDENS

In this era of industrial grown food transported thousands of miles, and food borne illnesses that can often result, many people understand the health and environmental benefits of eating locally, or at least regionally.  Part of the new “locavore” movement is growing some of your own food, and one of the best and easiest ways to do so is to install a raised bed garden.

A raised bed garden is a garden built on top of your native soil typically sized around 5’ x 10’.  The basic idea of a raised bed is that instead of battling against poor soil conditions, you build above ground where you have absolute control over the soil texture and ingredients. You can plant more in a raised bed garden because you don’t need to leave room for paths.  You simply lean over to work in the garden. Because raised beds tend to have more plants in less space than a traditional vegetable garden, they have fewer weeds and require less maintenance.  Raised beds also drain better because they are elevated.

As with any garden, the quality of the soil is key – healthy living soil means healthy thriving plants, which means healthy fresh food.   So make sure you use local compost to enrich the soil, hopefully from your own compost pile. Along with the satisfaction of growing your own food, you’ll save money and will find that raised bed gardens add beauty to your landscape!

Have fun, get creative and grow a themed garden like a salad garden, a pizza garden, an Italian garden, whatever you can imagine. One idea is to grow fruits and vegetables from the Dirty Dozen list,the produce that contain 47 to 67 pesticides per serving and the foods you should always eat organic. These foods are believed to be most susceptible because they have soft skin that tends to absorb more pesticides.  Growing your own food is very rewarding!!!  Go to Gardener’s Supply Company for ideas!

Image by Peter Wild