Archive for 'Health'
Spinach in the garden 7 Apr 2012

Oh Spinach, What am I going to do with you?

Posted 07 April 2012 | By | Categories: Cooking, Food, Gardening, Growing Food, Health, Plants, Vegetables | Comments Off on Oh Spinach, What am I going to do with you?

Spinach in the garden 7 Apr 2012

 

Juiced, wilted, braised or super slow cooked? All of these and more!

 

 

Royal Weddings and Marriages of Convenience

Royal Weddings and Marriages of Convenience

Posted 01 May 2011 | By | Categories: Animals, Culture, Flowers, Food, Gardening, Growing Food, Health, Pest control | Comments Off on Royal Weddings and Marriages of Convenience

Bees in the Nepeta with Dew (NYC Skygarden)

While the world has been distracted all weekend by the spectacle of England’s royal wedding, I can’t stop thinking about the other royal wedding I learned about this week in the fabulous must-see movie Queen of the Sun: What are the Bees Telling Us.

For sheer entertainment values of sex, violence and drama, the royal wedding of the honeybee far outshines that of the Windsors. First, the emergent virgin queen kills all her rivals, stinging them through their cells. Then she embarks on her glorious marriage flight, mating with 12-15 drones mid-air, and storing their sperm in her spermatheca. A spermatheca! What a brilliant family planning device. Last seen (by me) in the snail.

Once the drone has performed his task of a lifetime, his lifetime ends quickly, as the in-flight mating rips out his penis and abdominal tissues. The queen goes on to lay around 2,000 eggs per day — more than her own bodyweight. Meanwhile, worker bees attend to her every need, feeding her and cleaning up after her. The queen can choose to fertilize the eggs using sperm from her spermatheca as the egg passes through her oviduct. Fertilized eggs become female workers (or queens) and unfertilized eggs become male drones.

Like coverage of the other royal wedding, Queen of the Sun is filled with eccentric characters and beautiful scenery. And though there is a lot of discussion about the troubles facing both monarchal systems, no one questions the relevance of the honeybees. They are in trouble, and we would do well to revere, honor and serve them as we will not last long without them.

Takeaway advice for gardeners who want to support the bees that support them:

  1. Plant bee-friendly flowers and flowering herbs in your garden and yard.
  2. Cherish your weeds (or at least don’t get all obsessive about removing them), as they can be havens for honeybees.
  3. Don’t use chemicals and pesticides to treat your lawn or garden. No. Not even Roundup! Especially not Roundup (or any other brand of glyphosate). I was horrified to attend an organic kitchen gardening course here a couple of years ago where Roundup was used “just around the edges” to keep things tidy. The neonicotinoid class of insectisides has been implicated in colony collapse disorder. Here are the members and their brand names so you can be sure to avoid:
    • Clothianidin: Poncho, Titan, Clutch, Belay, Arena.
    • Imidacloprid: Admire, Advantage, Confidor, Gaucho, Marathon, Merit, Premeir, Provado, Bayer Advanced, Rose Defense, Kohinor, Hachikusan, Premise, Prothor, and Winner.
    • Thiamethoxam: Actara, Crusier, Platinum, Helix, Centric
    • Acetamiprid: Assail, Intruder, Adjust
    • Thiacloprid: Calypso
    • Nitenpyram: Capstar
  4. Buy local, raw honey. This is a joy in New Zealand! I am currently loving both J. Friend & Co’s range and Earthbound Honey’s raw organic manuka honey.
  5. Bees are thirsty. Put a small basin of fresh water outside your home.
  6. Buy local, organic food from a farmer that you know. Choose organic food whenever possible.
  7. Learn how to be a beekeeper using sustainable practices. (National Beekeepers’ Association of New Zealand, Wellington Beekeepers Association)
  8. Understand that honeybees aren’t out to get you – they’re interested in pollen.
  9. Share solutions with others in your community.
  10. Let your government — and business— know what you think by both speaking out and supporting bee-friendly bee-friendly people and products.

Marriages of Convenience

Did you know that besides being the date of the Royal Wedding, Friday, April 29, 2011 was also World Immunology Day? Just as the garden is an ecosystem, so is the body. We humans are extremely chimeric — over 10% other species by weight. I celebrated by attending a fascinating presentation at the Malaghan Institute called “A Marriage of Convenience: partnering with microbes for better health.” Joanna Kirman spoke about mycobacteria and cancer. Graham Le Gros explored mycobacteria and asthma and Anne La Flamme gave a tour of our old friends, parasitic worms — currently being used in treatment of multiple sclerosis (and inflammatory bowel disease, among other chronic inflammatory disorders). If this stuff turns you on too, you can listen along and read my notes at right.

Meanwhile, in the Seagarden…

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I just enjoyed the first sweet juicy tamarillo (Ted’s Red) of the season and first ever from my own trees. What a treat! The juice tasted almost like pomegranate. I wonder if it’s because they’re planted next to each other and have been sharing trade secrets?

Last week’s extreme winds savaged the wind-protective covers of my vegetable patches and blew all the feijoas right off the trees, regardless of their readiness. I removed the last of the spent tomato plants, harvested the rest of the tomatillos (which are also lovely in fresh raw juice) and planted an assortment of exciting new seedlings, including: cos/romaine lettuce, lolla rossa lettuce, miner’s lettuce, wild arugula, rocket aka arugula, pineapple sage, feverfew and lemongrass. And last but not least, Lhamo, a rescue of a rescue kitteh, is surveying the Seagarden this weekend. Will she stay? It’s looking likely.

Garden Harvest Lentil Salad

Garden Harvest Lentil Salad

Posted 31 March 2011 | By | Categories: Cooking, Food, Gardening, Growing Food, Health, Inspirations, Seagarden, Vegetables | Comments Off on Garden Harvest Lentil Salad

Todays harvest 31 March 2011

Behold, today’s bountiful harvest! Featuring cavolo nero, meyer lemon, parsley, roma tomatoes, jalapeno pepper, hungarian wax pepper, mint and oregano. This purple flowering oregano preceeded me in the seagarden. When I first arrived (and mistook it for marjoram), it established one half of the strawberry patch as its domain. We cut it out entirely, I thought, but tall stroppy strands of pungent leaves and purple petals continue to pop up where it once ruled. Since I’m resigned to never be rid of it, I’m always looking for new ways to use it. Thus, I was excited to discover a recipe featuring fresh oregano, “Greek-Style Lentil Salad” in one of my favorite cookbooks, Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian.

Bioitalia lentilsWhere Jaffrey’s salad features green lentils and cucumbers, my version that she inspired features canned lentils and all the vegetables just harvested above. I was a purist about cooking with dried lentils (since they didn’t need pre-soaking) until I read Tim Ferriss’s 4-Hour Body. He’s got a good point that it’s better to eat canned beans than to not eat beans at all because you don’t have time to cook them. Discovering Bioitalia canned beans that come out of the can looking perfect rather than sorry and soggy upped my enthusiasm. And considering the recent run of natural disasters around the world, it’s comforting to see a stock of legumes at the ready each time I open the cupboard.

1 (14oz/398ml) can lentils, drained and rinsed
1 chopped red onion
1/2 c diced tomatoes
1/2 c cavolo nero leaves, torn from stem
1/4 c chopped parsley
2 seeded and diced peppers (I had a jalapeño and Hungarian wax, but use bell pepper or other capsicum too if you have on hand)
2 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
2 tbsp olive oil
1 fresh lemon, juiced
salt and pepper to taste

Toss all ingredients and enjoy!

Gardenharvestlentilsalad

This was delicious on its own, and it would also welcome feta cheese. It also makes a lovely base for simply grilled fish. Hope you enjoy!

What are your favorite ways to use fresh oregano? If you’ve got any recipes or pointers, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Clamalicious Recipe

Clamalicious Recipe

Posted 04 January 2011 | By | Categories: Cooking, Food, Health, Vegetables | Comments Off on Clamalicious Recipe

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Happy New Year! In Chinese New Year celebrations, clams symbolize wealth and prosperity because their shells look like coins. Clams are also rich in an essential nutrient I’ve been seeking out lately, vitamin B12, and New Zealand clams are the best I’ve ever tasted. Growing up far from any ocean, I don’t remember coming across live bivalves, and although I’ve always loved eating them, I was intimidated to cook them for a long time. Turns out there’s nothing simpler…

  1. Choose live clams that close when you touch them. (Ideally Cloudy Bay Clams from Yellow Brick Road at City Market in Wellington, NZ. Pictured above, the also wonderful littleneck clams, aka Austrovenus stutchburyi and tuangi, from Southern Clams Ltd.) If you’re not cooking them immediately, keep them in a well-drained container in the fridge — not in a plastic bag or they’ll suffocate. Savour the sound of their gentle sighs as they open up and let it all hang out.

  2. Cook up a pot of aromatic and delicious things from the garden in wine like: Crazy by Nature shotberry chardonnay with kaffir limescallionsparsleymintcoriandercherry tomatoes and Vietnamese mint olive oil and/or buttergarlic and chile peppers.

  3. Rinse, then kiss and thank your sweet little clams as you place them in the boiling broth.

  4. Simmer for about 3-5 minutes until they all open. Toss any that don’t open.

  5. Have some great bread ready to soak up all the delicious juices. My favorite in Wellington is Simply Paris’s wholemeal, made from just organic rye flour, spring water and salt. Alternately, serve over linguini or spaghetti.

If you try a variation of this, let me know how it turns out. I’d love to learn from your favorite ways to cook with clams too. Wishing you a healthy 2011 abundant with serendipity and delight!

Green Roofs for Auckland

Green Roofs for Auckland

Posted 27 February 2010 | By | Categories: Green Roofs, Growing Food, Health, Make Things, Plants | 1 Comment

Emily Harris Dream to Reality Entry from Emily Harris on Vimeo.

Emily Harris has a wonderful vision of establishing rooftop gardens for Auckland city-dwellers, so that they can grow their own fresh, healthy food, right on the roof of their apartment buildings.

I’d love to see it become a reality. Let’s make it happen in Wellington too! If you like Emily’s plan and want to help make it a reality, vote for it with a thumbs up at HappyZine’s Dream to Reality competition.

Pollan’s Rules and Oliver’s Schools

Pollan’s Rules and Oliver’s Schools

Posted 12 February 2010 | By | Categories: Food, Health | Comments Off on Pollan’s Rules and Oliver’s Schools

What do we learn about food in school? Not much!

But I always learn something useful from Michael Pollan, here on Democracy Now, discussing the link between healthcare and diet, the dangers of processed foods, the power of the meat industry lobby, the “nutritional-industrial complex,” the impact industrial agriculture has on global warming, and his sixty-four rules for eating from “Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual”:

Watching the Jamie Oliver hold up a tomato in front of a classroom of kids who were not able to identify hits in a visceral emotional way. As winner of the 2010 TED Prize his wish is to teach every child about food and empower them against obesity:

(See also Mark Bittman’s talk on What’s wrong with what we eat from 2009 EG conference.)

    Here are some things I’ve learned from the garden this week:

  • Celery: I harvested some celery by completely removing the plant and cut other stalks off at the soil level so I’d know where to put in some new plants. Those that were cut are shooting up new stalks.
  • Of all the plants I expected to be devoured as they are growing up, the broccoli and brussels sprouts would have been last on my list. I imagined the sulfur-containing compounds that make them so healthy for us would be naturally repellent to most insects. Oh how wrong I was — they are being eaten alive by caterpillars (cleverly colored exactly the same green as the leaves) and now attracting what looks like black scale insects at the base. I’ve been using an organic garlic spray along with manually picking off the offenders when I see them.
Tropical Tuesday

Tropical Tuesday

Posted 10 February 2010 | By | Categories: Container Gardening, Food, Gardening, Health, Plants, Seagarden | Comments Off on Tropical Tuesday

Coffee and bananas are staples — essentials — on my shopping list, papaya and passionfruit whenever in season. But usually, I’m referring to the end produce, not the plant. Today, all four plants found their way into my home.

Is there any scent that puts your heart more at ease than roasting coffee beans? Not for me… that’s the fragrance that wafted through the air of my family’s business across from the Folger’s plant in downtown Kansas City when I was growing up. Apparently though, the scent of flowering coffee resembles jasmine so much that it was first described as Jasminium arabica. And it’s recommended as a plant whose fragrance drifts or wafts on the air. Oh how little I know about my favorite first daily drink (or drug, if you insist). Looking forward to getting to know you in a whole new way, coffee!

Banana plants make gorgeous indoor ornamentals even if they never fruit, but I love the idea of cultivating options beyond the corporate banana monoculture. The passionflower vine twining up the pergola in my NYC Skygarden delighted me with its abundant purple blooms. It was sold as an annual but kept going for years. This golden passionfruit vine aka sweet granadilla looked so beautiful with healthy heart shaped leaves in the store, I hope it can thrive here in the windy Seagarden.

Juicy ripe papayas are divine pleasures, and the green fruits make great som tam (a spicy Thai salad). Alas, the Hawaiian papayas sold in the US are genetically modified and the New Zealand stores are filled with irradiated imports from Australia. Excited to see if they will grow here — the leaves and aroma of the plant itself are lovely regardless.

hibiscusflowermandevilla white fantasyTopping off this tropical Tuesday, my parents arrived bearing flowering mandevilla and hibiscus flower plants.

All of today’s additions will enjoy the comforts of container living, moving indoors or out depending on season and Seatoun weather. If you have any secrets for cultivating any of these exotic beauties outside their native environments, I welcome your suggestions.

  • If you like the scent of roasting coffee wafting over you, Wellington is your town! Cafe L’affare is a delightful cafe (with great daily specials) built around the roaster: 27 College St, Wellington, New Zealand 04 385 9748. Mojo Coffee just opened a new roastery and headquarters at Shed 13 on the Wellington Waterfront. What are your favorites?
Daily Om: Healing Gardens

Daily Om: Healing Gardens

Posted 08 January 2010 | By | Categories: Art, Health, Spirit | Comments Off on Daily Om: Healing Gardens

Ganesha, Saraswati, and Jallandharnath (detail), identified here as a copy of folio 1 from the Nath Purana, attributed to Amardas, c1825; opaque watercolour and gold on paper; 47 x 123 cm. Mehrangarh Museum Trust

There are very few email newsletters I remain subscribed to for long, but after many years, the DailyOm, continues to inspire me and often surprises me in addressing an issue or theme that’s top of mind. Today’s Om, Healing Gardens, particularly resonated:

Healing Gardens
Hand in Hand with Nature

Time spent in nature’s embrace is a soothing reminder of the fact that we also are products of the natural world’s ingenuity. We feel at home in a quiet forest and are comforted by the pounding surf of the seaside. In both the sunny meadow and the shaded waterfall’s grotto, stress and tension we have long retained melts away. Finding opportunities to reconnect with nature to enjoy its healing benefits can be difficult, however. Planting and tending a garden allows us to spend time with Mother Nature in a very personal and hands-on way. We work in tandem with nature while gardening—honoring the seasons, participating in the life cycle of various organisms, experiencing the unique biorhythms of our environments, and transcending all that divides us from the natural world. As we interact with the soil, we are free to be ourselves and reflect upon meditative topics. Fresh air invigorates us, while our visceral connection to the earth grounds us.

Though you may plant a garden to grow food or herbs, or for the pleasure of seeing fresh flowers in bloom, you will likely discover that the time you spend working in your plot feels somehow more significant than many of the seemingly more important tasks you perform each day. Whether your garden can be measured in feet or is a collection of plants in pots, tending it can be a highly spiritual experience. You, by necessity, develop a closer relationship with the soil, seeds, water, and sunlight. Nurturing just a single plant means cultivating a deeper understanding of the mechanisms that permit it to thrive. A true healing garden is simply one where you feel comfortable plunging your hands into the earth, lingering over seedlings and plants to observe their growth. And yes, even caressing and talking to plants. Creating beauty through the creative use of space, and giving yourself over to awe when you realize that you have worked hand in hand with nature to give birth to som! ething, is truly wonderful.

The partnership that is formed when you collaborate with Mother Nature through gardening is wonderful in that it provides you with so many opportunities to be outdoors. You will be reminded of not only your connection to the earth but also of your unique gifts that allow you to give back to the earth.

  • The image above is a detail from Ganesha, Saraswati, and Jallandharnath, identified here as a copy of folio 1 from the Nath Purana, attributed to Amardas, c1825; opaque watercolour and gold on paper; 47 x 123 cm, part of the “Garden and Cosmos” exhibition of the royal paintings of Jodhpur organised by the Arthur M Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, in collaboration with the Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur, currently on at the Art Gallery NSW in Sydney, Australia through 26 January 2010.
  • The related Divine Landscape self-guided walk pairs paintings in the exhibition with locations in the Royal Botanic Gardens. Their lotus pond takes my breath away each time I visit — it’s one of my favorite heavens on Earth.
  • The Oberoi Rajvilas in Jaipur, India

  • A huge inspiration for my current Seagarden is the Oberoi Rajvilas (pictured above), also from the Indian state of Rajasthan, but in Jaipur. I especially loved the flowing water throughout the property, deep blue and turquoise ceramic tiles, scent of jasmine flowers permeating the air, private bathing gardens and harmonious combination of sacred temple and secular haveli.