Grow Your Own Herbs

So many herbs, so many uses

  
Herbs are no doubt among the easiest plants to grow in your garden. Many of them are fairly drought tolerant and have a blooming period albeit short. In addition, herbs lend a delicious fragrance to the garden.

While most herbs are easily grown in containers which is a major plus, if you have space, consider planting an entire herb garden. It needn’t take that much space. A plot of land measuring approximate 200-400 square feet should do you quite nicely. Find out the diameter of a mature plant; obtain some graph paper and sketch out your garden before you dig a single hole. Remember to allow at least 1 foot of space between mature plants for ease of weeding and pruning.

One of the most fragrant herbs to add to your garden is lavender. The scent of lavender in bloom is heavenly and is wonderful for making scented sachets to hang in your closet or place in your dresser drawers. This is the only herb I would suggest you plant as many as you have space for as those sachets make wonderful gifts.

As the song goes, 4 great savory herbs to add to your garden are Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. Fresh chopped parsley is a wonder addition to potato and pasta salads, not to mention a lovely garnish for many other dishes. Try drying sage leaves to add to many dishes including stuffing for turkey and chicken. And, both rosemary and thyme are excellent accents when roasting poultry and lamb among other savory dishes.

Tarragon is a wonderful addition to soups and vegetables. This herb is also good in tuna, egg, pasta and green salads. Add when making sauces for fish or chicken, it’s a must for béarnaise sauce.

If you intend upon canning pickled vegetables from your garden or making pretty vinegars for gifts think about planting some dill. While its true you can purchase dried dill weed very cheaply, there is no way you can get a full stalk of dill unless you grow it or pay rather dearly for it when needed in quantity.

In my opinion, no herb garden is complete without chives. In fact, if I could plant only one herb, it would be chives because they are so very useful. While I love green onions, by the time I get around to using them, alas they all but lifeless. No problem with chives growing right outside my door. They not only add that touch of needed green, they also have that subtle onion flavor which is perfect for salads and potato toppings.

Unfortunately, another one of my favorite herbs is not worth planting. Cilantro tends to bolt so quickly you would be lucky to retrieve a leaf or two. Obviously those that grow cilantro commercially know something we don’t know and they aren’t telling. If you figure it out please let me in on the secret. I will let you in on my secret for preserving store bought cilantro, however. Place the bunch of cilantro in a glass of water and cover with the plastic bag it came in. This way, the cilantro will stay fresh and crisp for up to 2 weeks in your fridge.

On a final note, let’s talk about mint. A favorite of mine is pineapple mint. It has a wonderful fragrance and taste and makes a lovely tea and garnish. However, there is a real problem with mint. It’s tangled roots go deep and it tends to try to take over every other plant in the garden. Spray it with Round-up and it comes right back again. Once planted, you simply can’t get rid of it! So, if you want to add mint to your garden, plant it in a container and move the container often enough to insure it doesn’t take root in the ground through the drainage hole in the container.

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Kids Love Gardening

imageApparently, we can see how nature is treated these days.  It is a sad thing to know that people do not pay attention so much anymore to the environmental problems.  What can we do about this?  It’s as simple as starting with the children.  It is good to see the children’s involvement with environment-friendly activities. One such nature-loving activity that children could easily get their hands on is gardening. Why should you consider gardening for your children?

Here are the benefits that gardening could easily provide the children with:

1.  Science
In planting, children are indirectly taught the wonders of science like the plants life cycle and how humans intervention can break or make the environment.  They can have a first hand experience on the miracle of life through a seed.  This would definitely be a new and enjoyable experience for the kids.

2.  Life
Watching a seed grow into a tree is just as wondrous as the conception to birth and growth of a child.  In time, kids will learn to love their plants and appreciate the life in them. Gardening could actually help simulate how life should be treated — it should be with care. The necessities to live will be emphasized to kids with the help of gardening – water, sunlight, air, soil. Those necessities could easily be corresponded to human necessities, i.e., water, shelter, air, food.  By simply weeding out, one could educate how bad influences should be avoided to be able to live life smoothly.

3.  Relaxation
Studies show that gardening can reduce stress because of its calming effect. This is applicable to any age group.  More so, it stimulates all the five senses.  Believe it or not, gardening may be used as therapy to children who have been abused or those who are members of broken homes.  It helps build one’s self-esteem.

4.  Quality Time with the Family
You can forget about your stressful work life for a while be soothed by the lovely ambience in the garden.  You can play and spend quality time with your children.  You can talk while watering the plants or you can work quietly beside each other.  The bottom line is, always do what you have to do, together with your kids.  You might discover a lot of new things about your child while mingling with them in your garden.

Let kids become aware of their environment’s needs. And one way to jump start that environmental education may be through gardening.  It’s hitting two birds with one stone — teach them to respect life while you bond with them.

Money-Saving Gardening Tips

IMGP0854 - vege garden

IMGP0854 – vege garden (Photo credit: RaeAllen)

It’s easy to spend a fortune every year creating a beautiful yard. These five tips can help save you money in both this, and future gardening seasons.

1. Plan your vegetable garden according to what your neighbors are planting so you can share your vegetables when they’re ready for eating. Often I’ve had too many of one kind of vegetable I couldn’t give away because my friend’s were ripe at the same time.

2. Select perennials rather than annuals for your flowerbeds. As they multiply each year, cut them back and exchange with your friends so you both have lovely gardens and save money at the same time.

3. Compost your kitchen scraps, as well as your coffee grounds.  The end result is much better than any potting soil you can ever get buy from a nursery or hardware store. The price is right, and this is definitely recycling!

4. Instead of using mulch, try pebbles or small rocks in your garden as ground cover.  This will save you lots of cash since you won’t need to buy mulch in the spring and fall of every year.

5. Spend more money now by purchasing better quality gardening tools and you will save in the long run.  They will last for years, saving you dollars because you don’t need to replace them every planting season.  Same goes for gardening gloves- make sure you buy the best you can afford so they last all season.

Happy Gardening!

Worm Wee For Luscious Gardens

English: Freshly bedded worm bin, garden waste...

English: Freshly bedded worm bin, garden waste mixed with finished aerobic compost Category:Vermicomposting (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dear Dr Mom,

One of the best ways to improve your garden is to stop throwing out your garbage. That’s right, your used coffee grinds and banana peels can help your tomato and cucumber plants grow larger and stronger. When that same garbage is eaten and digested by a worm it becomes a powerful plant supplement known as worm castings. Starting a worm compost bin is a great way to create a steady supply of worm castings for your flower and vegetable gardens.

First thing you’ll need is a bin. You can buy a commercially made worm bin but where’s the fun in that. Those plastic or rubber storage bins make great worm bins. Drill a few holes in the bin so your worms get plenty of air. Just be sure to cover those holes with small pieces of window screen or something else that will keep the fruit flies out. And if you have any plumbing experience, why not add a hose spigot near the bottom of the bin to take advantage of worm tea. Worm tea is even better than compost tea for your plants. All you have to do is add a cup or two to a large watering can and fill the rest with water. Then water as normal.

Next you’ll need some worm bedding. Most commonly used worm bedding for home bins is shredded newspapers. The bedding must stay moist but not water logged. Use a spray bottle to keep the bedding just right for your worms. When your order worms in the mail they will usually ship in a container filled with peat moss. Some people have stopped using peat moss as a political statement. You see peat is not a replenishable resource. Peat takes centuries to develop in swampy regions and it’s just being used up too quickly. Other’s argue that Peat is now created in a safe quick way and what’s all the fuss about anyway. The two sides contradict each other so it’s up to you to decide if you want to use it. Newspapers are readily available and you probably have a stack of them in your house already. So why not avoid the whole controversy and go with what’s on hand.

And don’t forget to put some dirt in the bin too. Worms don’t have teeth, so they need some grit to help grind up their food. You can also use rock dust or powdered limestone instead of dirt if you like, but regular dirt from your yard will work fine.

And of course, let’s not forget the worms. Digging up some worms from your yard will not work in a worm bin. Worms that come from the soil, like to live in the soil. For worm bins, you’ll need red wigglers. They’ll love the environment that you’ve created in your worm bin. How many should you buy, that depends on the size of your bin. Let’s assume that you’ve created your worm bin for the worm castings and not to have tons of worms for your weekends fishing. That means that you’re going to leave the worms in the bin until they’ve turned most of the bedding and food waste into vermicompost. The worm to garbage ratio is usually 2:1. That means that if you’re going to put a half pound of garbage into the bin on a daily basis, then you should start with a pound of worms.

Check your bin everyday to ensure that you get off to a good start. Keep the bedding moist and the bin should stay in a spot that’s about 60 to 70 degrees. Leaving the bin outside in the summer sun is a good way to cook all of your worms. And remember if the worm bin starts to smell, then you probably need more bedding.

Starting a worm bin is a fun project for everyone in the family. Get your kids involved, they’ll love watching those little worms wiggle around your bin. And if you’re lucky, you may see one of the kids chase your mother in law around the house with a handful of worms. Like I said, worm bins are good times for the whole family and great for your garden too.

Why Is There A Fire In My Belly?

Heartburn And Acid Reflux

Heartburn And Acid Reflux (Photo credit: A.Currell)

Dear Dr. Mom, Any form of heartburn is an unpleasant experience, to say the least.
The splashing up of stomach acid into the esophagus and throat can be
quite painful and potentially dangerous.  In extreme cases, where the
esophagus is continually damaged by the reflux of stomach fluids, a
condition called Barrett’s Esophagus can develop.  This condition is a
precursor to esophageal cancer. Millions of people suffer from the symptoms of heartburn every day.  Those with acute cases of heartburn may have a condition called acid reflux or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).

Barrett’s Esophagus occurs when chronic acid reflux or esophagitis is not controlled. Through constant inflammation and damage, the normal cells that line the esophagus called squamous cells turn into specialized columnar cells.  Columnar cells are not normally found in human beings and can become cancerous.

The physical cause of heartburn is the improper functioning of the LES (lower esophageal sphincter).  This ringed muscle at the bottom of the esophagus, relaxes in order to allow food to enter the stomach.  This muscle then retracts in order to keep the digestive fluids where they belong.  It is when this muscle is too relaxed or damaged, that the stomach fluids can escape up into the esophagus thereby causing acid reflux.

There are many possible causes of acid reflux.  The foods that we eat play an important role.  Food that is too acidic can aggravate this ailment.  Not chewing food properly, eating meals that are too large and lying down within three hours of eating can all contribute to acid reflux.

Certain foods and beverages can cause the LES to become lazy.  These culprits include smoking, drinking alcohol and prescription drugs.  Raw onions and garlic, fried foods, chocolate and foods that are too spicy can also cause the LES to relax.

There are two ways to treat this condition.  They are the allopathic medical and the holistic approaches to disease.

The allopathic medical way

  • is to prescribe certain drugs such as H2 receptor antagonists, which include Tagamet and Zantac, or PPI drugs (proton pump inhibitors) like Nexium and Prilosec.  These medicines slow down the production of stomach acid and are the two main types of pharmaceutical acid suppressors.
  • This pharmaceutical approach is dangerous in that it impedes the proper digestion and assimilation of food.
  • There are also numerous harmful side effects associated with these drugs.  Drugs only treat the symptoms of a disease or condition.  They are not intended to cure.  If the drug companies created drugs that cured they would soon go out of business.

The alternative way to treat acid reflux is holistically.

  • Holistic by definition means considering a whole thing or being to be more than a collection of parts;
  • Treating the whole person rather than just the Symptoms of a disease.
  • Using alternative remedies, which are natural and have no side effects, is certainly the safest and most effective approach.
  • These treatments are also far less expensive than drugs.
  • Holistic treatment, unlike drugs, can actually cure the condition or disease.

In order to develop acid reflux, we must first have an acidic system.  By treating the whole body and alkalizing the system, acid reflux will disappear.  What we eat and drink determines the PH of the body.

Vegetable juices, like raw potato, celery and cabbage are very alkaline in nature and are helpful in correcting an acidic stomach.  Papaya juice contains the digestive enzyme papain, which has a soothing effect on the stomach and aids in the breaking down of protein.

Slippery Elm, Bladderwrack and Marshmallow, belong to a category of herbs called demulcents. These herbs aid digestion by decreasing inflammation and by soothing the affected areas. They form a protective barrier against stomach acid and other digestive irritants.

There are many holistic ways to treat acid reflux.

  • Meditation can be of great help.  Start by doing deep breathing exercises for ten minutes.  Keeping the eyes closed, visualize you stomach, LES, esophagus and throat as young, pink, tender and perfect.  Continue to breath and picture yourself in perfect glowing health.  See yourself eating slowly in a relaxed atmosphere, enjoying your food.  Picture the food being digested and assimilated in a perfect manner.  Feel all the parts of your body working in perfect harmony together.
  • Yoga can also be very beneficial to the body as a whole.  Loosing weight and regular exercise are important as well.  Drinking copious amount of pure water not only flushes the system of toxins, but dilutes stomach acid during periods between meals.

The holistic approach to healing is the medicine of the future.  We can all be a part of that future now.

Keep Food Fresh Naturally

How many times have we brought food and then forgotten about it only to remember it because it begins to stink? Against this, you cannot do anything, but you can ensure that your food lasts longer and keeps fresh.

How?
There are many things you can do, such as regularly clean your refrigerator and regularly check the food in there and also that you keep in the cupboards or anywhere else. But its not just about checking them. This cannot prevent anything. All you will be doing is throwing away food items before they stink up the entire kitchen. So, what can you do to keep the food fresh?

Practical List of Tips for Ensuring Food is Cleaner and Fresher:

1) Spread some cloves on and around the marble surface of your kitchen, and also spread some cloves under the sink.
Why?
The Cloves keeps ants away.

2) Place some bay leaves inside your bags of dough, rice and the rest of the packs that insects prefer.
Why?
Bay leaves keep insects and other such lice away from food products. By placing bay leaves inside the packets, we ensure that insects do not reside there. But please remember to change the bay leaves once every three months.

3) Place half a potato in the refrigerator.
Why?
If there is any kind of bad smell from food or cooked items, the half potato will absorb it. To make sure that this works, remember to exchange the potato every three days.

4) Store eggs with the pointed side down.
Why?
Storing eggs with the pointed side down keeps them fresh for a longer period.

5) Place a few cubes of sugar in the jar where you store American cheese.
Why?
When you place two or three cubes of sugar with the American cheese in an air tight jar, the sugar absorbs the moisture and prevents the cheese from getting bad.

6) Do not store tomatoes and cucumbers in the same draw.
Why?
Tomatoes give out gases that cause cucumbers to rot faster so make sure that you keep these two apart.

7) Do not store apples along with the rest of the fruits and vegetables.
Why?
Apples give out certain gases that cause fruits and vegetables to rot.

8) Place slices of apples or raw potatoes in the bread compartment or jar.
Why?
By adding a few slices of raw potatoes or apples with the bread, you ensure that the bread remains fresh for longer than usual.

9) Store radish in a vessel along with some water.
Why?
You should store radish in a vessel along with water because water will keep the radish fresh and crisp for a long time. For the same reason, if the radishes have shriveled, place them in a jar of cold water. Water will restore the radish to its previous splendor.

Conclusion:
Here, I have presented only a few of the more practical actions you should follow to ensure that the food you and your family consume remains fresh and tasty.

Don’t Forget – Ginkgo

Ginkgo Biloba Leaves with black background

Ginkgo Biloba Leaves with black background (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dear Dr Mom,

Here is another herb for your first aid kit – brainfood.

Ginkgo trees, are one of the oldest species of trees cultivated in China and are believed to be 150 to 200 million years old. The ginkgo trees grow in average soil and even in full sun. The tree can grow 100 – 120 feet. Ginkgo trees are very resistant to pollution and infection and hardly suffer any disease. Insects rarely attack these plants. Due to these reasons these trees are most tolerant even in urban conditions and are grown as shade trees.

Ginkgo or ginkgo biloba extracts is made from various parts of these trees. Chinease has used ginkgo biloba for the centuries for treating various ailments. Now it is most researched herb and is used by most of the countries as herbal medicine.

Working of Ginkgo Biloba:

Ginkgo leaves contains two groups of active components known as flavonoid glycosides and ginkgolides. These active ingredients helps in increasing blood flow to the brain and improving overall network of blood vessels, and consequently increases the inflow of oxygen and essential nutrients to brain and other important organs of the body and simultaneously helps controlling in allergic inflammation and asthma.

Benefits of Ginkgo Biloba:

The research on this herbal medicine continues for the last three decades and some of the benefits as evidenced by clinical studies have been summarized below.

  • It has a positive effect on vascular system and it allows the system to act more efficiently by allowing more blood flow and consequently more oxygen to the vital organs of the body including brain.
  • Brain, being the highest oxygen consumer (20%) of the total oxygen requirement of the human body, regulates the body more efficiently.
  • The improved blood circulation to brain including microcirculation in smaller capillaries increases memory and metabolic efficiency including neurotransmitters regulation.
  • Ginkgo biloba is useful for relaxing coronary arteries constricted by cholesterol.
  • Ginkgo biloba is also useful for relieving tension and anxiety.
  • Ginkgo biloba is also beneficial to elevate mood and restore energy.
  • Ginkgo biloba controls platelet activity factor (PAF). Excessive platelet factor (PAF) in the body may cause physical stress, brain disorder, and skin problem including psoriasis, cardiovascular disease and other hearing disorders.
  • Ginkgo biloba is beneficial for treating vertigo and tinnitus.
  • Ginkgo biloba acts as an antioxidant and inhibits free radical formed in the body. Antioxidant plays a vital role for protecting cardiovascular and central nervous system (CNS). The combined effect of improved circulatory system and antioxidant improves blood flow to retina and controls retinal deterioration causing an overall improvement in visual activity.
  • Some of the clinical trials indicate that ginkgo biloba is beneficial for treating Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Ginkgo biloba is also used as supportive herbal medicine for treating infertility disorder in males.

Precaution:

Although it is a herbal medicine with enormous benefits, it should not be combined with certain antidepressants such as MAO (mono amine oxidase). Persons taking medicine for blood clotting disorders should avoid taking ginkgo biloba, as the medicine will increase the effect of prescribed medicine.

If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, you should not take ginkgo biloba.

Side Effects:

The possible side effects of the medicine include

  • Ginkgo biloba may cause some gastrointestinal disorders.
  • Ginkgo biloba increases the risk of bleeding and if you have or had any blood clotting disorder, you should not take ginkgo biloba.
  • The other common side effects of ginkgo biloba may include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, dizziness, headache and restlessness.

If you observe any of the side effect as mentioned above or any other side effect, you should stop taking ginkgo biloba and always consult your doctor. Lately there have been reports that ginkgo has long term side effects. Learn about it and use it for good.

Growing Memories.

Melodramatic chocolate chip cookie.

Melodramatic chocolate chip cookie. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dear Doctor Mom,

Memories are what grown-up kids are made of. The kitchen is the perfect place for making memories. When you spend time baking, cooking and enjoying meals with your family, you create happy memories you and your children will cherish forever. Kids and cooking are a wonderful combination for fun and learning.

The benefits of preparing and enjoying food as a family are clear. You save money and eat healthier meals. You create opportunities to connect and communicate with your children and spouse. And most importantly, you show love for your family when you spend time cooking and eating with them and teaching them the basics of cooking and nutrition. Children of all ages need your attention and your time. By working together to create a meal or bake a batch of cookies, you spend valuable time together.

So, here are 10 steps to get your family cooking up memories.

Step 1:
Teach small children the fun of cooking by helping them bake cookies and cakes. Kids love the tactile feeling of the cookie dough in their hands and it tastes good too. If you are short on time, you can use a boxed cookie mix and spend more time decorating.

Step 2:
Encourage the littlest ones to play pretend cooking. Kids love to play with real mixing bowls, strainers and wooden spoons. These make harmless toys and can be easily thrown in the dishwasher for quick cleanup. buys you some quiet time. – Sometimes household things are better than toys – they can be like mom and dad

Step 3:
If you live by your day-timer, schedule in baking cookies with your kids. Our schedules can be so hectic that something as simple as baking a batch of chocolate chip cookies can get skipped over. Write it down and do it.

Step 4:
If you have teenagers, let them play their favorite music (and dance around the table) while they wash the lettuce and set the table.

Step 5:
Work together with your spouse to prepare the dinner and use the time to catch up on each other’s day. Always allow tasting – contrary to popular belief it does not destroy the appetite – it invites sharing (and kisses)

Step 6:
Even if you are in a rush preparing dinner, remember to reduce your stress and focus on creating a fun atmosphere that naturally encourages the whole family to participate. Consider your words before speaking. You need to keep your words soft and tender – in case you have to eat them.

Step 7:
When spending time preparing food with your children, include lessons about healthy eating choices. Keep the conversation positive and avoid listing foods they can’t have. Tell the kids what you have been learning about health and tips for natural healing. They are little sponges and when they are grown you will benefit from their knowledge as it come back to you in treatment.

Step 8:
On days where you anticipate time will be tight, consider taking a short cut by using a frozen stir-fry mix or pasta with a jar of pre-made sauce. Your family will appreciate your relaxed mood much more than a made-from-scratch dinner.

Step 9:
Share the job of grocery shopping. One week have mom take one of the children as a helper, the next week dad can go with another child. Always work from a grocery list and let your children help you retrieve items and cross them off the list. This teaches reading, writing, logic and science amongst other things.

Step 10:
Have big family meals where you share about your day. Keep the conversation fun and avoid negative lectures over dinner. Remember to laugh. You are making memories.

Take these steps today and make your kitchen a fun and memorable place for your whole family.