Zucchini Overload?

USDA summer squash

USDA summer squash (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dear Dr Mom,

Dating back to 7000 B. C., zucchini (Cucurbita pepo) is native to Central and South America. Sometimes called by the nickname “Italian Squash,” zucchini was brought to North America by its southern neighbours. Early European explorers introduced zucchini to Italy and other countries in Europe. Italians initially grew zucchini for their sweet, edible blossoms, later the hearty fruits were experimented with producing the delectable dishes that resulted in zucchini being dubbed Italian squash. Up until the 20th Century, most Americans considered zucchini a treat reserved for eating on special occasions and were store-bought instead of grown in gardens.

Part of the summer squash family, zucchini is an excellent source of manganese and vitamin C, a very good source of magnesium, vitamin A, potassium, calcium, iron, folate, copper, riboflavin, niacin, and phosphorous. Many of the nutrients have been shown to be helpful for the prevention of atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease. Summer squash’s magnesium has been shown to be helpful for reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Together with the potassium in summer squash, magnesium is also helpful for reducing high blood pressure. All summer squash are perfect diet foods – low in calories, sodium, fat-free, and provide a source of fiber. All parts of the zucchini are edible.

How To Grow

Zucchini is probably the best known of the summer squashes. It is a type of narrow squash that resembles a cucumber in size and shape. It has smooth, thin skin that is either yellow or green in colour and can be striped or speckled. Its tender flesh is creamy white in colour and features numerous seeds. Its edible flowers are often used in French and Italian cooking.

Zucchini can be planted by direct seeding or by transplanting young plants that have been started indoors. Seed directly into the ground as soon as the soil reaches temperatures of 60°F/16°C. for vines. Fill the holes with compost and mound slightly. Plant seeds 1in/2.5cm deep.

Zucchini is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family that includes cucumbers, melons, gourds, and squash, all particularly sensitive to frost. Select a sheltered spot, and prepare holes about 12in/30cm in diameter and 12in/30cm deep. Measuring from the centre, space the holes 36in/90cm apart for bush types, 6ft/1.8m apart for vines. To conserve space, squash can be trained over a sturdy trellis, in which case 2ft/60cm between plants is enough.

Zucchini grows best when exposed to 6-8 hours of direct sunlight each day. Regular watering is essential for summer squash. Feed the plants with a high-potassium organic liquid feed to produce a higher yield. Thick mulch added after planting will preserve moisture and keep the fruits from touching the ground where they will become soiled and be exposed to insects and diseases.

Harvesting

The flavor of zucchini is best when it is less than six inches long. They should be firm, but not hard. Zucchini are prolific producers and regular harvesting will promote continued yield throughout the growing season. Harvest by cutting the stems from the plants gently with a paring knife. As they are composed mainly of water, summer squashes dehydrate rapidly. Harvest just before cooking and keep in the refrigerator in a perforated plastic bag until cooking. Don’t forget that squash blossoms are delicious to eat.

Small summer squashes are used skin and all. Larger squash need their skin and seeds removed: slice lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Wash summer squash under cool running water and then cut off both ends. You can then proceed to cut it into the desired size and shape for the particular recipe.

In the kitchen, zucchini can be steamed, sautéed, boiled, baked, fried, grilled, and stuffed. Some ideas include: serve raw as an appetiser with a vegetable dip or salad dressing, grate and sauté with thinly sliced garlic, add to breads, muffins, cakes, stews, casseroles, soups, sprinkle grated zucchini or other summer squash on salads or sandwiches. It can be preserved by canning, freezing, and drying.

In the garden, some gardeners let the squashes ramble through the corn patch, where their sandpapery leaves deter raccoons. Good companion plants for zucchini are: corn, marjoram, and nasturtium. Don’t grow zucchini and Irish potatoes together as they are incompatible.

Benefits of Garlic

English: A basket of garlic (allium sativum) o...

English: A basket of garlic (allium sativum) offered for sale at the farmers’ market in Rochester, Minnesota (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If garlic had been created in the laboratory instead of by nature, it would probably be a high-priced prescription drug.

It’s a common saying- everyone knows garlic is good medicine.. That’s just how good it really is…

Garlic is one of the oldest known medicinal plants, and it’s been credited with fighting heart disease, lowering blood pressure and helping to fight off colds.

In fact, garlic has been used medicinally for at least 3,000 years, but until relatively recently its benefits were considered little more than folklore. According to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Nov. 28, 1990;264:2614), the therapeutic roles of garlic have been described in more than 1,000 scientific studies.

Most of the modern research on garlic has concentrated on its ability to lower cholesterol and blood pressure as well as offering protection against strokes and heart disease.

The following is a more detailed account of what garlic does for various organs in the human body:

1. Protection of the liver from toxic substances:

Garlic activates the cells of the liver and thereby protects the liver from toxic substances; it also rejuvenates a tired liver and promotes its normal functioning.

2. Improvement of blood circulation:

When allicin is heated in the process of cooking the garlic, a beeficial substance is formed. This substance has a suppressive effect on thrombi and blood cholesterol, so it is effective for the treatment of atherosclerosis and thrombosis.

3. Regulation of stomach function:

Allicin promotes the secretion of gastric juices by stimulating the mucous membranes of the stomach; furthermore, it combines with proteins which can reduce excessive activity of the stomach. In addition, allicin reglates the functioning of the stomach by activating the large intestine and thus cure both constipation and diarrhea.

4. Promotion of insulin secretion:

Allicin combines with vitamin B1 (thiamine) to activate the function of the pancreas and thus promote insulin secretion. As a result, garlic is effective in the prevention or the cure of diabetes that is caused by a lack of insulin or by the defective functioning of the pancreas.

5. Normalization of blood circulation:

Because it stimulates the brain nerves and controls the workings of the heart at a constant level, garlic stabilizes blood pressure. It is also capable of dissolving cholesterol and fatty substances inside blood vessels and therefore refreshing cells and the blood inside the body.

Today, there is worldwide scientific evidence to support the many health benefits that can be derived from the daily consumption of garlic.

  • Extensive tests on humans have concluded that a regular intake of garlic can:
  • Lower total cholesterol (but raise the good-type HDL cholesterol)
  • Produce more “natural killer” cells in the blood that will tackle infections and tumors
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduce the risk of blood clots (that are responsible for most heart attacks and strokes)
  • Destroy infection causing viruses and bacteria

Garlic is classified as both an herb and a vegetable. It can be found in products ranging from ice cream to dry rubs; the versatility of this herb is seemingly endless.

Tips for cooking with garlic:

1. Before cooking, remove the exterior skin of the clove. There are many ways to do this: strike the bulb with the broad side of a kitchen knife, use a rubber garlic rolling tube, soak the garlic in lukewarm water for 30 minutes or dip the cloves into boiling water for 30 seconds. A great clip on uTube shows a chef putting the cloves of garlic into a silver mixing bowl, turning another mixing bowl on top and holding the two together and shaking vigorously. Result – peeled garlic cloves!

2. After skinning the garlic, select a cooking method that will result in the appropriate flavor. It can be sautéed to create a nutty, savory taste; poached to create a mild flavor; oven-roasted to bring out the nutty flavor with a caramelized quality; fried to create a crisp exterior; or grilled to create a soft, smoky flavor.

3. Garlic is very sensitive to heat and will burn easily, especially when sautéing. Expose the garlic to heat just until the oil sizzles and then remove it. When cooking garlic with onions, start the onions first. They will take longer to cook.

4. Roasted Garlic is delicious – cut off the top of the garlic ball, put it on a small plate. pour some oil and salt over the cut tops. cover with a bowl to make a small oven. Bake in the oven or microwave. – Delish.

Benefits of Garlic: Cancer Prevention

Indeed, the first scientific report to study garlic and cancer was performed in the 1950s. Scientists injected allicin, an active ingredient from garlic, into mice suffering from cancer. Mice receiving the injection survived more than 6 months whereas those which did not receive the injection only survived 2 months.

(Oh, if you all have a taste of the garlic dish, no one has smelly breath! – you only smell the garlic if you didn’t have any. Also eat some parsley to mask the garlic breath. Garlic breath means its working. Small price to pay for the abundant health benefits:)

The following great tips are from Greg. Visit his blog here. http://Gregsarmas.wordpress.com

“Make sure to recharge your soil or at least rotate the garlic around the garden every year. It’s a heavy heavy nitrogen feeder and the soil around it will need a rest. What variety are you growing? Is it a hard neck variety? Those do better in Illinois than the soft neck varieties. The best part of the hard necks are the scapes, or the flowers. I used to bring mine to a local pizza place and have them roast them right onto the top of the pizza. You can even just lightly fry them in butter and they’re unbelievable! It’s definitely one that should be used with caution as you may offend those around you. This is one of the best super foods, and the easiest to plant and grow. Just throw them in ground in the fall, mulch over with straw or leaf litter and watch in amazement!”

Skin Treatment

Olive Oil

Olive Oil (Photo credit: VancityAllie)

There are many herbs to cure skin rashes and irritations, so I thought I’d take a moment to share some of my favorite skin treatments.

First, let me remind you that the best overall skin care product you can use is olive oil.  Weather you suffer from dry or itchy skin, or just wish to improve the appearance and texture of your skin, you would be hard pressed to do better than pure, extra virgin olive oil.  This can be applied straight from the bottle, and can be used on any part of the skin including the face.

The curative properties of Olive Oil, both internal and external are nothing short of miraculous and I would like to share with you a recent experience that serves as a reminder to me how some of the most common elements surrounding us often remain overlooked.

There is an After-Shower Oil that is extremely simple to prepare and is an excellent curative for virtually any skin irritation including eczema and psoriasis.

After-Shower Oil:
Please remember that while a lesser grade of olive oil can be used for everyday purposes, if you are attempting to treat a serious skin condition, the extra virgin is made from the first press of the olive and retains the most important curative properties that you are searching for.

Blend the oils together, and if desired, add several drops of your favorite essential oil for fragrance.  This can be applied to the skin at any time.  For all-over skin conditioning, apply the oil immediately after your bath or shower, then pat dry.  A special note for women who shave their legs:  This oil treatment will completely eliminate any itching or dry flaking skin after shaving.  It is simply the best after-bath oil you will ever try.

Another oil that has fantastic properties for the skin is coconut oil. This oil is solid at room temperature and is liquid at body temperature. It is good for all over. It smells wonderful and feels wonderful and it tastes good too. You could get quite hooked on using it.