Monday, February 19, 2018

Fresh Produce Alert

Enjoy a winter salad after the produce has been thoroughly washed
*Do NOT eat a salad at a restaurant if the lettuce id dry... it has not been washed! 

The weather is finally somewhat stable and we actually got a bit of rain. The garden is grateful and the moisture gave hope to the emerging spring flowers… buds of the Redbud and Lilacs are swelling and three Jonquils are in bloom!
We have had another alert about produce and we were told to avoid Romaine lettuce. The recalls began in 2006 with spinach and the culprit was finally assigned to hog waste and rightly so... religious texts are full of references to avoid hogs. Several years ago the tomatoes were apparently poisonous, causing severe illness, then peppers, and the list grows weekly. Fresh produce is available year round, but at a cost… most of it is produced in third world nations that are notoriously dirty.

What plants utilize from the soil goes directly into what they produce and thus care must be taken to properly wash them. Contrary to popular belief, produce is often unwashed when packaged. On a television special I noted workers packaging strawberries in the field. The strawberries arrive at the supermarket with whatever the worker had on his hands at the moment… and my visual of a worker harvesting while ill is not good. 
I also watched a popular cooking show and noted the lady making the luscious cake did not wash either the strawberries or the blueberries she put between layers of whipped cream. Always assume produce is dirty upon arrival in the market… enjoy it after it has been properly washed.

Lettuce, tomatoes, squash and the like must be carefully washed, onions must be peeled, and celery and potatoes scrubbed with a vegetable brush, and so forth. Don’t wash off dirt…cut it out and toss it. Although she was not Jewish, my grandmother, an excellent cook and a thrifty lady, kept a kosher kitchen. She never used the same cutting board for meat and vegetables and knew cooking kills much of the bacteria naturally occurring on meat but that it may be transferred to raw produce. She utilized yesterday’s newspaper to catch vegetables peelings then tossed it‘s folded contents into the trash or the compost bin.

Wash your hands between preparation of raw meat and vegetables and sanitize the counter often. Women are encouraged not to place their purses on the counter as purses are notoriously filthy on the bottom… the very thought of what my purse has ‘seen’ makes me wince. The same is true of school supplies and back packs…keep them off the counters as they are a germ fest.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Natures Antibiotics

Wild Rose Hips... to ensure health
The weather of late has been schizophrenic to say the least and the forecast predicts more erratic behavior in the coming weeks. With temperature fluctuations, pollen floating about, and the influx of flu it would be wise now to look to nature to boost the immune system and prevent illness.

Until the advent of antibiotics, Nature provided all the ingredients to ensure survival and health for the inhabitants of the planet. Here in North America our own Native Americans survived severely harsh conditions with an intricate knowledge of healthful foods. The Plains Indians ate as they nomadically traveled and the Apache alone had over 200 items in their yearly diet. Much of what they “found” along their path was both nutritional and medicinal.

An example of one of their naturally occurring health boosters are the Rose Hips found on wild bushes from Texas to North Dakota. Rose hips have long been a valuable source of Vitamin C, which easily boosts the immune system. The hips are the berries formed on wild roses following their flowering and contain as much ascorbic acid as an orange. In fact the portion of the orange containing the most health benefits is the bitter white inside the rind that most people discard. During WWII the federal government recommended that citizens add rose hips to their stews as a vegetable and recommended brewing it as a tea for the health benefits.

Another valuable immune boosting plant is the Echinacea. Results of archaeological digs indicate that Native Americans have used this marvelous plant for over 400 years. It was used to treat everything including infections, wounds, scarlet fever, blood poisoning, and diphtheria. Considered a valuable cure-all for hundreds of years, its popularity declined with the advent of antibiotics. Today Echinacea is used to reduce the symptoms and duration of the common cold or flu, and the symptoms which accompany them such as sore throat, cough and fever.

Recent reports from the medical community have issued alarms that antibiotics no longer work; our systems are saturated with them. It is not necessary to actually take an antibiotic to ingest substantial amounts of them either. They arrive in our bodies from consuming milk and meat from cattle that are overly medicated, eggs from chickens that receive a daily dose, and so forth. I consider this medical warning a strong indication that we best seek natural cures that have been around for eons. Nature contains an arsenal of plants and herbs that were put here for us to use... they are the plants that kept our ancestors alive and well. They are easily obtainable as supplements and teas today and they are perhaps a necessity as winter continues along its frigid path.

Medieval Gardens

There is little action in the garden as the deep freezes continue so noting historical events is interesting. In 2003, the buried remains of a 700-year-old garden at Whittington Castle in Shropshire, England changed historian's understanding of medieval gardens.

The 14th-century garden had one of the earliest and largest viewing mounts ever found in England, an unusual layout, and an elaborate ditched water system. Viewing mounts were created to provide elevated views of a castle's garden, grounds, and surrounding landscape and symbolized the owner's wealth and high status… Wittington had one of the first such mounds.

The Whittington Castle mount, a 16-foot man-made mound, puzzled archaeologists for years. However historical researcher Peter King discovered in records dating to 1413 reference to ‘a garden with a ditch of water around it,’ which led archaeologists to conduct a geophysical survey of the area. Employing techniques such as magnetometry, ground penetrating radar, and soil resistivity surveying to look below the site's surface, the archaeologists traced the buried outlines of the paths and rectangular plots of the garden. The findings suggest the mount and garden were built sometime between 1300 and 1349.

It is the earliest example to survive in the United Kingdom and was quite ornate in its heyday. Wittington had been built as a stronghold for the protection against Welsh raiders, the French and Scots, and when the hostilities ended in 1282 the landowners turned their attention to such leisure luxuries as gardens.

The Nearby streams, no longer essential to the defense of the castle, were diverted to fill trenches surrounding the castle thereby creating a moat. Small footbridges needed to be crossed to reach the garden while another footbridge connected the garden and the viewing mount.

Following Wittington, lavish water features became common in medieval high status gardens and a special pavilion was perched on the top of the mount so vistas of parkland with unusual imported animals and fruit trees could be viewed from above.

These gardens were statements of the owners' wealth and power, designed to imitate a vision of paradise and to impress visitors. The Wittington castle was owned first by Fitz Warin and his family… Knights of the First Order, wealthy from dutiful Service to the Monarchs they owned it from 1204 to 1420 and it is they who built the spectacular gardens for their enjoyment.

Several hundred years later it would be in ‘utter ruin’. It is unfortunate Wittington has been reduced to piles of stone however it is amazing that technology has allowed us to view this long buried British treasure.

* Of note: The ruins are said to be haunted.
*Photo is of the gate houses, all that remains of the Castle.