Category: Blog

Using Herbs in a Sustainable Way

Growing Your Own Herbs

Sustainable use of herbs means researching how the plants are sourced, harvested and stored and determining what you will use in a reasonable amount of time. Assessing your consumption and making choices based on actual need is essential to being a good steward of Earth’s resources. Choose readily available, easy-to-grow herbs with many uses.

Explore the idea of wildcrafting, a.k.a. foraging, which is the practice of gathering herbs, plants, and fungi from the wild. When done with care and with plants that can sustain the harvest, wildcrafting is an ideal choice for those familiar with their local wild herbs and when to safely pick from what nature provides. Wildcrafting requires a good amount of plant knowledge so don’t go foraging on a whim. Take a class with a local horticulture society, garden club, or one offered by a local college agricultural extension program.

When wildcrafting is not feasible, source herbs from a domestic grower. The majority of herbs sold online can come from as far away as Egypt. With a little research you can find herb farms in the United States and maybe one within reasonable driving distance of your home (See: Sustainable Herbal Farm and Ethical Wildcrafters in the US). If you are fortunate to find a local herb grower, it really is your best source because they harvest herbs in small quantities and sell them immediately. You receive fresh herbs that, when properly prepared or dried and stored, retain potency. In addition, local growers are always happy to provide customer education regarding uses and proper storage.

Dried herbs should not be exposed to light and air. It’s best to store herbs in amber or other dark-colored glass, preferably in a temperature and humidity-controlled environment. Potent, well preserved dried herbs should retain their natural color and have a very strong aroma; roots should remain dry and mold-free.

To ensure herb availability for future generations, try to incorporate as many of these practices in your use of herbs for both medicinal and cooking purposes.

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Recipe of the Month: Curry!

Garbanzo-Vegetable Green Curry

This dish has both spice and a hint of creamy sweetness from the coconut milk to satisfy all tastes. Green curry does have “kick” though, so if spice is not your style, substitute with the milder red or yellow curry. This recipe makes a great main dish served with a salad or can be a unique pairing to an Asian fish or poultry main course. If you have a nut allergy, the cashews are optional, but they do add crunch and a healthy fat to the dish so be sure to complement the curry with another healthy fat of your choosing (pumpkins seeds, sunflower seeds, or raw bean sprouts sprinkled on top).

Ingredients

  • 3 cups frozen cauliflower
  • 2 cans (15 ounces each) garbanzo beans or chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (13.66 ounces) coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup green curry paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon cold water
  • 1-1/2 cups frozen peas
  • 2 packages (8.8 ounces each) ready-to-serve long grain rice
  • 1/2 cup lightly salted cashews (optional)

Directions

  1. In a large skillet, combine cauliflower, beans, coconut milk, curry paste and salt. Bring to a boil; cook, uncovered, 5-6 minutes or until cauliflower is tender.
  2. Combine cornstarch and water until smooth; gradually stir into the skillet. Stir in peas. Bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare rice according to package directions. Sprinkle cauliflower mixture with cashews. Serve with rice.

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Supplements VS. Whole-Food

Whole-Food and Synthetic Nutritional Supplements: Is one better than the other?

A fresh, whole-foods diet is the optimal way to obtain nutrients. However, environmental conditions and farming practices have depleted the soil of key nutrients we would typically obtain from food, making it impossible to get everything we need from food alone. Nutritional supplements provide a way to support the body’s needs. There are two broad categories of supplements to choose from – whole food-based and synthetic (lab-created). Is one better than the other?

There aren’t many studies comparing whole-food supplements to synthetic varieties. Whole-food supplement manufacturers claim their products are superior, but there is no specific criteria to define “whole food” in the supplement market. Many different practices can be used to claim a supplement is whole-food. Some brands do add concentrated fruits and vegetables to their product. Others simply add yeast and use a fermentation process. Does this make a supplement more available to the body for absorption? Not necessarily.

From the research available, we know that the bioavailability of a nutrient depends on many factors including:

  • a person’s state of health
  • the proper production of stomach acid necessary for vitamin absorption
  • whether or not the supplement is digested in the stomach; pills that pass through the stomach are less bioavailable
  • the supplement manufacturing process

The only way to measure bioavailability for comparison purposes is to do blood tests and there simply is not enough valid and reliable research that makes such comparisons.

Of course, better digestibility and assimilation by the body are important factors for anyone considering nutritional supplements. The bottom line is that either type of supplement may be better than the other depending on the reason it’s being taken (for general health or a specific medical need) along with the factors mentioned above. In some cases a truly food-based supplement could be the better choice; but not always. The best way to ascertain your need for supplements is to consult with a natural medicine physician who understands the manufacturing practices for nutritional supplements, as well the physiology of how different types of nutrients work in the body.

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Reading – It’s Good for Your Health!

When is the last time you have picked up a book?

We all are familiar with the cozy feeling of being curled up with a good book – be it a thrilling novel or a vicarious adventure through ancient history told with just enough spice to make you forget you’re reading about true events. What you may not know is that reading is more than an escape; it’s also good for your health.

Research shows that reading can:

  • reduce stress and symptoms of depression
  • aid in getting a good night’s sleep
  • enhance neural connections (builds vocabulary, expands worldviews, etc)
  • help prevent cognitive decline and possibly lengthen lifespan

Reading can even be a form of therapy known as bibliotherapy, which can help facilitate transitions in a person’s life and promote well-being. In clinical settings, mental health practitioners have used bibliotherapy to bring about insight for people struggling with emotional-behavioral problems. For people going through significant life changes, bibliotherapy can promote emotional healing.

You can reap the benefits of reading for health simply by choosing a book that truly interests you. It does not have to be a particular genre, length, or meet any other requirements. Be aware that print and digital forms of reading have different benefits and challenges, so choose a form that works best for your situation.

For our health and eco-conscious readers who want to realize the benefits of reading, we offer these titles on sustainable food systems for your reading pleasure:

Nourished Planet: Sustainability in the Global Food System by the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition

Diet for a Hot Planet: The Climate Crisis at the End of Your Fork and What You Can Do about It by Anna Lappe

Rebuilding the Foodshed: How to Create Local, Sustainable, and Secure Food Systems by Philip Ackerman-Leist

Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson

An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace by Tamar Adler

References

Green Peas: Sweet, Sustainable & So Healthy

Who doesn’t love peas?

We often think of green peas as a last-minute addition to stews, rice dishes, and warm salads. So, you may be surprised to hear that the green pea is one of the most sustainable food crops offering many health benefits. This member of the legume family contains essential vitamins and antioxidants, including vitamin K, vitamin C, and folate. It is also rich in fiber, particularly the varieties that have edible pea pods, such as snow pea, sugar snap pea, and garden peas.

The fiber in peas supports digestive health by adding bulk to the stool and promoting regular bowel movements. The tiny pea is also a good source of iron, which is vital to the oxygen-carrying red blood cells. The antioxidant vitamins in peas help support immunity and protect the body’s cells from free radical damage.

As far as the environment is concerned, peas are good for Mother Earth. They are grouped with other vegetables known as “nitrogen fixers.” This means they take inert gases from the environment and convert them to useful ammonium, which nourishes the soil. In the right quantities relative to garden or crop size, peas, along with lentils and peanuts, can significantly reduce the need for fossil fuel fertilizers.

While we always advocate for organic, fresh produce, don’t overlook frozen peas; they retain their texture and nutrient content better than canned peas and can still be bought organic even if frozen. Overall, for adding color, mildly sweet flavor, and high quality nutrients to any meal, you can’t go wrong with green peas.

More shopping and cooking tips for green peas.

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