Category Archives: family

Planning a Productive & Practical Kitchen Garden

Planning a Productive and Practical Kitchen Garden

A well-planned kitchen garden, can be a beautiful and enticing way to incorporate more fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs into your diet. The following tips will help you plan a productive and practical kitchen garden.

Tip #1: Pick the Perfect Spot.  When choosing a location for your kitchen garden, try to find a spot as close to your kitchen as possible.  After all, you want your own personal culinary garden to be easy to reach while you are preparing meals.  Of course, you have to make sure the soil you are planting on is healthy and not contaminated.

The location you choose must also take into consideration the kind of environment your plants prefer. Choose a sunny location that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. If you live in a really hot climate, you may find a bit of afternoon shade is just as nice to have, as well.

Also, you’ll want to make sure the location you choose has easy access to water. You definitely don’t want to drag a heavy garden hose around the house or carry buckets of water in order to keep your plants hydrated.

Tip #2: Pick Your Plants. The easiest way to decide what you want to grow is to think about what you like to cook or what your family likes to eat.

For example, if you use a lot of fresh herbs, you’ll want to keep a big pot of your favorite varieties on hand. Kids can’t get enough of your homemade salsa? Plan to have a steady supply of fresh cilantro and juicy tomatoes nearby. Increasing your salads, or smoothies?  Grow lots of spinach!

In other words, you want to stock your kitchen garden with the fruits, vegetables, herbs and edible flowers you use in your day-to-day cooking.  These are the items you will want to have convenient access to throughout the growing season.  Also be sure to have Mason Jars and other containers for items you plan freeze, can or otherwise preserve for later use.

Tip #3: Make the Most of the Space You Have.  Due to their proximity to the house, many kitchen gardens are confined to a relatively small space. Kitchen gardens can be in a box shape, raised bed, or vertical shelving.

Go Vertical! Consider growing juicy yellow pear tomatoes surrounded by creeping thyme in a vertical container or use hanging baskets suspended on shepherd hooks for your favorite herbs. Just make sure you keep them well watered as hanging baskets tend to dry out more quickly.

You could also add a trellis or incorporate a fence into your design to provide support for climbing plants, such as pole beans or cucumbers. If your space has a blank wall with good sun exposure, you could add a ladder-like series of shelves to house a lot more plants than you could fit into the ground you have available.

Tip #4: Make It Beautiful. Although some may argue that beauty for its own sake is neither productive nor practical, I disagree. Your kitchen garden is an extension of your home and will likely be visible to your family and guests. So, making the area as attractive as possible just makes good sense.

Balance, symmetry and repetition are components of any good garden design. To incorporate balance and symmetry into your garden, try adding two matching brightly colored containers filled with herbs and place them on each side of the entrance.

For repetition, add multiples of the same plants throughout the garden. For example, a group of 3 cherry tomato plants in attractive containers will have a stronger visual impact than a single plant. You can also create a sense of order by planting lovely borders of edible flowers or fragrant herbs along walkways.

One great thing about incorporating ornamental aspects into your garden is you may find you want to spend more time in an area that nourishes both your body and soul.

I love to add seating space, and a space for bon fires to my garden spaces for a special touch.

 

 

Health Reasons To Grow And Eat More Colorful Vegetables

Health Reasons To Grow And Eat More Colorful Vegetables

With the official start of Spring this week, it is time to start thinking about renewing, refreshing and regenerating your health and your lifestyle.

Eating a plant-based diet can enhance and invigorate your health and there is every reason to believe that it can improve the quality of your life. Many nutrition experts recommend a colorful plate as the more variety in colors of produce the more nutrients you get into your body.

Many color vegetables and fruits can be grown in your garden and will provide fresh, pesticide free produce for you, and your family.

Both fruits and vegetables have their own natural color that will impart many health benefits. They are low in calories and can be picked from your garden when they have a maximum amount of nutrients. Here are some colorful fruits and vegetables you should be incorporating into your diet every day for optimum health and wellness.  Don’t you want to have the energy you need to keep up with your family?

Learn about starting a Kitchen Garden here.

Red Fruits and Vegetables

These include healthy foods such as tomatoes, guava, raspberries, red cabbage, watermelon, cherries, kidney beans, beets, and blueberries. All of these fruits and vegetables are extremely rich in antioxidants such as anthocyanins and lycopene.

Antioxidants stop the chain reaction of oxygen free radicals from the body, which has the potential to damage cells, including cellular DNA. Experts say you will be healthier if you eat up to 30 milligrams of lycopene.

One medium tomato picked fresh from your garden will provide you with 3 milligrams of lycopene. Lycopene is also considered a carotenoid, which helps you make and use Vitamin A in the body.

Orange and Yellow Fruits and Vegetables

These are vegetables and fruits like yellow peppers and cantaloupe. They are rich in beta-carotene, which is a precursor to making vitamin A. Vitamin A is a healthful nutrient that helps your vision at night and is helpful in controlling the health of your skin, bones, and teeth.

Yellow and orange vegetables and fruits also contain folate, which is an antioxidant that also is a preventative against neural tube defects in growing fetuses. You need about 500 mg of vitamin A per day, which can be more than gotten from a couple of cups of yellow cantaloupe. The same amount of cantaloupe provides about 65 mg of folate, of which you need about 320 mg per day.

Green Vegetables

There are many green vegetables you can grow in your garden including greens, peas, and green beans. These are especially good for the health of your bones, teeth, and eyes. You need these vegetables as adequate sources for vitamin K, which helps you clot blood better. Just two cups of raw spinach gives you more than double the amount of vitamin K you require each day for optimal health. Green vegetables contain great amounts of vitamin C and vitamin E, which aid in decreasing your overall risk for certain chronic disease. They also provide you with the phytonutrients called zeaxanthin and lutein, which are protective against macular degeneration.

I’m starting my kitchen garden soon.  Will you join me?

Blue and Purple Vegetables

These include blueberries, other berries, and eggplant. They contain anthocyanins, which prevent heart disease through their antioxidant properties. It is known that they contain certain flavonoids and Ellagic acid that can destroy cancer cells, including cells that make lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, stomach cancer and breast cancer. These compounds also have anti-inflammatory properties, which are protective against colon and esophageal cancer.

White Fruits and Vegetables

White fruits and vegetable include pears, apples, cauliflower, cucumbers, and bananas. These foods are fiber-rich which can aid in your digestion and which can bind cholesterol so it doesn’t reach your bloodstream. They also contain antioxidants like quercetin, which is particularly prevalent in pears and apples. White fruits are helpful in lowering your stroke risk.

The Home Garden

Try to incorporate as many colored vegetables as you can in your daily diet. They all act differently on your body and have known health benefits you truly need. This is made easy by growing an organic vegetable and fruit garden at home. It does not take a lot of space, and it is a rewarding and beneficial activity for the whole family.

One of the greatest benefits to growing your own produce is that you can avoid eating the pesticides that are in commercial fruits and vegetables. Organic produce is available in stores, but many people complain about buying organic because it costs a lot more– that is another great reason to start a garden!

A Super Easy Way to Get A Boost of Antioxidants NOW

A super easy way to add antioxidants in your diet is through essential oils.  I add lemon oil, grapefruit oil and orange oil in my smoothies almost everyday.  I make a mean chocolate mint smoothie with the peppermint oil.  These are very high quality oils, and they taste AMAZING!

via GIPHY

Learn more about how essential oils can be added to your plant-based healthy lifestyle here

 

What is a Kitchen Garden?

What’s the Difference Between a Kitchen Garden and a Regular Vegetable Garden?

If you you have you ever wondered exactly what a “kitchen garden” is or how it differs from a regular vegetable garden, read on!

For starters, a kitchen garden is a special kind of edible garden with a rich history the modern practices traces back to French culinary gardens.  However, growing food is a practice of many cultures around the world.

Much like a traditional vegetable garden, a kitchen garden is a chef’s delight filled with delicious fruits, vegetables, herbs and edible flowers. In short, a kitchen garden is a celebration of fresh ingredients and delicious home cooked meals.

Both kitchen and traditional gardens offer a sense of satisfaction coupled with tangible rewards for a job well done. Beyond these similarities, there are some distinct differences between the two, however.

A Kitchen Garden Has Three Main Characteristics:

  1. One of the main characteristics of a kitchen garden is accessibility. It should be easy to grab the items you need to your prepare your daily meals. Therefore, a potager should be located as close to your food preparation area as possible.

 Imagine you are in the middle of preparing dinner when you suddenly realize “this marinade could use a little more rosemary.” Rather than trek out to your main vegetable garden while you have pots simmering on the stove, wouldn’t you rather be able to reach right outside your door to snip a couple sprigs?  I grow both a large garden and a kitchen herb garden for this reason!

With a kitchen garden, the easier it is to grab what you need while you are cooking, the better.

  1. Kitchen gardens are usually smaller than traditional gardens because they are situated so close to the house. This isn’t always the case, of course, but having a culinary garden close enough to offer easy access while you are cooking may limit the amount of space available.

 If you only have limited space available to plant a kitchen garden, here is a good rule of thumb to consider: A regular vegetable garden is about planning for the future, while a kitchen garden is about enjoying today. Therefore, the fruits and vegetables you plan to preserve for future use – or crops, such as corn, that take up a lot of space – are good choices for a traditional vegetable garden where space is at less of a premium.

Instead, kitchen gardens are normally filled with the items you prepare and eat while fresh. Therefore, containers of fresh herbs, compact cherry tomato plants, or an assortment of leaf lettuce varieties all make great additions.  If you lack the space for a traditional garden, a small kitchen garden can keep you in fresh, delicious produce all season long.

While a standard vegetable garden is all about utility and production, part of the charm of a kitchen garden comes from its ornamental aspect. Due to its proximity to the house, a kitchen garden is harder to tuck out of sight than a traditional garden. Therefore, they are often designed to add a sense of beauty to your home, as well.

Some herbs, such as lemon thyme, can be used to create a beautiful and fragrant border around plants and containers. Edible flowers, such as violas and daylilies, can be incorporated to add a splash of color. Compact blueberry shrubs are also highly ornamental and make a wonderful, yet functional border.

As you can see, a kitchen garden offers both convenience and beauty in a compact space. The best part is it doesn’t take much to get started. All you need is a couple large pots, some fresh herbs, your favorite compact tomato plant and lettuce varieties and you’ll be on your way!  I’m considering starting a kitchen garden growing group, if you are interested send me note at prettyrockgirls@gmail.com and let me know.  If we have enough interest, we will be growing goddesses this summer!

In love and health!

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s) 101

What Are Genetically Modified Organisms?

The term “Genetically Modified Organism” refers to the practice of altering the DNA of a plant or animal so that it contains one or more genes that are not normal or innate to the organism. The genetic modifications are created in a lab environment where the DNA from one organism is inserted into another.

In general, the practice of Genetically Modifying crops has caused little objection from the public. However, as scientists began inserting DNA from viruses, bacteria, and animals into seeds to create ‘super specimens’ people began to question the approach. In the eyes of many there is a big difference between cross pollinating two pea plants for more efficient growing and adding the genes from a fish to a tomato plant.

The US is a world leader in the production of Genetically Modified crops. However, contrary to popular belief The European Union does not ban Genetically Modified Foods. In fact, Spain is a leading contributor too. What makes the EU different from the United States is that they don’t approve domestic cultivation of many GMO crops and they have mandatory labeling laws. The food must be labeled GMO if it contains more than 0.9 percent of GMOs.

This has caused many food companies in Europe to reformulate their products so that all GMO ingredients are removed. They then avoid the GMO label. However, products from animals raised on GMO feed do not need a label, so Europeans continue to use GMO corn and soy for animal feed.

As of 2013, roughly 85% of corn, 91% of soybeans, and 88% of cotton produced in the United States are genetically modified.

GMO’s are typically restricted in an organic lifestyle.

Learn more and stay connected!

Detox Your Life

As an organic food teacher, one of my top concerns is the amount of chemicals we put in and on our bodies without having the proper knowledge of their long-term effects. The average person is exposed to over 80 chemicals before breakfast! Did you know that by the time you get to work, you’ve likely been exposed to over 300 different toxic chemicals?

The Cleveland Clinic has a “What Chemicals Are In My Home” chart that lists your everyday products as having hazardous ingredients.  You can see it here.

Here is a quick list of things that increase your chemical load, and a few tips on how to mitigate toxins in your environment.

Things that add to the toxic burden inside our home:

  • Cleaning products
  • Off-gassing of carpets, furniture, plywood
  • Carpet cleaning
  • Laundry detergents/dry cleaning
  • Personal care products (makeup, lotions, shampoos, fragrances, etc.)
  • Dish detergent/soaps
  • Air fresheners

Ways to decrease the toxins:

  • Houseplants (purify the air) – grow them in your bedroom too!
  • Regularly open windows and air out your house (spend as much time out of doors as possible)
  • Educate yourself (Environmental Working Group: www.ewg.org, sign up for this newsletter)
  • Change out toxic products for nontoxic products (cleaning products and personal care products) – what we put on our skin is worse for our body than what we eat!!

In Love and Health!

Overcoming Heart Trauma – Part I

It wasn’t the best time for a crisis to come, but they never come when we are ready.

My daughter, the independent diva, who had her own place, made good money, and took care of her own business sheepishly admitted that she was pregnant and that because of the birth control methods she used, she wasn’t really sure when she became pregnant; and she didn’t know anything about what she is headed into. Shocked by her news, I wasn’t ready to be a grandmother, but that I also knew that wasn’t really the point.

Being a doula who has delivered over twenty babies myself with no major complications, I had to think back to my old training.

Still, I wasn’t ready.

I was just finalizing a complicated divorce and my ex and were both trying to navigate the closing up of a twenty-year relationship. There were more lose ends than a shaggy carpet.

The other issues didn’t matter. We all had to figure out what to do with a new baby who was on her way whether we were ready or not.

My adult daughter moved in with me and things were never not like they were before she was an adult.  Nothing was really the same again.

Thank God I was anchored by a good spiritual connection.  I was active in church and had many people praying for my daughter and her unborn baby.  My daughter wasn’t into church, but she  was scared about all of the unknowns of pregnancy.  She was smart enough to trust her mom and knew that I would do what I could to help her through this.

Again, that wasn’t the point.  The point was a new baby was on the way to us and we needed to get ready.

Since I had been a doula for over 15 years, and had all natural or as close to natural as possible births, I wasn’t really nervous about my abilities.

But sometimes, you don’t know what you don’t know.

This was certainly the case here.

What happened with her arrival tilted the world on a new axis and changed everything from our daily priorities to the way we interacted with each other, on every level.

The most important thing we learned was about how a crisis can either be a curse or a blessing, and how each day gives us a chance to choose which perspective we will hold.

I learned the valuable lesson about  how no matter how much we don’t want the responsibility, moms carry the emotional load by example for everyone in the family. Even the so called “estranged” family members are under her influence.

I knew that if I broke down, everyone else would break down; and if I were strong, everyone else would be strong. This was a life or death crisis.

Damn. What a trickbag.

 

Part II to be continued in three days…