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Color Your Plate and Palate with Super Foods

August 2nd, 2011

 

Super foods—some grains, beans, fruits, vegetables, yogurt, and more—offer a great source of antioxidants and essential nutrients. And they’re low in calories, which make them an excellent choice for weight control and weight loss.

Did you know that the colors of fruits and vegetables also put them in their own group of super foods?

Green super foods, such as broccoli, parsley and spinach, contain large amounts of chlorophyll, which is what gives green vegetables their wonderful green coloring. When chlorophyll found in green vegetables is consumed, hemoglobin in blood is increased. Hemoglobin provides more oxygen-rich blood, and oxygen-rich blood helps cells thrive. Green super foods also contain large amounts of easily digestible nutrients, minerals, proteins and vitamins.

Orange fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, mangoes, oranges and pumpkins, are high in beta carotenes. Beta carotenes may help improve immune function and reduce the risk of heart disease. And beta carotenes help strengthen eyesight, the esophagus, the lungs, and the stomach and may help fight cancer in these areas.

Red fruits and vegetables, such as pink grapefruit, red bell peppers, tomatoes and watermelon, offer large amounts of lycopene. Lycopene, a bright red carotenoid pigment and phytochemical, helps protect cells against damaging free radicals. Studies have demonstrated that lycopene may help fight lung and prostate cancers.

In the moments when we’re enjoying a refreshing, tasty slice of watermelon or flavorful, crunchy carrot we don’t always think about the increased health benefits they offer, but they’re there—super benefits from super foods!

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Edible Landscaping: Where Beautiful Botanicals and Flavorful Foods Meet

May 4th, 2011

 

Beans, herbs, leafy greens, and strawberries are great choices if you’re considering an edible landscape for your front yard. Edible landscaping combines the beauty of botanicals with edible plants that provide many textures, unique shapes, and vibrant colors to your landscaping. And edible landscaping maximizes your return by way of putting healthy, homegrown food on the table.

One of the biggest reasons why individuals are choosing edible landscaping today is the economy. With food prices continuing to rise—not to mention our carbon footprint and food safety—discerning individuals are going back to basics when it comes to living better and living a more joyful life.

There are several ways that herbs and vegetables can be incorporated into landscaping:

1. Instead of planting flowers in window boxes try lettuces that vary in color, from purples to reds.

2. Plant vegetables with contrasting colors next to each other for striking beauty, such as purple cabbage and snow white cauliflower.

3. Thyme pairs well with colorful strawberries, and they’re both perfect for containers.

4. Add a touch of French gardening into your edible landscape by incorporating raised beds with gravel-lined paths in between the beds.

5. Grow beans on trellises behind flower beds.

6. Include edible flowers into your landscape, such as peppery-flavored nasturtium, scented geranium, and violet.

These are just a few ideas for edible landscaping that can turn your front yard into a work of delicious art!

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Garden Villain: Itsy Bitsy Spider Mites

August 1st, 2010

 

If you have beans, peas, squash and tomatoes in your garden then keep your eagle eyes peeled for the itsy bitsy spider mite, because this eight-legged arachnid—and more specifically, colonies of spider mites—will feast on plants, sucking the cell contents from leaf tissue.

What to look for:

  1. Plant leaves that look like they have light specks on them
  2. Gray, yellow or bronze colored leaves that eventually drop off of plants
  3. Fine silken webbing on leaves or branches

Life Cycle

  1. Adult female spider mites lay round eggs on bark, leaves or in webbing
  2. Once eggs hatch, spider mite larvae—which only have six legs during their first stage of life—can develop into adults in as little as two weeks
  3. With plenty of food and appropriate temperatures, there can be multiple generations of spider mites per year
  4. Female spider mites may lay 100+ eggs during their short four weeks of life

If you suspect that you have spider mites but cannot see any, hold a white piece of paper underneath plants leaves then shake or tap the leaves. Dislodged spider mites will fall onto the paper and appear as little moving flecks. Spider mites may be brown, cream-colored, green, red or yellow.

Natural enemies of spider mites include lacewing larvae, lady beetles, and minute pirate bugs. Instead of using insecticides in your garden, try implementing some of these natural biological garden heroes.

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Bean Soup with Fennel

March 22nd, 2010

1 1/2 cups dried navy beans, soaked overnight
1 pound smoked ham hocks
8 cups water
2 large bunches of fennel leaves, stems snipped off
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 onion, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
3 teaspoons black pepper
3 large potatoes, chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped, white parts only
1 cup chopped cabbage
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound ground pork sausage, browned and drained

Place beans, ham hocks and water in a large pot; bring to a boil then reduce heat. Simmer ingredients until beans can be mashed and pork is tender, about 1 hour. Chop fennel until you have about 2 cups; set aside. Add garlic, onion, bay leaf and pepper to pot; simmer 5 minutes. Add chopped fennel, potatoes, green onion, cabbage, olive oil and cooked sausage to pot. Return soup to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, until vegetables are tender. Discard bay leaf before serving.

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