Harvest Health

Harvest Health

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Ginger Tea

Lately I've been feeling a little bit unwell.  Not extremely unwell with a fever, but just like I'm coming down with a cold and a sore throat.  When I feel like this there is only one thing I crave, and that's ginger.

Whenever you feel the first signs of a scratchy throat, or a sniffly nose, ginger is your best friend.  Ginger tea is very simple to make.  Simply slice about 2cm of fresh ginger root into thin slices, and place in a teapot with boiling water.  Let it steep for 5 - 10 minutes.  Pour into a cup with 1/2 teaspoon of honey and the juice of about 1/2 lemon. 

Or, if you like a stronger brew, you can simmer the ginger in a small saucepan for 5 - 10 minutes.  When drinking ginger tea you should feel a pleasant tingle in the throat which is quite soothing.

Ginger is typical of the wonderful world of herbs - it has many actions and can therefore be used for many different conditions.  This is in complete contrast to pharmaceutical medicines which are typically used for one condition only.

Ginger is actually the rhizome (type of root) of a perennial plant Zingiber officinalis which grows to a height of about 60 centimetres.  As well as fighting colds and strep throat, ginger's host of other actions include:
  • anti-nausea - used for motion sickness, morning sickness, nausea and vomiting.
  • Carminative (useful for gastrointestinal discomfort and bloating)
  • Anti-inflammatory - useful for arthritis
Ginger is inexpensive, effective and easily available.  What more can you ask from a remedy!

Ginger used in dietary amounts shouldn't cause any interactions with medications.  However, if taking high dose ginger supplements there is a possibility of an increased bleeding risk with drugs used to prevent blood clots such as Warfarin and aspirin, due to ginger's  antiplatelet effects.

Thursday, 17 November 2011


Not only is parsley an easy to grow plant that thrives with little attention, it packs a powerful punch nutritionally.

Parsley is the richest herb/vegetable source of potassium.  Amongst its many functions, potassium helps balance the acid/alkaline status of the body to a more alkaline state.  Parsley also contains good amounts of calcium and magnesium, making parsley a super source of minerals, and of benefit to helping muscles and nerves relax.  Other nutrients it contains are iron and vitamin C.  Parsley is powerful!

Parsley Pesto
I have resisted making parsley pesto for a long time because I love basil pesto so much.  Pesto means basil, basil is traditional, and doesn't deserve tinkering with.  However, there has been no basil in the garden since last Summer, but plenty of parsley, so the other day, without much expectation, I tried it.

It was wonderful!  Other members of the house still prefer basil, but I didn't miss the basil much at all.  I'm thinking it may be good to combine the two, since parsley is much more prolific.

There are many recipes for pesto around, and you can easily just swap the basil for parsley.  I like to give my pestos a bit of a nutritional lift by replacing the pine nuts with either sunflower seeds, raw cashew nuts or brazil nuts.  Sunflower seeds seem to work the best.

Just place the parsley, seeds (or nuts), parmesan cheese, and half a garlic clove in a food processor and give it a whizz until it's the consistency you like - either fine or chunky.  Add a pinch of salt and some olive oil and whizz again.

Parsley pesto can be used in many different ways - with wholemeal pasta, a spoonful added to a bowl of soup, spread over grilled chicken or fish, to name a few.

Parsley - it's powerful, and in pesto it's delicious!

Monday, 14 November 2011

Grow your own greens

I'm not much of a gardener, but I do love to grow a few herbs and vegies in the backyard.  Without much effort at all the patch is flourishing at the moment.

I have been delighted with how easy it has been to grow leafy green vegies.  They don't require much attention, and silverbeet and parsley in particular, just keep giving and giving. 

Eating more green leafy veg is one of the most basic and simple things you can do for your health.  It makes it so much easier to achieve this when you can pick handfuls from your own backyard.  Adding a chopped  handful of green leaves to any dish, or sprinkling on handfuls of chopped parsley, will give a nutritional boost to any meal.  There is something comforting in knowing that even if the fridge is bare of vegetables, a healthy meal can still be had from a trip to the backyard.

Harvesting from the garden is a great way to increase your harvest of health.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Not so fantastic plastics

As discussed in the previous post, chemicals from plastic containers and wrappers may not be as safe as industry and regulators would like us to believe.  Polycarbonate can release BPA, and compounds such as phthalates are added to PVC to make it softer and less rigid.  The main concern surrounding these compounds is the way they have been shown to be endocrine disruptors.  That is, they mimic and disturb our body's hormones. 

Some plastic containers are more dangerous than others.  If you are concerned, and would like to minimise your exposure, use the table below to see which ones are best avoided.

The table is taken from a fantastic article on Choice online, and can be found here.

You can often identify the type of plastic from its identification code – unfortunately, this code is voluntary and you won’t find it on all plastic packaging. Look for the codes 1 (PET), 2 (HDPE), 4 (LDPE), 5 (PP) and 6 (PS). Whenever possible avoid foods or beverages that have been in contact with plastics with the symbol 3 (PVC) or 7 (a catch-all category that includes polycarbonate).

Many packaged foods are in plastic containers that seem to be harmless.  Soft drinks and bottled water are usually in PET bottles, for example, while yoghurt and margarine containers are usually made from polypropylene. There’s clearly no real need for food manufacturers to use packaging or wrapping made from polycarbonate or PVC, but there are still far too many products in the supermarkets where the food is in contact with these potentially harmful plastics.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Plastics - Harmful to our health?

It may surprise you to learn that the most prevalent exposure to environmental pollutants is in the house (providing the workplace is not a problem).   One of our biggest exposures is to plastic, and there is growing evidence that our food and drink can be contaminated by harmful chemicals from some types of plastic.  It is the daily cumulative exposure that is the problem.

Photo by Kangshutters

Many plastics contain plasticisers which are used to make hard plastics soft.  Phthalates, such as the well known BPA (Bisphenol A) have a small molecular structure and can be readily absorbed  - meaning they can be transmitted into food and digested, or absorbed through the skin.  All plastics have phthalates in them, BPA is just deemed more dangerous.

Plastics are a problem in our bodies because they are endocrine disruptors, meaning they can mimic our natural hormones, our reproductive hormones in particular.  The young are the most vulnerable to exposure because of their lower body weight and because their growth and development are strongly influenced by hormones.  
While these compounds are undoubtedly hazardous at high levels of exposure, scientific opinion is divided over the risk from the much lower levels that we’re exposed to every day in our food. There is, however, growing scientific evidence that even at these lower levels of exposure, phthalates and BPA may be causing problems such as infertility, obesity, breast cancer, prostate cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
Photo by Stoonn

It is scary stuff, but there are things you can do to minimise your exposure to these chemicals:
  • Don't heat food in plastic containers
  • Don't store oil based or acidic food (such as tomatoes) in plastic
  • Avoid fresh meat, fruit or vegetables wrapped in cling wrap, as many supermarkets and greengrocers are still using cling wrap containing PVC.
  • Don't repeatedly wash plastic containers in the dishwasher
Remember, it is the cumulative exposure that is the problem.  If we can decrease our exposure wherever possible, the occasional contact with plastic is less likely to be a problem.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Crunchy Granola

Commercially made toasted mueslis or granolas are not exactly healthy foods.  They often have large amounts of unhealthy oils added and are then toasted at a high heat which oxidises the oils.  Large amounts of sugar are also added.  The good news is that you can make a much healthier version at home

The muesli from the last post can be transformed into a delicious crunchy granola with the addition of a small amount of oil, maple syrup and a slow, gentle roast in the oven.  That's it really.  I've never worked from a recipe for muesli or granola, because it is so simple.

Mix together a batch of your own muesli.  It is a good idea to add some raw nuts and coconut as they are lovely when roasted.  Drizzle roughly 3 - 4 tablespoons of a good quality oil onto the muesli, and stir in thoroughly.  I like to use extra virgin olive oil, or rice bran oil.  Organic sunflower oil works well too.  Just add enough so that the oats are not wet, but you can see that they have been slightly coated.  Then add an equivalent amount of maple syrup.  The idea is to just give a slight sweetness, not make it really sweet.

Spread the mix out onto a couple of baking trays and place them into an oven that has been heated to 150C.  The granola is done when the mix turns a slight golden colour.  Every 5 - 10 minutes give the trays a bit of a stir to move the mix around so there are no burnt bits.

Your house will fill with delicious baking smells.  Yummm......

Granola is delicious on top of plain yoghurt with some fruit, and it makes a great change from porridge or muesli. The roasted flavour and crunch is very satisfying.