By: Leanne Ely
I just love this time of year when those tender green leaves start shooting from the earth. There’s nothing like walking out to the garden with a pair of scissors and bringing in everything you need to make a fabulous salad for dinner.
If you’ve made the decision to plant your own organic vegetable garden this spring, I truly applaud you! If you have children, they are learning an unbelievably valuable lesson by seeing how much work it takes to get a tiny seed to grow into an edible plant.
Believe it or not, gardening isn’t as hard as you might think. Once you have a couple of basics under your belt, it really isn’t very hard. It takes a lot of work to tend to your garden, I won’t lie to you, but it’s well worth the effort (scout’s honor!).
Plus, growing your own organic vegetables is also a very economical way to feed your family the absolute highest quality food that you can and stretch your grocery dollar.
Here are the basic tricks and tips you need to start your own organic garden.
1. Gather your tools. You’re going to need a hoe, a pitch fork, a spade, a weeding tool and a trowel in order to plant your garden. You’ll also need a watering can and supplies to build a frame if you are going to do a raised bed rather than digging up the earth.
2. Buy organic seeds. Make sure you have a good quality source for organic seeds. This is especially important when it comes to corn, beets, soy beans, zucchini, yellow squash and alfalfa, which are some of the crops that are legally allowed to be genetically modified in the United States.
3. Start in organic soil. If you’re starting some of your seeds indoors (which should be done for herbs and some crops like tomatoes, peppers and leeks), use an organic starting mix to get the best start possible for your seeds. (Your seed packets will tell you which plants need to be started early.)
4. Make a bed. Three weeks before you’re ready to put your seeds in the ground, you’ll want to make your garden bed. The soil should be good and workable. The earth should be dry enough that it crumbles in your hand rather than clumps together. Dig your garden patch about 12 inches deep. Remove stones and weeds. Rake the soil on a regular basis over the next three weeks—this will help any weeds that want to make their way up do so before you plant your seeds. If you don’t want to dig a bed, you can make a raised garden. Measure the area of land you want to dedicate to your garden and put a layer of newspaper or cardboard down to prevent weeds from coming through the grass. Build a simple frame about 12 inches high around your garden, and fill that with soil.
5. Add compost. Add a good layer of organic compost to the top of your garden and rake it into the soil. You can buy organic compost from a local organic farmer, purchase it from a garden store or make your own out of kitchen scraps,. Compost acts as a natural fertilizer, and it’s very beneficial for the soil.
6. Grid or rows. Decide if you want to plant in trench style (which requires a hoe to make long furrows to plant in) or in a grid pattern. There’s no rule here. You can be as organized as you want to be.
7. Add water. Lightly moisten the soil before you plant your seeds. You don’t want the seeds to get swamped with water.
8. Plant. Read your seed packets to find out how to space your seeds and how deep to plant. Cover the seeds with a small amount of soil.
Until your seeds sprout, sprinkle water over the surface of your garden whenever it looks dry. A spray bottle is great for this, or a watering can will work but remember to only add a small amount of water.
Gardening vegetables is so rewarding and such a great thing to do with the kids. There’s something very primal about eating food you’ve grown with your very own hands.
Our New Dinner Answers will help you use all your produce, wherever it came from! Click here to read more!
By: Leanne Ely
Now that I have everyone talking Paleo, I thought the timing would be just right to talk about all of the delicious foods you can find in the wild, or right in your own backyard!
We have our ancestors to thank for figuring out that the leaves of the rhubarb plant are poisonous, but the stalks are a wonderful source of fiber. That the flowers of a dandelion are too bitter to stomach, but their leaves are delicious. It took a lot of trial and error to discover that sweet, edible meat contained inside that ugly oyster shell and which mushrooms were safe for human consumption. They didn’t have a choice since food didn’t just appear in the grocery store like it does for us!
Food is easy for us to find nowadays, but with this huge Paleo movement sweeping the country, foraging for food has actually become rather trendy.
With spring finally here, this is the time to look for edible wild greens and mushrooms.
DISCLAIMER: Do your homework to find out what’s available and edible (i.e., non toxic) in your own neck of the woods. Please don’t rely on this blog post to identify what’s safe to eat and what is not. There are dozens of varieties of plants and mushrooms around Canada and the US and I don’t claim to be an expert on them all, so do your research!
Wild spring edibles
Here are some different types of edible foods you may find in the spring. This list will vary depending on where you live:
• Watercress. Find it in early spring right until late fall in marshy areas near streams and rivers. Can be eaten raw in salads.
• Morels. Find them in fields and forests. Black morels are found in early spring and white morels are found later in the season. Enjoy grilled or sauteed.
• Chanterelles. These beautiful golden mushrooms grow in the woods all summer long. Enjoy them sauteed in butter.
• Fiddleheads. Look for these alongside streams and forests. They are delicious sauteed in a frittata or just served as a side dish with some fresh fish.
• Wild leek. Found in woodlands early in spring and late in fall. Use them in soups and salads.
• Asparagus. Wild asparagus can be found in open fields, mid-spring until early summer.
• Dandelion greens. You can find dandelion greens just about anywhere! Read more about the nutritional value of dandelion greens and about how to enjoy them.
• Stinging nettle. You can find stinging nettle throughout the spring. Harvest them before their flowers appear. Nettle can be used as an herb or eaten as greens.
• Oxeye daisy. Did you know you can eat the unopened flower buds of the ordinary old daisy? Sauteed with some wild garlic and other wild edibles, they make an interesting side dish.
• Wild garlic. You can find wild garlic growing in damp woodlands. It looks like lily of the valley, but when you smell the edible leaves of the plant, you’ll know you have garlic on your hands. Literally! Eat the leaves raw or cooked.
Depending on where you live, you may be able to catch trout from a nearby stream, collect dulse or kelp from the sea shore or gather wild strawberries from the roadside.
There’s a free grocery store right outside your door!
Remember to only harvest these edibles from places you’re confident have not been treated with pesticides. Even then, when you feel the food is safe to eat, give everything a very good wash.
Okay, UNCLE!! We listened! And yes, we’ve extended our sale on our New Dinner Answers! Forage away! 😉 Click here for details!
By: Leanne Ely
Strawberries are one of the most popular berries on the block. Equally delicious eaten right out of hand or tossed into a salad, strawberries are quite versatile fruits.
These sweet, red heart-shaped fruits are not only scrumptious, they are also packed with nutrition (as most berries are).
One cup of strawberries (roughly 8 large berries) is considered a serving. Each serving of strawberries contains a full gram of protein and 2 grams of fiber.
Strawberries also contain a slew of minerals, vitamins and antioxidants.
Minerals. Strawberries are very high in potassium, and they are a good source of iron and calcium.
Vitamins. One serving of strawberries contains a full 160% of the Vitamin C you need in a day. That same serving of strawberries also contain 20% of your recommended daily amount of folate.
Flavonoids. Strawberries contain a flavonoid called fisetin, which has been shown to reduce complications of diabetes.
Antioxidants. Ripe, juicy strawberries also contain phenols, which are special antioxidants that fight inflammation, heart disease and cancer.
Strawberries are best when they’re nice and fresh. Mmmm! But if you can’t get your hands on fresh organic berries, head to the freezer section. Avoid eating conventionally grown strawberries because they are on the Dirty Dozen List.
I always keep frozen organic strawberries on hand to toss into a smoothie. There is nothing like the addition of some strawberries to perk up a smoothie! Here’s one of my favorite smoothie recipes using strawberries!
Strawberry Mint Smoothie
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 to 3/4 cup water (or more coconut milk)
1/2 cup strawberries (frozen or fresh)
1 tablespoon mint, chopped
1 scoop Perfect Paleo Protein Smoothie Mix
2 teaspoons Saving Dinner Fibermender (optional)
1 tablespoon Just Juiced Greens (optional)
In a blender, place coconut milk, water, strawberries, mint, Saving Dinner Perfect Paleo Protein, Saving Dinner Fibermender and Saving Dinner Just Juiced Greens (optional); blend until smooth and enjoy! It’s ok to add a tad more milk of your choice, if a thinner smoothie is preferred
By: Leanne Ely
You hear all the time that you should eat your fruits and vegetables. That they contain important minerals and vitamins essential for good health. So, you probably feel that you’re doing something good when you sit down to your daily salad and whatever other vegetables you can cram into yourself and/or your family members. And you are. Don’t get me wrong! But you might be surprised to know how nutritionally deficient much of the produce we have available to us really is today.
According to the American Food Pyramid, adults need roughly 3 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit per day for optimal health. But I personally feel that this number should be higher because I don’t believe that a couple cups of today’s produce can provide us with all of the minerals we need.
One study conducted by a research team out of the University of Texas discovered that six out of thirteen nutrients in a sampling of 43 different fruits and vegetables were significantly depleted between 1950 and 2000.
In 1950, broccoli contained an average of 12.9 milligrams of calcium per gram, but in 2003, broccoli was shown to contain only 4.4 milligrams of calcium.
The soil is depleted. Farm lands have become severely depleted of minerals. Even many organic farms have soil that has been over farmed to the point where the food that’s grown in that dirt is not as nutritionally dense as you might expect it to be.
The soil simply isn’t healthy anymore. With the GMOs, the pesticides and fungicides . . . we’re lucky if the fruits and vegetables that get harvested today have any nutrition in them at all by the time they get put on store shelves.
But there’s another thing.
Travel Time. Produce loses nutritional value at a steady rate after it’s been harvested. When you’re eating fruits and vegetables that have been shipped from across the country, how much nutritional value do you suppose it has by the time it reaches your table?
So how do you get all of the nutrition you need?
Here are a couple of ideas for you.
• Eat a lot of organically grown fruits and vegetables and consider supplementing with a daily multivitamin.
• Start growing your own food and ensure that the soil you use is properly nourished with organic compost matter and safe fertilizers.
• Preserve the nutrients that are in your produce by cooking them properly. Heat can destroy 30% or more of the nutrients in raw fruits and vegetables so don’t overcook them. Steam or saute your vegetables to prevent nutrient loss or, better yet, enjoy your produce raw. There are a couple of exceptions to this rule. When you cook spinach, tomatoes and carrots (not overcooked into a pile of mush, mind you), you actually increase the amount of available antioxidants found in the foods in their raw state.
• Choose fresh or frozen over canned. Canned food has little nutritional value left after all of the processing it has undergone to get to you. Frozen food, however, is generally frozen immediately after being picked and it is possibly more nutritious than the food you get fresh at the grocery store if it’s been shipped to you from half way around the world, being exposed to all kinds of heat, light, air and who knows what!
So what’s the moral of the story?
Even if you think you’re eating enough produce, chances are you’re not. I’ve written articles in the past that will help you get more veggies into your diet. This might be a good time to reflect on one such article! Read it here.
By: Leanne Ely
I can’t remember the last time I bought a jar of honey. I’ve had no need to since I started raising my own backyard bees!
My honeybees amaze me every single day and every July, they provide me with all of the honey I could possibly need for the year (and some nice gifts for family too!).
This is way more than a hobby for me. It’s a statement. I feel a great connection to the food chain and the planet in general knowing my little guys in the hive are helping pollinate the world.
The US Department of Agriculture suggests that 1/3 of everything we eat is pollenated by honeybees.
A Cornell University study estimates that roughly $14 billion worth of crops and seeds in this country are pollinated by honeybees.
Without honeybees, 80% of our flowering crops in the country would be at risk. Everything from asparagus to nuts to blueberries and apples. A threatened honeybee population would also risk our livestock since they eat plants to survive.
Talk about an under-appreciated workforce!
Beekeepers across the world—Canada, the UK, France, Greece, Spain, and the list goes on—are reporting Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), which is also known as bee decline disease. The problem is not getting any better.
Many bee experts implicate Monsanto for their Roundup product and many other insecticides used in modern agriculture as one of the reasons for CCD.
The fact is if we lose the honeybees, our food supply is quite seriously in jeopardy.
The absolute best thing we can do as stewards of the planet, is to raise our own backyard bees. That being said, I am fully aware that this is not an option for a lot of people!
However, all of us with yards can feed the bees by planting a bee garden to help provide the honeybees with good healthy nectar so they can do their part continuing to pollinate our food.
Bee love nectar rich perennial plants in your yard like hellebores, sedums and campanulas. When you plant different types of perennials, you have different plants flowering through the seasons, so the bees have a steady diet. And perennials show up year after year, more glorious than the year before giving you a continual show.
Bees also love shrubs like Japanese quince and winter-flowering honeysuckle.
Try to plant your bee garden in full sun and in a place sheltered from wind. A birdbath with a rock for resting will provide visiting bees with a place to stop and grab a little water. Believe it or not, they prefer dirty water over clean!
Oh, and bees love lavender! My bees have 4 bushes of lavender to choose from and last year’s honey was lovely and fragranted by that lavender.
This should go without saying, but Crayola green lawns obtained by herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides will kill off bees. I had someone admiring my grass awhile back and asked me how I did it without the aforementioned chemicals. My answer? When the grass is mowed, grass and weeds look the same. We don’t have to golf course lawns y’all! 🙂
By: Leanne Ely
If I had a dollar for every time someone told me they couldn’t afford to eat healthy, I might not be a millionaire, but I could surely buy a new car 😉
The thing is, it’s not true. We can all afford to make healthy changes in our lifestyle.
Is it expensive to subsist entirely on organic chicken and kale? Yes. But there are plenty of other ways to stretch your grocery budget by choosing healthy options.
Here are a few ways to keep nutrition high and costs low.
Buy ingredients. Not packages. Look for ingredients to make your own healthy grano-la bars instead of buying the healthiest granola bars in the store. Buy some meat, tomatoes, and noodles instead of a packaged lasagna. Make your own condiments. Skip the convenience and you’ll save money (and you usually end up with more food). Every. Time.
Buy frozen. Frozen veggies are just as nutritious as fresh veggies, but they cost a significant amount less. Buy enough fresh produce to last you the first part of the week, and rely on veggies from the freezer when it’s coming back around to shopping day.
Be smart with meat. Buy whole chickens instead of chicken pieces. Learn how to cook with less expensive cuts of meat. Better yet? Find a group of people to chip in together on a whole animal from a local farmer.
Choose organic only when necessary. If you don’t have the means to shop exclusively for organic foods, shop by the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists put out by ewg.org
Quit splurging. Do you need individual coffee pods? Is $4 bottled water a require-ment? Do you need “healthy” desserts and treats? Nope. You’re wasting your money. Instead, invest your paycheck into real foods.
Plan meals. If you create a shopping list according to your weekly meal plan, you can keep a much tighter rein on your budget. And always, always stick to the list!