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Archive for the ‘Growing Vegetables – it’s so easy!’ Category

2011 Vegetable Garden

Tomorrow we are starting the vegetable garden again. Last year it was started in June! So this year we intend to be planting at the proper times. We also have a larger area – hence the title Vegetable Garden, instead of ‘Patch’. If you have a small area of garden, or some pots on a patio, follow us as we attempt to become even better vegetable and herb growers than we were last year and hopefully we can inspire you to ‘Grow your Own’ too. I will of course be buying 100 packs of sharp pointy sticks to stop the fox mother using the vegetable garden as a pratice area for digging and pooing for her cubs!

These are the following vegetables we are going to try this year

  1. Salad Leaves
  2. Broccoli
  3. Cauliflower
  4. Peas
  5. Beets
  6. Cabbage
  7. Radishes
  8. Swiss Chard
  9. Kale
  10. Beans
  11. Spring onions
  12. Carrots
  13. Courgette

We will also plant some tomatoes, more herbs and I want to try potatoes

So it’s a bit more adventurous than last year but as it is earlier we have more time. My main fear is the garden wildlife with paws and how to keep them from digging everything up, let alone the insects that want to eat it. Would it be great to set cameras and capture the ‘Deadly 60’ of the vegetable patch!

Follow the garden on twitter too: foodspa

Recipes

Recently I have been working on many more recipes to help my clients change their dietary habits. It’s not easy to change from what most people consider a ‘normal diet’ with unhealthy habits, to what is actually a healthy diet with healthy habits. People become so habitual in the way they consume, that it is hard to break out without having lots of ideas for alternative ways of eating.

I am posting some recipes onto the recipe section on my website and I will post some simpler ones here.
These are not just meal time recipes, but ideas for breakfasts, snacks, quick lunches and specific use, for example: ‘Energy Shots’, for when you need something to fill the gap and give you sustained energy, but also delivers super food nutrition and tastes amazing. Especially good for sport, pregnancy and busy stressed people.

Many people love Avocado, have you thought about using it as a butter?
The following is a very simple way to make avocado butter that can be used in any sandwich, on toast, crackers, jacket potatoe and not just reserved for making guacamole. The fats in avocado are extremely healthy for you, and studies have shown that they assist reduction in cholesterol levels circulating in blood.

They are also high in potassium which counters the amounts of sodium we eat. They are high in calories and are a great way to use a fat with and carbohydrate, i.e: Cracker to slow down release of sugars and give sustained energy. Much healthier than reaching for the biscuits or chocolate as avocado calories are not empty calories and are metabolised differently as the calories found in sugar or refined carbohydrates.

Avocado Butter

Ingredients
1 x soft Avocado
1 x Quarter of a lemon

Mash or blend the Avocado until smooth. Squeeze the lemon juice and mix in. Depending on when or how you are eating you can enhance the flavours by adding something to spice it up. You can put in an air tight container and keep in the fridge for a day – when you come to re-use it liven it up with a touch more lemon juice and a alittle olive oil.

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The vegetable patch has continued to grow and produce lovely greens, herbs and tomatoes. I can honestly say that I have not had to work very hard at all. I come out every now and again and pick some of the weeds. I use a hoe, which means I can do it quickly and not have to get down in the mud (and let’s face it, it is pretty muddy after all the rain we have had) the rain means that I have not even had to worry about watering anything.

The peas (that I thought were beans) grew really well at first, but are now a bit straggly so I need to work out why that is. They taste amazing though.

We have harvested nearly all the cherry tomatoes now, but some are still growing.

The Case of the Wondrous Courgette


I know that I am not an experienced gardener, nor would I consider myself a hugely successful one, however I have (with some help from Lily) managed to grow a magnificent courgette! It grew so beautifully and so big that I could barely bring myself to pick it. My son is proudly holding it to be photographed.

Contrary to what the books or websites advise, which is to pick whilst young for better taste

(I am guessing the normal shop bought size is young) my big one tasted great and lasted for 3 meals!)

They have continued to grow at different times so that I don’t have to pick them all at once. They are so easy to grow; anybody can just plant a seed in a patch of earth in the garden and water and wait. Alternatively put seed in some compost in a small plant box and when seedlings have sprouted, plant them. I just broke the rules and stuck them straight in the earth!

Growing in abundance

Potential Problem

The only problem that I have to investigate is the white mould that has recently formed on some of the leaves. I have just looked up on some green sites what to do naturally for this mould an most suggest spraying diluted milk, however most people that had tried that have not seen any good results.

So I decided to try a mix of water and a few drops of citricidal (Grapefruit seed extract) which is antifungal and can be used on skin or even consumed by humans so I felt it would be safe for courgette leaves. I will let you know how I get on with that.

Mould on leaves

I have also just mixed a bucket of compost and water and fed the courgette and broccoli plants at their base.

Courgettes (or Zucchini as other countries call them) have great nutritional properties. The flowers are edible too.

Nutritional Benefits

–       Low in calories

–       High in water

–       High in Potassium

–       High Vitamin C

–       High in Carotenes (converts to Vitamin A)

–       Good source of folate, iron, manganese, phosphate, zinc and other B Vitamins

They are cancer protective and highly anti-inflammatory and help with gastric problems, as they are gentle on the gut and easy to digest. They can help alleviate bladder and kidney inflammation.

They are good for skin when eaten due to the high content of nutrients and fluids and when use in a facemask.

(I will be experimenting with this when I do the Beauty workshops)

Courgettes can be eaten raw in salads, lightly steamed, baked or sautéed, and added to stews, casseroles and stir-fries. They are very versatile and can keep for quite awhile in the fridge.

I will be attaching a recipe for courgettes on my next blog entry.

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After taking two months off work I am now back at my desk and clinic.

A perfect salad

I have enjoyed looking after the vegetable patch and tasting the delightful fresh greens (and reds in the tomatoes).

There’s nothing quite like your first plate of home grown food which is why I have photographed it to show off!

This salad was Radicchio leaves, lettuce leaves, radishes, mint and tarragon.
The radishes were huge and I only needed one for this salad. The radicchio leaves were a delicious bitter flavour mixed with the sweet young lettuce leaves.

The nutritional benefits content from this home grown organic fair are:
Radicchio (Chicory family) – Fat free, saturated fat free, cholesterol free, very low in sodium, an excellent source of vitamin K, a good source of vitamin C, folate and copper. Radicchio is a bitter food and therefore supports the liver in the detoxification process.

Radicchio - leave in ground pick leaves when required

Radish – excellent source of vitamin C (leaves have even higher content of Vit C) Good source of copper and potassium. Very low in calories. It is a member of the cruciferous family (cabbage, broccoli etc) and so shares the cancer protective qualities. They also liver supportive as they contain sulphur compounds which help increase the flow of bile from the liver, which improves digestion and detoxification.

Perfect Radishes (If I say so myself)

Lettuce –Good source of chlorophyll and Vitamin K, Vitamin A, folic acid. Vitamin C, Vitamin B1 and B2.

Lettuce - Protected from squirrels

Tarragon – Fantastic tasting herb that contains compounds that are antifungal which is protective of the gut, it has a high content of antioxidants. This herb has a positive effect on blood sugar levels and can be supportive in diabetes and those that suffer with tiredness from fluctuating blood sugar levels.

Tarragon grown in a pot

Mint - allowed to grow freely

Mint – This herb is very helpful to digestion, it is a carminative meaning that it helps to relieve painful spasms and disperses trapped air. It also contains powerful antioxidants that help protect against allergies like hay fever.

So there you are my plate of home grown salad is a plate of food medicine.

Best of all it was delicious – fresh young and very tasty, it looked very pretty too.

You can still make this yourself, as all the ingredients are available in the shops – but maybe next year you might grow it yourself?

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Fully Grown Radishes Ready for Eating

I have revisited our patch and am delighted our radishes are now fully grown and are ready for picking just in time for Sam’s return. They can be great to add colour and a crunchy texture to salads and stir-fries. They are a good source of vitamin C, with the leaves being a much more concentrated source than the roots. They are also a source of magnesium, potassium and iron. Radishes contain sulphur compounds which increases bile flow, maintaining a healthy liver and gall bladder, this in turn can improve digestion

Murray , Michael N.D.. The Encyclopedia Of Healing Foods.

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Using the Sprouted Sunflower Seeds we have shown you below, you can now make your own FoodSpa Sprouted Sunflower Seed Salad –

Quinoa and Sprouted Sunflower Seed Salad

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One day in February I decided that as I am a nutritional therapist – I should have a go at growing things (to eat).

I wanted to appreciate what goes into growing some of the foods that I recommend people to have in their diet. In fact I wanted to get that satisfied feeling that I had actually managed to grow something. I am not green fingered, so if I can manage it anyone can as long as they can squeeze a bit of space from their garden or even their patio. Lily, my assistant and I go out to look at little shoots that have come up over night and are constantly amazed and delighted by them (well it’s a novelty at the moment)

I have done this with a little bit of advise from a gardening lady.  I can’t say that I have taken it too seriously – or placed it high on the agenda – which is partly why I am only really just starting now at the end of June. I did with he help from Lily, manage to plant some seedlings that my children had helped start to grow (kind of as they put the seeds in the pots that I supplied, then left them in their play house to die).

My small vegetable patch has been very hard come by, as my husband doesn’t want me to create a patch that fails to mirror the rest of the garden. I have very surreptitiously gained inch by inch of earth. I did get lucky (if you can really call it that) as our house has subsidence and the insurance company has insisted on taking out vegetation – this has allowed me to get a bit more space, but I had to wait for it as insurance companies move in a completely different time dimension to normal folk.

So for all you people out there that have never even considered growing something here’s what we are doing. I hope that this encourages you to have a go yourself. We can learn together. If any of you have any advise to give us please feel free, it would be appreciated. As yet I have not got great satisfaction as the vulnerable little seedlings look painfully fragile and I can’t quite believe they will grow into edible foods.

Getting the seeds ready

6 weeks ago we planted seeds in some seedling pots – as it was quite warm I took them from the children’s playhouse and kept them on the garden bench. They sprouted quite nicely.

WEEK ONE

Getting the earth ready – June 15th

I first started getting the earth ready with the children. We spent 3 hours just getting the small stones out. My daughter and I raked . dug and sorted whilst my son played with his strange monster toys around our feet.

My son enjoying the mud

Then we waited for the tree men to remove a few bushes that the insurance company claimed were bringing down our house (hmm). Having cleared these we raked some more. I then went to the nearest garden centre and purchased some organic compost which smells like it will produce robust organic fare.

The soil is ready for planting

I also bought: tarragon, two cherry tomato plants, mint, dill, strawberries and 3 pots to grow these in.

We had previously planted some seeds in a few starter pots: Sage, radichio, radishes, chives, thyme, rocket and beetroot.

Shoots Ready for Planting

We watered the earth and place compost on top. We then marked out lines with wooden kebab sticks and thick white thread.We then lifted the seedlings out and planted them using the space guide on the seed packs. I also put a couple of old bits of floor tiles down as stepping-stones.

We also planted some other seeds that are fine to go straight into the ground: swede, cabbage. Lettuce and broccoli, in this picture you can see a few tiny broccoli shoots about a week after sewing. You can also see we have an awful lot of stones in the earth.

I decided to keep the tomatoes in the pots, along with a selection of herbs in another pot and the strawberries in an old pot. It’s a bit of a cop out but they are safer it seems.

Tiger Helping Out

I tore a piece of the pack to put on the stick to mark what was growing and where. Of course with the help of our cat Tiger (a very loud Bengal).

Strawberries

We also planted a few beans seedlings. These are really cut and quick to grow. I have put long kebab sticks next to them and they have started o grow up them. The little feelers they put out are so delicate. When they are big enough we will take them out of the pot and put them at the back of the patch with much bigger sticks.

Beans

Tiny Broccoli shoots

Freshly Planted Seed

We were actually very pleased with our efforts and it all looked very hopeful.The next day however I went out to check on it and found that the foxes had bitten through 3 of our strings and managed to move a lot of the sticks.We have since had the fence completely renewed and I think they are unable to climb such a high fence. They do still come in the garden but so far have only chewed through two more strings. I can tell that they are still walking over it though.

We have considered getting netting – but I feel that the foxes will find that even more enticing as it is another thing for them to chew.

To day we will put lots more sticks everywhere so it is harder to walk around that area. The patch gets watered twice a day, we all take it in turns.

A rather strange thing is happening over night. Where the fox chews through the string (well I am assuming it is a fox) the string is then loose. For two mornings running I have come out to find the loose string wound up and pulled down into a small  in the ground. I have to pull it all the way out. It’s as if a small being has wound it up and then buried it. I am the first down stairs at 6am so I know it is not my children. I would love to set a camera up to capture all the animals that are contributing to the early morning state of our vegetable patch.

June 28th 2010 Monday
I have cleaned it all up and put new string onto the one that has gone missing (maybe completely buried by the underground string thief!)

So far it really hasn’t taken that much effort, it has been fitted in to what time I have at the end of the day or a snatch lunch break and a little weeding and watering at the weekend. I have asked my daughter, my assistant and any one else who is around to water it and keep an eye out for weeds.

June 30th 2010 Wednesday

Yesterday morning I went out side to find the string everywhere – the seedlings were trampled and there were holes where the foxes paws had been. The seeds are getting displaced and seedlings are getting trampled.

Last night I decided to take further action against fox activity and use sticks instead of string to keep them of the vegetable patch.

Sticks to Protect Patch from Wild Animals

It does appear to have worked although a few sticks had been removed and some trampling had occurred.

I have been a bit preoccupied with the fox destruction and have not been taking notice of the fact that the beetroot shoots are not growing any bigger. The seeds that I planted along side them are growing – so it seems that planting them straight into the ground may be better.

The radishes are doing well – although some have been trampled

Radish Shoots

June 30th 2010 Wednesday

Yesterday morning I went out side to find the string everywhere – the seedlings were trampled and there were holes where the foxes paws had been. The seeds are getting displaced and seedlings are getting trampled.

Last night I decided to take further action against fox activity and use sticks instead of string to keep them of the vegetable patch.

It does appear to have worked although a few sticks had been removed and some trampling had occurred.

I have been a bit preoccupied with the fox destruction and have not been taking notice of the fact that the beetroot shoots are not growing any bigger. The seeds that I planted along side them are growing – so it seems that planting them straight into the ground may be better.

The radishes are doing well – although some have been trampled

Other things to grow:

Lately I have been sprouting seeds with great success. I bought a’BioSnacky’ jar approx £4-£5. It is so simple to use.
I chose mung beans first and then I tried sunflower seeds.

Sprouting Mung beans

The directions are so simple – you soak the beans / seeds for approx 7-8 hours so can be night or day and then empty out the jar – fill again and rinse the empty out complete and leave to grow. Once a day you fill up with water and rinse off again. The sunflower seeds too 3 days – and they were wonderful (I think my favourite sprouted seeds)

Sunflowerseed Sprouts

I had then with cubed papaya, mustard cress – which I also grew very easily and an avocado and onion spelt tart that I created. (I will make this recipe available soon as it was really good)

Mustard cress is so easy – I found these lovely painted mental pots on a tray for around £10 that I will use over and over. I put some peat in the pots water them and sprinkled the seeds –they grew in less than a week. Give them a very small amount of water every day.
You can of course just grow cress on cotton wool or tissue – but I like to think that more nutrients are going in if you have some soil.

Watercress

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