Grow Your Own Food!

I would like to encourage everyone to start growing some of their own food. Please don’t stop reading if you do not have a large backyard though. Growing your own food can take on many different forms – from planting a vegetable garden in your yard or a community garden, planting containers on a balcony or a window ledge or a deck or sprouting in your kitchen. The benefits are many, from increased taste and nutrition to teaching children where their food comes from and of course getting them interested in eating a greater variety of food. The environmental benefits are great when you consider that eating as local as your backyard or within a short drive or walk to a community garden reduces transportation costs and all the fossil fuels required for mass industrial farming practices.

Overall, the cost of growing your own food is cheaper than buying it from a grocery store or farmers market. When you grow your own food, you no longer need to fear about contamination that may occur at the farm, manufacturing plant, during transportation or at the retail store. If you grow your food organically, you will reduce the burden of pesticides and herbicides on our planet.  Last, but not least, is the great personal satisfaction that most derive from growing and eating your own food.

Lets look at some of these benefits one by one:

  • Increased taste – if you have ever eaten a cherry tomato right off the stem, an apple directly from the tree, or a strawberry that you picked yourself, you know what I am talking about.  It is especially important to share these experiences with children and get them excited about real food.
  • Increased nutrition – the nutrients in most fruits and vegetables starts to diminish as soon as they’re picked. This means that picking your food from your garden and eating it within minutes or hours translates to receiving the maximum nutrition that food has to offer. When ripe and delicious fruits and vegetables are right out your backyard and ready for picking, eating these whole natural foods is more apt to become second nature. Who couldn’t benefit from more whole foods? With increased nutrition comes increased health!
  • Savings – the savings can be substantial depending on what you are growing and if you grow extra and, can, freeze or dehydrate for out of season storage, the savings increase. Just think how cheap you can grow organic food!
  • Only by growing your own food can you be certain that your food is top quality. You know what kind of soil you used and what kind of nutrients your soil received. You choose your seeds or plants, the kind of soil and or food you give those seeds, which all goes into determining the quality of your food. Gardening gives you complete control of the food that you eat. Did you know that much of the organic produce that is purchased from stores – including health stores is crisped/soaked in city water with it’s fluoride and chlorine?
  • Organic gardening reduces the amount of pesticides, fungicides and herbicides released into the air.
  • Your food will be grown without the massive quantities of fossil fuels needed for machinery, transportation or storage of conventional farms. You may even save time and money, if you can walk out to your yard and pick something to add to a salad, or even better, get most of the ingredients for a salad. If you are like me, I have found myself on more than one occasion, where I needed parsley or just a bit of mint or a zucchini or cucumber – you get the point. It is the best feeling in the world to walk out to the garden, rather than jump in the car and drive to the grocery store to get a single ingredient (which I have done more than I care to admit!)
  • Gardening naturally lends itself to composting. Returning nutrients to the soil is the best that we can do in regards to disposal of our food wastes. Compost acts a buffer to the soil’s pH modifying and stabilizing it and provides micro and macro nutrients.
  • Every rooftop, balcony, window ledge and lawn can be a garden. Gardens can be arranged vertically as well as horizontally. Indoor gardens can grow all year round.
  • You can sprout on your kitchen counter top. You can grow herbs in a sunny window. You can grow a tomato plant in a container on a balcony or you can do even more with grow lights in the house.
  • Starting a vegetable garden can be extremely satisfying and rewarding to an individual and if you choose to get children involved, you could be getting them off to a good start in life as to knowing how food grows, taking an interest in deciding what food they like, want to grow and are willing to experiment with and try. Children are more apt to try foods that they see growing in the garden, perhaps even right from the stalk to their mouth!
  • A garden in place of a lawn makes even more environmental sense when you consider that this is less grass that will be cut, and possibly sprayed and fertilized.
  • Gardening gets you outside engaging in light to heavy exercise – depending on the task you are attempting. Obviously making a garden where grass once was is physical work to remove the grass and turn over the soil. Going out to do weekly weeding is much lighter exercise – but both should set you up for receiving vitamin D from the sun, fresh air and put you in touch with nature, which is good for the soul, mind and body, reducing stress levels.
  • Home gardening leads us closer to self sufficiency. Many people are taking this a step further and even keeping chickens in the backyard. For many, the act of gardening turns a light on inside and from that light they take extra steps that allow them to keep the food they grow themselves for longer periods by canning, freezing or drying. You don’t need to do this of course, but it is a natural progression for many – the act of returning to simpler times, when we didn’t have to worry about the BPA in tin linings, mass quantities of pesticides and genetically modified foods.
  • Gardening can make available heirloom varieties no longer commercially farmed.
  • Gardening teaches us the art of patience. There are no instant rewards in the world of gardening. We must nurture all but the heartiest of plants with some TLC and then we are rewarded for our efforts.

One of the easiest things that you can do right on your kitchen counter is to learn to sprout mung beans. Talk about easy peasy! Soak them in water overnight and rinse and drain the next morning and for the next 2 days morning and night. Soon you will have mung bean sprouts, which are wonderful to add to salads or munch on by themselves. Mung beans provide enzymes, protein, minerals, phytonutrients and are SO healthy for you. The point is to start somewhere.  Soon you will feel the immense reward that comes from growing quality food that will nourish your body.

Start your day with lemon or lime water

On your quest to better health, one of the small changes you can make is to start your day with a glass of filtered warm (not boiling), water with a tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice. Some of the benefits are:

  • Firstly, most of us do not consume enough water throughout the day and adding more clean, pure, filtered water is vital to good health. Our bodies are more water than anything else! It is required to transport nutrients and oxygen to our cells and our kidneys depend on a constant supply of water to function optimally. Those are just two of many reasons to drink more water during the day!
  • Lemon and lime juice are very alkalizing to the body. Note that by themselves they are acidic, but the effect on the body is alkalizing due to their mineral content. Since the majority of the population is acidic (due to diet and stress), drinking lemon or lime water is one step to bringing about a more alkaline pH. Why should you care about being alkaline? Many forms of disease thrive in an acidic body, cancer being one of the biggest threats. An acidic body, is constantly trying to buffer those acids by leaching minerals (i.e. calcium) from your bones leading to degenerative diseases such as osteoporosis.
  • Citrus fruits contain the phytochemical hesperidin, with lemons and limes dominating (vs. grapefruit). Hesperidin is an antioxidant, that is anti-inflammatory and believed to have anti-cancer activity. The white part of the peel has the highest concentration of hesperidin so include the zest of these fruits in salad dressings or other dishes when ever you can, but their is still a significant level in the juice of these fruits. Dr. Oz recently spoke with Dr. William W. Li who is President of the Angiogenesis Foundation and Dr. Li’s recommendation was to drink 1/2 cup of lime juice every day for it’s cancer fighting ability against squamous lung cancer. While that much may be beneficial, my caution would be to watch your teeth enamel carefully. Your dentist may tell you that you are harming your enamel with that much acidity coming in contact with it. While I am not a doctor or researcher, my common sense tells me that including the zest of lemon or limes (organic please!) in your water or recipes would be better than that much juice.
  • Lemon and lime juice are one of your liver’s best friends! It kickstarts your liver into action for the day. Our livers are one of the hardest working organs in the body with digestion and detoxification being only two of the very important functions it performs. Lemon/lime juice supports that liver function by assisting in the production of liver enzymes and bile. The natural antiseptic qualities can kill bacteria.
  • Drinking lemon or lime water before a meal can help with digestive issues such as heartburn/acid refux (which are more often a symptom of low stomach acid vs. too much acid).
  • Adding juice to warm water is best for digestion. Cold water is very hard on digestion and tends to hinder it. Too hot water will kill the enzymes in freshly squeezed juice. Their are benefits to drinking lemon or lime water 30 minutes before all of your meals.

Organic lemons seem to be much more plentiful than limes. I don’t know why, but that seems to be the case where I live. Either use conventional limes for their juice (skipping the zest) or purchase bottled organic lime juice – not from concentrate, which is available in health stores.