Monday, December 17, 2012

14. The Garden

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“And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.”

In our garden we find the veggies and herbs. I like to picture my garden as a series of raised beds. Just a personal thing. I think that looks prettier than traditional rows.

Here we find lettuce, greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, broccoli, celery, eggplant, oh, I could go on and on. Let’s talk about categories.

The "Green leafies" such as Romaine lettuce, and spinach, are high in vitamin A. (I don’t like my greens cooked at all. I prefer them in a salad. However, many like them lightly sautéed in just a touch of butter). This vitamin is good for your eyes, skin, and blood clotting ability. They are also high in calcium (two cups of raw spinach has the same calcium as a cup of milk).

The darker the green the more vitamins and minerals. Iceberg (“normal” lettuce) doesn’t have very much more than water and fiber and not much of those, so choose the loose leaf, dark green lettuce when you can.

Did you know that Dandelion greens (the leaf, not the stem) are in the same class? Dandelions

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  • Reduce Swelling And Inflammation
  • Treat Viruses
  • Jaundice
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and are very high in calcium. This common “weed” is often used as a medicinal herb and is incredibly high in vitamins (often higher than spinach). Yes, instead of poisoning the weeds in your front lawn, you should go eat them!

Umm, you may want to pick them and take them inside. The neighbors might think you have flipped if you go grazing. (I am only hitting the high spots on vitamins and minerals. These foods have many, many more nutrients that I am not discussing.)

You should have at least two servings of greens per day. A serving of veggies is the same size as a serving of fruit (one hand full), so a big salad has two or more servings of greens. Have you ever tried fresh spinach greens on your hamburger instead of iceberg lettuce? Tastes a lot like lettuce but with WAY more vitamins. Do a little research and experiment!

Reds: Tomatoes are relatively high in vitamin C and can count as part of a citrus serving. And when they are cooked, they actually increases their cancer and heart-disease fighting chemicals. So enjoy plenty of spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, ketchup, salsa and any other tomato based products you want.

Red peppers are higher in vitamin C than green. In fact, take any color over green if you can afford it because of higher vitamins, though the green bell peppers are packed, too.

Other peppers are high in vitamin C and the “hot” increases your metabolism and suppresses your appetite (for several hours afterward!)

Orange veggies, such as carrots and pumpkins, contain Beta Carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A. Beta Carotene is also used for many cellular functions. In fact, all the things we think about when we think of veggies (except corn, peas, and potatoes. They are in the bread and grain class nutritionally) are very high in A and B vitamins, calcium and other minerals, and fiber.

You should have at least three servings per day total, and as with the fruit, more is better. Frozen may actually be better than fresh since frozen veggies are picked at the peak of ripeness and flash frozen, preserving all the nutrients. Fresh produce is often picked before it is ripe and shipped to the stores. That squash you are looking at may have been off the vine as long as two weeks, losing nutrients every hour since it was picked.

Let's see, a big green salad with tomato, red sweet pepper slices, cucumber, carrot slices, celery chunks, drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice or topped with salsa, and with chopped nuts and raisins. Sounds good! Hmmm, maybe I had better go eat some lunch.

Herbs are used for four main purposes: food, medicines, flavorings, and decorations (for the eyes and the nose.)

Many things we call herbs (Alfalfa, Dandelion, Raspberry leaf, etc.) are actually foods equal, or superior, to the more common veggies on our dinner tables such as iceberg lettuce, broccoli, green beans, etc. They can be eaten freely without worry.

As far as medicines go, I believe that God didn't leave humanity with no relief for common ailments for thousands of years. He has provided help in the form of garlic to boost the immune system, Aloe Vera and Plantain to sooth cuts, burns and skin abrasions, Feverfew to reduce fever and calm headaches, Dandelion roots to help blood sugar issues, Peppermint for stomach upset, Chamomile to sooth the nerves, and on and on. I have only begun to study this area, but am amazed at the things our God has provided to all of humanity throughout the ages. Gee, you would think He cared about us or something.

(See “The ABC Herbal,” “The How To Herb Book,” anything by Shonda Parker or Rachael Weaver, and many other good herb books out there. The Easlings at have a wide selection of herbs for sale and a great deal of information available for free on their website.)

Now I am not saying we shouldn't ever use modern medicines. They have their place (such as when my daughter broke her arm) and I am thankful for them. But many times we are too quick to look to human doctors as if they were divine.

"I have purple spots on my hair, so I will see a doctor. He says I should take medicine X three times a day, so that must be what I need”

"Gee Doc, why does my arm twitch now that I am taking medicine X?"

“Oh you need medicine Y to counteract that."

"Medicine Y gave me hives on the bottom of my feet."

"Then you need medicine Z, too" and on it goes until we are all a walking Pharmacy.

The truth is, doctors are not required to take nutrition in college. They are required to take Pharmaceuticals (pill classes- most medical schools are supported in large part by donations from Pharmaceutical companies).  Herbs classes aren't even offered at most medical schools.

Doctors are human, make mistakes, and are limited in knowledge. When they hear a complaint they immediately think of what they have heard to solve it. But all pharmaceuticals have side effects. Just some more than others.

Here is the wise way to deal with medicines;
  • If you have an ailment, try changing your lifestyle first to take care of it (eat more fruits and veggies, drink more water, exercise more, reduce your stress, etc. No negative side effects whether it works or not.) 
  • If that doesn't work, check out the most natural treatments (herbs) you can find (few side effects if taken in recommended doses. More is not always better in herbs anymore than it is in pharmaceuticals. More than the recommended dose of Aspirin will harm your body in stead of help it. Same for Feverfew and other herbs). 
  • If they don't work, try over the counter medications (some side effects). 
  • And if that fails see your doctor for a prescription (more side affects). 
  • Only if that doesn't work consider surgery (potentially fatal). 
This of course doesn't apply to emergencies such as breaking your leg or having a heart attack (no amount of Dandelion Salad will fix a broken arm).

America has the best emergency care on the planet and you don't want to be anywhere else if you need immediate attention than in one of our doctor's offices.

But for lesser complaints, it only makes sense to use that cure that will provide relief with the least amount of harmful side effects.

Many of the herbs used medicinally can and are used for flavorings in cooking. All cooking herbs (Garlic, Onions, Peppers, Rosemary, Thyme, Sage, etc.) provide at least some vitamins, so use them freely. Generally, the fresher the better.

The decorative herbs are good for the soul. God made us to enjoy being surrounded by beauty. We need that in our heart, so pretty flowers, interesting grasses and all the sweet smelling things in the world are good for you even if you only put them on your table instead of in your food. Edith Schaeffer in The Hidden Art of Homemaking says "If you can only afford two loaves of bread or a loaf of bread and a bouquet of flowers, buy the flowers." I agree. Don't starve your soul for those things God has made for our pleasure.

Did you know some flowers are edible? Roses, Violets, Dandelions (the flower, not the stem. The stem is poisonous), Imagine what a pretty salad that would make? Or a stir fry with flowers, broccoli, cauliflower, fresh green beans, bell peppers, maybe a few potatoes or yams, some nuts, and water with a dash of olive oil. Yummm. These are all very high in vitamins. Just make sure they were not grown with any pesticides or herbicides. You don’t want to poison yourself.

One major benefit of a high plant diet is that veggies and fruit are higher in fiber. The shear bulk of these foods physically fill up your stomach without providing more calories. You eat more veggies; you feel fuller but are taking in fewer calories. They are harder to eat (you have to actually chew them) so your meals last longer and are more emotionally satisfying (besides chomping uses more calories than gulping).

And those who eat a high-vegetable diet simply have fewer digestive complaints (Constipation [less than one bowel movement per meal], diarrhea, diverticulitis, hemorrhoids, gas, stomach cancer, besides less cases of diabetes, over all cancer, and heart disease). Those who immigrate to the US or England from Africa suddenly have trouble with digestion, while those who go to Africa from these countries and adopt the local diet soon find they have NO digestive complaints.

God wants what is best for us. That is why He has made the rules He has made. He knows what is best far better than we do. He provided a variety of foods in a variety of colors and textures for Adam and Eve to eat.

I am not saying we should all quit eating meat. In fact, for reasons I will go into later, I believe we need meat. But most Americans need to eat way, way more fruits and veggies than we do.

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