Lungwort

Pulmonaria Officinalis

Lungwort is a perennial herb that normally grows up to a height of one feet or 30 cm. The plant bears wide oval shaped leaves at the base, while the upper leaves are relatively smaller marked with the irregular color pattern, especially white spots. The lungwort plants also bear bunches of pink-purple colored flowers.

Going by the Middle Ages Doctrine of Signatures, an ancient European philosophy, herbs bearing parts that resembled human body parts, animals, or other objects, had useful relevancy to those parts, objects or animals. It may as well indicate to the surroundings or specific places in which herbs grew. Following this theory, lungwort is effective in treating chest ailments and hence its leaves bear resemblance to the lung tissues.

The lungwort plant is native to Europe and western Asia and belongs to the family of Boraginaceae and the Pulmonaria genus of flowering plants. One species of the plant – P. mollissima – is found in the region spreading from east to central Asia. Rough estimates prepared by various herbalists list around 10 to 18 species of Pulmonaria growing in the wild. However, researchers have found it extremely difficult and perplexing to classify or categorize (taxonomy) this species of the plant.

Interestingly, the scientific term Pulmonaria has been obtained from the Latin word Pulmo literally translated to English means ‘the lung’. During the period of ‘sympathetic magic’ (magic based on the belief that somebody or something can be supernaturally affected by something done to an object representing the person or thing) people were of the view that the white spots on the oval leaves of P. Officinalis were a sign of unhealthy lungs affected by ulcers. Consequently, they widely used the lungwort or medicines prepared from its derivatives to treat all pulmonary diseases. Significantly, owing to its properties to heal pulmonary diseases or infections of the lungs, the plant’s name in many languages refers to the lungs.

For instance, in English, it is known as ‘lungwort’, while in German it is called ‘Lungenkraut’. On the other hand, in some languages in Eastern Europe, the plant derives its common name from a word of ‘honey’. Like in Russian it is known as ‘medunitza’, while the Polish call it ‘miodunka plamista’ – both terms meaning ‘honey’ in the respective languages. In addition, in English lungwort also has many colloquial or idiomatic names – Soldiers and Sailors, Spotted Dog, Joseph and Mary, Jerusalem, Cowslip and Bethlehem Sage.

Plant Part Used

Leaves.

Herbal Remedy Use

The mucilage (a gummy substance secreted by some plants) properties of lungwort make it immensely helpful in treating chest problems, especially chronic bronchitis. In addition, lungwort may be blended with other herbs like coltsfoot for an effectual remedy for chronic coughs and also be administered for alleviating asthma. A combination of lungwort and coltsfoot is particularly effective in curing whooping cough. In addition, lungwort may also be used in curing ailments like a sore throat as well as jamming. Years ago, physicians applied lungwort for coughing up blood released owing to tubercular contagion. It may be mentioned here that leaves of lungwort plant are astringent (a substance that draws tissue together) in nature and are frequently used to impede bleeding.

The leaves, as well as the flowering shoots of lungwort, possess diuretic, astringent, demulcent (soothing), a little expectorant, emollient (relaxing) and resolvent (solvent) attributes. These parts of the herb are frequently employed for their curative impact when an individual is suffering from pulmonary ailments and their mucilaginous character makes these parts useful in the treatment of sore throats. The leaves as well as the flowering stems of lungwort are harvested during the spring and dried up for use when necessary afterward. Distilled water prepared from this herb is known to be effectual eyewash for healing tired eyes. In addition, a homeopathic remedy is also prepared using this herb. This homeopathic medication is employed to cure coughs, bronchitis as well as diarrhea.

Culinary 

The leaves of the herb lungwort also have culinary uses and they can be consumed either raw or after being cooked. The leaves may also be included in salads or employed in the form of a potherb. The leaves of lungwort have a rather insipid taste, but they have low fiber content and are favourable for being added into salads, despite their somewhat hairy and mucilaginous texture. However, the leaves of this herb are less acceptable for consumption on their own owing to these attributes. When cooked, the tender leaves of lungwort make a delicious vegetable. Nevertheless, the texture of the leaves has been found to be slightly oily. It may be noted that lungwort forms an element of the beverage known as Vermouth.

Habitat

Having its origin in Europe and the Caucasus, lungwort grows best in meadows at the foot of mountains and in humid locations. The leaves of lungwort are normally harvested in the latter part of spring.

The herb lungwort thrives well in any type of reasonably good soil, counting heavy clay soils. This herb has a preference for partial shade in a damp soil rich in humus content. Lungwort thrives well in shady places, especially beside tall buildings. The lungwort plants cultivated in shady locales are able to endure drought provided the soil has rich humus content. The leaves of this herb have a tendency to wither during hot weather in places where the herb is cultivated in full sunlight. The plants are resilient up to approximately 20ºC. Plants belonging to this genus are seldom if ever, bothered by rabbits and deer. Lungwort plants are a precious early on resource of nectar, especially for bees. This species has numerous named varieties, and are chosen for their decorative worth. Lungwort easily hybridizes with other plants belonging to the same genus.

Lungwort is generally propagated by its seeds, which are sown in a greenhouse during the spring. When the seedlings have grown adequately big to be handled, prick them out independently and plant them in separate containers. The young plants need to be grown in a greenhouse during the first year of their existence. The plants may be transplanted outdoors into the permanent locations during the later part of spring or early summer when the last anticipated frost has passed.

Alternately, lungwort may also be propagated by means of root division done either during the spring or in autumn. In case the soil is not very arid, the root division may also be undertaken during the early part of summer following the flowering season of the plants. Propagating lungwort through root division is extremely simple and you may directly plant the larger divisions outdoors into their permanent locations. It has, however, been found that it is better to grow the smaller divisions initially in pots in a cold frame in a slightly shady location. When these are properly established, they may be planted outdoors in their permanent positions during the later part of spring or in early summer.

Constituents

Chemical analysis of lungwort has shown that the herb encloses tannins, flavonoids, saponins, vitamin C. However, dissimilar to many other members of the borage family, lungwort does not comprise pyrrolizidine alkaloids.

Infusions and Tinctures

Lungwort can be ingested both as an infusion as well as a tincture. To prepare an infusion of the herb, add one to two teaspoons of dried up lungwort in a cup of boiling water and leave it to permeate for around 10 to 15 minutes. An individual should drink the infusion prepared from lungwort thrice daily. In the case of your favor lungwort tincture, ingest 1 ml to 4 ml of the herbal tincture daily.

Mexican Mint Marigold

This very ancient herb goes by a variety of common, but somewhat confusing names. ‘Mexican mint’ marigold is the most common, but you’ll also find it listed as ‘Texas’ tarragon, ‘Mexican’ tarragon, cloud plant, coronilla, winter tarragon, sweet mace, sweet marigold and ‘Spanish’ tarragon. It isn’t, however, related to ‘French’ tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus ‘Sativa’) at all.

Don’t confuse ‘French’ tarragon, which is used for cooking, with false or ‘Russian’ tarragon, A. dracunculoides, because it is somewhat invasive, grows well in hotter climates, and is grown from seed.

The Latin name, Tagetes Lucida, refers to its other Tagetes relatives, the marigolds. ‘Mint’ marigold is a perennial, native to Central and South America and has been used as a seasoning herb, tea plant and medicinal in native cultures for more than a thousand years.

The flavor is anise-like, a bit sweeter than ‘French’ tarragon, but used in some of the same ways as that herb. Dried leaves are used in soups, sauces, and main dishes. Unlike ‘French’ tarragon, it doesn’t retain its best flavor when dried, ‘mint’ marigold dries quite well. However, its best flavor is from the fresh leaves, chopped and used in dishes such as chicken salad, tossed green salads and even fresh pesto sauces over tacos.

mexican-mint-marigold-tagetes-lucida_2

Medicinal uses include treatment for upset stomach, for stimulating the appetite, as a diuretic and stimulating beverage. There are reports from various parts of Mexico and the southern United States of message-carrying long-distance runners using especially strong mint marigold tea to give them strength and stamina; the robust tea acting similar to the caffeine in strong coffee. Traditionally, the leaves were an important flavoring for chocolatl, the foamy, stimulating cocoa drink of the ancient Aztecs.

‘Mexican mint’ marigold does well in regions where ‘French’ tarragon struggles. For example, ‘French’ tarragon doesn’t thrive in the hotter southern states. Even in the Missouri and Arkansas Ozarks, ‘French’ tarragon suffers from the heat, but ‘Mexican mint’ marigold thrives in hot climates.

You can grow ‘Mexican mint’ marigold in any average garden soil. Depending on your climate, you may grow it as a perennial or an annual. While ‘Mexican mint’ marigold is said to be hardy in Zones 8 to 11, from my own experience it will grow easily in Zones 6 and 7, if mulched well in the fall. The plant expands into a small clump in the second year and can withstand temperatures as low as 5 degrees Fahrenheit, provided it has 6 to 12 inches of straw mulch piled on the plant after the first frost in the fall.

Sow the ‘Mexican mint’ marigold seed in early spring indoors and transplant into the garden after danger of frost, or direct sow in the garden; you can also grow it in a patio container. Seed germination takes 5 to 15 days. The plant requires all-day sunshine and will grow anywhere tomatoes, peppers or basil will grow. If grown as an annual, you will likely not see it flower since it requires a long growing season. (In my own garden, where we sometimes don’t have a killing frost before the first of November, I have some early flowering). The plant reaches 15 to 20 inches in height and about as broad. It is somewhat drought tolerant, but you will get better growth and fuller plants by watering occasionally.

Begin harvesting leaves when the plant has reached about 12 inches in height, clipping sprigs or individual leaves for tea or seasoning. If the plant does flower, the small, bright yellow flowers are good additions to salads, as a garnish and for weavers; the flowers can produce a nice yellow dye.

‘Mexican mint’ marigold is an attractive plant in the landscape, as well. With shiny, dark green leaves, it works well with roses and perennials in border areas and requires little maintenance. The plant has no persistent insect pests (an occasional grasshopper will taste a leaf) and when in flower, butterflies visit. Otherwise, it’s trouble-free.

Try your favorite brownie recipe and add 3 tablespoons of freshly chopped ‘Mexican mint’ marigold leaves. You may be surprised how well the herb blends with chocolate (or maybe not, since the ancient Aztecs regularly used it with their ‘chocolatl’ drink).

Make a pleasant-tasting cup of tea by using 1 teaspoon of freshly chopped ‘Mexican mint’ marigold leaves and pour 1 cup of boiling water over them in a cup. Cover the cup with a saucer to hold in the steam while the hot water extracts the flavor. Sweeten, or not, and enjoy the flavor of this ancient herb.

Orris Root

Iris pallida

Also, Known As

  • Dalmatian Iris
  • Orris Root
  • Sweet Iris

The term orris root is used to denote the roots of a number of species, including Iris germanica, Iris pallida and Iris florentina. They have a very sweet fragrance, which is more distinct in some bearded irises compared to others. The aroma of the flowers of a particular species known as Iris pallida, is considered to be the best. In fact, it is difficult for one to miss the characteristic fragrance of this flower, which blooms during spring. Just take a sniff of the aroma and you will surely admit that its smell is akin to that of grape soda.

The flowers of Iris pallida measure about four inches in diameter and appear in the later part of spring. Every branched stem of this plant bears anything between two and six attractive pale bluish-purple blooms.

Native to Croatia, this plant is not only popular for the typical fragrance of its flowers. Gardeners look for this plant as well as grow it for its wonderful multi-colored foliage, which is equally attractive as its flowers. The plant normally grows up to a height of two feet and bears clusters of broad and stiff leaves. Clusters of these green and creamy yellow plants may be used to enhance the look of any woodland garden. A white-and-green variety of this plant is also available.

Like in the case of other iris species, there are numerous different ways in which you can use the Iris pallida plants in your garden. You can plant them with different bulbs with a view to create a vibrant, multicolored spring show. In fact, these plants accentuate the beauty of any perennial bed. The foliage alone of these plants is so attractive that it enhances the eminence of the plants in your garden. The plants grow up to a moderate height and this makes it possible to grow them in pots and place them in appropriate locations to attract attention as well as augment the beauty of the place.

As it is not difficult to grow Iris pallida, it is possible to plant this species anywhere you wish to and enjoy their beauty perpetually. You only need to provide these plants with some nourishment during the flowering season and shade during the midday to ensure that they readily multiply their clumps. Among all varieties of bearded irises, this species is considered to be the hardiest plant. In fact, when grown in places having mild climatic conditions, the foliage of the plant will remain almost throughout the year. However, deer do not browse on this species, even if they do, the plants have the aptitude to resist the invasion. The plants also provide us aromatic cut flowers making them one of the most favored bearded iris varieties.

This iris species is also called Dalmatian iris for the reason that it is indigenous to Croatia’s Dalmatia province, where it has been cultivated for several centuries. In fact, Iris pallida is a forerunner of the present-day bearded irises. Occasionally, people cultivate this species as an orris source, which is obtained from the plant’s rhizomes and used in the manufacture of perfumes and also breath fresheners.

Pallida is a Latin term that denotes pale, while the word Dalmatica implies ‘from Dalmatia’. Often, this species is also called “The Sweet Iris”. However, it is also referred to as Iris odoratissima and Iris glauca. This species is indigenous to Dalmatia, the European Alps and Crimea.

Many botanists are of the view that although people cultivated Iris pallida since much before 1600, the species was named officially only in 1789. This plant is a favourite of several gardeners owing to its endurance power and aroma. The plant has broad bluish-green foliage that resembles a sword. Although the firm spikes of the plant are poorly branched, each of them bears as many as eight lavender-blue aromatic blooms. It is easy to distinguish Iris pallida, as its flowers are papery and its large and colourful bracts (spathes) often cover the buds having yellowish beards. This species keeps growing in beautiful clumps, which do not divide for several months together.

The blooms of Iris pallida have more of lilac blue and are widely used by gardeners hybridizing plants for the vital underpinning of the present-day hybrid species known as the Tall Bearded Iris. Provided the plants of this species are grown in a well-drained soil and sunlit position, they grow vigorously and are very hardy. This iris variety is most widely used for producing orris root. The aromatic dehydrated rhizomes of these plants are used for making perfumes. Iris pallida is cultivated in large fields in the region around Florence and the magnificent blue carpet formed by their flowers during May every year will leave you awe-struck.

Plant Part Used:

Root.

Uses For Iris Pallida Roots:

Iris pallida root has numerous uses and supplies Orris powder, which has a high demand in perfumery industry. The dried up roots of the plant are pulverized to obtain Orris, whose aroma is akin to that of violets. In addition to being used in the form of a fixative in perfumes as well as potpourri, Orris root is also used in the manufacture of breath fresheners, toothpastes and similar products. It is also widely used in the form of a food essence.

It may take several years for Iris pallida roots to dry properly so as to develop the right fragrance. The flavour of the fresh root of this plant is acrid and it is almost fragrance-free. The fresh roots yield an essential oil and it can be used for the same purposes for which the dried roots are used. The root also yields a black dye, while the flowers yield a blue dye. Besides growing the plants for its attractive, aromatic flowers and its roots, you may also cultivate Iris pallida for ground cover. The roots of this plant are so densely matted that they do not allow any weed to grow.

Occasionally, the juice extracted from Iris pallid roots is employed in the form of a cosmetic and it also helps to get rid of freckles on the skin. The juice obtained from the fresh roots is a potent cleanser and can be used effectively for treating dropsy (a condition that was earlier known as edema).

The dried roots can be pounded into a powder and used to flavor foods. In fact, the fresh root is almost neutral and does not have any fragrance. It generally takes many years for the dried roots to develop their characteristic fragrance. The dried roots of Iris pallida yield an essential oil called the “Orris oil”, which is used to add essence to sweets, soft drinks, chewing gums and other food products.

Growing Iris Pallida:

Iris pallida needs a well-drained limey soil and sunlit position to achieve optimum growth. When grown in sunlit position, it is very easy to cultivate this plant in any common garden soil. Its preferred pH level ranges between 6.0 and 7.5. However, it can grow well in soils having a higher pH. Plants that have established themselves well possess the aptitude to tolerate drought conditions.

Iris pallida is mainly cultivated for the essential oil contained in its roots, particularly in Italy. The flowers of this plant have a sweet aroma that will possibly remind you of orange blossoms. Some people also compare the aroma of Iris pallida flowers to that of vanilla, grape or civet. This is a very vigorously growing species. The rhizome of this plant should be placed slightly above the level of the soil. Plants belonging to this genus are seldom, if ever, disturbed by rabbits or browsing deer.

Propagation: Iris pallida is mainly propagated by its seeds, which should be ideally sown in a cold frame immediately after they ripen. When the seedlings have grown large enough to be handled, you should prick them out individually and plant them in separate containers or pots and continue growing them in a cold frame or a greenhouse at least for the first year of their existence. The grown up young plants can be planted outdoors into their permanent positions either during the end of spring or the early part of summer.

It is also possible to cultivate Iris pallida by means of root division. Although it is best to undertake root division of this plant soon after its flowering season, you can also do it throughout the year. Growing this plant from its root divisions is very easy and you can directly plant the larger root clumps outdoors in their permanent position. However, if the clumps are small you should plant them in pots and continue growing them in a cold frame till they root properly. Ideally, you should plant them outdoors during the spring.

The soft young shoots may be victims of snail and slug invasions. In addition, bacterial infections may result in extensive discoloration (blighting) of the leaves. Other problems may include crown disintegration or decay.

Constituents:

Chemical analysis of orris root has revealed that it primarily contains the oil of orris in measures of anything between 0.1 percent and 0.2 percent. Oil of orris is a pale yellowish to yellow mass that encloses approximately 85 percent of neutral or fragrance-free myristic acid, which is apparently released from a type of fat found in the plant’s rhizome when it is processed or steam distilled. Commercially, the oil of orris is known as Orris butter.

In addition to the oil of orris, the plant also contains resin, fat, large amounts of starch, a bitter-tasting extract, mucilage and a glucoside called iridin. It is important that you don’t mistake iridin for the powdered extract called irisin or iridin. In fact, the extract iridin or irisin is made from the rhizome of another Iris species known as the Iris versicolor, which is basically an American plant.

Possible Side Effects and Precautions:

As several plants belonging to this genus are believed to be poisonous when taken orally, it is advised that you exercise caution while using these plants. In fact, the roots of these plants are more likely to be noxious. In some people, these plants may cause allergies and skin irritations.

Lamb’s Quarter

Lambs quarter is one of the most common weeds in gardens, backyards, and fallow fields, following human habitation closely. If you add horse or cow manure to your garden you will have a steady supply of these tasty wild greens for most of spring and summer. Easy to recognize with its alternate, triangle-to-diamond shaped leaves which are coated on the underside with a whitish gray powdery meal resembling flour. This coating may sometimes possess a coppery-fuchsia sheen and is sold as a cultivar called “magenta spreen” in some garden catalogs. The coating is a natural part of the leaf and is fine to eat. Put a leaf under water and the meal will cause the water to bead up in a beautiful iridescent fashion. Lamb’s quarter grows to 3-5 feet and is a branching annual with a grooved stem which is often tinged with red, especially at the node, or leaf joint.

 Chenopodium album, the scientific name of Lambs quarter, translates to white goosefoot and refers to both the white mealy covering and the leaves resemblance to the webbed foot of a goose. In the same family as quinoa, beets, spinach and chard, (the Chenopodiaceae), Lamb’s-quarter has been eaten in Europe and Asia since Neolithic times as evidenced by the seeds presence in archeological digs. Native to Eurasia, lambs quarter quickly followed the European settlers and was incorporated into the diets of the Native peoples of the Americas. Currently eaten in Japan, South Africa, Europe and the Americas, this cosmopolitan weed is appreciated by many cultures palates.  Its English name, fat hen, and its country name, pigweed, both refer to its use as a food for animals. (The name pigweed is also used for wild Amaranth – another common edible garden weed) There are several explanations for the origins of lambs- quarter’s name. One hypothesis is that the shape of the leaf is reminiscent of a cut of lamb meat, the quarter. Another theory is that a close relative of Lambs quarter, orache, was an integral part of the pagan harvest celebration on the first of August -Lammas Quarter.

The tender top two inches are picked and steamed, sautéed or added to soups and have a flavor similar to its close relative, spinach. I like to make a tofu quiche every spring from the tender tops of nettles, wild amaranth, and lambs-quarters. Rich in Vitamins A, C, B1 and B2; iron and protein, this nutrient dense green is worth letting be in the garden where it is not out-competing planted vegetables. I often let it grow in between tomatoes, okra or peppers when they are still young and don’t need as much space and pull the lambs –quarter as the veggies fill out. Lambs quarter requires no cultivation and is relatively disease and insect free. Compare this to many of our cooking greens in the mustard family such as collards and kale which require vigilant bug protection in the southeast. As I write this article my mustard family greens are riddled with holes from the flea beetle and the edible weeds such as lambs quarter are showing no signs of damage from the beetles, nor the drought. Rethinking our current cultures agriculture and culinary paradigms, we can adapt our tastes to the relative ease and nutrition of our weeds.

One last note about lambs quarter: like its close relatives spinach and chard, it contains oxalates and should be consumed lightly if a person has kidney stones, kidney disease or gout. If the diet is varied with many different vegetables, the oxalates are not a problem. Also, remember to never pick any wild greens close to a road or in heavily sprayed fields as the plants may accumulate heavy metals or toxic amounts of nitrates in these situations.

Some years ago I thought to bring some of my favorite wild edibles to the farmers market where we were selling organically grown vegetables. I set out pretty baskets filled with tidy bundles of pigweed (Amaranthus sp.), purslane (Portulaca oleracea) and Lambs quarter accompanied by little signs explaining the preparation and nutritional value of these tasty greens. I also thought a yummy sample of the greens would inspire people to move beyond any fears of eating an unknown vegetable, especially a “weed”. As it turns out we did not develop a wild following or even a tiny demand for our weeds, but people went crazy for the sample – wild greens pate. We ended up selling just as much wild greens pate as fresh salsa and pesto. Wild greens pate freezes well and works well where ever you would use pesto – tossed over veggies and pasta, as a base to a green or white pizza (no marinara) or as a dip for crackers, raw carrots, and celery. Last week I made delicious green lasagna with wild greens pate and added more steamed lambs quarters instead of the traditional spinach.

Happy foraging and may your gardens be bountiful!

Wild Greens Pate

  • Sautee 3 chopped cloves of garlic in extra virgin olive oil for a few minutes in a deep pot
  • Add the washed tender tops of purslane, lamb’s quarters and pigweed (about 7 big handfuls)
  • Saute until tender and add tamari or soy sauce to taste
  • Blend in a blender or food processor with more olive oil, nutritional yeast and your choice of raw nuts
  • Be creative with your ingredients – miso, freshly grated parmesan cheese and raw garlic are just some of the many ways you can put a little twist on this recipe.
  • Note: This recipe is still delicious even if you only have one of these wild greens. Nettles and lady’s thumbs are other wild greens which blend well with lambs quarters.

The Antioxidants – Free-Radical Fighters

Antioxidants are basically a specific type of molecules that protect our body from the damages caused by the detrimental free radicals. Precisely speaking, antioxidants work as defenses against the disparaging actions of free radicals produced by our body during different processes. In this article we shall concentrate on the four major antioxidant nutrients – vitamin C, vitamin E,  beta carotene and selenium, as well as other natural antioxidants which show the maximum potential for the medical treatment.

The expression ‘antioxidant’ may appear to be somewhat complex, but, in reality, it is very easy to comprehend. While the prefix ‘Anti’ denotes ‘against’, the word ‘oxidant’ refers to reactive substances which accept electrons from other substances, which is, free radicals.

The term ‘oxidant’ has been derived from the word ‘oxygen’. When you allow oils and meat to remain outside for a prolonged period, they start decomposing. In fact, oxidants are involved in the rancidity of these substances by means of a process known as oxidation. Precisely speaking, oxidation occurs when oxygen reacts with proteins and fatty acids to develop into free radicals, which are eventually responsible for decay. Another instance of oxidation is rusting, which is a reaction between oxygen and iron forming a fragile, peeling substance known as ferrous oxide or rust. Therefore, all things such as oxidation, decay, decomposition and burning express similar things – in brief, destruction caused by free radicals.

In effect, awareness regarding free radicals started as late as in the 1930’s. This came to the light for the first time when a chemist at the Rockefeller Institute of the United States, Leonor Micaelis was perplexed over the cause of oils turning stale. In those days, the findings of Leonor were stimulating and they prompted great interest in the functions of the free radicals in our every day lives.

Consequently, antioxidants combat the harmful oxidation by means of counteracting the free radicals, which are responsible for the damages. It may be noted that the electron in a free radical does not occur in a pair and steals the missing electron from a normal molecule, making it a free radical. This is an unending process. In such a situation, an antioxidant actually supplies the mislaid electron or takes away the additional electron with a view to make the free radical stable. Subsequently, the antioxidant turns into a free radical, but its structure is such that it is several times less volatile and does not harm the other normal molecules. Unlike in the case of free radicals, the process of stealing or donating electrons stops when an antioxidant stabilizes a free radical. Additional biochemical developments only help to make the antioxidant process comprehensive, thereby, turning off a free radical unharmed.

In fact, the similarity of a nail lying on a freeway may also be useful in describing the manner in which antioxidants work. Provided the sweeper has been successful in removing the nail from the highway prior to a car running over the piece of metal, it would help in avoiding much damage. Alternately, provided the tires of the car are shielded with impassable coatings, the nail would not be able to cause a puncture even if the car runs over it. On the other hand, if the nail remains on the highway and any car with ordinary tires run over it, there will be considerable damage. For that reason, the antioxidants work like the highway sweeper or the impenetrable seals on the tires and put off any possible damage.

There are several different types of antioxidants within our body that protect us from ailments and other health problems. These antioxidants may comprise nutrients, amino acids, enzymes, proteins as well as other bio-chemicals.

Antioxidant Enzymes

antioxidant-rich-foodsEnzymes that function as antioxidants are produced within our body. These enzymes set off the developments those eventually guide the unnecessary, detrimental vigor of the free radicals to engender undamaging substances like water as well as regular oxygen. Primarily, there are three such enzymes, which include catalase, glutathione peroxidase and superoxide dismutase.

The enzymes mentioned above are produced as well as work as antioxidants in majority of the cells in our body. In all respects, these enzymes are a part of ourselves. In the absence of the defending actions we would factually become flawed very easily. One of the reasons why dead flesh decomposes so rapidly is that these enzymes neither exist nor function in the dead cells of the dead flesh.

More often than not, the body responds to the existence of more free radicals by augmenting the production of enzymes that function as antioxidants within our body. An ideal example of this is the skilled athletes who, in comparison to majority of the people, generally possess elevated levels of these enzymes. Their bodies are attuned to tackle with the increased free radicals produced due to enhanced metabolism of arduous work outs.

On the other hand, the pressure and tensions of contemporary way of life coupled with the toxic side-effects of technology have augmented the burden of free radicals that we all have got to cope with. In fact, the preceding generations were not afflicted by problems like air pollution,pesticides, industrial wastes as well as deposits of herbicides and several other sources that generate free radicals. Therefore, the aptitude of our body to produce adequate amounts of enzymes that function as antioxidants is likely to be under pressure and may perhaps turn out to be deficient.

Other Antioxidants

In addition to the antioxidant enzymes, there are also different other categories of antioxidant substances. There are a number of artificial or man-made antioxidants, including butylated hydroxyanisole (BRA), dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), which are employed in the form of pharmaceutical agents as well as food additives. Additional normal antioxidants comprise amino acids containing sulfur and proteins, for instance, glutathione and cysteine, uric acid as well as several substances that are obtained from herbs.

Antioxidant Nutrients

Majority of the clinical trials make use of antioxidant nutrients for the purpose of human supplementation since they are not only most useful, but also inexpensive options. Among the various antioxidant nutrients the ones that are most useful in neutralizing free radicals are vitamin C, beta carotene (provitamin A), vitamin E and the vital trace mineral selenium.

Different from the enzymes that function as antioxidants, our body is unable to produce the antioxidant nutrients. Instead, the foods we ingest, such as vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts and whole grains, supply these antioxidant nutrients in sufficient amounts. When these antioxidant nutrients are soaked up by the body during the digestive process, they pass through the bloodstream and concentrate in every cell as well as organ of our body with a view to combat free radicals. While they continue to extinguish the free radicals, the antioxidant nutrients become inactive, while some of them may possibly be reactivated later, and are ultimately removed from the body. As a consequence, it is necessary to continuously reload antioxidant nutrients by means of taking healthy diets. This is something akin to calories which need to be replenished all the time to keep up the energy levels.

It may be noted that the antioxidant nutrients work in harmony like a team to douse the free radicals. Time and again, the antioxidant nutrients also work in combination with additional categories of antioxidants, for instance the enzymes or synthetic antioxidants. It is worth mentioning here that no antioxidant functions in seclusion, but every one of them is an element of complicated biochemical series, something akin to the bucket brigades organized to extinguish the ‘fires’ attributable to the harmful free radicals. Simultaneously, all antioxidants possess a distinctive chemical arrangement as well as character, and they work in several specific functions, besides those performed as antioxidants.

The Best Antioxidant-Rich Foods

berriesBesides being refreshingly sweet, several types of berries, for instance, strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, provide us with plenty of antioxidants. Precisely speaking, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries enclose high amounts of proanthocyanidins – antioxidants that possess the aptitude to put off cancer as well as heart ailments. You may consume them in a drink in the morning, blend some on top of yogurt or cereal you eat in the morning or take delight in them in the form of a snack during the afternoon.

Among all the nourishing vegetables available, broccoli surely is the best, as this cruciferous vegetable encloses far more vitamin C compared to an orange, which the calcium content of broccoli is more in comparison to a glass of milk. Apart from being loaded with vitamins and minerals, broccoli is also packed with chemicals called phytonutrients that help us to combat numerous diseases. Broccoli also encloses another chemical called sulforaphane, which has been found to diminish the chances of developing several types of cancers. You may consume broccoli by steaming or boiling it. Alternately, you may also season broccoli using salsa or lemon to prepare a delectable side dish. In fact, broccoli is a powerhouse of several nutrients and it goes extremely well with salads, omelettes or even stir-fries.

People throughout the world use garlic in the form of a appetizing seasoning agent for almost all types of dishes. In fact, garlic offers numerous health benefits and these have been publicized in different countries for several centuries. For instance, people have been traditionally using raw garlic in the form of a natural antibiotic to eliminate various strains of dangerous bacteria. In addition, garlic is also employed to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, get rid of heavy metals from our body, and also put off the chances of developing cancer. Garlic also functions in the form of an antiviral as well as antifungal agent. It may be noted that a solitary garlic clove encloses vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin C, potassium,iodine, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and selenium.

Green tea is another important antioxidant, which has elevated levels of compounds called catechin polyphenols. Green tea is also known to facilitate weight loss. Within the body, these compounds work in conjunction with other chemicals to intensify the levels of fat oxidation as well as thermogenesis – a condition formed within the body by burning fat in the form of a fuel. Normally, one ought to try to consume at least three cups (750 ml) of green tea every day with a view to lose the extra pounds. In addition, it has also been found that green tea works to thwart the possibilities of developing cancer, heart ailments as well as high blood cholesterol.

Tomatoes are also very potent antioxidants. Tomatoes enclose a potent anti-cancer agent called lycopene. Findings of several studies have revealed that in comparison to beta carotene and vitamin E, lycopene, which is present in abundance in tomatoes, is more potent in combating diseases. It may be noted that presence of fat is essential for lycopene to ensure optimum absorption. Hence, when you put the nutritious fat olive oil in spaghetti sauce, it works excellently to augment the lycopene levels in the body. You may begin by incorporating additional tomatoes in your diet in various forms – whole, sliced, stewed, canned, sauced tomato or tomato paste.

Besides the antioxidant-foods mentioned here, there are several others, including spinach, red grapes, carrots and whole grains. Each of these foods contains as well as provides us with abundance of antioxidants.

Garlic {Allium sativum}

ALSO, KNOWN AS:

  • Clove Garlic
  • Da Suan
  • Garlic
  • Poor-man’s-treacle
  • Rashona
  • Rustic’s Treacle
  • Stinking Rose
  • Tricolor Garlic
The common kitchen herb, the garlic – Allium Sativum to botanists – is a familiar herb and culinary spice. This perennial herb is known for its white colored bulb that is composed of small white cloves that have a very peculiar odor and tangy taste. The various forms of sulfur compounds found inside each clove are responsible for the unique smell of the garlic. The smell of the garlic is of much renown and has attracted a lot of commentaries. At different times throughout history, it has been said that the garlic is “a herb that only the prince of hell himself could enjoy the aroma of full time with nary a complaint.” This distinct smell is due to the heavy accumulation of the rather smelly sulfur compounds in the underground storage bulb of the herb. The garlic is used widely as a vegetable as well as in herbal medicine.
The garlic plant itself is not a remarkable herb on first sight, growing about two feet tall with flat, long, and pointed leaves – the main repute of the garlic lies in its underground storage bulb. The herb bears flowers in mid summer and the colors of the flowers can range from pink to white in different varieties. Garlic flowers are edible and are consumed in many places. The garlic plant comes in many varieties and cultivars – each with its distinct characteristics. The American or California garlic varieties come in many large and white skinned types. There are also early and late cultivars of the garlic that can be grown at suitable times. Garlic varieties with pinkish or purple skinned bulbs are variously known as the Chilean, the Creole, the Mexican or the Italian type. While it seems to grow best in dry and mild climatic regions, the garlic grows rather well in most places in the continental United States and is much naturalized in this country. The bulbs of most garlic varieties that are grown in northern climates are not large due to the shorter growing seasons. A relative of the garlic called the “elephant garlic” – A. ampeloprasum to botanists – develops prodigious heads or bulbs, each with four to six large cloves and each of these bulbs can often reach the size of an orange fruit.
The herb is known as the “Rocambole “- A. sativum var. ophioscorodon to botanists – is yet one more garlic like the plant that is sometimes grown by garlic aficionados of the world. This particular herb is also known by many other names including the Italian or the French garlic and has a rather striking appearance. This herb has numerous flat leaves like those of the garlic chives plant – A. tuberose – that tend to appear in the spring, it also bears looped flower stalks in the summer months. The variety of garlic has a “floral head” that opens to reveal the presence of a cluster of bulbils inside the bulb instead of flowers as in other garlic varieties. The “rocambole” is entirely edible and all parts of the plant are consumed. The bulbs produced by this variety are also harvested like regular garlic bulbs and used for culinary ends. French or Italian garlic is a good crop to grow for other reasons not connected to culinary uses alone, according to people who have cultivated it. One major reason cited by these cultivators is that the bulbs of this variety of garlic tend to keep very well and are easy to store. The other reason is that the cloves on the bulb are a lot easier to peel off. The final reason given is that the distinct flavor of this variety of garlic is quite good compared to other varieties of garlic. Though seldom offered as a seed plant in nurseries, the ‘rocambole” is readily available through some mail-order seed houses.
The garlic herb is an effective herbal remedy to treat viral, bacterial, fungal, and other parasitic infections in the body. A compound released by crushed raw garlic called allicin is known to be much more potent as an antibiotic than the common antibiotics such as penicillin and tetracycline used in most standard medical regimens. Remedies made from the garlic are usually employed in treating problems such as chronic sore throats, common colds, flu, infections in the bronchial and general pulmonary systems, to treat infections of the gut and also to help reestablish the natural populations of beneficial bacteria in the gut – these helpful bacteria in the gut are often eliminated during an infection or on the use of orthodox antibiotic treatments to treat infections. The remedies made from the garlic are also effective and potent for treating intestinal worms as well as problems such as candidiasis. Garlic remedies can also be used topically to treat thrush affecting the mouth or the vaginal cavity. The general rate of digestion is improved by garlic; the herb also helps alleviate excessive gas and abdominal distension in the body. The remedies made from the garlic also help boost the rate at which food is absorbed and assimilated in the intestines. Garlic is also a good remedy for blood sugar related problems in diabetics as the herb boosts the secretion of insulin in the pancreas – thus helping the body better regulate sugar levels.
The remedy made from the garlic also has a decongestant action and is very useful in treating problems affecting the respiratory passages. At the same time, the expectorant action of the garlic remedy is excellent for treating acute and chronic bronchitis, to treat a whooping cough as well as bronchial asthma, it is also effective in treating sinusitis, in the treatment of chronic catarrh, in the treatment of hay fever and rhinitis and other allergen-induced complaints. Fevers can be alleviated by consuming garlic – the herb induces perspiration in the body and this helps in lowering the elevated body temperature. Elevated blood cholesterol levels are also lowered to a significant degree on consuming garlic regularly. The elevated blood pressure in the body and the tendency to form clots is also lowered by garlic – this effect of the herb is helpful in the prevention of heart attacks and strokes in susceptible patients. The blood vessels in the body are also opened up and dilated by the action of garlic – this action results in an increase in the flow of blood to different tissues in the body, thereby improving the general circulation. The beneficial action of garlic helps relieve cramps and alleviates general circulatory disorders affecting a person. The evidence from recent clinical research points out that garlic can act as potent anti-carcinogen and possesses strong anti-tumor properties, due to the fact that it is a powerful antioxidant by virtue of the numerous sulfur compounds found in it. Garlic is also believed to help the body deal better with the effects of nicotine and pollution, helping protect the body against the destructive effects of such long-term exposure to irritants.

PLANT PART USED:

Cloves.

COMMON USE:

Since very early in human history, the garlic has held an esteemed position among common herbs due to its healing powers and its use as a spice. The garlic was used to treat all kinds of infections, ranging from diseases like tuberculosis to typhoid fever before the development of antibiotic drugs. In fact, the garlic was used as a remedy for wounds till quite recent times and the herb was often employed to dress the wounds sustained by soldiers fighting during the World War I.
All kinds of infections affecting the chest can be treating using the garlic as the primary herbal remedy. The remedy made from the garlic is good for the treatment of common colds and flu, as well as in treating ear infections, and as an herbal aid in reducing the amount of mucus produced in the nasal passages. The garlic remedy is also effective in treating infections of the digestive system. This herbal remedy is also the treatment of choice to rid the body of all kinds of intestinal parasites and pathogens. As human blood is thinned by the garlic, it actively helps in preventing the onset of many dangerous circulatory problems and keeps the chance of strokes at bay. Elevated cholesterol levels and high blood pressure affecting a person is also lowered on treatment with garlic remedy.
OTHER MEDICAL USES
  • The remedy made from the garlic is employed as a general remedy for treating all kinds of infections. The herbal remedy can also be used with conventional antibiotics to help support their biochemical action and to ward off the side effects of strong drugs. In addition, the garlic benefits people affected by the late onset of diabetes as it tends to keep blood sugar levels in check at all times
  • Abscess
  • Altitude sickness
  • Aneurysm
  • Breast cancer
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Endometrial cancer
  • Glue ear
  • Hantavirus
  • High Triglycerides (TGs)
  • Septicemia
  • Strep throat
  • Stomach cancer
  • Thrombophlebitis
  • Toxic shock syndrome
  • Viral Infection
  • Xanthomatosis
CULINARY USES:
Many dishes contain garlic as an essential seasoning. Garlic used in the preparation of food may be fresh, dried, or freshly ground. Garlic helps in increasing the flavor of all kinds of dishes including seafood, poultry preparations, various pasta items, all kinds of meat dishes, vegetables and meat stews. It can be added to casseroles, vegetables, and soups; it brings zest to salads and salad dressings. Many cuisines cannot exist without using some garlic in the preparation of the meal. The dish known as aioli, which is a hearty and thick French mayonnaise prepared using eggs, olive oil, and crushed garlic is one dish that cannot exist without the use of garlic. Indian, Mediterranean, Chinese and many other cuisines will not be what they are if it weren’t for the garlic.
Fresh cloves of garlic can be ground in a press or mortar and pestle, the alternate method is to hit the cloves sharply using the flat end of a chopping knife. There is a lot of debate in culinary circles about the appropriate amount of garlic needed to be used in any dish. The tolerance of the diner should probably be the factor that decides the issues, it may be best to use garlic sparingly till what is required by the diners. One interesting point found through research is that the huge consumption of garlic and red wine in Mediterranean countries may be responsible for the low incidence of some types of cancers in these regions.
The whole cloves of the garlic can be steamed or bake and consumed with the daily meal. Cooking tends to make the strong acrid flavor of the garlic milder. At the same time, burnt garlic always ends up tasting bitter and this should be avoided. If garlic is to be fried, the oil being cooked must not be too hot, as the garlic will then develop an acrid taste and become tasteless.
The skin of freshly peeled garlic cloves must be prevented from sticking to the fingers when it is being peeled. A way to avoid this stickiness is to immerse all the garlic cloves in boiling water for thirty seconds before peeling. The cloves can then be removed from the water, dried and cool, and then peeled.
Salt flavored using garlic is widely employed on a commercial basis to flavor different kinds of foods sold in the market. Garlic salt is also quite a popular standby in some home kitchens; however, the high sodium content of this product may not be the best choice for flavoring dishes if the intent is to cook with the health of the heart in mind.

GROWING GARLIC:

garlic drawing
The garlic is probably native to central Asia and is believed to have originated from there. However, it has been extensively cultivated on a worldwide basis for many centuries and is one of the most familiar kitchen herbs in the world.
The garlic plant grows optimally in rich and well-drained soils, possessing high amounts of organic compounds. At the same time, it is also possible to successfully grow the garlic in a wide range of soil varieties and climatic conditions. The garlic tolerates a pH range from slightly acidic 5.5 to an alkaline 8.5 – growing optimally within these extremes.
The garlic grows optimally in sites that have good exposure to sunlight; however, it can also grow successfully at sites with a partial shade. The growing garlic plants must not be given excess water or the bulbs will rot and the crop will be ruined.
Garlic can be grown from the cloves or the bulbils as most garden grew garlic will not produce seeds. Many nurseries and garden catalogs have the cloves and bulbils on sale.
Garlic cloves are usually planted in seedbeds early in the spring or late in the fall. Garlic planted in the fall tends to result in the best yields. This is mainly due to the fact, that the garlic plant requires a rather long growing season of a minimum of four months to grow to an optimal size. Garlic plants planted in the soil late in the month of September or in October can be expected to show their growing tops emerging from the soil by the month of November – by winter, all the plants will have rooted well at the site. Tender garlic plants have cloves that remain dormant over the winter; these will only resume growth in the spring when the snow melts. For optimum growth later and to successfully form new bulbs, the dormant cloves or young plants require some exposure to cold temperatures ranging from 0°C to 10°C – 32°F to 50°F – for a period of four to eight weeks. The dormancy of garlic plants is broken by the increasing daylight hours during the spring. This also leads to the stimulation of the plants and encourages bulb formation in the plants.
Garlic cloves must be planted into the soil with the pointed end up towards the surface. A planting depth of five cm – two inches – below the soil’s surface is ideal for optimum growth. Each individual clove must be planted a minimum of eight cm -three inches – deep in the soil. Garlic plants require some space from neighboring plants to grow well, plant the cloves leaving a space of fifteen cm – six inches – around each clove to give the seedling some room.
It is important to tend growing garlic plants with care, as the strong movement of the soil around the shallow rooted garlic plants will result in damage to the roots and hence retard the development of such plants. In mid-summer, it becomes necessary to cut back the flowering stalks of the plants, this helps in channeling all the plant’s energy into the development of storage bulbs resulting in a good yield.
The garlic is normally free of pests and common plant diseases – it is a hardy herb compared to many other cultivated plants. When growing garlic, in the northernmost range, it becomes necessary to mulch the cloves or young plants over the winter particularly if the snow cover in the area is limited.
Containers can be used to grow garlic plants, this is a good way of cultivation particularly when a suitable cold storage area for such containers is available during the months of winter. This storage area can include an unheated garage or garden shed. The soil must be moist when during freeze up; the soil must again be checked for moisture content during the thaws in mid-winter. In late March, the containers can be brought out of storage and if everything has gone as planned – green spears will soon poke up from the soil. This method of growing in a container is redundant for regions with warmer climates and the cold storage arrangement isn’t necessary. All the garlic containers can be kept outside over the winter without fear of losing the crop.

RESEARCH:

Extensive laboratory-based studies on the garlic have been conducted from the 1980’s onwards in places like Germany, Japan, and the United States. However, till date, most clinical authorities still have a lot of disagreement over the exact nature and benefits of the remarkable antibiotic action seen in the garlic. The compound called alliin present in the garlic is released when the fresh clove is crushed; it is broken down instantly by alliinase into allicin – the main active compound in garlic. A potent antiseptic and antibiotic action is evident in the compound allicin and in the other chemical constituents of the volatile oil found in the garlic. The presence of these compounds is an explanation for the effectiveness of garlic in relieving even severe infections like chronic dysentery and related digestive disorders.
The ability of garlic to lower elevated blood pressure was also confirmed by clinical trials carried out in the 1980’s. In fact, garlic reduces blood lipid – fats – levels, resulting in better control of hypertensive disorders.

COMPONENTS OF GARLIC:

Garlic contains volatile oil with sulfur-containing compounds (notably allicin, alliin, and ajoene); enzymes, B vitamins, minerals, flavonoids.

RECOMMENDED USE AS A TINCTURE:

Different people use garlic in different ways, and there are individuals who actually chew one whole clove of raw garlic daily to boost their health. The best way to take garlic for those who prefer it over other herbs is in an odor-controlled, enteric coated tablet or capsule form that is made with a standardized allicin potential. These tablets or capsules can be taken at doses of 400-500 mg one or two times daily – for a total intake of 5,000 mg of allicin a day. The tincture can also be taken instead, at doses of 2-4 ml three times a day. Taking garlic in this way boosts health and reduces the chances of many diseases.

POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS AND PRECAUTIONS:

Garlic is enjoyed as a food by most people and garlic remedies are also well tolerated by and large. However, some individuals can experience dermatitis on being exposed to garlic dust and these people need to take care when using garlic for any purpose.
Some of the side effects of consuming garlic include a reduction in the clotting time of blood; this effect of the herb can lead to the development of medical problems in individuals already on aspirin or those using anticoagulant medications on a routine basis.
Diabetics should be aware that consuming large doses of garlic, in pill form, as capsules, etc, even in standard medicinal quantities can interfere with insulin therapy in the long term.
All individuals interested in consuming garlic extracts must consult with a physician; this is especially true of people who already suffer from any type of medical problem which requires the regular use of some prescription medication. Consulting a doctor before beginning garlic supplements is the recommended to avoid side effects. While the consumption of garlic consumption is generally safe, some medical authorities speak against the consumption of large amounts of garlic by pregnant or breastfeeding women. The Mediterranean diet is rich in garlic, the regular consumption of the garlic in many culinary dishes by the people in this region has been connected to the lowered risk for certain cancers in the people living here.

HOW GARLIC WORKS IN THE BODY:

Garlic’s distinctive smell is due to the presence of the volatile oil. The oil contains the compound called allicin that has been proven to induce an antibiotic action over the Staphylococcus aureus strain of bacteria. It is also effective in other bacterial strains and in general, it can be used to treat all bacterial infections in the human body. Infection caused by Candida albicans has also been successfully alleviated using allicin as the primary remedy. The allicin also possesses a potent hypoglycemic effect and helps in reducing blood sugar levels when they are elevated – mainly in diabetics. Allicin, in addition, has a demonstrated antithrombotic effect, helping in reducing the rate of blood clot formation. This compound also has the ability to lower blood pressure and helps in reducing elevated cholesterol levels in the blood.

USING YOUR GARLIC:

Cloves:
FRESH GARLIC CLOVES – Fresh slightly bruised cloves of garlic can be rubbed on acne covered skin as a treatment. Fresh garlic cloves can also be mashed and used on warts and verrucas, or to draw out corns and soothe irritated skin. Garlic cloves can be regularly consumed as part of the diet in the form of a prophylactic herbal remedy – to ward off the risk of infection. Consuming garlic on a regular basis also helps in reducing high cholesterol levels in the blood, which leads to an improved functioning of the cardiovascular system. Garlic also helps lower blood sugar levels and diabetics can consume some cloves as a part of the meals daily. To treat all kinds of digestive disorders, three to six crushed cloves can be eaten daily, especially when dealing with acute conditions such as severe digestive disorders – including gastroenteritis, dysentery, intestinal worms, and other infections of the digestive system.
HERBAL GARLIC JUICE – Garlic cloves can be turned into a juice, this drink relieves digestive disorders and infections. Drinking the juice daily will also help a person fight chronic atherosclerosis.
MACERATION – Three or four cloves of garlic can be steeped overnight in a little water or milk. This garlic liquor can be used the next day for ridding the body of intestinal parasites.
CAPSULES – Powdered garlic is also made into capsules. This form is an aromatic alternative to the commercial “pearls.” There are distinct benefits associated with using garlic in this form; recent clinical trials have shown that daily consumption of two g of the powder in capsule form actually prevented the incidence of additional heart attacks in individuals who had already undergone an attack earlier. Infections such as thrush can also be alleviated by taking the capsules daily.
PEARLS – This form of the garlic remedy can be used as an alternative to the capsule form. One thing to remember is that the greater the “deodorized” state of the pearls, the less is their effectiveness. Strong odors suggest potency in the remedy.

HARVESTING GARLIC:

Garlic is harvested when the tops of the plant dry up and starts bending; the bulbs are pulled up at this stage. The mature plants possessing the large and multi-clove bulbs are pulled out straight from the ground and then dried in the sun for about a week’s time. After this initial airing, each one is trimmed down or a braid is made from the stalks – this is then hung as garlic “ropes” in the shade for an additional period of drying in the open air.
Once the bulbs are completely dry, they are stored in a cool, dry and dark place – this space should have good circulation of air. The bulbs must not be kept in the kitchen as cooking heat often dries out the bulbs and the garlic become inedible. People who may require a lot of garlic lying within easy reach during cooking can store garlic bulbs inside a closed jar – this prevents the pungent odor of the garlic from penetrating other food items kept nearby.
Regarded as an easily stored herb, garlic bulbs can be kept up to six months if stored in a dry and dark location, the ambient temperature in the storage space must not exceed 0°C – 32°F – to ensure the preservation of the distinct taste and other characteristics such as the tangy smell.

GARLIC BUTTER:

  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup soft butter
  • 2 Tbs. fresh parsley, finely minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Set the unpeeled cloves in the boiling water. Bring to a boil, and boil 5 minutes. Drain, peel and rinse the cloves under cold water. Return to the boiling water, and allow the water to boil up once more. Drain the garlic again, and with the salt and pepper, pound it to a smooth paste in the bottom of a small bowl.
Beat the butter into the garlic. Use 1 teaspoon with broiled or boiled fish, with hamburgers, steaks, boiled potatoes, or to enrich sauces made with drippings from roasts.

HERB AND GARLIC CHEESE:

This is an extremely easy way to transform an ordinary cream cheese into a gourmet item, at a fraction of the price of the ready-made product. You can use full-fat cream cheese, curd cheese, or sieved cottage cheese but, if you opt for the latter, you will need to add 3 tablespoons of double cream to achieve the right consistency. As with herb butter, delicately flavored herbs with fairly soft leaves, such as chives, chervil or parsley, are best for herb cheese.
  • 225 g/8 oz cream or curd cheese, or sieved cottage cheese
  • 2-3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh herbs
  • 1/2 clove finely chopped garlic
Work the garlic and herbs into the cheese with a fork, until all the ingredients are well combined. Form into a round, place in a dish, cover with cling film and refrigerate before serving.

Onion {Allium cepa}

ALSO, KNOWN AS:

  • Common Onion
  • Onion
The onion – botanically called Allium cepa – is one of the most common culinary herbs around, and is used worldwide in many culinary preparations. The ancient Greek historian Herodotus writes of nine tons of gold being spent to purchase enough onions to feed the builders of the pyramids – this suggests the immense popularity of this vegetable in Egypt of the pharaohs. The ancient Egyptians even offered the humble onion bulb as a sacrificial offering to their god, to the great amusement of the conquering Romans. Thus not only was the onion widely used in the ancient world, but also highly valued by some societies. The onion had other uses during the later stages of the Middle Ages when the onion began to be used as a charm against evil spirits and the dangers of the plague – the strong smell of the herb was probably thought to influence and ward off spirits and disease. The strong aroma and flavor of the onions, leeks, and the garlic is due to their content of many sulfur compounds. The smell was seen by folk healers as indications for the power of the juice and they believed it could help the prevent infection in the body. The application of onion as a topical remedy to remove warts and prevent acne has also been suggested by some modern herbalist. These herbalist using the onion based syrup as an expectorant in treating coughs and congestion in the chest region. The diuretic action of the onions is also a long held belief and it is said that the herb can reduce high blood pressure in people suffering from the condition. As a tonic, the herbal onion extract is certainly superlative due to its rich content of various vitamins, such as the useful B1 (thiamine) and B2 (riboflavin) groups, as well as the vitamin C so vital to cellular function.
North American natives have also been familiar with the onion and its related herbs for many centuries. The onion was, in fact, a favorite spring food of the early American Indians. Indeed, the early adventurous frontiersmen had a sure way to locate the various scattered Indian encampments during the spring by following the heavy scent of onions clinging to the air around native camps.

onion drawingPLANT PART USED:

Bulb.

MEDICINAL, BENEFICIAL USE:

A long list of medicinal and beneficial properties has been attributed to the onion herb. The plant is believed to have diuretic, as well as antibiotic and anti-inflammatory actions, it is also said to be an herbal analgesic and an expectorant, and is also said to have anti-rheumatic properties. Circulation in the human body is also benefited by consuming the onion and related herbs. Remedies made from the onions are used in the treatment of various infections such as colds, flu, and persistent coughs affecting patients. The onion is similar to the garlic in the nature of its remedial actions and has a tendency to alleviate angina, problems like arteriosclerosis, as well as to thwart heart attack in patients. Problems like oral infection and tooth decay can also be prevented and treated using remedies made from the onion. In the case of an earache the warmed onion juice can be dropped into the ear for relief, and the poultice made from baked onion is used to drain away pus from sores on the skin. The aphrodisiac actions of the onion are also an ancient and longstanding reputation of the herb. Onion-based remedies are also believed to be cosmetically useful in stimulating hair growth in case of balding problems.

OTHER MEDICAL USE:

  • Homeopathy
  • Altitude sickness
  • Breast cancer
  • Glue ear
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Viral infection

ONION IS A NATIVE PLANT:

The onion is a native plant of the northern hemisphere. Millennial ago, the onion was one of the first plants cultivated in the Middle East. The popularity of the onion is such that it is now grown as a major vegetable around the world.

COMPONENTS OF ONION:

Onion contains a volatile oil with sulfurous constituents, sulfur –  containing compounds such as allicin (an antibiotic) and alliin, flavonoids, phenolic; acids, and sterols.

SALT-LESS SEASONING:

Ingestion of excessive salt either through the foods, we consume or otherwise is not beneficial for our health. Hence, you may alternately use a salt-free seasoning blend to ensure that you do not intake too much salt. When you have a ready-made quantity readily available you are able to season vinaigrette quickly or a number of steamed vegetables without spending any additional time to slice and chop them. Place the flavoring in a shaker having big holes on the lid – you may use a spice jar or a used salt canister for this purpose after having cleaned, rinsed and dried it. Irrespective of what you use for a shaker, it should essentially have a lid to keep the blend sealed; otherwise, you may also use Clingfilm to seal the shaker. The ingredients for this recipe are listed below.
  • 50 grams/ 2 ounces of dried dill leaves
  • 50 grams/ 2 ounces of dried onion flakes
  • 3 tablespoons of lightly roasted sesame seeds
  • 2 teaspoons of dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons of dried lemon peel
  • 2 teaspoons of celery seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon of paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon of recently pounded black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
Pound all these ingredients collectively in a mortar and grinder or a coffee grinder. Subsequently, put them in a shaker and seal the lid firmly.

Tomato {Solanum lycopersicum}

The tomato plant (botanical name Solanum Lycopersicum) is a member of the nightshade family. Usually, plants of this species grow to a height of anything between one and three meters (3 to 10 feet) and have the very delicate stem that generally spread out over the ground as well as climbs like vines on other nearby plants. Tomato is a perennial plant in its place of origin but is generally cultivated outdoors as an annual plant in places having temperate climatic conditions.

It is thought that the existing kind of tomato has originated from a species whose fruits were roughly the size of marbles and this species actually grew several thousand years back. In effect, the tomato is indigenous to South America’s Andean region and there is evidence that this species was cultivated in Peru as early as the 16th century when the Spanish conquered the region. Prior to the end of the 16th century, people in England, as well as the Netherlands, were consuming as well as taking delight in tomato. While the English nicknamed the fruit as ‘love apple’, romances in England portrayed tomato in the form of a symbol of fondness or love. According to the cultivators as well as its usage, a tomato is considered to be a vegetable, while in terms of botany, the tomato is regarded as a fruit. Moreover, going by botany, the tomato may be categorized as a berry, as it is yielding and encloses one or several seeds, which are not stones. Tomato is regarded to be an important fruit, which is a good source of citric acid and is classified in the same group that also includes oranges and grapefruit. In addition to citric acid, tomato also contains some amount of oxalic acid.

The utmost benefits of tomatoes can be obtained when they are mixed with proteins. You may use tomatoes in the form of fruits as well as in vegetable salads. When tomatoes are used in beverages, they provide a calming and rejuvenating feeling and are particularly wonderful in the form of flavoring for soups. In addition, tomatoes may be used in foods to provide color as well as to make green salads additionally tempting. It is advisable that you need to use tomato juice soon after it has been extracted from tomato or soon after the can containing the juice is opened. In case canned tomato juice is opened and allowed to remain in the same way, it will lose a lot of its minerals worth since it oxidizes very rapidly.

In addition, tomatoes should also be collected when they are ripe since the acids of the green tomatoes are extremely harmful to the body and have a negative reaction on the kidneys. Several varieties of tomatoes that are cultivated in the present times are grown in hothouses and are collected when they are still unripe and green. These unripe tomatoes eventually ripen while being transported to the markets or during the period when they are in cold storage plants, which are constructed for this purpose. When the seeds or the internal parts of the tomatoes remain green, while the exterior is red, it is a sign of the fact that the fruit has been picked prematurely.

Medical Properties

Ripe fresh tomatoes growing on the vine.It may be mentioned that tomato basically does not form acid. Although it encloses sufficient amount of citric acid, it is actually alkaline forming when it gets into our bloodstream. Tomato enhances the alkalinity of the blood and, thereby, facilitates in removing toxins, particularly uric acid, from the system. Tomatoes are excellent in the form of a liver cleanser, particularly when they are used in conjugation with juices of green vegetables.

In several European clinics or sanatoriums, tomatoes are employed in the form of a poultice for treating several health conditions. Some people have a wrong belief that tomatoes are detrimental for people who have been enduring gout and rheumatism. In effect, individuals who are suffering from these two conditions ought to blend tomato juice with juices of other green vegetables with a view to averting any type of possible potent reaction. Every time when it is found that the blood is sluggish in any area of the body, applying a tomato poultice is an excellent treatment for easing the blood stagnation. Applying a tomato poultice works as a suspending agent or in the form of a solvent.

Tomatoes are extremely rich in vitamin content. As aforementioned, tomatoes are excellent in the form of blood purifier and are very good in elimination diets. Nevertheless, they ought not to be employed regularly. It may be noted that tomato juice may also be employed in convalescent diets, in conjugation with juices of other raw vegetables, for instance, parsley, celery, carrot and beet juice.

Tomatoes contain a substance called lycopene, which belongs to the carotenoid family and is a pigment that is responsible for the red color of the vegetable/ fruit. In addition, lycopene is the main contributor to the tomatoes’ power to promote health. In effect, lycopene has shown a variety of exceptional as well as individual biological characteristics that have always fascinated scientists. A number of researchers have started believing that lycopene could be a very potent antioxidant, somewhat similar to beta-carotene. It has been proved that lycopene eliminates the free radical singlet oxygen, an especially toxic form of oxygen extremely proficiently. In addition, lycopene also has the capacity to scavenge a number of free radicals.

Findings of several types of research have begun to divulge that individuals who have consumed excessive amounts of tomatoes faced far little risks of death from all types of cancers in comparison to those who consumed very little or no tomatoes at all. Several other types of research have repeated the positive findings regarding the consequences of consuming tomatoes.

Lycopene found in tomatoes does not only help to alleviate cancer. In effect, this member of the carotenoid family is a crucial part of the antioxidant protection system in our skin. On its own as well as in conjunction with additional nutrients, dietary lycopene may increase the skin’s sun protection factor (SPF). Precisely speaking, when you consume tomatoes, you actually augment the ability of your skin to endure the battering from the harmful rays of the sun. Tomatoes work in a manner akin to an internal sunblock.

In addition, lycopene also has the ability to obliquely lower the risk for macular degeneration related to age by means of ‘releasing’ lutein oxidation to enable transportation of lutein to the macula in its un-oxidized and defensive form.

It may be noted that lycopene is rarely present in foods, and tomatoes are among just a few foods that enclose this potent antioxidant. In fact, the red watermelon is one more wonderful natural source of lycopene. According to some sources, lycopene is an extremely intense and bio-available source of the nutrient, which is present in more amounts in red watermelon compared to tomatoes. In fact, consuming watermelon certainly boosts the amount of lycopene in the blood more in comparison to tomatoes.

Although in recent times, lycopene has drawn plenty of attention, tomatoes enclose rich amounts of a range of nourishment’s that appear to work in synergy to support health as well as energy. The good thing about the tomato is that while it contains low-calorie content, it is high in fiber and potassium. In addition to having rich contents of lycopene, tomatoes are also an excellent natural resource of alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, phytoene/ phytofluene, lutein/ zeaxanthin as well as a variety of polyphenols. Tomatoes also enclose a few B vitamins, including vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, thiamine, and niacin. In addition, they contain some amount of vitamin E, folate, manganese, magnesium and zinc.

Tomatoes and cancer: Many of the very thrilling researches were undertaken on tomatoes have concentrated on the fruit/ vegetable’s competency to provide protection against cancer, particularly prostate cancer.

Tomatoes do not only protect us from prostate cancer. In effect, an increasing amount of evidence hints that to some extent, lycopene offers protection from other forms of cancers too – such as digestive tract, breast, bladder, cervix and lung cancer.

It appears that lycopene lowers the risk of cancer in various different manners. In the form of a potent antioxidant, lycopene assists in blocking the constant degenerative effects of the harmful free radicals inside the body. Lycopene is particularly effectual for this purpose when there is the presence of adequate vitamin E. In effect, lycopene also appears to obstruct the growth aspects that encourage the growth as well as the proliferation of cancer cells. And lastly, it also appears that lycopene also encourages the body to increase a further effectual immune protection against cancer.

Since lycopene is soluble in fat, it requires some amount of dietary fat to transport this potent antioxidant through the bloodstream. However, it needs to be mentioned that consuming a whole, fresh tomato out of your hand is not a very good source of this nourishment – lycopene. The most effective foods based on the tomato that appear to provide maximum protection against cancer are prepared with some amount of oil at all times. A salad prepared with tomato with added virgin olive oil is a food that genuinely promotes health. It may be noted that the greenish hue of olive oil signifies the existence of polyphenols. When these polyphenols contained by virgin olive oil are blended with the potent nourishment’s present in tomatoes, it gives spaghetti sauce a healthy flavor to treat on. It may also be used in soups based on tomatoes for the same purpose.

Tomatoes excellent for the heart: Besides being an effective food for protection against cancer, there is sufficient evidence that consuming tomatoes also has a crucial role in lowering the risk of cardiovascular ailments. Lycopene’s antioxidant function in conjugation with other potent antioxidants present in tomatoes, for instance, beta-carotene and vitamin C, work within the body to combat the harmful free radicals that might otherwise harm the cells as well as cell membranes. The protection of the cells as well as their membranes lowers the risks of inflammation and, hence, the advancement as well as acuteness of atherosclerosis. In fact, lycopene present in tomatoes has been found to be very effectual in providing protection against heart attacks.

tomatos2
Tomatoes on the vine

Healthy skin: When the tomato plants are growing outdoors in the wild, they need to guard themselves against any possible attack. In fact, these plants are under continuous assault from the ultraviolet rays (UV rays), predators as well as environmental pollution. Hence, it is very important that these plants should have a first, strong line of protection. In the case of humans as well as other living things, the skin is the first line of defense. Be it the skin or peel of an apple, the covering of a grape, or the outer layer of an orange, this portion of the fruit possesses wonderful antioxidant competence that allows it to endure the attacks of nature.

For instance, the exterior leaves of cabbage and spinach have the maximum concentrations of vitamin C, while the florets of broccoli have additional vitamin C compared to its stalks.

For example, 100 grams of fresh apple (peels included) enclose approximately 142 mg of flavonoids. On the other hand, an equal amount of apples without their skin or peel enclose just 97 mg of flavonoids. A very common flavonoid known as quercetin which has anti-inflammatory attributes is only present in the peel of the apples and not in the fruit’s flesh. In other words, the antioxidant actions of 100 grams of apples sans its skin or peel are about 55 per cent of the actions of 100 grams of apples having its skin. More precisely, apples without their peel are just about 50 percent as potent as those with their skin. Similarly, the paper-thin brown hued skins on peanuts as well as almonds are packed with a range of bioactive polyphenols.

Before concluding, it is advisable that you consume the right fruits and vegetables that have their skin/ peel or rind on. In fact, the skin is also the place where the detrimental pesticides and latently harmful bacteria may be found. Therefore, it is essential to meticulously wash the fruits and vegetables prior to eating them raw. At the same time, do not forget that while drinking juices of vegetables and fruits, it is important to choose the ones with sediments at the bottom. These sediments actually contain portions of the skin and pulp of the vegetables and fruits and they are all vital sources of antioxidants.

Zucchini {Cucurbita pepo}

Zucchini is basically a type of squash available during summer. In effect, zucchini is a robust squash that grows with good grace in an assortment of environs and has a wide range of uses – ranging from sweet zucchini bread to raw ‘pasta’ prepared with zucchini strips. Zucchini is available in several markets during summer and one may also grow this squash at home. However, people intending to grow zucchini at home need to exercise some caution since the plants of this squash may profusely produce squash, more than what one can even imagine to be actually possible.

The physical appearance of zucchini is somewhat similar to the shape of sausages. This type of squash has a green skin that might be dappled with white specks. A number of zucchini varieties may also have a yellow skin too. The flavor of zucchini is mild which may possibly be described as something akin to ‘spring’. When the squash is raw, its texture is crisp and irritating. After cooking, the texture of zucchini becomes considerably soft and it may even become spongy very rapidly.

Generally, the smaller the size of zucchini, the better it is, as the squash becomes woody when it grows very large. In addition, some varieties of zucchini may also have prickly bristles as they age and this compels the cooks to grate or peel off the skin. Any good variety of zucchini will feel weighty for its size since this indicates that this type of summer squash encloses plenty of moisture. In addition, a good zucchini would have a firm, but smooth texture without any hollowed spots or marks of mold. Occasionally, you may also buy zucchini that still have the flowers on. In effect, the blossoms of zucchini too may be cooked in several ways.

You may also use raw zucchini to prepare dips, add to vegetable dishes or sliced using a mandoline (a kitchen tool to slice vegetables) to prepare an imitation of pasta for connoisseurs of raw food. There are many people who relish consuming raw zucchini out of hand, occasionally adding some salt to it. In addition, raw zucchini may also be added to salads. Shredded raw zucchini may also be employed in batters for preparing baked foods with a view to adding additional moisture, texture and fiber to them.

In addition to consuming them raw, zucchini may be cooked in several different ways. The larger types of zucchini are scooped out and subsequently stuffed with a wide assortment of fillings prior to baking them. In addition, zucchini may also be roasted or grilled along with other vegetables, added to pasta sauces, tossed in stir-fries and also used in soups, stews, and curries. It is advised that you add zucchini to your dishes/ culinary preparations at the very last moment in order to enjoy the delectable crispy texture of this squash.

Zucchini is available throughout the year. Nevertheless, the most superior quality zucchini is generally harvested during the later part of spring. As mentioned earlier, of similar size, the weightier the zucchini is, the tastier it will be since it encloses considerable moisture. Apart from its weight, any good quality zucchini will also have a firm texture when it is pressed gently.

People who are keen to grow zucchini, they ought to select a sunlit position in the garden and fertilize the soil using compost or manure for additional nutrition. Prepare a mound for individual zucchini crop to grow on. You may germinate zucchini seeds at home or even purchase the seedlings and plant them in your garden during the later part of spring. Gardeners may also just sow the seeds directly in their permanent positions outdoors – the squash plot. It is essential that the soil is moist all through, but not soggy, and stakes ought to be employed to provide support to the young plants as they grow. It is important to avoid the vegetables (squash) making contact with the ground.

Zucchini can be harvested immediately when they begin to appear. As aforementioned, this plant produces profuse vegetables and, hence, many gardeners stop them from overproducing by collecting the blossoms that may be battered and fried, added to stir-fries, tossed with pasta and so on. In case there is an excessive production of zucchini, gardeners may use the vegetables to prepare zucchini preserves as well as chutneys or may even drop off undesired squash to their neighbors.

Health Benefits of Zucchini

growing-zucchini-raven01-lg

Apart from being a favorite vegetable for many, the fiber present in zucchini is helpful in lowering blood cholesterol levels. This dietary fiber works by binding itself to bile acids produced by the liver from cholesterol for digestion of fat. Since the dietary fiber attaches excellently with bile acid, thereby enhancing its competence to digest fat immediately, the liver is stimulated to produce additional bile acid. Subsequently, the liver collects more cholesterol to make more bile acid and, as a result, it lowers the general level of cholesterol in the body. In addition, the elevated levels of vitamin A and vitamin C in zucchini also thwart cholesterol from oxidizing within the blood vessels of the body. This way, the dietary fiber in zucchini obstructs the commencement of atherosclerosis (an ailment of the coronary artery).

As dietary fiber present in zucchini supports a positive and normal bowel movement, it also facilitates in preventing carcinogenic toxins ( a noxious substance that assists in developing cancer) from stabilizing in the colon. In addition, the vitamin A and vitamin C enclosed by the vegetable plus folate present in zucchini work as potent antioxidants that combat oxidative pressure, which has the potential to result in several dissimilar types of cancer.

Several types of research have revealed that phytonutrients present in zucchini facilitate in lessening the symptoms of benign prostatic hypertrophy (BOH), a medical condition wherein the prostate gland becomes enlarged and results in problems related to passing urine as well as sexual activities in men.

Zucchini contains vitamin A and vitamin C, which are anti-inflammatory in nature, and they help the body by functioning as potent antioxidants as well as helpful anti-inflammatory agents. In addition, copper is also present in zucchini and this mineral along with vitamins A and C put off the growth of several hyper-inflammatory problems, counting osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and even asthma.

It may be noted that one cup (250 ml) zucchini serving encloses more than 10 percent of the RDA (recommended daily allowance) of magnesium – there is substantial evidence of the fact that this mineral diminishes the risks of stroke and heart attack. In addition, zucchini also encloses folate, a type of vitamin that breaks down hazardous amino acid homocysteine. It has been found that when the level of this dangerous substance increases in the body, it may add to the risks of having a stroke or heart attack.

In addition to magnesium, zucchini also contains potassium, which aids in lowering blood pressure. It may be noted that if high blood pressure (hypertension) is not checked, it may result in arteriosclerosis or damage of the blood vessels, stroke, heart attack and several other grave medical conditions. Nevertheless, magnesium and potassium present in zucchini have the competence to provide relief from the pressure on the circulatory system of the body.

Manganese, which is a trace mineral and an indispensable nutrient, provides the body with numerous health benefits and, at the same time, facilitates in the performance of a number of regular physiological functions of the body. As mentioned earlier, one cup (250 ml) serving of zucchini has about 19 percent of the recommended daily allowance or RDA of manganese. This aids the body to metabolize (break down) carbohydrates and proteins and, simultaneously, stimulates the production of sex hormones. Furthermore, manganese also helps as a catalyzing agent in synthesizing cholesterol and fatty acids.

Manganese enclosed by zucchini also enhances the intensities of superoxide dismutase (SOD), an enzyme that is responsible for saving mitochondria from harm from oxidative pressure. Last, but not the least important, manganese is also necessary for producing proline (amino acid), which enables the formation of collagen. Thereby, it also makes the skin healthy and promotes healing of wounds.

Cucumber {Cucumis sativus}

The cucumber, botanically known as the Cucumis sativus, is an extensively cultivated plant in the gourd family Cucurbitaceae that includes squash and also muskmelon. Though it is technically a fruit, cucumbers are widely considered vegetables.

Cucumber is a vegetable which is a member of the family that also includes different squashes, pumpkins, and zucchinis. The skin of this vegetable is dark green, which when peeled exposes a whitish or extremely pale green flesh. Basically, there are two varieties of cucumbers – the slicing type and the pickling type. Among these two varieties, the pickling type is comparatively small in size, approximately 2 inches to 4 inches in length. Most of us are aware of the fact that cucumbers possess a cooling attribute and are very beneficial to provide respite to the eyes during the summer. Nevertheless, cucumbers are related to much different health as well as nourishing advantages also.

In fact, the cucumber is an annual creeping vine that roots in the ground and grows up fencing or other supporting frames, wrapping around ribbing with thin, spiraling tendrils. Cucumber has large heart-shaped leaves that form a canopy over the fruit. The flowers of cucumber are yellow colored and bell-shaped while the fruit is ribbed green. Cucumber has cylindrical, elongated shape, with tapered ends, and it may be as large as 60 cm in length and 10 cm in diameter.

Although plant explorers are yet to find out an uncultivated sample of cucumber, it is known to have its origin in India. Cucumber is one of the oldest vegetables are known to mankind and is reported to have been cultivated for thousands of years. While records available state that the ancient Egyptians used cucumber as a food while it was also a favorite vegetable among the Greeks as well as the Romans. Interestingly, cucumber is among the very few vegetables mentioned even in the Bible.

cucumbers in basket

Here are a few tips on selecting the best quality of cucumbers. The best quality of cucumbers for slicing should be rigid, unsullied, bright, and able-bodied as well as of average or dark green in color. It is always advisable to stay away from shrunken or dried up cucumbers. Normally, the flesh of the cucumber is tough or rubber-like and slightly bitter to taste. Over-matured cucumbers can easily be identified by their messy and inflated exterior. Even the color of the over-matured cucumbers is not green, but dull and very often yellowish. Besides, the flesh of the overgrown cucumbers is very tough and they contain hard seeds. Even the tissues present in the seed cavities are like a jelly. Under no circumstance should cucumbers in these conditions be used for slicing.

There are types of good quality cucumbers that are base green in color when they are full-grown and suitable for slicing. These varieties of cucumbers are usually whitish at the tips and have lines like ribs running from one tip to another. The tips of this variety of cucumbers change from light green to whitish to yellowish when they are over-mature.

How to Use Cucumbers

Interestingly, cucumbers are alkaline and starch-less vegetables and among the best cooling food when they are added to vegetable juices. In ancient times, owing to its slightly bitter taste, people were of the opinion that they would die if they consumed the vegetable without peeling it. However, this is not true and over the years, people have realized the fact. Cucumbers are useful in more ways than one. While the vegetable acts as an excellent digestive support, cucumbers also help in purifying the bowel. Many people eat cucumber raw after soaking it in salt water to get rid of its slightly bitter taste. However, this is not necessary and the vegetable can be consumed raw after slicing it finely. These cucumber slices can be eaten raw with sour cream, lemon juice or yogurt for a cool and pleasant summer dish.

The cucumber is also a natural diuretic used in the fitness world by bodybuilders and people trying to reduce fat. Cucumbers have cosmetic use too. They have an excellent effect on the skin and also have a cooling effect on the blood. While cucumbers keep the skin cool and clean during hot summers, they help in maintaining the temperature of the blood in the body. It is due to these qualities of the cucumber that the ancient adage, ‘Keeping cool as a cucumber’ gains ground.

Applying raw cucumber to the skin may possibly aid in lessening inflammation as well as heat. Cucumber is excellent for the health of the skin owing to its cooling, diuretic and purifying attributes.

In addition, drinking freshly prepared cucumber juice has the aptitude to alleviate gastritis, acid stomach, heartburn and also ulcers. When you place a slice of cucumber on your eyes, it helps to cool the eyes and, at the same time, also diminishes the swelling. Consuming cucumber juice on a regular basis facilitates in dealing with conditions, such as arthritis, eczema, and gout.

It has been found that cucumber is useful for people enduring chest, lung and stomach disorders. Cucumber contains potassium and this mineral makes this vegetable effective in treating both low and high blood pressure. Cucumber also encloses an enzyme called erepsin, which makes protein digestion easier.

The juice obtained from cucumber is known to stimulate hair growth, particularly when it is blended with carrot, spinach and lettuce juice. It is said that when cucumber juice is blended with carrot juice it is beneficial for treating rheumatic conditions caused by too much uric acid in the body. Cucumber may also be useful for people who are enduring diseases related to the teeth and gums, particularly in the instance of pyorrhea.

As cucumber contains high levels of valuable minerals, it facilitates in preventing the finger and toe nails from splitting.

It may be mentioned that cucumber has been related to healing diseases related to the kidneys, liver, urinary bladder and pancreas. Consumption of cucumber, as well as cucumber juice, has also proved to be beneficial for people who are enduring diabetes.

Cucumber has very high water content and this offers several health benefits that are physical, for instance, lessening the swelling under the eyes, clear or blemish-free skin as well as respite from sunburn. However, the water contained by cucumbers also facilitates in detoxifying the body, thereby, safeguarding you from falling sick.

While cucumbers do not burn fats by themselves, when you include cucumber in a salad, it may aid in boosting the daily fiber ingestion to burn fat and, thereby, help in weight loss. Owing to the high water content, cucumbers also provide you with the requisite fluid for processing fiber. Apart from the flesh, even the cucumber peel is a wonderful resource of dietary fiber, which is effective in providing relief from constipation as well as protecting against developing specific types of colon cancer.

It is worth mentioning that every cup (250 ml) of cucumber contains about 16 micrograms of magnesium and approximately 181 mg of potassium, which is able to assist in regulating as well as lessening high blood pressure (hypertension). When blended with properly balanced diet, consumption of cucumbers may prove to be helpful in regulating the blood pressure.

It is advisable that every time it is feasible, purchase organic cucumbers since cucumbers may possibly be waxed or be coated with pesticides. In case you purchase non-organic cucumbers, in any case, rinse them under cold running water and also cleanse them tenderly using a vegetable brush.

In addition, you may also soak cucumbers in water for about 5 to 10 minutes with about one to two tablespoonful of apple cider vinegar to get them rid of any pollutant or pesticides.

History and Habitat of Cucumbers

Cucumbers are known to be native to India and there is enough evidence available that shows that cucumber has been cultivated in Western Asia for about 3,000 years. Cucumber is also listed among the useful foods of ancient Ur. Some sources also mention that cucumber was cultivated in ancient Thrace. From India, cucumber spread to Greece where it was called “views” and Italy, where the Roman people were especially fond of this vegetable. Later, the cucumber was introduced in China. Today, cucumber is widely cultivated across the globe.

Homemade Cucumber Lotion

The ingredients required to prepare the elder flower and cucumber lotion to include:

  • 1 teaspoonful (5 ml) of cucumber juice
  • 1 teaspoonful (5 ml) of almond oil
  • 2 tablespoonfuls (30 ml) of almond milk
  • 1 drop of the tincture of benzoin

Just blend all these ingredients in a jar and seal the lid tightly. Shake the mixture thoroughly before use every time.