Breathing Greens

Fruits and vegetables, as I am sure you already knew, are living organisms. But rarely do we consider that our produce is actually breathing. Yes, breathing; or rather, respiring. Produce is taking in oxygen, breaking down the complex compounds into energy, water, and carbon dioxide. And unlike photosynthesis, in which carbon dioxide, along with sunlight and water,  is taken in by plants to produce sugar (food), respiration is the process in which plants take in oxygen and give off carbon dioxide, much like muscular breathing.

So, you say, what does all this respiration talk have to do with my daily interaction with produce? Well, if you want to preserve your precious produce effectively, you need to slow down its respiration, or rather, its metabolic breakdown. When the respiration process is happening at a rapid pace, so is its deterioration. Keeping your produce cold and limiting its oxygen supply aids in slowing down the deterioration process. In other words, fruits and vegetables that have low respiration rates, such as potatoes, grapes, and apples, are able to keep well for longer periods of time than produce with high respiration rates, such as ripe bananas, lettuce, and green beans.

When you bring your produce and fresh herbs home from the market, be sure to wash them in cold water. This process not only removes any dirt or debris lingering on the stalks and leaves, but also allows the plants’ cells to fill with water. Plant cells begin to lose their water after picking, which causes wilting. Slowing this process, by keeping the humidity high and limiting air flow, is best achieved by spinning the produce in a salad spinner, wrapping a layer of paper towel around the produce, then placing it in a plastic bag. When stored in such a manner, it is possible to keep your produce for about one week in the fridge, sometimes slightly longer. Plus, whenever meal time comes along, you don’t have to worry about cleaning and drying your produce prior to cooking, saving you a bit of time.

Ever wonder why you are left with soggy, wilted greens when you dress your salad far in advance of serving dinner? Greens are somewhat water-proof, so the culprit of this mushy mess isn’t the vinegar in the dressing, but the oil and salt. Your best bet is to chop all the vegetable ingredients into a bowl, and save the actual dressing for a minute or so before you actually serve the salad.

1 Tbl. unsalted butter
1/4 c. raw pine nuts
1/2 shallot, peeled
1 Tbl. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbl. honey
1/2 c. canola, peanut, or mild olive oil
1 large bunch spinach, rinsed and dried
1 large navel orange, peeled and cut into 1/4″ slices
salt, pepper to taste

Melt the butter on low heat. Add the pine nuts and toast for about 2 minutes, being careful to stir and avoid burning the nuts. Transfer the nuts to a paper towel-lined  plate and sprinkle a bit of salt on top. Set aside. Add the vinegar, shallot, mustard, honey, salt, and pepper to a food processor. Slowly add the oil. Add 2 Tbl. toasted pine nuts and process the dressing until it is thoroughly puréed. Set aside.

With a sharp knife, remove the orange’s peel, following around the fruit’s contour. Slicing between each inside membrane of the orange, carefully slice 1/4″ slices. Arrange the slices onto a salad platter. Remove the spinach stems and finely chop the spinach leaves, placing them into a large mixing bowl. Toss with the dressing.

Pile the spinach into the center of the salad platter. Sprinkle with pine nuts and serve immediately.

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Healing Essential Oils for the Winter

The following post was written by Claudia Sherwood, who has been a guest blogger on Two Dancing Buckeyes in the past about the health benefits of honey. We hope you enjoy her latest post on honey and essential oils to combat all those coughs and runny noses during cold season. Enjoy!

I am a Reiki practitioner and beekeeper.  I use raw local honey internally (and externally –more on this in another blog). In my Reiki practice I use essential oils for de-stressing and centering, as well as with my volunteer work in hospitals. I also use them in helping my daughter to build immunity, to calm down, and sleep restfully.

I use oils known to be safe for internal use, in honey, and in capsules, as a natural medicine. Please note that many essential oils are adulterated or mislabeled, so I would not consider internal use without knowing proper information on internal or external use, and if you have a health condition you should check first with your health care practitioners.

Aromatherapy in Europe is so highly valued that there are strict requirements for a license in this practice, unlike in the U.S., where practice is generally much looser throughout the country.  However, high quality medicinal grade essential oils and aromatherapy are a highly successful way to heal with low risk of side effects.  So, I have come to feel quite comfortable using therapeutic grade oils on my family internally, with great benefits to our health. My medicine cabinet is lined with essential oils in place of conventional medicine, which I have not used on myself, or on my daughter, for years.  In fact, I also use them in my kitchen!

But how to use them internally and make them palatable? My latest work has been combining essential oils with raw honey. It is a tasty way to deliver the healing oils into our diet.  So a spoon of honey and a drop or two of therapeutic grade essential oil of cinnamon bark or lemon mixed into honey is very good for boosting my family’s immune system. I also use them in my salads, and it’s catching on with my friends.

Claudia’s salad dressing recipe —

2 or 3 drops of essential oil of Lemon (or Orange)

1 drop of Thyme oil

Hemp seed oil as a base

A dash of salt

My morning boost —

Clove: One drop can be mixed with honey for boosting immunity against winter colds, and clove has the highest ORAC on the anti-oxidant scale of any food.  It is great for the health of gums and toothache.  For kids, cinnamon bark is not as strong as clove and can be mixed with honey. I am also creating my own combinations of honey with healing essential oils including cinnamon bark and lemon.

Many so called essential oils available today are commonly mislabeled and/or chemically adulterated and are potentially toxic. For internal use, use only oils with a “Supplement Facts” label included on the bottle. For further information about oils that are safe to ingest, please contact me through my Healthy Living section at:  www.claudiasherwood.com

Beekeeping

The following post was written by Claudia Sherwood, a guest blogger, who resides in Montclair, New Jersey. Besides beekeeping, Claudia practices Reiki and essential oil therapy. We are so happy to share this information about bees and the numerous health benefits of honey with our readers. Thank you, Claudia!

My life as a mentoring beekeeper is much more in sync with nature and a healthy rhythm of life. Bees, who are mostly female, know their specific roles within the hive. They begin as eggs that were laid by the queen, and they are nurtured by the nurse bees who feed them Royal Jelly, then pollen and honey, then only honey. The first job the bee has after it emerges from the cell is to “clean its cell (or room)” as I remind my daughter. That is their first responsibility.

The female bee, after learning every job within the hive, goes on to be a forager, collecting pollen, nectar, water and plant resins from the field and bringing them back for use in the hive. Bees are social and all work together to care, protect and keep the hive and the queen safe. This is all innate. This strikes me as a metaphor for our “city of bees” in society, which sometimes seems chaotic.

I have learned much of the wonderful benefits of raw local honey, which can protect families from allergies from the flora surrounding where the bees live. Bees, in fact, travel to flowers in a five-mile radius of their hive. So the pollen contained in honey gives us immunity. The world would lose a huge percentage of crops if we were to lose our bees, who are pollinators of fruits, vegetables, and flowers.

The health benefits from bee venom are also being studied. Studies show that beekeepers are rarely with disease and have the highest life expectancy of any other occupation. Bee sting therapy, known as apitherapy, is being studied for possible slowing of symptoms of disease such as multiple sclerosis and arthritis.

The current disappearance of bees from hives throughout the world has been labeled “Collapsed Colony Disorder.” Scientists are still studying the reasons, which include pesticides, herbicides, fungal disease, bacterial disease called American Foul Brood, as well as a range of bee afflictions such as parasitic mites, which weaken their immune system and dis-orient them, so they don’t return to the hive.

For those of us compassionate to the plight of bees there are things that we can do without being a beekeeper. Community gardens and flower boxes can include bee-friendly flowers such as bee balm and foxglove, berries such as blackberries and blueberries, and herbs such as lavender, sage, rosemary and thyme.

Bees need water, and birdbaths are invaluable in Spring, Summer and Fall. By placing some smooth stones in the water the bees will feel safe enough to drink from the water and will return to the hive to tell the others of the water source. Also, educating others and communicating with farmers, gardeners and even local politicians to the downside of poorly timed applications of pest and disease control products can be helpful to the beleaguered honeybee.

One of the most important audiences for educating is our children. They should be first taught what the honeybee looks like, then to respect bees and not think of them as enemies. There are wonderful picture books for children that convey this. If hives are spotted in trees or in unusual places, a local beekeeping association should be contacted to try to collect the hive. Honeybees rarely sting unless their hive is threatened. I photograph bees and I have seen bees from a very, very close distance, and honestly they are… well, cute.

**We recommend watching, “City of Bees: A Children’s Guide to Bees.” It’s a lovely documentary that explains the world of bees, and is fun for grownups to watch, too! Check your local library. They may just have a copy.**

Honey-Sesame Cashews

This recipe was inspired by a store-bought version of honey-sesame cashews, but the homemade results were fantastic and better than what came pre-made.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups raw cashews
  • 1 tablespoon butter (can be substituted with canola oil)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon sugar

Spread the cashews evenly on a rimmed baking sheet and roast them in a 250° oven for about 8-10 minutes, until they just start to brown.  Move them around a bit halfway through to make sure that they don’t burn.  Meanwhile, melt the butter and honey together.  As soon as you pull the cashews from the oven, drizzle them with the honey-butter mixture (in a bowl or directly on the sheet) and toss them so that they are evenly coated.  Then sprinkle the sugar, salt, and sesame seeds and toss them again.  Put them back in the oven for 8-10 more minutes and watch them to make sure they don’t burn.  When they come out, toss them once again to pick up any stray sesame seeds, then let them cool completely on the sheet.

An easy, delicious, and wholesome snack – enjoy!