12 Cool Hacks to Get the Most from Your Veggies

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12 Cool Hacks to Get the Most from Your Veggies

We’ve bred plants to taste better, be more productive, and be easier to harvest, store, and ship, but not to be more nutritious. Here’s are some ways you can fix that.

Since man first figured out how to domesticate plants we’ve been trying to make them more palatable. Most edible wild plants are too bitter, sour, astringent, tough, full of seeds, or dry to be enjoyable.

Over the course of the last 12,000 years we’ve bred plants to taste better, be more productive, and easy to harvest, store, and transport. But the real reason we eat –  for nutrition – has not been a consideration. So the food we now eat may be tastier and we can get it all year round, but its nutritional value has been left in the dust.

Native plants contain more protein, fiber, than crop plants and a lot less sugar. The original ancestor of corn, teosinte, contains a mere 2% sugar while sweet corn contains 40% sugar!

Wild plants also contain a lot more antioxidants, which neutralize free radical damage, and phytonutrients – chemicals we need for health like beta carotene and lycopene

Wild tomatoes, for example, contain 15 times more lycopene than supermarket tomatoes. Wild apples in Nepal contains 100 times more phytonutrients than apple varieties we normally eat. Of course, these wild versions would not receive any rave reviews from a modern palate, either.

We can’t go back to foraging, but there are tips and tricks you can use to get the most nutrition of out the vegetables you do eat.

By properly using, storing, and preparing vegetables, you can up their nutritional content and enhance bioavailability tremendously! Here are 12 of my favorite “veggie hacks”.

1. Eat broccoli first.

Broccoli is one of the most perishable vegetables yet the average time from harvest to plate is a long 7 weeks. By the time you get it home it’s lost 80% of its nutrition. For this reason try to buy broccoli at a farmer’s market and buy whole heads not cut up florets. Store in a perforated plastic bag in the fridge and eat within a day or two of purchase. Eat raw or cook minimally – steam for 4 minutes or sauté lightly.

2. Tear up lettuce before you store it.

Most lettuce eaten in the US is iceburg. This is the least nutritious kind. The more colorful and the looser the leaf, the more nutritious it will be. One of the weirdest tips is to tear your lettuce into bite size pieces before storing. This activates it to produce more phytonutrients to protect itself from predators!

Better yet, skip lettuce and make salads with spinach, wild arugula, or radicchio, which generally more nutrition rich than lettuce.

3. Scallions trump onions.

Sweet onions the least nutritious type of onion and scallions by far are the most nutrition dense. They contain an unbelievable 140 times more phytonutrients than white onions!

4. Buy new potatoes, organic if possible.

Potato skins contain half of a potato’s antioxidants, but it also contain most of the pesticides. For this reason, you should consider getting organic.

New potatoes cause a lower rise in blood sugar and colored potatoes that are blue, purple or almost black are the most like wild potatoes and contain the most nutrition.

5. Cook your beets.

In the US we eat very few beets, and that’s too bad! Beets are extremely nutritious and have a low glycemic index in spite of their sweetness. This is one of several vegetables that is actually healthier when eaten steamed (not boiled) or roasted instead of raw.

6. Say bye-bye to baby carrots.

Carrots are hard to breakdown so cooked carrots provide more beta carotene than raw! Buying carrots with the tops left on assures they are reasonably fresh. Carrots that come in a bag can be months old.

If you rely on baby carrots for a healthy snack, you’ll be disheartened to learn that they are only misshapen big carrots that have been whittled down to baby carrot shape and are nothing special. I felt very ripped off when I learned of this, how about you?

7. Tomatoes – when bigger is not better.

Most people look forward to a big juicy tomato, but when choosing tomatoes, the smaller and the darker red, the better.

Tomatoes on the vine are more expensive but unless you find they taste better, you can give them a pass. Nutritionally they are not a big improvement.

Tomatoes are more nutritious when cooked. Cooking slightly changes the lycopene to a more bioavailable form.

Counterintuitively, processed tomatoes of any kind – paste, sauce, or diced – are often the most nutritious form! These tomatoes are usually cooked and processed within a few hours of harvest, retaining all their phytonutrients.

Look for tomato products that come in glass jars, BPA-free cans, or tetra packs or make your own.

(For the purists out there, tomato is actually a fruit.)

8. Choose cabbage and cauliflower’s colorful cousins.

These two veggies are the pale members of the cruciferous family and are not the most nutrient dense. Try their colorful antioxidant rich cousins instead. Red cabbage costs more than green but contains 6 times more antioxidants.

Cauliflower comes in bright green, purple and even orange. You might think these are some weird mutants, but actually it’s the other way around. The colorful versions are closer to wild forms. The white cauliflower we’re used to is a mutant albino.

9. Cook your kale.

Kale and collards come close to being as healthy as wild greens. But it’s best not to add raw greens to smoothies or salads.

Raw kale is high in oxalic acid which can lead to muscle weakness, kidney stones, gout and low thyroid function. Lightly steaming first destroys oxalic acid.

10. Eat asparagus – it’ a walk on the wild side.

The asparagus we eat today has barely changed from its wild ancestors and thus is one of the most nutritious vegetables. There was no need to improve on perfection! It is one more veggie best to eat steamed rather than raw. Steaming increases antioxidant availability by 30%.

11. Use an onion to keep avocados fresh.

Wild avocados (another fruit) are ½ the size of an egg and mostly pit with little flesh. It doesn’t seem possible that something so smooth and creamy could be fibrous but an avocado contains as much fiber as 2 bowls of oatmeal!

If you are left with ½ an avocado, keeping the pit in place then applying lemon juice is the old standby to keep it from turning brown. But what I find works even better is to put a thin slice of onion on top. Remove the center rings to leave room for the pit.

12. Grow your own and shop local.

Using these tips can give your more nutrition and more value for your dollar. But of course the best “veggie hack” of all is to grow your own or shop from your local farmer’s market! Source

Squash Bugs and their Dirty Truth…

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Squash Bugs and their Dirty Truth…

Another day in the garden just minding my own business looking with pride on the green stalks that stood proudly in front of my eyes…and there I thought my garden was finally coming together and then BLAM! Squash bugs had completely infested my garden.

Squash Bugs

The sad thing was that I could have stopped these evil invaders sooner, had I known just what they were. I remember looking over the garden one day and seeing these beetle looking creatures. And in my head I thought, “Oh look beetles have visited my garden… maybe they will help with the ant problem.”

And then about a week or so later my squash plants were completely covered in these pests after a nice evening watering. Then it dawned on me, “These guys are no good! What should I do?”

"The Evil Doers"

“The Evil Doers”

So I posted on the local gardeners page I’m a member of on Facebook, looking for some sort of answers.

Squash bug eggs

“YOU HAVE SQUASH BUGS!” is the response I got. So I did some research and learned that these bugs have been problematic for years now for farmers & gardeners (source). Then I read over and over on various pages that these squash bugs were really hard to rid.

However I did find these remedies/cures what ever you wanna call these, however I’m gonna call these “Population Control”

1-Neem Oil-The spraying of Neem oil, either by itself or mixed with water as a solution seems to be the most curative form of riding an infestation of squash bugs. Neem oil not only smothers the evil doers, but slows their feeding habits reducing their reproduction of the stiff they ingest.

2-Diatomaceous Earth-sprinkle this earth powder in your garden, around your yard every few weeks or so. Do not worry about getting this stuff on your plants as it washes away & is non-toxic. Quick fix while planting mix- Mix in diatomaceous earth with the dirt around the seeds. This will keep the bugs away

3-Dice up onions & garlic. Soak over night in water. Save the fluids & discard the pulp. Next take the solution and place on the ground around the plants making sure not to touch the solution on the leaves or stalks(as this solution can be fatal and burn the plant).

So even though it was too late for my garden, I will know next season what to do do & how to prevent the bastards from taking over my plants once again! And hopefully you too will be saved the heart ache & disappointment from the destruction these bugs havoc!

Summer Leaves

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Before the Summer is gone take your kiddos outdoors to collect fallen Summer Leaves…

Here is a fun project “Summer Leaves”

I took my son Vance to the park. We then ran around looking for the best fallen leaves to collect. I explained to Vance that we did not need to pick any fresh leaves because that will hurt the tree, but we could collect any fallen leaves because the trees had given these freely to us.
Once our leaves were collected we went home & I pulled out some blank paper, paint & paint brushes.

Our supplies

Our supplies

We then pained the leaves with Vance’s choice of paint color-this time it was Blue!
We made sure to coat the leaf heavily with our paint.
Lastly Pressed the leaf to the paper to imprint the leaf onto the paper.

Look at our final project! How cute is this!?!

Our Summer Leaf!

Our Summer Leaf!

All the while I explained to Vance what we were doing so he could grasp the idea and the nature of the craft project.

I then wrote on the paper “Summer Leaf 2014″ so we knew what the project was & when we saved it we could recall the year.

Then we hung the Summer Leaf on the fridge for all to see.

The cutest part of this project was watching my son get so excited in the park collecting leaves. He kept finding the prettiest leaves and some old ones, that I had to tell him would not be any good for the project!
Then the painting was a blast too! Vance always loves getting the paints out and making a huge mess-we even painted each other a little in fun! No worries it will wash off!

So come on get the kiddos & go outside to collect some leaves before the Summer is over!

Welcome to Free Spirit & Mind!

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I want to Welcome all of you here today for visiting my blog “Free Spirit & Mind!”

This blog is about Alternative LifeStyles and Tips on How to get There!

This blog will discuss anything considered as an alternative life-style:
Home remedies
Alternative remedies
Gardening tips
Sewing projects
Sensory deprivation/Float tanks and the cures they help with
Meditation strategies
Vegetarian alternatives
Ideas for kid projects