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Jun 10
2010

Getting Protein On A Vegetarian/Vegan Diet

Whether you’re looking to bulk up for a competition or to lose weight while maintaining muscle mass, protein is an important part of pretty much everyone’s diet, so one of the biggest worries about dropping meat is keeping the protein intake up.

Despite their negative reputation, it’s quite possible to get significant amounts of protein from certain vegetables and legumes without having to serve portions that a panda would be proud of.

However, when it comes to protein, the quality is more important than the quantity. So, although not all of the foods listed contain huge amounts of protein, they’re all very healthy and a staple of any balanced diet.

UPDATE: All figures have been pulled from Nutrition Data thanks to Tammi.

Sunflower Seeds

One of the best advantages to eating sunflower seeds as a source of protein is that they’re like a smaller version of a protein bar, with all of the amino acids and none of that great cardboardy taste.

Unlike a few of the other sources I’ll be telling you about further down the page, finding sunflower seeds is as easy as shaking the flowers a few times with a bowl underneath to collect them. But, even if they’re not growable in the season you’re reading this post in, they should be available in any health store and most supermarkets where you live.

There aren’t too many recipes that I can think of that call for sunflower seeds, so if you have any that you use, please feel free to let me know. However, what I do have is a recipe for crunchy toasted seeds, similar to how they’d taste out of the packet from the shop.…

Apr 12
2010

Plants To Fill Your Home With Clean Air

I was clicking around on TED.com when I came across a fascinating video by Kamal Meattle about 3 plants that produce so much oxygen, you could sit in a sealed container and live off of the air they supply. The quality of the air we breathe has such a massive effect on our health and wellness that I really couldn’t ignore the points he raised.

More often than not, living in the city will have you breathing in all kinds of terrible chemicals like formaldehyde and benzene, so it’s not surprising that rural folk have less instances of asthma, respiratory tract infections and allergenic issues. These 3 plants will give you a taste of country life, even in the busiest cities in the world.

Butterfly Palm Dypsis lutescens

Also known as areca palm, the butterfly palm tree is a great plant to line your bathrooms and gardens with.

They respond really well to heavy, consistent (every 10 or so days) watering but are quite sensitive to additives in water. If you live in a hard-water area or aren’t sure about the quality, it may be an idea to invest in a water filter/purifier to avoid sabotaging your palm. It’s best not to allow the soil to dry out (which will make the fronds droop) but if you do, slowly re-watering it will perk them back up in no time.

They respond best to bright and indirect light, so they’ll do great in sunny bathrooms or on a shielded patio, but anywhere in your house roughly 6 feet away from a window which gets a lot of sun will be fine. Too much light will quickly burn them, so it’s best to err on the side of caution with this.

One last thing to be aware of is browning of the leaf tips. This isn’t anything to be worried about and is quite natural, but when it happens, prune the branch from the base to stop your plant from wasting energy on trying to save it.…

Sep 27
2009

Herbal Cures For Various Ailments

It’s that time of year again, everyone is seeking cures for the common cold and other ailments which affect the body during the fall and winter. Many people don’t realize they have cures and supplements for these conditions growing right outside in their gardens!

Do you have catnip in your garden? Perhaps thyme, peppermint, yarrow, hyssop, or even bee balm? All of these can be used to create tinctures and infusions which are great for the common cold and other conditions which cause you to become stuffy and generally ill. I’ve found that a great infusion of peppermint in warm tea is the perfect thing I need as a pick me up on cold winter days.

Catnip is a great addition to any garden as well, as the flowers it produces are beautiful and its very aromatic, not just for cats! Herb gardeners will love it because its easy to take care of and has multiple uses. In addition to being very flavorful in salads and marinades, catnip tea made from the leaves and flowers of the plant can be a great remedy for the coughs and sniffles, or just as a great bedtime relaxative. It grows year round, too, so it’s relatively easy to always have this on hand, especially if you love gardening.

Yarrow is another great herb to have year round in your garden, as it has many functions as a herbal remedy and has been used since ancient times. Since I can remember, my grandmother used to keep a yarrow plant around though she always called it ‘nosebleed’. Any time one of us would get a nosebleed or a cut or scrape, she’d pick off a leaf of this plant and tell us to press it against the wound or our nose. It always worked to stop the bleeding, and since then, I’ve always kept a yarrow plant around for minor scrapes and bruises, and of course, nosebleeds. The interesting thing about yarrow, though, is not only is it good for these types of minor injuries, it is also good for helping fight colds when combined in tea with peppermint. In addition to that, yarrow can be proven to help lower blood pressure too, so it’s a great all around herb to have in your garden.

Hyssop is another great all around herb for a coughing remedy, as when its prepared as an infusion, it can help coughing, cold, flu, and sore throats.

If you don’t have any of these herbs growing in your garden, the one you might have and can rely on is thyme. Thyme has been grown for centuries as a cure for congestion and colds, with monks in Southern France and Spain popularizing the use throughout the rest of Europe. The best way to use thyme if you find yourself under the weather is to prepare yourself a tea which is two teaspoons of thyme per each cup of boiling water. If you have a persistently nagging cough, you can also add in some sage which will help reduce the cough.

Thyme works best as the main ingredient which is found in its oil, thymol, is also used in products like Listerine mouth wash and Vick’s Vaporub. These products have long been used to provide soothing comfort for the mouth and nose, so if you want to go direct to the source and avoid having to rub Vick’s on your chest, you can prepare a pot of boiling water and throw in a few thyme sprigs. Using this as an inhalant in this manner will help loosen any congestion and you’ll definitely feel tons better.

These are only a few remedies which are available straight from your herb garden. Basil, oregano, sage, and rosemary also have great medicinal uses for curing all manner of ailments, does just about every herb you’d plant in your home garden. With a little research, I’ve found many uses for herbs which I wouldn’t normally consider for the purpose.

Sep 06
2009

Plant Spotlight: Sweet Potato

Here’s the first of a new series I’m starting on the different varieties of plants you may find. Today we’ll be taking a look at the absolutely delicious vegetable known as sweet potato (ipomoea batatas). Also known as yam*, this wonderful plant hails from the tropical regions of Southern America and is usually grown for the tuber, although the roots and leaves are also perfectly edible.

Despite the name, sweet potatoes go great in many savoury dishes such as: sweet potato pie, chips (fries) and, in my opinion, especially well with a hearty Sunday dinner in place of mashed/roast potatoes. As a vegetable it’s really flexible and its uses are only really limited by your imagination. On the other hand, it can also be used as a sweet dish when candied. Although I’m yet to try this, I hear it’s all the rage in the USA around Thanksgiving time, so it’s definitely worth a try.

To grow, you will need a warm, moist environment – preferably with well aerated soil to prevent fungus growth. It’s a bit (very) sensitive to frost though, so be sure to only get them in the ground after you’re sure the last of the frost has passed otherwise you’ll lose them really quickly. Also, against what I usually say, err on the side of caution when fertilising them. If the soil gets a bit too rich you’ll end up with long, beautiful vines, but not much in the way of actual potatoes. Should the unfortunate happen, just slow right down on the fertilisation and don’t try to water it down or we’ll end up with dead friends. Your best bet is to find some sandy soil though, always works well and will have them thriving for a good part of the warmer months.

With that said, they’re really easy to grow and if planted around April-time you’ll probably have them growing all the way through to September when they’ll start to die down, so you can probably get 150 good days out of the sweet potato plant. Not bad at all and definitely worth the space. Be careful of insects though, they’ve evolved to understand how tasty the heart-shaped leaves are so you’ll end up with a plant resembling Swiss cheese if they were left to their own devices. My best advice would be to keep spraying diluted hot sauce all over them (they can’t take the heat – hohoho) and checking the undersides every now and then for eggs just in case.

Overall, it’s a joy to have around the garden, the beautiful chartreuse leaves will attract all sorts of flying friendlies and keep your tummy happy for a long time. I could rave for days about how much I enjoy the taste, but I think I should probably tuck in. Bon appétit!…

Jul 17
2009

How To Grow Plants From Seeds

With some things you’ll grow, it’ll be easy enough to grow from cuttings or planting the bulb in the ground (onions, garlic, etc) but at other times that will be a bit more difficult. That’s when growing from seeds is the best option. It’s often far cheaper and much more portable than a pre-existing plant from a nursery. You won’t need anything special to grow from scratch, just a container, water and some form of compost.

Before we get started, there’s a few things I should probably mention. You’ll be limited by the germination rate of the seed, which is the percentage of seeds planted in identical conditions that will actually grow. Of course, you can tip the odds in your favour, but it’s best to keep in mind that it’s not always something you’ve done wrong when it doesn’t germinate.

For the seeds that come in packets

To make things easier for yourself, a good start is to soak them in warm (not boiling) water to weaken the seed wall. 24 hours is a good length of time but you can soak them longer if you’d wish. I’d say say anywhere up to 3 nights is fine for the tougher seed varieties. If you can get hold of it, add 1/2 of a teaspoon of saltpeter per 500ml (1 pint), this will really help the process along so don’t overdo it, but at the right amount, your seeds will do fantastic.

As soon as you’re finished with the soaking process, take them out of the water and rinse them off if you used saltpeter, then put them straight into the soil you’ll be growing them in. You won’t want them to dry out so it’s best not to use a towel or anything to remove the dampness.

For dead seeds

I call the seeds that come in fruit/flowers dead because they’re not prepared to come to life just yet. The process we’ll use is called stratification and is, simply put, waking the seeds up. As an analogy, when you first wake up you’re not really ready to start work, but after your morning routine you’re good to go. Stratification is the morning routine of the plant world and will get them ready to start growing.

To wake them up, soak the seeds in cool water for about half of a day, then keep them in the fridge for a few days. As soon as they’re done, take them out of the fridge and plant them somewhere warm. It’s important that you do this at a time they they won’t be exposed to frost or prolonged drafts so keeping the pot by a closed window is a good option.…