Chard, Kale, Oxalates…and old punk rock memories.

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If I could climb into a time machine and go back to the past, I would travel to the year 2001. The year that I got married. I would re-live the preparations for our wedding. The center pieces on the tables would be a bright display of purple, white and yellow cabbages all bundled together in a circular nest surrounded by various brightly colored vegetables huddled around and fully garnished with edible flowers.

My bridesmaids, groomsmen and honorable mentions would all be wearing elegant yet flavorful corsages and boutonnieres made out of flowered lavender, mixed with thyme, basil, rosemary and mountain top dandelions.

Then lastly, my favorite part, I would walk down the aisle with an arm full of vibrant rainbow chard and kale. I would also want to add flowering herbs such as chives, lavender, bee balm, and meadowsweet. Lovely lambs ear and dead-nettle mixed into the bunch as well. Maybe some mountain top dandelions for my bouquet, not to mention a few dangling cherry tomatoes and the vine of sugar snap peas poking out around the lower edges; hanging delicately like little bells. To finish it up I would want the vine of grapes used to wrap it all together, it would be a vine that still had the very start of tiny un-ripe miniature grape bundles hanging from the strands. OH yes wouldn’t that all be amazing…

This idea sparked after I gathered a heaping amount of kale and swiss chard into a lovely bundle from my garden. I held it all in my hand and mindlessly began arranging them, so that the yellows and reds of the chard would shine through. I admired the beauty and I began to daydream about how amazing an edible wedding would be! I think I will save this idea for a 25th wedding anniversary or something of that nature!

In reality I would never go back and change one thing about my youthful punk rock wedding. We are different people now, my husband and I, and each decade we change. Our outward forms of expression are symbolic for both who we are and who we were.

Oh for memories sake let me tell you a little about it: When I got married I was only 19 going on 20. We were young wild things, My hair was tinted with tips of firetruck red and my husband’s mohawk matched in color. My lip was pierced with a silver lip ring embellished with a red gemstone in the middle to match our fiery hair. Our wedding party wore black high-top converse shoes and our wedding colors were red, white and black. We danced to a song by Danzig called “Sistinas”.  Our youthful spirits filled the dance floor with a ruckus of movement as we rollicked the night away with beat driving 1980’s music saluting the open space of the room.

Now, here I am 12 years later with two kids and my 3rd dog-child Moonshine a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, still married to the man of my dreams who is now a hard working responsible foreman, who frequents the barber shop to keep his hair precisely trimmed.  I of course wish he would let it go wild, at least, just a little bit. No more days of barbarian mohawks and metal lip rings for us…

No, I garden and take pictures of kale and chard and imagine a wedding with a different kind of ambiance. I have definitely changed.

I love leafy greens in the garden, with most of them you can continue to snip away at their stalks and they will continue to give you a harvest for months.

I am harvesting rainbow chard and kale with my dinners weekly. I like to understand what my food does for my body when I eat it.  When I first started to get interested in the topic of health food and traditional culinary practices I purchased the book “Nourishing Traditions”.  This book is stock full of little excerpts on each page that tell you so much history and fact-full information about what you are eating. So whenever I made a meal from the book I would sit down at our table and read to my little family about what their food was going to contribute to their bodies. It is captivating to me to understand the science behind my food.

Kale, is this robust strong mighty leaf that can often brave the changes in weather and be harvested up until early winter, depending on the circumstances. Web Md calls it the “queen of greens”.  It’s health benefits trump the best of them and it’s flavor is rich to the taste buds.

KALE’S LIFE-GIVING FACTS:

– Did you know that Kale has more iron than beef! Hard to believe! It is being dubbed, “The New Beef”.  Due to it’s high iron content it promotes healthy hemoglobin and enzyme growth, it aids in bringing valued oxygen to vital parts of cell growth, and it also contributes to proper liver growth.

– High in Vitamin K! Vit. K is a great carcinogen fighter for your body! It also supports bone growth and the prevention of blood clotting.

– Kale has omega 3’s which are essential for fighting inflammation. It is important to eat anti-inflammatory foods in order to create a healthy alkalinity in our bodies.

– High in vitamin A which equals good vision and great skin.

– High in vitamin C, that means immune boosting time when you shovel down some of those greens!

– High in calcium: Bone loss prevention!

– Kale can be used to promote detox with it’s high fiber and sulfur content which promotes a healthy liver.

Swiss chard is not as hearty as kale, it’s leaf shines with color as the veins tend to be the shade of the stem and the leaf almost looks waxy because of it’s lush luminous green hues. To be honest, I never really ate chard before I planted it in my garden. I am sure it was in mixed packages of salad greens, but I never intentionally purchased a bundle of chard from the store. After growing it, it is definitely a leafy green that I am learning to cook with and I thoroughly enjoy!

Rainbow chard is as vibrant in appearance as it is in it’s flavor. It can be harvested typically between June and up to November. Both the leaves and stalks are edible. Rainbow chard can be cooked pretty much anyway that you want: boiled, braised, steamed or saute’ed (this goes the same for kale).

SWISS CHARD’S LIFE-GIVING FACTS: 

– Full of vitamins K, A, and C!

– It is packed with potassium, magnesium, iron and fiber.

– It is considered a super food as it is high in antioxidants. Immune boosting super powers!

– Rich in B-complex vitamins.

– Chard is a member of the beet family, but the roots are not edible.

WARNING: Something to think about…  Do you know about oxalic acids? 

Most of us are hopefully aware that rhubarb leaves are poisonous. It is important to only eat the stalk of rhubarb and to discard the leaves. Why? Because the leaves are so high in oxalic acids that they are detrimental for human consumption.

What is oxalic acid? A quick description is that it is a chemical found in many plants. The acid binds with calcium which creates calcium oxalate, which is an insoluble salt. Too much oxalic acid can be dangerous.

It is so trendy right now to consume kale, spinach and chard in smoothies…juice them, smoothie them up or throw them in your salads. I hear this advice all of the time, but what a lot of people don’t know is that too much raw oxalic acid from certain greens is counterproductive. All of these leafy greens are considered super-foods. We want them, they are really good for us, but eating too much of it raw is not the best plan, why? because lightly cooking these greens frees up the oxalic acid count. Most studies say that Kale is not high enough on the oxalic count to worry about. However, chard and spinach are both very high in acids.

Kale has a much lower amount of oxalic acid compared to chard. Many greens have a level of oxalic acid thus if you veto out kale you would have to veto out a large number or greens, and these are edible plants, gifts to the human body meant to be eaten.  Most sources say that eating kale raw is fine but I would simply recommend eating it raw in moderation. I personally prefer to steam or lightly saute’ them because I don’t want to worry about levels of oxalic acid and of course the famous kale chips are a perfect way to intake these nutritious greens. WHFoods offers information on kale and I take their advice on the healthiest way to eat kale is to steam it. They also have a very informative section on the oxalic acid in kale.

Swiss chard actually has a very high content of oxalic acids and WHFoods states, “Swiss chard is only one of three vegetables we recommend boiling to free up [oxalic] acids and allowing them to leach into the boiling water; this brings out a sweeter taste from the chard. Discard the boiling water after cooking; do not drink it or use it for stock because of its acid content.”

Most people are not aware of oxalic acid, and an over consumption of oxalic acid is said to promote kidney stones. Studies show that if you have any type of existing or untreated kidney issues or gallbladder problems that you might want to avoid the high oxalic vegetables all together.

One thing that is important to understand is that food is truly thy medicine. Their is a science to every plantae that you eat and knowing your food means understanding what it can do for you and whether your body should be eating it.  Just like not all prescriptions are for all people, not all food is for all people. We need to educate ourselves about our own bodies and about the right food for our bodies.

I personally enjoy the super food that swiss chard and kale are but I take heed to the recommended wisdom that it is not a leafy green to consume raw, or at least done in moderation.

Or…you could always grow them in order to make elaborate wedding bouquets for an edible wedding?!?!…  😉

More info on Oxalic Acid: 

Click here for info on Kale

Click here for info on chard

Click here for more of a thorough reading on oxalic acid

It is important to take into consideration that I am not a nutritionist. I am someone that is deeply interested in food science but I do not have a degree. It is imporant for you to talk with your personal naturopath, integrative doctor or nutritionist and/or do more research for yourself.

Thanks for reading,

– Jenny Rose

 

 

 

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Humble Beginnings From Torn Up Roots…

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Grapes growing, wildly overgrown, in my yard. Can’t wait to taste their ripened sweetness again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It has only happened once… maybe twice, when I have tasted a grape, the kind with seeds inside and I could taste my childhood.  There was a forgotten grape vine in my backyard yet I was always there, as a child, gleaning from that wild vine…

Within every suburban/urban yard there is life! Life in those flower beds, life in that green grass, life in the city limit lot that you now own or rent. We, as North Americans, mostly maintain own our little city plots of land…this is what we have, this is what we work with, this is our claim.

I have a dream to live in the country one of these days…Oh yes, one of these days I want to live and breathe and smell the country air with all of my heart and soul.  However, today is not that day… and if everyone wanted to live in the country we would no longer have country.

The city is an interesting place, an energetic magnet of thousands upon thousands of people with voices and opinions; diversity pulsing through it’s ebb and flow… and of course there are the real-time responsibilities of  jobs and needs and homes and yards and…yet… within the crazy hectic beating heart of the civic lands there is the inherent desire to stretch out, the appetite to smell the roses so to speak; to reach our arms high into the patterns of the sky and shout, “I- am – Freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!” Like wild beasts raising our chests to the thunder of freedom after the lightning strikes.

I know we all feel that. I know we all want that. I know…  because I feel it too.

I say, make revolution where you are at. Anywhere that you stand. Peaceful revolution.  I am!… OR more honestly– I WANT TO! That is why I write! I desire to write with the voice that I want to be and the vision and hopes and dreams and the current of what is and what I want to see.

I cannot say that my humble garden, a first year gardener, as a rudimentary edible creationist, is ever going to make front page news! However, I can say that we can make use of our lots in a simple kind of way… we can make some amazing things out of our small or regular sized plots of earth. You and I, let us do this together. Far and wide, close and cozy, let us do this collectively! With each garden, each edible landscape; with every bit of bee and butterfly friendly plants measured into your safe and anti-chemical yards; we can create a revolution together.  Not one little humble garden but many!

I have heard those doubts in my mind of, “Oh I will farm or garden or grow things or take care of animals when I move away from the city, when I have more room.” OR “I am too busy right now, and I don’t have a spot for a garden.” Anywhere that there is earth you can grow, I can grow, life will thrive if we let it!

There is no longer space for that doubtful frame of mind. I know far too many revolutionary artisans of the urban garden, caretakers of the backyard chickens, and makers of bee-keeping whom all live within the city in their regular lots… hence I can no longer say, “yes, let’s wait till we have more room to grow…”

NO! I am here in my city home, I can grow a garden… Then what is next, what more will happen later? I know that by taking one small baby step forward, new things will be added, life is happening. You can take a stroll through my humble garden.  It would take you 1 or 2 minutes to see all there is to see within my 3 long coffin-like garden beds streaming with life.  I am a writer so I passionately write on what fills me with inspiration, even the most simplistic of things; I write as if it is the most epic happenstance of all of history. I am daily filled by an outpouring of affection for my humble little first time garden and I am excited about what may grow from this.

I know many neighbors and friends that may have organic life exploding out of their yards, much more than I do; more robust with more seeds sowed and massive amounts harvested and I envy such beauty, in a loving-awestruck way. I am thankful for their example and efforts and I hold them as exemplary humans to seek wisdom and understanding from.

You see, as a child, I was hardly taught to live like this, I wasn’t trained to be a gardener by example, but I was surely trained to be a consumer. Yet there were those every other weekend hikes in the summer months to “Terabithia” with my father where he taught me to dance with the trees of the forest, and to pick mushrooms and to smell the pines and firs of the great trees. I love him for that, He taught me the seeds of change in that particular way.

My father was the cultivator, a man whom I had no idea that he had wisdom to grow life until I was in high school and he started with the only garden that I can remember in a rental that we lived in on those rare weekends. I am sure he gardened before that, in fact I know he did; I grew up in the deserted remnants of his garden work, with wild grape vines and empty rabbit cages on that far side of our forgotten yard,  but the garden in the backyard of his rental when I was 16 was the first one that I can remember him tending to.

So much of my life seems to have to do with what was lost… I want to cultivate and grow things, and in some way it makes me feel like I am re-birthing the empty spots of my childhood.

I am a feeler, one of those people that deeply senses everything. My intuition is on hyper drive and I can understand where most people are at. I think that comes with the territory of trying to find oneself at the same time.

My humble garden is growing better than I had ever expected! My modest suburban yard, it is nothing but yellowed grass under this sun-burnt summer sky. I am merely a writer, that expresses the simple things of every day life, if we all would just sit down and write about our little yards, wow what a phenomenal anthem that might be!

Potatoes Taught Me Faith…

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There are hidden treasures below the surface…sometimes we merely need to dig a little while in order to find them…

So often this year, I have just stood there and stared at my garden after watering it. Sometimes after I get out of my car from wherever it was that I had gone, I step out and just gaze. I get wonderstruck in the effort of gardening and begin to daydream. As a first time gardener I want to do more than I do, but I don’t always know exactly what is specifically needed within each step, I am in the midst of learning tricks, so sometimes I revert to the job of simply peering into each bed and musing over it’s growth… it’s more of a fascination really.

A lot of times, it seems that it is after I have already finished something that I find that there is a “better” way that I could have done it. I planted potatoes on a whim.  They were not part of my original list of vegetables to plant in my garden beds.  One afternoon my nose lead me to a smell of rotting potatoes in the pantry, organic Yukon Golds wasting away.  They weren’t quite obsolete in value though; I noticed that all over the spuds there were sprouts protruding outwards.  Instead of composting them I decided, why not take a chance and plant them.

I loosened the soil with my hands and cut the potatoes into halves or into thirds.  Then placed them below to see what might happen.  After a couple of weeks the hibernating potatoes brought forth into view from the depths of the soil these adorable little green leafy plants! I was thrilled! I wondered though; will these be void of fruitfulness when all is said and done. Sure, the potatoes might grow up into these large and robust looking plantae, but what will I find within the soil after the growing season is finished, will it simply be a flourishing amount of greenery, or will there be a hiding harvest to be discovered?

I have heard that you need to purchase actual seed potatoes and that I shouldn’t use the grocery store bought ones because they may not yield any new potatoes.  I had also read that it is good to have your potatoes in acidic soil with a pH level of 6.0 or below and that one should add alfalfa meal, soybean meal or another high-nitrogen organic fertilizer. Lastly, I read that you should not plant your potatoes in soil that contains manure because this can create rough patches on the skin. All of this may be true and is very helpful information, however, I of course read all of the above after I had planted my “faith” potatoes.

I call them faith potatoes because against all odds and against the grain of conventional directions I planted them and I continued to hope that below the surface something was happening…

My garden beds have manure in it. My sprouting Yukon Golds were from a local grocery store,  I have no idea what my soils pH level is because I haven’t gotten around to testing the soils balance. I did not add a single dosage of organic feed to the soil.  I simply took the sprouted potatoes, planted them, and watered them.  Yes, I did sing them a song or two. My plants love it when I sing to them…

After a while my lovely potato plants, well more like miniature bushes because they grew so high and green and wide, they began to flower. Little dainty white flowers with a yellow center.  Again, I admired all that I could see; the flowers and the lush green foliage. Yet, I continued to hope and wonder what might be happening below the surface.  By this point I had read all of the do’s and don’ts of potatoes and I had discovered that I had accomplished a lot of the don’ts… My expectations were not extremely high at this point, but I waited and I wondered that possibly, just maybe, we might be getting some of our very own potatoes from this earthen patch.

Months had gone by, the plants continued to visibly grow untamed, tall and wide. Then today, a hot Saturday afternoon in July, we arrived home from a fantastic time at our local farmers market and all 4 of us did that thing that I tend to do. We climbed out of the car and just stood there and stared at the garden, watchful and hopeful.  My husband began to look at all the tomatoes that are finally showing up.  Then as I was introducing him to all of the green cherry tomatoes he began pushing his hands into the soft soil below one of the potato plants.

“Careful Josh, you might hurt the babies!” I warned him. I was thinking that if there was anything reproducing beneath the soil that they were still so young; vulnerable little spudlings that needed to stay within the dark cocoon of the earth…  And then…dirt I dig you potatos2

Out of the dirt rose beauty… Out of the unknown he starts pulling out these baseball sized golden potatoes, bright, fresh and gleaming; all covered in rich dirt. My children squealed in delight.  I gasped in shocked excitement. It was an amazing experience to see these edible treasures come forth from a place that I could not see that will now feed my family …

Beneath the soil things were happening that my eyes could not perceive…life was forming in the spaces of mystery.  There is a precarious line in life of visual-factual understanding and faith-understanding.  I have always thought faith was strange, because I feel like I have faith and hope; I feel like I can believe in what I cannot see…yet that doesn’t mean I didn’t ever doubt. Although, I was always taught to never doubt… However, without doubt how can one have faith? If there isn’t anything to wonder about, if there was never any reason to question things than faith would not exist…it would merely be factual and the guess and the mystery would be gone…

Here I am tonight with a bowl full of potatoes in my kitchen. Soaking them in vinegar water, cleaning all the dirt from their skins; like a baby birthed from the mysterious womb and then washed, cleaned and wrapped into the arms of her mother.

All I can say is I have faith in potatoes… potatoes taught me faith and that is good enough for me. I have learned that there are rules and tips and guidelines that will show you how to do something based off of what others have already done, but there are times when nature shows off it’s wild side, free and fertile; nature wants to thrive…all living things want to grow…it is the elemental connection that we all have, we all want to be and feel alive! Thank you Creator for this humble harvest.