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Blog: On Health. On Writing. On Life. On Everything.

Spring Greens

March 30, 2012

Tags: order, herbs, food, bicycle, budding, chives, dandelion, delicatessen, excitement, flowers, garden, garden tea, garlic, life, liver health, skin health, smiling, spring fatigue, observing, olive oil, poisonous plants, salad, spring greens, Spring Greens, sprouting, stinging nettle, tea – herbal, vigor, winter blah, year - seasons, spring, sun, renewal, blooming, life, passion, winter - eternal

This is the time of the year to eat chives, dandelion leaves and flowers, and stinging nettle leaves from the garden. They replenish you with new vigor against the winter blah and spring fatigue. They flush your liver and bring a glow to your skin. And a smile to your face.

Stinging nettles, of course, should be stripped from the stalks (wear gloves!) and be cooked – a delicatessen with olive oil and fresh garlic! Chives you can munch right from the garden, and dandelions are good as salad, as cooked greens or as a tea. Have you ever made a glass teapot with the rich green of garden plants, sunny from the buttery-yellow flowers of dandelions? Yes, it’s time again for a garden tea! Anything that isn’t poisonous can go in.

All this is not new, of course. Just a reminder. But the essence of spring is exactly this yearly renewal! Nothing new under the sun, they say – but let’s not forget that this yearly renewal is the most wonderful thing that can happen: the blooming again of life, of passion, of being alive! Think it would NOT happen, and instead, we’d got eternal winter. That would be the end of life. So, go out every day now – perhaps on your bike, like I did today - and observe how little things sprout out of the soil or how buds burst open. Yes, it happens every year, nothing special about it – but boy-oh-boy – how it does get me excited!

Invasive Plants 5 - Crab Grass

November 1, 2011

Tags: herbs, food, Africa, America, Bermuda grass, bone health, bread, calcium, cataracts, colic, cow, crab grass, cultivation, deer, digestion, Digitaria, eye health, fall, feebleness, finger grass, folate, fonio, gardener, garden tea, germination, grass, grass - warm-weather, grazing, harvest, hay, horse, infusion, Invasive Plants 5 – Crab Grass, lawn, lime, magnesium, milling, nutritional value, perennial grass, phosphorus, poisonous, porridge, protein, retinol, ripening, season, settlers, starch, Sub-Saharan Africa, sugar, summer, tea – herbal, ungulate, vitamin A, weed, winter

Writing about the possible benefits of invasive plants, I had the fear that for most broad-leafed weeds it would be easy to find medicinal and other value, but that for grasses, I might have to pass. Interestingly, grasses have some good sides, too – even a such-maligned, horrible weed as crab grass.

Crab grass (also called “finger grass” because of its spiky inflorescences, or “fonio”, for African plants) are actually several Digitaria species – “Digitaria” again meaning “finger-like”.

Why is crab grass the proverbial weed? It turns out that “crabs” can’t take hold in a well-watered, well-fertilized lawn. But let that lawn be neglected, and develop some bald spots – that’s where the annual crab grass will move in, taking advantage.

A lawn usually consists of perennial grasses that stay green long into fall and often into winter. Crab grass would be fine to be intermingled, if it would not die by the end of summer and will leave a bald spot – especially if you pull it and do not immediately reseed with normal lawn seed. In that bald spot, its many, many seeds can take hold again. Crab grass’ trick is its long germination period: It might die early, but it can germinate basically all year, as long as there is no snow on the ground. Usually, a bald crab grass spot extends thus from season to season, always looking awful in the fall, showing your neighbors that you are a less-than-perfect gardener.

Remedy? Keep your grass healthy, well-fed, well-watered, well-limed, and reseed in fall and spring, so that crab grass seedlings have no chance.

So, what for is this invasive grass good? For cows and other ungulates like deer crab grass is as nutritious as any other grass; even more so, because of its high protein contents. Sub-Saharan Africa people eat the milled crab grass seeds in porridge and bread. The problem with crab grass is that it germinates and ripens its seed willfully throughout the year. Therefore it must be hand-harvested, defying large-scale cultivation. However, early settlers in America purposefully would till a spot in the spring so that crab grass could grow there, for the grazing of the animals later in the year.

Crab grass (like Bermuda grass) is a warm-weather grass. As such, it accumulates less sugar than a perennial grass - it does not intend to stay around for the winter, needing staying power through the winter. That makes crab grass better digestible especially to horses who might be quite sensitive to a high sugar and starch content – which bloats them, causing colic. So, as hay, crab grass is quite desirable.

Crab grass contains non-trivial amounts of magnesium, phosphorus and calcium – important for bone health, and some vitamin A, folate, and retinol; they might account for its use in eye health: Medicinally, crabgrass infusion is said to be helping against cataracts and feebleness. I probably won’t use it exactly for that purpose. But just knowing that crab grass is not poisonous will land it in my garden teas from now on.

Fasting After Easter

April 27, 2011

Tags: food, almonds, arthritis, brunch, butter, caviar - red, celebration, chives, dandelions, Easter, eel - smoked, eggs - naturally dyed, farmers’ cheese, fasting, Fasting After Easter, fatigue, feast, garden tea, gluten, herring - pickled, herring - red herring salad, Italian, kulitch, Lent, nettles - stinging, orange peel, pannetone, pashka, pork sausage, raisin, Russian, Russian Easter, sauna, sheika, sturgeon - smoked, vodka

Lent, the long fasting period, usually comes before Easter. But this year, it comes after the holiday for me.

You see, we organized a Russian Easter for our Russian friends – with all kinds of strange foods: Naturally dyed eggs, of course, pickled herrings, smoked sturgeon and smoked eel, red caviar, red herring salad, sheika (a pork sausage), pashka (an impossibly sweet farmers’ cheese with butter, raisin, orange peel and almonds), kulitch (a cake similar to the Italian pannetone). You get the idea: Delicious but deadly.

And I haven't even mentioned the vodka ... which I left out, it being brunch time. I also didn't cheat on gluten - it just makes me deathly sick. But the rest was enough to do me in: Fatigue and arthritis are hampering me now.

So, this week after the feast I am indulging in three cleansing modalities:

1. Sauna
2. Garden tea
3. Fasting.

Garden tea, so far, has been mostly been made with stinging nettles, chives and dandelions – not much else being available. And fasting works best with a vegetable broth, made from whatever was in the fridge (with the exception of nightshades).

In Germany, we have a saying that you have to celebrate as feasts come along – and I couldn’t agree more. But then, you have to pay the price, roll up the sleeves and clean up the mess. Especially the mess inside your body.
Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

Alexa Fleckenstein M.D. 2012, by Lolita Parker jr.

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