Tomato Powder – For Those Tired of Canning Already!

Ah, the harvest of tomatoes is a plentiful this year, however … Honestly, I am sick of canning tomatoes.

Too much time.  Too much work.  Too much space.

You get the point.

So I thought I would look up Do-It-Yourself sundried tomatoes, being all clever to figure something different out.  I do love sundried tomatoes but until I looked them up, I did not realize the difficulty in storing them.  Well, I don’t really want to have to freeze tons of sundried tomatoes.

As I was surfing through delicious photos of reds and yellows, recipes slowly going through the back of my mind, I saw the words:

TOMATO POWDER

how the POWDER changed my cooking life forever

These words combined have made my love of tomatoes grow beyond measure. And taste.

MR. DEHYDRATOR

Cutting up large numbers of my beautiful, organic tomatoes (courtesy of my wonderful garden this year!) in slices no more than 1/4 inch thick, sprinkle with a dash of pickling salt and now steps in Mr. Dehydrator.

The tomatoes get a really good air drying for around 12 – 20 hours.  Toss in some freshly chopped basil or oregano from my garden on top of the slices and add a punch of flavour.

MR. SPICE GRINDER

Spice grinder in one hand and the other throws a bunch of crushed, dehydrated tomato slices in.

BUZZ BUZZ BUZZ

It’s pulse grinding.  Keep at it until you have taken a peek and find the consistency you are looking for, which for me is finely ground tomato powder.

USES

2 tablespoons of concentrated tomato powder plus about 1/2 cup of water creates the most amazing tomato paste to use for sauces.

Sprinkle a small amount into your foods, depending on taste.  Use anywhere you would use tomato or sundried tomato in recipes, just make sure to taste and adjust accordingly.

ALWAYS TASTE.

It is so versatile.

THE TASTE

It totally tastes like ketchup chips minus the chip part.

STORAGE

Storage is the best part it takes up WAY less room.  I store in a mason jar with a bunch of rice at the bottom to keep the moisture out.

Hope you enjoy, let me know any recipes that you may know of that uses tomato powder.

Summertime Eats – Pickling Cucumbers – Easy Refrigerator Pickles

So the first harvest of my pickling cucumbers has come in.  Yay!

I decided to try growing them along with regular cukes, so that we could pickle them.  We will be canning, but later.

Now to the easy stuff.

I trellised my cucumbers this year, with old hockey nets on the ground, and it works wonderfully.

Hockey Nets for Cucumber Trellis (upper right in pic)

Giving these delicious veggies some serious support, the first cukes I’ve picked are as clean as a whistle.  Check them out:

organic pickling cucumbers

So, in order to create something easy, I’m using a friend’s quickie recipe for scrumptious refrigerator pickles.  And I cheat.  I use a microwave. (LOL)

I find about 8 medium sized cukes are good for about 1 quart of pickling liquid.

You will need:

8 pickling cucumbers (*slice lengthwise or across, your choice)

* thinner you slice, more flavour penetrates but too slim may get mushy

1/4 cup (or so, adjust!) pickling salt (I use sea salt)

1/4 cup (or so, adjust!) white sugar (try different things, like maple sugar/syrup or honey)

About 1 quart of water or so

3/4 cup white vinegar

2 cloves (or more) of garlic

1 white/red onion

Fresh Dill (or seed)

Fresh Red Chili or flake (optional)

Pickling Spices/Flavours*

* This is totally a matter of taste, however, basic pickles have dill, bay leaf, garlic, onion.

Coriander, mustard, dill seeds

Black Peppercorns (or multi-coloured!)

Bay leaves

For some yummy notes:

Cloves (minimum)

Allspice (dash)

Place your cut cukes, along with some minced garlic (I usually mince one clove and slice into quarters, the other) and onion (I cut in 3) into your refrigerator container.  I use a large glass bowl and not jar because these goodies disappear so very quickly.

Now I boil the pickling liquid in a glass bowl in my microwave.  Boiling in anything less than stainless steel, apparently is a no-no because it changes the chemical composition of the pickling liquid.  I am still learning, canning is my next mission.

So, put water, pickling flavours, vinegar, sugar and salt into a large glass microwaveable bowl and let the mixture come to a boil.  I usually let it boil for about 30 seconds longer than when it started.  Take it out and mix the liquid to dissolve the sugar and salt.  Microwave for another 30 – 60 seconds.

Pour over cucumber-garlic-onion in the glass bowl.  I do not boil the garlic or the onion in the pickling liquid as you will find the flavour turns bitter and unpleasant.  Let the hot liquid basically blanche the yummy concoction (the onion is so good too!).

Let it cool down and after it’s no longer warm, place into the refrigerator. Plastic wrap the top.

Give them about 24 hours before you eat.  But at our house, only a few hours in the frig and literally minutes until they are gone.

Hope you enjoy and please, adjust the flavourings to your own style.  Don’t be afraid to try something new.

I am thinking about making a chinese-style flavouring, using ginger, garlic & sesame oil next.

Refrigerator Pickles

The Healthy Growing Lives of: Chives – Herb, Food, Plant & Flower

Chives: Easy Healthy Add to Liven Up Your Garden & Your Food

I have been taking a good long look at the plants I inherited when I bought my home.  I am blessed with a wonderful property, full of interesting plants, trees and animals.

Recently, for the last couple of years, my garden has been sprouting bunches of Chives.  This year is exceptional, so the following is an ode of information about and for the CHIVE.

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) are a part of the same plant family as onions, scallions and garlic. They actually grow from small bulbs and have a long history of culinary and medicinal uses.

In the Middle Ages, chives were promoted as a cure for melancholy and believed to drive away evil spirits. Today we know that chives and chive flowers are high in vitamin C, folic acid and potassium. Therefore, they should be routinely added to recipes to help restore vital nutrients lost in cooking. This herb’s tangy aromatic taste come from its high concentration of sulfur compounds and other essential oils, which are also partly responsible for its healing properties.

Growing Chives: So Easy!!!

Chives can be started from seed but it’s easiest to find a friend that already has an herb garden and dig-up a clump of their chive plant and get started growing your fresh chives.

Once your herb garden is established and you start getting blossoms on your chive plants you’ll quickly find that it’s best to use scissors instead of pruning sheers or a knife on these plants. Scissors are especially useful when cutting your chives to prepare for your favorite dishes.

This hardy perennial grows from 12 to 24 inches tall, with pink and lavender flowers that have flavored meals for centuries. It prefers full sun and moist, well-drained soil that high in organic matter. Planting rooted clumps is the easiest way to propagate chives. Seeds germinate slowly and require darkness, constant moisture, and temperatures of 60 degrees to 70 degrees F. Divide plants every few years. Chives also grow well in containers on a sunny windowsill or on your deck mixed with other herbs or edible flowers.

It’s just unbelievable how incredibly versatile chives can be. When you have an abundance of plants in your garden you can always make a chive bouquet.

Here’s a wonderful outdoor dining idea: place a chive bouquet in the center of your picnic table or outdoor dining area, the aroma can enhance dishes placed around it!

You can even use them as dried flower arrangements. They are very easy to dry and keep as edible flowers for your salads and soups.

Chives Save Lives: Surprising Medicinal Health Benefits

You may be surprised to find that there is research that supports how chives ease stomach distress, protect against heart disease and stroke and may help the body fight bacteria that can cause disease. In addition, the herb may increase the body’s ability to digest fat.

Therapeutic Effect:The medicinal properties of chives are as varied as their uses in the kitchen. Chives stimulate the appetite and promote good digestion. They can be used to ease stomach upset, clear a stuffy nose, reduce flatulence and prevent bad breath. Combined with a low-salt diet, they help lower high blood pressure. Plus, they have a mild diuretic effect, as well as some antibacterial properties.

Components: Chives are valued for their many essential minerals, including cardiac-friendly potassium, bone-strengthening calcium and blood-building iron. And unlike most other members of the onion family, chives are high in folic acid (a B vitamin), vitamin A and vitamin C. In fact, just 3 ½ ounces of chives supplies enough vitamin C to meet your daily requirement of 60 mg.

Cold Prevention: The high vitamin C content in chives can help prevent colds. They also speed recovery if a cold develops by helping the body to expel mucus; the sulfurous compounds in chives are natural expectorants.

Cholesterol Reduction: Scientific research shows that chives stimulate the body’s digestion of fat. Eaten regularly, chives may help lower blood cholesterol levels.

The Chive Flower: Tastes as Good as It Looks

Here are a few foodie food ideas …

Don’t overlook the chive flower. The chive’s delicate purple flowers have a milder flavor than the leaves and stems and add a decorative touch to salads, herb oils and other dishes.

Chive Flavored Oil: add 1 ½ ounces of chive blossoms to 1 quart of vegetable oil. After a week, the oil will turn lilac and take on the fragrance of the chive flowers. Use the oil on salads or in cooking. Keep it refrigerated when not in use!

Chive Salt: If you like the oniony flavor of chives, make your own Chive Salt to add zip to all sorts of dishes. First, add some chive leaves to some salt. Then bake the mixture in the oven to dry the leaves and blend the flavors. Store in an airtight jar.

Cottage Cheese with Chives

  • 8 ounces of cottage cheese
  • 1 tablespoon of mustard
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 bunch chives
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • Salt to taste
  • White pepper

1. Blend the cottage cheese and mustard.

2. Peel the shallot, chip finely and mix with the cottage cheese blend.

3. Wash and dry the chives and snip them finely. Stir about two-thirds of the chives into the cottage cheese mixture.

4. Season the cottage-cheese mixture with the paprika and add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle the remaining chives on top.

Food & Kitchen Tips

  • Cut chives just before you are ready to use them to preserve their vitamins, aroma and flavor. Chives are delicate; to prevent the loss of essential oils, snip them with kitchen shears rather than chopping or grinding.
  •  Don’t heat chives or they will lose their valuable vitamin C as well as their digestive properties
  •  Grow chives at home in a pot on a windowsill. Wait until the plant reaches about 6 inches in height before cutting. Harvest the chive leaves frequently to prevent blooming unless you specifically want to use the flowers. Once the plant blooms, the leave become less flavorful.
  • Freeze chives for future use. Frozen chives tend to retain more flavor than dried chives. Snip fresh chives into small pieces, then place them in an ice-cube tray and fill it with water. To thaw, put a chive cube in a strainer.

We hope you enjoyed the article on Chives.

Please follow us on Twitter @stealtharmour or Pinterest at pinterest.com/stealtharmour

Online Pins and Posts Party: Top 5 Pinterest Gardening Pins – Best Photo, Funniest and More

Welcome to the Kick Off to the Online Gardening Pins & Posts Party!!!

I am still kinda new to Pinterest (for those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s a relatively new ‘social’ networking site & its very cool!) but I am very lucky and really appreciate the interest my followers have given my blog & pins! Thank you.

So, in appreciation, I am creating a TOP 5 GARDENING PINS & POSTS of the Week page, dedicated to my friends and followers on social networks and blogs.

TOP 5 PINTEREST GARDENING PINS of the WEEK:

Categories include: BEST PHOTO, BEST USE OF RECYCLING, FUNNIEST, Do-It-Yourself DIY & OFF THE WALL.

From Abby Iris: Best Photo

Seems this PIN made a terrific impression with Pinsters, clocking in high repins.

http://pinterest.com/pin/153826143492413264/

Brittany McCrea: Best Use of Recycling

Recycling and saving the environment is a daily habit for most of us gardeners.  This PIN hit home with many. Guess we all might be wine drinkers too. Anyone growing grapes? Cheers!

http://pinterest.com/pin/88242473918877569/

Veronica Frontz: Funniest Gardening Pin

Laughter is definitely the best medicine, so get your dose with this PIN.

http://pinterest.com/pin/237846424040579847/

Nicki Hammon: DIY

This is a great way to bling and sparkle up any fence and gate. Also, think about alternatives to marbles, like pieces of coloured glass etc.

http://pinterest.com/pin/130041507960516206/

Gigi-Mays: Most Off the Wall

http://pinterest.com/pin/18295942206398868/

This is the most off the wall and craziest Tulip I have ever seen.  Reminds me of Little Shop of Horrors.

Feed Me Seymour …

Hope you enjoyed the picks and the pics!

Come back and visit next week for another TOP 5 of the BEST PINS & POSTS …

Please look us up on PINTEREST – profile name: stealtharmour – or make sure to connect with us on Twitter @stealtharmour

The Preppermint Case – Versatile, Easy to Gro, Healthy Herb: It’s So Mint!

PEPPERMINT – For a Prepper, its Mint!

Although this article is a bit lengthy, it’s worth it.  A thorough examination of the wonderfully aromatic herb – MINT, including medicinal uses to how to dry it properly.  Hope you enjoy!

Overview:

Peppermint (Mentha piperita), a popular flavoring for gum, toothpaste, and tea, is also used to soothe an upset stomach or to aid digestion. Because it has a calming and numbing effect, it has been used to treat headaches, skin irritations, anxiety associated with depression, nausea, diarrhea, menstrual cramps, and flatulence. It is also an ingredient in chest rubs, used to treat symptoms of the common cold. In test tubes, peppermint kills some types of bacteria, fungus, and viruses, suggesting it may have antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties. Several studies support the use of peppermint for indigestion and irritable bowel syndrome.

Indigestion

Peppermint calms the muscles of the stomach and improves the flow of bile, which the body uses to digest fats. As a result, food passes through the stomach more quickly. However, if your symptoms of indigestion are related to a condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD, you should not use peppermint (see “Precautions” section).

Flatulence/Bloating

Peppermint relaxes the muscles that allow painful digestive gas to pass.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Several studies have shown that enteric coated peppermint capsules can help treat symptoms of IBS, such as pain, bloating, gas, and diarrhea. (Enteric coated capsules keep peppermint oil from being released in the stomach, which can cause heartburn and indigestion.) However, a few studies have shown no effect. One study examined 57 people with IBS who received either enteric coated peppermint capsules or placebo twice a day for 4 weeks. Of the people who took peppermint, 75% had a significant reduction of IBS symptoms. Another study comparing enteric coated peppermint oil capsules to placebo in children with IBS found that after 2 weeks, 75% of those treated had reduced symptoms. Finally, a more recent study conducted in Taiwan found that patients who took an enteric coated peppermint oil formulation 3 – 4 times daily for one month had less abdominal distention, stool frequency, and flatulence than those who took a placebo. Nearly 80% of the patients who took peppermint also had alleviation of abdominal pain.

Itching and Skin Irritations

Peppermint, when applied topically, has a soothing and cooling effect on skin irritations caused by hives, poison ivy, or poison oak.

Tension Headache

One small study suggested that peppermint applied to the forehead and temples helped reduce headache symptoms.

Colds and Flu

Peppermint and its main active agent, menthol, are effective decongestants. Because menthol thins mucus, it is also a good expectorant, meaning that it helps loosen phlegm and breaks up coughs. It is soothing and calming for sore throats (pharyngitis) and dry coughs as well.

Plant Description:

Peppermint plants grow to about 2 – 3 feet tall. They bloom from July through August, sprouting tiny purple flowers in whorls and terminal spikes. Dark green, fragrant leaves grow opposite white flowers. Peppermint is native to Europe and Asia, is naturalized to North America, and grows wild in moist, temperate areas. Some varieties are indigenous to South Africa, South America, and Australia.

What’s It Made Of?:

The leaves and stems, which contain menthol (a volatile oil), are used medicinally, as a flavoring in food, and in cosmetics (for fragrance).

Available Forms:

Peppermint tea is prepared from dried leaves of the plant and is widely available commercially.

Peppermint spirit (tincture) contains 10% peppermint oil and 1% peppermint leaf extract in an alcohol solution. A tincture can be prepared by adding 1 part peppermint oil to 9 parts pure grain alcohol.

Enteric coated capsules are specially coated to allow the capsule to pass through the stomach and into the intestine (0.2 mL of peppermint oil per capsule).

Creams or ointments (should contain 1 – 16% menthol)

How to Take It:

Pediatric

Do not give peppermint to an infant or small child. Peppermint oil applied to the face of infants can cause life-threatening breathing problems. In addition, peppermint tea may cause a burning sensation in the mouth. For digestion and upset stomach in older children: 1 – 2 mL peppermint glycerite per day.

Adult

  • Tea: Steep 1 tsp. dried peppermint leaves in 1 cup boiling water for 10 minutes; strain and cool. Drink 4 – 5 times per day between meals. Peppermint tea appears to be safe, even in large quantities.
  • Enteric coated capsules: 1 – 2 capsules (0.2 ml of peppermint oil) 2 – 3 times per day for IBS.
  • Tension headaches: Using a tincture of 10% peppermint oil to 90% ethanol, lightly coat the forehead and allow the tincture to evaporate.
  • Itching and skin irritations: Apply menthol, the active ingredient in peppermint, in a cream or ointment form no more than 3 – 4 times per day.

Precautions:

The use of herbs is a time honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, can trigger side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs with care, under the supervision of a health care provider.

Do not take peppermint or drink peppermint tea if you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD — a condition where stomach acids back up into the esophagus) or hiatal hernia. Peppermint can relax the sphincter between the stomach and esophagus, allowing stomach acids to flow back into the esophagus. (The sphincter is the muscle that separates the esophagus from the stomach.) By relaxing the sphincter, peppermint may actually make the symptoms of heartburn and indigestion worse.

Peppermint, in amounts normally found in food, is likely to be safe during pregnancy, but not enough is known about the effects of larger supplemental amounts. Speak with your health care provider.

Never apply peppermint oil to the face of an infant or small child, as it may cause spasms that inhibit breathing.

Peppermint may make gallstones worse.

Large doses of peppermint oil can be toxic. Pure menthol is poisonous and should never be taken internally. It is important not to confuse oil and tincture preparations.

Menthol or peppermint oil applied to the skin can cause a rash.

Possible Interactions:

Cyclosporine — This drug, which is usually taken to prevent rejection of a transplanted organ, suppresses the immune system. Peppermint oil may slow down the rate at which the body breaks down cyclosporine, meaning more of it stays in your bloodstream. Do not take peppermint oil if you take cyclosporine.

Drugs that reduce stomach acid — If peppermint capsules are taken at the same time as drugs that lower the amount of stomach acid, the enteric-coated peppermint capsules may dissolve in the stomach instead of the intestines. This could mean the effects of peppermint are lessened. Take peppermint at least 2 hours before or after an acid-reducing drug. Antacids include:

  • Famotidine (Pepcid)
  • Cimetidine (Tagamet)
  • Ranitidine (Zantac)
  • Esomeprazole (Nexium)
  • Lansoprazole (Prevacid)
  • Omeprazole (Prilosec)

Drugs that treat diabetes — Test tube studies suggest peppermint may lower blood sugar, raising the risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).

Medications changed by the liver — Since peppermint works on the liver, it may affect medications that are metabolized by the liver (of which there are many). Speak with your health care provider.

Antihypertensive drugs (blood pressure medications) — Some animal studies suggest that peppermint may lower blood pressure. If you take medications to lower blood pressure, taking peppermint also might make their effect stronger.

Harvesting your Fresh Mint:
The best time to harvest mints for drying is just before they flower. Mint leaves retain the highest oil content prior to flowering. The oil content in herbs is what gives the herb its aroma and flavor. If possible always cut mint mid-morning after the leaves have dried but before the heat of the day. Harvesting in the early evening is also a good time. When you harvest mint cut stems of equal length and at least 4″ -5″ long. You will need the length in the stems if you intend to hang your mint upside down to dry.

Herb Drying Methods:
Most herbs can be dried either in the oven, in a dehydrator or by hanging in a dark, warm area.

Drying Herbs Using the Hanging Method: All herbs must be dried thoroughly before storing and particularly those with high moisture content such as mint, basil, rosemary and tarragon. To dry herbs, gather a bunch of herbs together by the stems and tie tightly with twine. Cover the bunch of mint with a brown lunch bag and secure. Covering the herbs with a brown bag will help them to retain their color and oil content during the drying process. Hang the bunch of herbs upside down in a dark , warm (70 degrees – 80 degrees) well-ventilated, dust free area. We dry our herbs in the  garage or you can use other structures if needed. It typically takes 1-2 weeks for the herbs to dry completely.

Drying Herbs Using the Oven Method: Drying mint in an oven is a faster way to complete the process, but you will loose some of the oil content from the leaves. Dry in a very cool oven (high temperatures will result in tasteless herbs).  Basically, just turn the oven on to “warm” (140 to 200 F) (or 65 degrees C to 93 degrees C, gas mark 1) for 20 minutes, then turn it off and pop in the herbs. Strip dried leaves from stems and discard the stems. Take care to not crush the leaves as this will result in flavorless herbs. Place the leaves on a baking sheet in a single layer. Turn the oven on to ‘warm’ for 20-30 minutes then turn the oven off. Place the baking sheet in the oven and leave until the herbs are dried. Oven times vary based upon the make and model of the oven, so some trail and error is required.

When your mint leaves are completely dry, either carefully remove them from the brown bag or off of the baking sheet depending on the drying technique that you used. I recommend not crushing your herbs, but rather storing them whole and then crushing them if needed right before using. Store the dried herbs in airtight containers such as canning jars. Never store herbs in plastic containers or plastic wrap as the oil will leech out of the herbs into the plastic. Check your stored herbs frequently after you have stored them for the first few weeks to look for any signs of moisture. Herbs will mold quickly in closed jars if not completely dry. Once you are sure the herbs are completely dry, place them in the airtight containers, and store them in a cool, dry place away from light.

How to Make Peppermint Tea:

Take a bunch of mint leaves and leave them on a plate in a warmish area for 24-48 hours. (Or use the dried mint you’ve made as above).

Boil water in your kettle.  Make sure the leaves are dry.  You will need about 2 teaspoons of crushed leaves for your cup.

Pour boiling water over. Let tea steep to your liking.  Add honey for some sweetness.

Mint is a valuable herb to include in your garden and to dry and store.

We hope you have enjoyed this information.  Please remember, be prepared. We can help.

For more information, please follow us on Twitter @stealtharmour or email us at stealtharmour@gmail.com

Gardening Protection: 10 Natural Insecticides and Repellents For You to Use

Howdy Folks! Yes, I put that SH*T on my plants (see further down) to keep the bugs away!  Besides Franks, here’s a few ideas to tell those pesky insects to bug off:

Depending on the kind of vegetables you’ll be growing in your vegetable garden, the methods of getting rid of the pests will change. And since that could turn out to be a never ending topic, let’s tackle this a little differently. Given below are some general and natural insecticides for vegetable gardens that will work for any kind of vegetable garden. So take note and start moving.

Also, here is a good guide to herbs that you can grow that are also natural repellents: Your Garden: Growing Herbs That Repel Insects & Other Critters Naturally

Tomato Leaves: Take some tomato leaves and add cornstarch (1 tbs) and water (3-5 pints) and blend well in the juicer. Now strain the liquid and transfer the contents into a spray bottle. Spray around the plants for getting rid of ants in vegetable garden. Actually a whole other set of bugs as well.

Vegetable Oil Soap: Take any mild liquid soap and measure out about ½ cup of the same. Add vegetable oil (2 cups) in that and mix together in a blender. To a tablespoon of this mixture, add 1 quart of water. Use this formula to cover both sides of the leaves on our plant. Make sure that you do not use a stronger formula ‘coz it’ll be harmful for your plants. And even though this is a tedious process, it really works in answering how to get rid of bugs in houseplants as well as other insects that infest houseplants and vegetable gardens.

Garlic Spray: Take about 4 garlic cloves and chop them up. Now add them in a liter of water and let it sit through an entire night over. You can boil garlic cloves in a cup of paraffin wax as well. Now add some soap flakes to the same by grating about a level full of any mild soap bar in it. Mix the liquid well and transfer into a spray bottle. Spray over the leaves.

The other alternative to this is to add hot chillies or onions to the same. Garlic has been known to get rid of spider mites, rabbits, mosquitoes and several other garden pests. This has been seen to work wonders as a natural insecticide for basil and other plants.

I would suggest to watch the reaction of your plants after spraying with a garlic infused recipe.  Some plants may not like it.

Mixed Recipe: Mix 3 tbs of onion and garlic juice, 1 tbs pf Tabasco sauce, 3 tbs skim milk, 2 tbs baby shampoo in 1 gallon of water. Mix all ingredients well and spray all over the plants. Repeat every 10 days.

Neem Oil: Neem leaves are extremely bitter to taste and are usually used as a natural insecticide. Oil made from these leaves is also makes for one of the very effective and natural insecticides for vegetable gardens. Just dab a cotton ball into the neem oil and spread over the plants. Neem oil as insecticide will not only repel the insects but also discourage them from breeding.

Cloves: Crush several cloves in a gallon of water, mix well, let sit overnight and then use this mixture to spray over the plants. The strong smell of the cloves drives the insects away.

Wormwood Spray: Take some wormwood leaves and dry them out till you have about 15 gm of these. Add these to a liter of water and simmer for 30-40 minutes. Now cool the liquid and spray on plants. This is a strong solution and should only be used for larger pests and insects.

Cayenne Pepper (Diluted Frank’s Red Hot Sauce) – I put that SH*T on everything, including my plants.  Diluted with water of course.  Or use powdered cayenne pepper mixed with a litre of water and 1 tsp. of baby shampoo. Spray onto plants.

Crushed Mint & Cucumber Peels: Problems with ants? No more. Use this in your garden and also, along any entry points ants may have into your home. Bitter cucumbers work best.

Essential Oils: Try essential oils such as lemon balm (citronella), pennyroyal, lavender, and rose geranium mixed with 1 tsp baby shampoo and 1 litre of water. Wash before and after spending time outdoors.

The advantage of using natural insecticides for vegetable gardens is that it rids the insects without harming the plants. And that is exactly what you need in the end. Now that you know what some of the ways of controlling insects in vegetable gardens are, use them and rid the area for a cleaner and better garden.

Please make sure to follow us @stealtharmour on Twitter!

Oil of Rosemary: Science Says May Be Nature’s Best Food Preserver and Health Protector

Rosemary, the herb of love and remembrance, is steeped in thousands of years of myth and tradition. Rosemary is known to have been used for magic, healing, and seasoning since the beginnings of recorded history. Native to seaside regions of the Mediterranean and North Africa, the Latin name Rosemarinus means dew of the sea, likely a reference to the shimmering blue flowers that cover rosemary bushes in mid- winter.

Many people today love rosemary for its uplifting aroma and a delicious flavour, but it has found much wider appreciation over the years.

I looked up just a few bits and pieces of research:

A January 5th, 2012 article in Natural News writes of this scrumptious herb,

Currently, two of the most common additives used to preserve meat are BHT and BHA. But studies have linked BHA with cancer and BHT with hyperactivity, causing some consumers to avoid products containing them (read ingredients labels to find out if they’re in the foods you buy).

In a 2006 study, essential oils of rosemary and sage performed better at preventing oxidative decay and preventing loss of polyunsaturated fatty acids in meat than a combination of BHA and BHT. This means *rosemary oil and sage oil may be one of the best natural food preservers yet discovered, and instead of having detrimental side effects, these natural oils offers protective health benefits!

*please note all preppers!

The University of Maryland writes of Rosemary,

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is widely used as a spice when cooking, especially in Mediterranean dishes. It is also used for its fragrance in soaps and other cosmetics. Traditionally, rosemary has been used medicinally to improve memory, relieve muscle pain and spasm, stimulate hair growth, and support the circulatory and nervous systems. It is also believed to increase menstrual flow, act as an abortifacient (causing miscarriage), increase urine flow, and treat indigestion. Almost none of these uses have been studied scientifically in humans. However, one study in humans found that long term daily intake of rosemary prevents thrombosis.

In the lab, rosemary has been shown to have antioxidant properties. Antioxidants can neutralize harmful particles in the body known as free radicals, which damage cell membranes, tamper with DNA, and even cause cell death. Also in the lab, rosemary oil appears to have antimicrobial properties (killing some bacteria and fungi in test tubes). It isn’t known whether rosemary would have the same effect in humans.

Several studies show that rosemary inhibits foodborne pathogens like Listeria monocytogenes, B. cereus, and S. aureus.

May 2010, from McCormick Science Institute writes,

A preliminary study, funded by the McCormick Science Institute and the University of Florida was presented at the 2010 Experimental Biology Meeting. The study found that compared to baseline, individuals who consumed spices and herbs for seven days did not have higher antioxidant blood levels (ORAC). However, those who consumed paprika, rosemary, ginger, heat-treated turmeric, sage, and cumin, had fewer DNA strand breaks (either inherent or induced by hydrogen peroxide in vitro) in lymphocytes, another measure of antioxidant status.  Download the abstract (PDF)

The purpose of this study was to examine the bioavailability of 11 herbs and spices as a prelude to studying other health benefits. We hypothesized that changes in antioxidant activities in blood would be a sensitive measure of absorption.

After an overnight fast, volunteers (n=10-12 each spice) had a baseline blood draw, consumed capsules for 7 d, and returned for a second blood draw. Serum antioxidant capacity and DNA strand breaks in lymphocytes were measured. Serum antioxidant capacity was not significantly different between baseline and 7 d due to large individual variation.

Intrinsic DNA strand breaks were remarkably similar between and among subjects. Strand breaks induced by H2O2 were well controlled. A RM 2-way ANOVA measured significant differences in time and treatment for the number of strand breaks per cell or the percent of cells with strand breaks. There was no appreciable cell death during the oxidative stress phase of the experiment. Herbs and spices that did not have a significant effect were clove, black pepper, cayenne, cinnamon, and oregano.

Herbs and spices that protected lymphocytes against DNA strand breaks were paprika, rosemary, ginger, heat-treated turmeric, sage, and cumin. We conclude that compounds from these herbs and spices are absorbed.

In 2007, Dr. Keith Scott writes,

Scientists have discovered that yet another phytochemical found in the common culinary herb, rosemary protects against Alzheimer’s disease.

For several years we have been aware that the plant compound, rosmarinic acid has anti-Alzheimer’s properties. Now, a recently published research paper has described how carnosic acid (that occurs in the common culinary herbs, rosemary and sage) also has the capacity to prevent and possibly treat this distressing disease.

In ground-breaking research, scientists from Iwate University in Japan and the Burnham Institute for Medical Research in California have found that the antioxidant, carnosic acid protects the brain from free radical damage.

Oxidative damage, caused by excess free radicals is a major cause of neurodegenerative diseases such as stroke, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

Writing in the November 8 {2007} edition of the Journal of Neurochemistry the scientists involved in this research describe the novel way in which carnosic acid works to protect the brain from free radical damage.

Personally, I am happy to learn about the wonderful benefits of Rosemary, however, my two favourites uses for Rosemary are with home-fried potatoes and with BBQ lamb chops.  Yummy.

Please make sure to follow us on Twitter @stealtharmour