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VICTORY GARDEN GAL

Eat your vegetables in the victory garden

Posted on November 14, 2021

OpinionColumnsLocal newsTop news

DeeAnn Rivera

DeeAnn Rivera

I had some surprising news this week. After our annual physicals this year, my husband and I were both told we had cholesterol levels that were too high to be healthy but not too high to need medication. Two separate doctors recommended that we change our diet and eat more vegetables.

How embarrassing for a nurse and long-time gardener to be told that more vegetables were needed in her body! My husband’s and my cholesterol levels were just a few points apart. Is that a coincidence?

Ten years ago, my cholesterol was 20 points lower than my husband’s. I think we can safely assume that our diet has led us to the same point — in need of a big overhaul!

One of my dear friends sent me an article a few weeks ago about a sermon at his church. The gist of the sermon was that we Americans are replacing God by moving away from fresh food. At first, I thought that was a little hard to swallow — no pun intended.

At the time, I had not reflected on how far my diet had strayed into convenience food, with a few fruits and vegetables on the side. I felt good about my kitchen herb garden and my continual abundance of tomatoes and peppers.

While I don’t want to delve into a religious discussion, it is evident that processed food, while tasty and convenient, does not replace the nutrition and benefit that comes from fresh food that is grown locally. One of the lab indicators that will show in your blood if you are eating for health is how high your vitamin C level is. Eating plants increases your vitamin C, as well as other vitamins. Dairy, meat and processed food do not have this nutrient.

Our doctors didn’t give us a list or send us to a dietitian. What they told us was to change to a healthier diet with more fruit and vegetables. They will give us a year to correct the problem on our own, or, if we fail, the next step is to take medication to lower it. Challenge accepted!

So, with the public library, Amazon, Google and, oddly enough, Tractor Supply Co. as my research ground, I dug deeper to find out how to fix my cholesterol problem.

What I discovered is that Thomas Edison, inventor of the lightbulb, among other things, told the Newark Advocate newspaper in 1903 that, “the doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will instruct his patient in the care of (the) human frame in diet and in the cause and prevention of diseases.”

Sorry, Mr. Edison, that isn’t happening yet.

I didn’t make any remarkable discoveries. I did relearn what I heard in elementary school, “you are what you eat.”

If you eat “whole foods” — foods that are not processed — then you can expect to be eating healthy. It’s not complicated, just time-consuming.

I announced to my family that Thanksgiving was going to look a bit different this year. They were worried at first — change is challenging. Instead of a big, expensive turkey (when did turkey get so expensive?), we’d have a smaller turkey and many, many more fruit and vegetable options.

Our diet change will also be easier on the budget. More beans and rice, less meat and cheese. My micro-greens will also be getting an appearance on the Thanksgiving table. Micro-greens are ready to eat in two to three weeks, so you still have time to get some started.

If you just said, “what the heck are microgreens?” let me give you a quick overview.

Microgreens are the little-bitty, edible greens from seeds. They are ready to eat in seven to 14 days — yes, fresh greens in your home, for pennies. These tiny powerhouses contain five times the vitamins and carotenoids when they are small than when they are mature. Microgreens are smaller than baby greens but are larger than sprouts, which makes these teen greens perfect for fall and winter growing.

Quick How-To for Microgreen Growing

What seeds?: You don’t need special seeds. Anything you have, you can use: beans, sunflowers, lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, cilantro — again, no need to buy special seeds.

How to plant: Any container, I like a flat tray, but a food-grade plastic container, empty glass jar, plate, flowerpot — any container that is at least 1 inch deep. Use potting soil, compost from your compost pile or coconut noir — I recommend organic medium if possible.

How much light?: I have mine under a grow light, but that is not necessary. Any sunny window (think south-facing) will be good enough. I have also used under kitchen cabinet fluorescent lights with great success.

How much water: Start with your soil really wet. Sprinkle your seeds and press them into the dirt. Keep them lightly misted each day. Think damp, not soggy.

In one to two weeks, you will have micro-greens to use that are about 3 inches high. To harvest, just cut them with shears or a knife and they will re-grow two or three times before you need to replant.

Put them on anything! PB&J with sunflower microgreens — yum! Microgreens in your salad for a big boost of nutrients. Microgreens in your soups or chili — you get the idea.

Growing your own is much cheaper and fresher than what you can get in the store.

I hope you will take a moment to think about your diet. Making time to improve my family’s health is not time that is wasted, it’s time that is gained. I want my latter years to be full of vim and vigor, and if I am what I eat, then I need to be eating for the health I want.

Since my Thanksgiving will be less centered on food, I’m adding a craft that I hope will become a tradition. We will be making salt dough ornaments.

Happy planting!

DeeAnn Rivera is a Spring Hope resident who blogs at VictoryGardenGal.com. Email her at VictoryGardenGal@gmail.com.

Salt Dough Ornaments

INGREDIENTS

4 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup salt

1 ½ cups warm water

Food coloring (optional)

DIRECTIONS

Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Knead dough until it is firm and smooth. Roll out the dough to 1 inch thick and cut into shapes — you can freestyle this, but I’ll be using cookie cutters. Pro tip: To make a hole for hanging, you can use a straw. Bake at 300 degrees Fahrenheit until dry, about an hour.

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