Climate Change, Droughts, and the Future: How Plants Can Help Us Find an Alternative Scenario
The last four decades have provided insurmountable evidence that the planet is experiencing rising temperatures, a situation that is perhaps irrevocable. The traditional view holds that this will lead to a unilateral move towards northern climes from both animal and plant species, the death of a wide variety of species across the globe, and an inability for humanity to feed itself.
Scaremongering or an inconvenient truth? Unfortunately, the latter seems more likely, although scientists have recently uncovered promising avenues that may avert disaster. The core of the issue is drought-tolerance and climatic resilience. In order to ensure an extension of our lease on this planet, we need to lower emissions both as individuals and through government policy, but we also must make significant inroads into concrete solutions for an ever-changing atmosphere.
Plants, Climate, and Thirst
How do plants respond to the changes we’re experiencing in the earth’s atmosphere? The short answer is: we don’t know. At least not exactly. A study by the University of Washington shows that it’s incredibly difficult to predict exactly how species will react to a changing environment, with up to 60% of plant species showing a preference for warmer climes. There are far too many variables at play for accurate predictions.
What scientists are able to do is consider the response of specific traits to experimental stimulations. These test how species react to water loss and carbon differentials. Under water-limiting conditions, the trade-off is particularly obvious and presents the basic problem plants face: during drought, do you continue photosynthesis or close off the stomata (and risk starvation)?
The choice rests on essentially two traits: the plant’s so-called ‘internal plumbing’ and its ‘breathing apparatus.’ The Fynbos of South Africa offers some insight, with plants that close their stomata more likely to survive increased temperatures. Another study led by Christine Scoffoni suggests that the salt levels of cell sap can provide insight into which plants are more likely to survive. With these results in tow, we can make educated guesses on which plants to invest in going forward.
It’s Not All Good News (Spoiler: But There is a Silver Lining!)
Bearing the aforementioned in mind, consider the potential future of corn (the major crop of many countries, including the United States). When temperatures reach higher than 95 degrees, corn does not reproduce. Considering the bleak projections for greenhouse gas emissions by 2040, it’s a very real possibility that corn-based products will be a luxury of a distant past.
Speaking at Ted Global, Jill Farrant provides a promising answer by suggesting the use of ‘resurrection’ plants as drought-tolerant crops. These plants can survive droughts by lying dormant, resurrecting when given water. They can tough it out with just 5% of their cellular water for years. Using these plants as models for drought-tolerant crops it is possible to create resilience against persistent droughts (which, let’s face it, are going to happen).
What are the Options for Individual Households?
Ensuring our planet continues to be a hospitable environment for humanity, we need both the government and individuals to make drastic changes to the status quo. While this can be a little daunting to the average homeowner, there’s still plenty that can be done in terms of plant choices and gardening practices.
Households should try and steer clear of the obvious; think luscious green landscaped grass in the middle of a desert, for example (yes, we’re talking to you, Los Angeles) Instead, invest in aesthetically pleasing plants that won’t hurt the environment.
For example, the succulent is an excellent alternative to plants that require a lot of water. These resilient plants can survive with very little water (just monthly during winter!); if anything, overwatering is the more likely problem. A cultural shift towards a preference for this type of plant, one that requires very little care, would go a long way in reducing carbon emissions and water shortages.
In addition, individuals should consider growing their own produce on a small scale, using natural fertilizers (think compost heaps over nasty commercial varieties) to create sustainable produce. With the potential to cut down supermarket consumption by a very respectable 20%, doing this is more than a token gesture.
What Does the Future Look Like?
The findings that certain plant species are moving towards warmer climates is evidence that, when it comes to climate change, there are multiple variables other than just temperature. While the planet is undeniably getting warmer, there’s potential for us (and other living species) to adapt to more challenging environments. Plants that can survive the challenging conditions we are throwing at them can offer a solution. Of course, reducing emissions is still a key part of the necessary strategy. All is not lost… yet.
How to Regrow Your Favorite Herbs and Save Lots of Money
It’s so easy to get food – just go to the store, find what you want, come back home, prepare it, eat it, and repeat. But what if you just had to go to your windowsill?
Although many fruits and vegetables won’t fully grow on your windowsill, many of your favorite herbs can easily be grown in your house and your garden, so you will always have an abundance of herbs available.
Herbs will not provide you with all the calories that you need to survive, but they are packed with what you need to thrive. They have more vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, flavonoids, and phenolic compounds than almost any other fruit or vegetable, which make them flavorful and medicinal at the same time.
In this article, we will focus on how to regrow herbs from kitchen scraps with as little effort as possible. It all starts with buying the herbs that you want to grow from your local organic grocery store, and if you are successful at growing them you will never have to buy your favorite herbs again.
This herb is most commonly consumed as herbal tea, but it also can be added to dishes like raw carrot salad or cacao-based deserts to make it more flavorful. Mint may help relax your gastrointestinal tract, improve the health of your nervous system and immune system, and prevent cancer. To grow it yourself and get all of these benefits, all you need is a healthy mint stem with leaves.
Here’s how you grow it:
Pick a healthy 3-inch stem with leaves from your bundle of mint. Remove the lower leaves for use in your recipe, but leave a couple healthy leaves on top.
Put the stem in a glass of water on a windowsill that receives plenty of light. When the water starts to look murky, dump it out, and replace it with fresh water to keep your plant healthy. Your mint will develop roots within a couple of weeks.
Once your mint’s roots have grown in, plant it in a pot with soil and water it enough to keep the soil moist.
Choose an indoor or outdoor location where it receives morning sun and afternoon shade.
Mint spreads easily and can take over your garden, so it’s best to grow it in its own pot.
Harvest the mint leaves before it flowers.
Extend your harvesting season by pinching off the flowering buds as they appear.
Lemon balm is a member of the mint family and comes with many of the same health benefits as mint. It was used as far back as the Middle Ages to reduce stress and anxiety, promote sleep, improve appetite, and ease pain and discomfort from indigestion.
Follow the same steps as you do to grow mint.
It grows best in full sun and will tolerate shade.
It prefers slightly moist soil.
It will die back to the ground in freezing weather, but regrow from the roots in spring.
Another member of the mint family, basil is one of the most popular herbs used in cooking across cultures. Not only does it make sauces, curries, and even watermelon taste better, it also fights bacteria, viruses, and chronic diseases.
Here’s how you can grow it:
Take a 4-inch basil cutting right below a leaf node, and remove the leaves off of the basil cutting about 2 inches from the end.
Put it in a glass of water and keep it in your house where it can get sunlight throughout the day.
Change the water every few days.
When the roots grow 2 inches or longer in about two to four weeks, put it in a planter where it can get direct sunlight.
Grows very fast in 80 to 90 degree Fahrenheit weather.
Harvest leaves by pinching them from the stems after the plant has reached 6 to 8 inches.
Harvest all the basil before the first frost.
Freezing basil best preserves its flavor.
Always cut leaves from the top of the plant to encourage more leaf growth and to discourage the plant from seeding.
Most of us can tell when rosemary is around because of its potent fragrance, but do you notice the cognitive boost the smell can give you? Studies show that the smell of rosemary can improve our quality of memory and increase our alertness. The positive effects only increase when we consume rosemary because of its potent antioxidant activity. Add about a 1/2 teaspoon of rosemary to your roasted vegetables and you can increase their flavor while you boost your cognitive function.
To regrow your rosemary:
Snip a sprig of rosemary from 2-3 inches off the top of a healthy rosemary sprig.
Use the lowest leaves for cooking and keep the others that are further up on the sprig.
Place the sprigs in a small glass with the stem fully immersed in water on a windowsill. Change the water every few days and rinse the stems at the same time.
After about 2 months you will begin to notice roots coming from your rosemary sprig. Give the roots about 1 to 2 weeks to sturdy up before you plant them in soil.
Rosemary takes time to grow. It should pick up speed in its second year.
Make sure it gets full sun and light, although partial shade is fine.
Let the soil dry out between watering.
Use mulch to keep roots moist in summer and insulated in winter.
Prune dead wood from the plant in the spring.
Thyme has anti-inflammatory properties, making it the perfect herb to fight off diseases that are linked to inflammation like heart disease, asthma, arthritis, Crohn’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease. Simply put it in your soup, stew, or roasted vegetables to infuse your food with delicious flavor.
Rosemary and thyme grow similarly at first. You can start growing your thyme and rosemary in the same cup. However, once you are ready to plant them, put them in separate pots or areas of the garden. Thyme will grow faster then rosemary, and will need to be pruned by one third in the spring. It requires full sunlight just like rosemary.
Parsley is packed with Vitamins C, A, and K. It also contains a flavone called apigenin, which can destroy cancer cells. To make the most of this herb you can add parsley to your vegetable juices or smoothies, or have it in salads, dressings, sauces, or soups.
Here’s how you can grow it at home:
Cut a stem of parsley to around 3-4 inches long and leave a few leaves on the top for regrowth.
Place it in a glass of water in a sunny spot on your windowsill.
Transfer it into a pot with soil when roots appear.
Parsley is a biennial, which means it grows for two gardening seasons then dies. The first year is when it produces the leaves that we commonly eat, and in its second year it goes to seed.
It grows well with annuals, perennials, and herbs in full sun or partial shade.
Don’t eat the leaves when the plant begins to flower, they will be bitter.
You can eat the parsley root as well. Cook it after its sliced or cubed like you would prepare turnips or parsnips.
One of the most pungent smelling and tasting herbs, cilantro is filled with phytonutrients, flavonoids, and phenolic compounds that may help rid the body of toxic heavy metals like lead and mercury. It is also a good source of vitamins A & K, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Add it to guacamole, salsa, or sauces to give them more flavor, or juice it and add it to your favorite vegetable juice.
Although cilantro grows better from seed, you can still grow a full plant in a few months from a cilantro stem cutting. Simply follow the same steps as you do to regrow parsley.
Cilantro thrives in full sun and grows faster than most other herbs.
Harvest by cutting the leafy stems near ground level
Avoid cutting more than one-third of the leaves at one time.
For maximum flavor, chop the leaves and add them to your meal at the last minute.
To preserve flavor, store cilantro by freezing it in cubes of water or oil.
Let the plant self sow its own seeds and regrow itself or dry the coriander seeds and use them in curry, poultry, relishes, and pickles.
Sage is a natural antiseptic with preservative and bacteria-killing abilities. It adds a delicious flavor to almost any meat dish, and it can also be brewed as a relaxing tea.
Here’s how to grow it yourself:
Cut a 1-2 inch long stem. Remove all leaves except the top ones.
Place in a glass with the stem fully emerged in water. Place on a sunny windowsill and after two weeks roots should appear.
Plant in soil.
It grows well in medium to full sun indoors or outdoors.
Let the soil dry between watering.
For the richest concentration of their aromatic oils, harvest sage leaves in the morning, after the dew has dried.
Oregano was revered as a symbol of happiness by the ancient Greeks and Romans, and for good reason. It contains antioxidants and phytochemicals that fight off common happiness destroyers like infections, inflammation, and cancer. Add to your favorite sauce or salsa, or you can use it as a medicine to kill off infections by drinking it as tea or making your own oregano oil.
Oregano is also one of the easiest herbs to grow at home:
Cut a stem measuring 2-3 inches long; just below a leaf node. Remove all leaves except for the ones on the top, and cut off all flowers.
Place the cutting in a glass with water covering at least one of the leaf nodes.
When roots appear within a week, transfer the plant to a pot with soil.
Only water the oregano when the soil is dry to the touch.
It prefers sun with a bit of afternoon shade.
Cut out dead stems in the spring before the plants begin new growth.
Begin harvesting as soon as the plant is several inches tall.
The herb has a stronger taste when it is dried than when it is fresh.
For a big harvest, cut the stems just above the plant’s lowest set of leaves. This stimulates new growth for another harvest in late summer.
Marjoram has one of the most subtle flavors of all the herbs we covered in this article. It is a member of the mint family, and a subspecies of oregano, so it comes with the digestive benefits of mint and the anti-bacterial, anti-fugal, and anti-viral benefits of oregano. This makes it a perfect addition to soups, sauces, and salads, as well as home-made skin care products.
Here’s how you can grow marjoram:
Cut a stem a few inches long and remove all the leaves except a few from the top.
Place in a glass of water with the waterline fully covering the stem.
Transfer to soil when roots appear.
Prefers full sun
Trim the plants when buds appear to ensure continued growth
Begin picking fresh leaves as needed 4 to 6 weeks after planting
Keeps its full flavor fresh or dry.
If you want to calm your anxiety, just break off some lavender flowers, grind them between your fingers, and take in its aroma. Lavender is similar to rosemary because one sniff can change your state of being. However, lavender will sedate you and relax you rather then increase your alertness like rosemary.
Lavender also can help calm skin inflammation, so it will be a perfect herb to add to your homemade soaps and lotions. If you think you’ll like the taste of lavender then you can add it to roasted rooted vegetables and your favorite sweets like cookies, chocolates, and frozen deserts. Lavender goes especially well with honey.
Here’s how you can regrow lavender at home:
In the spring, Cut 3-4 inches from the soft, pliable tips of new growth on a lavender plant.
Remove all of the leaves from the lower 2 inches of the stem and then gently scrape the skin off the bottom portion of the stem on one side with a knife.
Fill a small pot with a homemade mix of half vermiculite or perlite and half peat moss
Stick the lower end of the cutting about 2 inches into the soil and firm the soil so that the cutting stands up straight. Cover with plastic to form a greenhouse-like environment for the cuttings.
Remove the plastic when the cutting has roots. This will take two to four weeks.
Set the plant in a sunny location and water it when the soil is dry an inch or so below the surface.
Gently tug your lavender cutting to see if it has roots. If it resists the tug then it has roots. (Only tug the cutting once every 3 to 4 days.)
Put the lavender in a container with adequate drainage. Lavender doesn’t like to be damp.
It will grow best when it receives 8 hours of sun a day.
Lavender thrives in warm temperatures.
Garlic is delicious to our taste buds and spectacular for our health. It contains a miraculous compound called allicin, which prevents cancer, boosts our immune system, reduces blood pressure, and improves cholesterol levels. Garlic also helps reduce oxidative stress, heal inflammation, and detoxify heavy metals.
And it’s easy to grow:
Separate the cloves from your organic garlic bulb.
Plant them pointy sides facing up two inches deep in the soil (pot or garden.)
Harvest when the green tops begin to yellow and fall over. This will be in July or August in northern climates.
Fertilize it with nitrogen from things like crushed egg shells.
Cut off any flower shoots to encourage bulb growth.
After harvest, let the bulbs cure in an airy, shady spot for two weeks.
Save your largest, best-formed bulbs to regrow in the fall.
Northern gardeners should mulch heavily with straw for over-the- winter outdoor gardening. Remove mulch after the threat of frost has passed.
Water every 3 to 5 days from May through June.
Ensure they get full sun.
Ginger is commonly known for its ability to treat indigestion and nausea, but it also contains potent anti-inflammatory compounds that can prevent heart disease and reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis. You can easily make it into a delicious tea or supplement with a slice of ginger with every meal to promote digestion and gain its other healing effects.
Ginger can easily be grown in its own pot indoors. Here’s how:
Find an organic ginger root that is plump with tight skin, not shriveled and old. Soak it overnight in warm water to get it ready for planting.
Stick the ginger root with the eye bud pointing up and cover it with 1-2 inches of soil, and water it well.
Keep the soil moist, and make sure the ginger is in a reasonably warm area that doesn’t get too much direct sunlight. After a few weeks, you will see shoots popping out of the soil.
Small pieces of ginger can be harvested 3-4 months after growth begins. Just cut off what you need and place it back in the soil to regrow.
Ginger grows well in partial or full shade, making it a great indoor plant.
If your root has several eye buds, it can be cut into pieces, and each bud can be placed in a separate pot to produce several plants.
Ginger thrives in shallow and wide pots.
If you prefer a larger harvest, take ginger out of the soil when the plant begins to die back, and replant the healthiest looking ginger.
If you need a slice of ginger, you can slice a piece off at any time and replant it.
What To Do With All These Herbs?
If you put these steps into action you will be rich (in herbs). Each one can be used in a variety of ways, and when you have more than enough you can start donating them or you can make them last for 1 to 3 years by dehydrating them.
Invasive Weeds You Can, and Should, Be Eating – Easy Foraging
If you’re a gardener, the single most time-consuming thing you probably do for your greens is to weed them. Unless you have a killer raised bed setup, the odds are good that your wimpy garden plants won’t be able to withstand the onslaught of weeds perfectly optimized to thrive in the conditions you’ve created.
Watching your kale get overrun by chokeweed is enough to make the most seasoned gardener despair, but what if the way you are thinking about these garden nuisances is actually completely wrong?
Weeds aren’t always bad. Ralph Waldo Emerson once famously proclaimed that weeds were simply misunderstood, as “…a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered”. Though it might be hard for you to match his candor, the truth is that there’s a lot to like about common weeds that few of us are aware of.
As it turns out, weeds have far more benefits for our health than you can imagine.
Garden Weeds: Even Healthier Than Your Vegetables?
It takes a tremendous amount of effort to get garden plants to produce food. No matter how carefully you try to coax your tender plants to thrive, the odds are good that without some significant effort on your part, the close-growing weeds will soon take them over. While it’s easy to hate weeds for their effortless abilities to overwhelm your hard work, the truth is that the scrappiness of weeds is part of what makes them so special.
To understand this, keep in mind that every garden plant once started as a weed that was carefully grown over centuries until it came to resemble the plant that it is today. Fruits got bigger, inedible seeds got smaller, and unpleasant bitterness in leaves slowly became reduced. However, as the traits humans enjoyed best slowly became more prominent, the biggest benefits of these plants – their nutritional content – was slowly weeded out.
Wild plants don’t get the benefit of careful gardening to keep them alive, so they’ve adapted to defend themselves. For this reason, weeds are often full of phytonutrients, essentially an “arsenal of chemicals” that helps them fend off diseases and predators. While the bitter taste they produce often keeps the hungry away, these chemicals are full of health benefits for humans that help them fight off diseases like heart disease, dementia, and even cancer. Filled with vitamins and mineral levels that regular vegetables can’t compete with, garden weeds are truly more nutritious than supermarket greens. If you want the easiest, most efficient way to fill your diet with foods as close to nature as possible, chomping on wild weeds is a great place to start.
Types of Edible Weeds
The complete list of edible weeds is far too vast for any web article, but this list of common weeds from around the world should get you started.
You’ll find yourself lucky in a patch of clover even when four leafed varieties are nowhere to be found. Red clover is full of the phytoestrogen genistein, a substance that has been studied to treat colon and prostate cancers. While you might have to compete with the honeybees for your supply, raw clover can be chopped into salads or sauteed with other greens. However, there is some concern for pregnant women. Studies have shown that the large amounts of the phytoestrogens in clover may increase your risk of breast cancer and possibly birth defects.
Lambs Quarters (Goosefoot)
Young, tender, and very versatile, lambs quarters can be used as a substitute for spinach in any recipe. This is great news for salad lovers, as lambs quarters peak right when spinach is winding down for the summer. Loaded with vitamins A, C, and K and full of calcium and protein, you are actually better off eating this wild spinach over the cultivated variety. If you are filled with patience, the seeds from lambs quarters can also be collected and cooked as a quinoa-like grain filled with 16% protein.
Though you might cringe at the sight of their sunny-hued flowers blanketing your lawn, dandelions are actually nutritious and surprisingly delicious when used well. In fact, European settlers first brought the dandelion to the U.S. for use as a salad green. One cup of raw dandelion greens contains well over your daily needs of vitamin A and vitamin K. The best ways to eat dandelions tends to be raw in salads or dried into herbal teas. For those feeling a little more adventurous, the yellow flowers can be breaded and fried for a tasty snack.
Not simply a treat for cats, catnip actually has some fascinating health benefits for humans, too. Native to Europe, catnip easily grows around the world and makes for a great herbal tea that encourages relaxation. The mild mint flavor is tasty when snacked on raw or sauteed with other greens
Though it has little resemblance to the tropical fruit with the same name, plantain weeds grow all over the world and make for a stellar medicinal plant that can be used topically to soothe skin ailments like rashes or burns. Even better, the younger leaves are tasty in salads and can be steamed, boiled, or sauteed. If you take the time to harvest the seeds, they can be ground into a nutritious flour that’s great for baking.
Though bamboo’s versatility has been put to use on everything from flooring to kitchen cutting boards, few people are aware that this fibrous plant is also edible. Often described as tasting like corn, bamboo shoots can be harvested when they are less than two weeks old and added to your favorite stir fry. Simply peel off the outer leaves and cut the tender middle into one-eighth inch slices before boiling them in an uncovered pan for twenty minutes. After the bitterness has been boiled out, you can eat bamboo any way you choose.
Though it’s highly invasive throughout much of the world, garlic mustard originally came from Europe. The flowers, leaves, seeds, and roots of garlic plants make them great for weight loss and controlling cholesterol levels, and their faint garlic scent makes them a tasty addition to any dish. You can harvest garlic mustard all season long, but the tastiest roots need to be collected in the early spring.
Similar to lambs quarters but with a more mild taste, green amaranth is also known as redroot, pigweed, and wild beet. Because of the detergent-like qualities of the saponon on raw leaves, green amaranth is best cooked before eating to eliminate the strange aftertaste. For this reason, it’s often best to serve green amaranth with a stronger tasting vegetable to offset its mild flavor.
There’s no avoiding the high price tag of watercress in classy grocery stores, but you can harvest it yourself for free. This weed can be found throughout the U.S. Adding it to your salads is a foolproof way to boost up your daily antioxidants.
While “the weed that ate the south” is a symbol of despair for millions in America, this voracious plant is actually edible itself. Simple to make into jams and jellies and tasty when the flowers are pickled, there’s a lot of ways to experiment with this tricky vine. Commonly used as a digestive aid in China, you can also chop up a cup of kudzu leaves and boil them for thirty minutes before drinking the health-infused creation.
Common to see in yards around the world, mallow is a blessing for adventurous eaters to enjoy. Both the leaves and seed pods are edible and can be enjoyed steamed, boiled, or raw as a salad green. Mallow is full of vitamins and minerals that make it useful as an herbal medicine, especially when used as an anti-inflammatory, diuretic, or laxative.
If you only choose to eat one weed from your garden bed, purslane should be the one. This succulent looking plant grows close to the ground and in between the cracks of the sidewalk. If you find some, you’re in luck. This juicy, lemon-tasting green is filled with omega-3 fatty acids. It is tasty eaten raw, cooked or blended in a smoothie. Because every part of the plant can be eaten, you won’t have to worry about shoving it all in your mouth at once. As an extra benefit, purslane consistently produces a bumper crop of edible seeds, which can be used for baking. All you need to do is dry out the seeds for several weeks on a sheet of plastic before winnowing out the tiny, black seeds.
The benefits of spending your summer days wrist deep in garden dirt cannot be underestimated, but there’s a lot you can do to enjoy fresh grown produce without the effort. Garden weeds are equipped to thrive where your vegetables suffer, and most of them actually contain more vitamins and minerals than conventionally grown produce. If you’re ready to enjoy the benefits of these long-valued “famine foods”, give your garden weeds a try and see how they make you feel. You might be amazed at the results.
It is important to gain control over what goes into your mouth. Understanding where your food comes from is great for your body and the health of the environment, but starting another container tomato plant or a itty-bitty herb garden in your kitchen window can start to get old after a while. If you’re sick of sprouting greens and eager to try your green thumb at something new, the wonderful world of mushrooms might be calling your name.
Cast off your concerns that all homegrown mushrooms are poisonous. That’s something mothers tell young children to prevent them from chomping on a death cap in the backyard. In truth, there are dozens of mushroom varieties that you can grow right at home, all without putting your health at risk. Best of all, homegrown mushrooms are incredibly tasty and versatile. Rich in flavor and easy to toss into any recipe, homegrown mushrooms infuse an earthy taste into every dish you add them to, all for far less cost than buying them at the store.
What is a Mushroom, Anyways?
Not a plant or a vegetable, mushrooms are in their own fungal family. Often called saprophytes or organisms that extract nutrients from decomposing plants and animals, mushrooms get their nutrients by breaking down tree stumps, leaves and other material on the forest floor. Scientists estimate that there are over 140,000 species of mushrooms in the world today, though less than 10% have been fully studied at this time. However, the ones that have withstood scientific scrutiny are nothing less than impressive. Ranging in color, texture, shape and toxicity, mushrooms open an entire world of culinary adventures, though only a small number of edible mushrooms actually make it to the supermarket shelves.
Benefits Of Eating Mushrooms
No other food can quite compare to the health benefits of mushrooms. Not only can regular consumption help reduce your risk of developing breast cancer and diabetes, but mushrooms also naturally lower bad cholesterol levels and fill you up with protein, vitamins, antioxidants and more. Mushrooms are full of valuable substances like riboflavin, pantothenic acid, folate, thiamine, and niacin. As they are the only naturally vegan dietary source of vitamin D, mushrooms can naturally help inhibit the growth of cancer cells. One cup of stir fried shiitake mushrooms provides 3 grams of fiber, which helps you feel full for longer after your meal. Because most varieties are almost 90% water, mushrooms are extremely low in calories but still make for a top rate meat substitute that will leave you feeling satisfied.
Top Reasons to Grow Your Own Mushrooms
Your mushroom experiences have been stunted if you haven’t branched out beyond boring portabello mushrooms. Despite what you might think, growing your own mushrooms doesn’t require acres of farmland or specialized knowledge. All you need to get started is a little knowledge, the right spores, and motivation. The techniques for mushroom cultivation tend to be very basic, meaning that a little experience will take you a long way towards becoming self-sufficient and sustainable with your fungi consumption.
Top Three Types to Grow Yourself
Risotto fans, rejoice! Growing your own mushrooms is a simple way to enjoy the benefits of these fascinating fungi, and there are dozens of delicious mushroom varieties that are simple for the beginner to grow. Once you start growing one of these three mushroom varieties, you will soon start branching out into ever fancier varieties to grow. But be warned; mushroom cultivation is addictive, and once you start, it’s too hard to stop.
Pearl Oyster Mushrooms
You don’t need lots of yard space to grow these guys. With the smallest amount of effort, homegrown pearl oyster mushrooms can be yours to enjoy. All it takes is a plastic container full of something you throw away every day without thinking: coffee grounds.
To make these mushrooms work, you’ll need to collect more than two gallons of coffee grounds. If your caffeine consumption can’t quite handle that rate, simply visit your local coffee shop and see what kinds of grounds they have to spare. You’ll be sure to come home with more than you need.
Once you have enough grounds to get started, add them to a two-gallon bucket and blend pre-bought mushroom spores into the top inch of coffee grounds. Use a spray bottle to keep the spore-soaked grounds moist, and cover the bucket with plastic wrap. Punch six or more holes into the plastic wrap. For an even better effect, you can also drill holes in the bucket just a few inches above the top of the grounds so that CO2 from growing mushrooms can escape with ease. Put the bucket in a warm, dark place and spray it down twice a day to keep it moist. In a matter of weeks, small mushrooms will start to appear that can be easily harvested and eaten. Once your bucket seems to slow down its production, you can swap out those grounds and get started with fresh ones.
Lion’s Mane Mushrooms
If you want to grow something that truly stands out, lion’s mane mushrooms might be the variety for you. These softball-sized clusters of white fungi grow with long, white spines down the sides that look like the long hairs made famous on the King of the Savannah. Not only do lion’s mane mushrooms taste amazing when sauteed with other vegetables, they also have been shown to have plenty of neurotropic capabilities and are excellent brain boosters, especially for people suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia. grow bagAll you need to get started is a grow bag. Mushroom grow bags come with roughly 5lbs of sterilized spawn that have been inoculated into a substrate. When kept in ideal growing conditions, most bags can produce
A grow bag is all you need to get started. Mushroom grow bags come with roughly 5lbs of sterilized spawn that have been inoculated into a substrate. When kept in ideal growing conditions, most bags can produce more than a pound of stunning lion’s mane mushrooms.
Keep your bag unopened until you’re ready to fruit it (refrigerators work best). Once you start to see white mycelium starting to form throughout the bag it is ready to fruit. At this time, set the bag on a dinner plate or shallow container and keep it somewhere where it will get light and consistent humidity. Make a small slit in a place where the white fungus is extra thick, being careful not to cut into the block. Next, roll down the top of the bag so that it’s tight against the block and pull a piece of fabric over the bag to keep it in the dark. Keep the fabric wet by misting it with a spray bottle a few times a day, checking it repeatedly to see if the mushrooms have grown (this usually takes a few weeks).
Once you start to see a large mushroom growing out of the slit, you can harvest it by twisting and pulling it out of the block. Don’t use a knife, as it might contaminate the block. It’s easy to enjoy your giant mushroom in your favorite dish. If you keep the block moist for several more weeks, you should get additional mushrooms to form through the same hole.
Popular in Asian cooking, shiitake mushrooms are full of flavor and have a highly distinctive, almost meat-like texture. They are delicious when sauteed or baked, and tend to be big successes at farmers markets or natural food stores because they are simple to dry out and can be re-hydrated in a matter of minutes to restore the full flavor. Though shiitake mushrooms are well suited for a small mushroom business, they are also an ideal mushroom for first-time growers to start with if they want to learn how mushroom logs work.
Like many mushroom types, shiitakes need to be grown on hardwood logs that stay moist, well shaded, and out of the way of fierce winds. While oak wood tends to work best, any hardwood can work in a pinch. The best time to cut down mushroom logs is in the late winter in order to allow them plenty of time to set before getting inoculated in the early spring. Logs that are between 3-8 inches are ideal, and each log shouldn’t be longer than 3-4 feet. Make sure to choose logs with intact bark, as gaps provide perfect openings for wild spores to get inside and compromise your mushrooms.
In order to inoculate your logs, a high-speed drill is necessary to drill holes that are one inch deep, 5/16 inches in diameter, and spaced six inches apart. After drilling, you can fill each whole with a mix of sawdust and shiitake spores, and then seal the mixture in place by covering the top with melted cheese wax.
Once the logs are inoculated, they need between six months to a year for the spores to fully spread throughout the log in a thread-like network called the spawn run. Throughout these months, the mushroom logs need to be stacked in piles that allow for good air flow while still being protected from wind and rain. The best strategy is to shoot for 35-45 percent moisture content at all times and keep the logs off the bare ground in order to prevent contamination from strains of wild fungi.
After the spawn run is complete, the shiitake mushrooms will start to pop up from the log every few days. Once the caps are just about completely open they are ready to be harvested. It’s easy for mushrooms to go from almost ready to overripe in a matter of hours, so make sure to check your logs often to ensure they are being harvested enough. Once harvested, shiitakes can be stored for many months so long as you keep them in well-ventilated containers or dry them out before storage. After the harvest of most of the logs fruiting bodies, it’s best to let it rest for the next few months in order to give the mycelium in the logs time to regain their energy in order to bloom again. When taken care of in this way, most shiitake mushroom logs can fruit for 2-8 years with no problems.
The wild and wonderful world of mushroom cultivation is not to be underestimated. If your only experience with mushrooms has been the boring button varieties at grocery stores, the time has come to branch out. Start out with one of these three simple strategies for cultivating your own mushrooms, and you’ll soon be a fungi fanatic who can’t leave them alone.
Diatomaceous Earth – Mother Nature’s Secret Weapon: What Is It, How to Use It, Where to Find It
Diatomaceous earth (DE) is a powerful, inexpensive solution to most of your health issues. It’s probably the simplest and most straightforward health product out there on the market. It can be used as a beauty product, an internal cleanser, or a deep revitalizer for the whole human body.
There it is—a bit of diatomaceous earth resting at the bottom of my water glass. It might not taste delicious, but its ability to cleanse my body and fill it with sought-after nutrients more than makes up for it.
Where Does DE Come From?
Diatomaceous earth is the waste product of unicellular algae. Over a 30 million year period, it has taken the form of white sedimentary rock that is typically harvested from the bottom of oceans, lakes, and rivers around the globe. After it is harvested and dried, DE is a fine, white dust.
In 1836-1837, Peter Kasten was the first to discover DE while drilling a well in Hausselberg Hill, which is located in Luneburg Heath, Germany. Until the first world war, most of the worldwide production of diatomaceous earth was from this region.
There are a few deposits here in the United-States. In Colorado and in Clark County, Nevada, there are deposits that are up to several hundred meters thick in places.
Marine deposits have been worked in the Sisquoc Formation in Santa Barbara County, California near Lompoc and along the Southern California coast.
Additional marine deposits have been worked in Maryland,Virginia, Algeria and the MoClay of Denmark.
Freshwater lake deposits occur in Nevada,Oregon, Washington, and California.
Lake deposits also occur in interglacial lakes in the eastern United States
What Has Diatomaceous Earth Historically Been Used For?
Throughout its history, DE has been used in chemistry labs for various experiments and procedures when filtering very fine particles. Diatomaceous earth is also used in the filtering processes for drinking water. Fish tanks, swimming pools, beer, wine, sugar, syrups, and honey are all filtered in a medium containing DE.
The agriculture field has greatly benefited from this product, as it has been used as an insecticide and pesticide, and it has been used as a soil additive for growing potted plants. It serves as an anti-caking agent in grain storage and livestock feeds and has been used for its mild abrasive qualities in products like toothpaste, metal polishes, and facial scrubs.
What Is Diatomaceous Earth Predominantly Used for and Known for at the Present Time?
The usefulness of diatomaceous earth ranges from an internal one (as a natural medicine or supplement), to a solution you can apply in-and-around the house in order to protect yourself from unwanted vermin. DE, amazingly, can also be made into a beauty product with its special and unique properties highly effective against “aesthetic defects” which tend to appear as Father Time catches up with all of us. Here’s a quick list to showcase its numerous benefits:
Help the body function and regenerate itself properly
Detox the body and kill parasites
Have an attractive and improved physical appearance
#1: To Help the Body Function and Regenerate Itself Properly
DE is very rich in silica (85% of it), a trace mineral vital for bone health, artery health, and almost all vital organs like the liver. We used to be able to get our silica from nutrient-rich foods. Unfortunately, traditional farming methods have depleted the soil and the possibility of filling our needs through traditional I-eat-and-my-body’s-needs-will-be-met has become a somewhat utopian thing of the past. That’s why this white rock has become so fascinating to so many people. Silicon, calcium, sodium, magnesium, and iron are only a few of the trace-minerals that you’ll find in the white powder, all of which promote bone and muscle growth. People fighting high cholesterol will be satisfied, too, as it’s known to have a regulating effect on cholesterol levels.
#2: To Detox the Body and Kill Parasites
Within a few months of taking diatomaceous earth most will rid the body of all parasites and most toxic metals as well.
#3: To Have an Attractive and Improved Physical Appearance
Another interesting facet of diatomaceous earth is that it can be used as a fascial mask and exfoliant.
As a matter of fact, when it comes to the skin, it can be used anywhere, and your skin will thank you for it. But it’s not just the skin that can benefit from diatomaceous earth. It’s also your teeth, your hair, your fingernails: all of which will become stronger and healthier over time.
The benefits of DE truly seem endless at times, and then again there’s still much more to cover. DE is useful against any type of insect infestation you might have in your house. Bugs adapt to conventional pesticides and become immune to their killing agents. DE works by mechanical action, disrupting their waxy shell, making them more prone to eventual death by dehydration.
DE will also purify any room it has been applied in by detoxifying the ambient air.
Diatomaceous Earth Is Not Profitable to Pharmaceutical Companies
If this product is so great, why haven’t you heard about it before?
The reason most people remain unaware of this earth’s blessing is because of money. It’s as simple as that. Big business and influential pharmaceutical companies, can only profit from a product if they possess the exclusive rights to its merchandising. That certainly won’t happen with diatomaceous earth since the product comes directly from the earth’s soil.
As a result, DE is one of the hundreds of natural alternatives that get overlooked by doctors and pharmaceutical enterprises. People know about it because their friend, their relative, or someone they trust recommended it to them. If something is genuinely helpful to people, it will eventually make itself known.
Filter grade DE is great for filtering, but should under no circumstances be ingested or inhaled as it’s very dangerous for your health.
The Difference between Diatomaceous Earth and Any Other Alternative
What makes DE truly stand out though for its aficionados, and therefore makes it an essential addition to any person’s health cabinet, is its “silica-argument.”
Silica is the most important trace-element in human health.” – Dr. Barbara Hendel.
Life cannot exist without silica. Food grade DE is approximately 80-85% silica. When you take into account that most people are silica-deficient, although still holding over 7 grams of the mineral in their bodies (more than any other trace-element, even iron), you begin to understand its importance a bit better.
Issues/Illnesses Where Diatomaceous Earth Has Been Shown to Be Helpful
Osteoporosis: As silica helps with the absorption of calcium, taking a silica supplement along with a calcium supplement can effectively offset chronic illnesses like osteoporosis, which are due to chronically depleted calcium stores.
Detoxifying the body
Revitalizing the skin
Promoting hair growth
As a cough decreasing agent
Fighting kidney stones and healing infections of the urinary tract
Reducing inflammation in the intestines and stomach
Protecting vital lung tissue from pollution and restoring its elasticity
Normalizing hemorrhoidal tissue
Preventing side-effects of menopause like stress
Killing bacteria and parasites
Such a powerful force of action begs the question: how can a product do so much without it hurting the organism?
For example, DE makes your body bug-free, not with a chemical but by physical action. The hundreds of particles that attack the insect are so small, so microscopic, they cause no harm whatsoever to people or pets. So it’s completely safe to ingest orally, as long as it’s food grade!
Calcined vs. Non-Calcined/Amorphous vs. Crystalline/Food Grade vs. Non-food Grade
Filter grade DE is great for (like the name says it) filtering, but should under no circumstances be ingested or inhaled as it’s very dangerous for your health. This version of the white powder starts by being food grade DE with at about 85% amorphous silica, but then it’s heated to about 1000 degrees. The purpose of this is to make the exoskeletons of the diatoms much harder, which makes for improved filtering properties. The process causes the amorphous silica in DE to turn in to crystalline silica. It’s now called “calcined” diatomaceous earth and is 60% crystalline. The world health organization says DE needs to be less than 2% crystalline silica in order for it to be safe. You don’t want to ingest or inhale this form of DE (though it’s not good to inhale any DE). Also, in order to be considered food grade, the diatomaceous earth (food grade) has to have arsenic levels below 10mg/kg and lead levels below 10mg/kg.
What If I’m Taking Medication?
Reports have been extremely positive with or without medication. DE doesn’t seem to interact at all with pharmaceutical drugs, maybe in part because DE essentially operates through mechanical action only (by tabbing and mangling the little buggers).
Apparently, though, some people experience a rise in energy after taking the powder, a side-effect which has no major consequence, but it might interfere with a goodnight’s sleep. It is advised not to consume any diatomite before going to bed precisely for this reason.
First week: 1 teaspoon of DE in a glass of water or favorite juice, first thing in the morning (the body needs time to get used to it).
Week 2, 3, and 4: 1 tablespoon of DE in a glass of water, again, first thing in the morning.
The following is only if you wish to do a full detox or have a parasitic infection
For the next 3 months, take 2-3 tablespoons of DE every single day.
Stop taking it for one whole month. In other words, you don’t take anything on the fourth month.
Start again with 2-3 tablespoons per day for the next 3 months.
Note: drink a lot of water to help flush out toxic metals and dead parasites out of your system.
#2: External Use
Step 1: Mix diatomaceous earth and some water in a bowl (roughly 1 part DE to 3 parts water).
Step 2: Choose whether you prefer a mask or a facial scrub. If you want a mask, just add more of DE to the mixture. If you want a scrub, just add more water to dilute the solution even more.
Step 3: Whatever you have decided, spread the mixture across your forehead, your nose, your chin, and your cheeks.
Step 4: Leave it on your face for 2-5 minutes, allowing it to dry.
Step 5: Finally, thoroughly wash your face with some water and a wash cloth. And that’s it, my friend. You should be good to go now—your skin, delicately exfoliated by the sweet action of diatomaceous earth.
How to Use Crawling Insect Control Diatomaceous Earth
Crawling Insect Control is a good way to control ants, bedbugs, box elder bugs, carpet beetles, centipedes, crickets, cockroaches, earwigs, fleas, grasshoppers, millipedes, slugs, and silverfish (Never ingest it orally).
You’ll need a hand-duster, power-duster, or other similar means for application.
Indoor use: Lightly coat a thin layer of Crawling Insect Control in cracks and crevices; behind and beneath refrigerators, cabinets, stoves, garbage cans; in and around sewer pipes and drains, and window frames; and in attics and basements.
Outdoor use: Place in areas around patios, outdoor sills, window and door frames.
Even gardeners with a green thumb can be foiled by bad soil. If you’re doing everything right but your plants are still dying, it might be time to take a look below the surface. Learning how to test your soil and use natural amendments to restore it to a healthy type will tremendously help your lawn or garden flourish this season.
The Different Types of Soil
When it comes to your soil, you might be thinking, “Why does it matter? Dirt is dirt”. That’s not exactly the case, though. There are several kinds of soil, and each is different. Each soil type drains differently and has varying levels of nutrients that can impact the growth of your lawn and garden. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the soil types:
Loamy soil. This kind of soil is the best type for gardening. It tends to be slightly acidic (which lots of plants prefer) and drains well to keep plants hydrated but not soggy.
Clay soil. When you have clay soil, it tends to be thick and feels sticky when it’s wet. While clay is rich in nutrients, it doesn’t drain well.
Sandy soil. Sandy soil drains well but doesn’t retain any moisture, which makes it difficult for plants to stay properly watered. Sandy soil is also low in nutrients and won’t feed plants well.
Silty soil. This soil type is rich in nutrients; however, it can get slimy when wet, resulting in poor drainage.
Chalky soil. When you’re dealing with chalky soil, you’ll find it is very alkaline and free draining. It dries out very quickly and doesn’t have many nutrients to offer besides calcium.
Peaty soil. Soil that is peaty is damp and spongy. It will retain moisture well, but drainage can be a problem.
Find out What Kind of Soil You Have
Now that you know about the different soil types, it’s time to do a test to find out what kind of soil you have. Use the following steps to get your soil sample:
Dig down about six inches and take some soil. If you have a large planting area, you’ll want to test soil from multiple places.
Put soil in a pint-sized jar until it’s about halfway full. Then, add a few drops of liquid dish soap and fill the jar the rest of the way up with water.
Put the lid on tightly and shake the jar for about three minutes.
Put the jar aside and allow 24 hours for all the particles to settle. Once it’s settled, you’ll be able to see the individual layers that make up your soil.
Check Your Soil’s pH
Your soil pH is another important factor in how well things will grow and even what you can grow in your soil. Knowing what the pH of your soil is and how to amend it is a big part of having a healthy garden:
You can pick up a pH test kit from your local garden center, but if you’re more of a DIY person, there are several options for testing pH at home.
A pH reading of 7 means your soil is neutral. pH readings below 7 are acidic, and readings above 7 are alkaline. An ideal soil reading will be around 6.5. This means your soil is slightly acidic, and nutrients will dissolve well and be readily available.
To raise your soil pH, you can add limestone to your soil. The lime will break down in the soil and raise the alkalinity over time.
To lower your soil pH, sulfur should be added. Peat moss can also be used, but this method isn’t sustainable. Additionally, peat moss has been overharvested in some areas, which may make it difficult or expensive to obtain.
When amending your soil pH, be sure to check your pH levels regularly and add any amendments slowly over time.
What to Do With Difficult Soil
Many gardeners often dump too much time and too many resources into their lawn before realizing it’s just not working as well as they’d hoped, or it’s taking too long. If you find yourself in this situation — with a soil type or pH that will take too much to fix — you can still have a garden.
You might look at planting raised garden beds and using prepackaged soil. This is a perfect solution to yards that are massive works in progress. A few advantages to a raised garden bed include:
You can quickly and easily put together a raised garden bed.
Raised beds are more accessible to gardeners with physical limitations such as arthritis.
You can often plant earlier since the soil stays warmer in a raised bed.
No matter what challenges are put in front of you, there’s always a way to create your own little slice of heaven by growing a garden. With the right testing processes and soil amendments (or raised garden beds), you’ll have your garden on track and ready to grow in no time.
Some plants are happiest in the shade while others like to be in full view of the sun — or even a bit of both. It’s important to know what your plant requires for optimal health.
When you purchase seeds or an established plant, the label should specify its ideal sun conditions. You’ll know your plant craves more sunlight if the leaves are drooping and their color looks faded.
This is a simple fix! Find a sunny spot and you’ll have a greener plant.
The Problem: Bugs
There are a variety of pests that can harm your plants, including mites, aphids, mealybugs, thrips, and scale whiteflies. Some of these insects you’ll be able to see, while others are so tiny you’ll only know they’re there from the telltale signs of them.
Bugs are like vampires in that they can suck the sap of the plant — the blood of the plant world, if you will. As a result of the attack on the plant, the overall health of the greenery diminishes and the leaves yellow.
The Solution: Wash Up
To deal with an insect infestation, you can wash the plant — repeatedly if you have to. Use neem oil or horticultural soap to wipe the plant. You can buy the soap or even make it yourself.
The Problem: A Lack of Nutrients
Plants need more than a dozen essential minerals in order to flourish, including nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium and others. If a plant is deficient in one or more of the needed nutrients, you’ll see it in the plant’s appearance. The lack of a specific nutrient shows up differently from one plant to the next.
The Solution: Add Nutrients
Once you figure out what nutrient(s) are lacking in your plant, you can add what it’s missing. There are a variety of products which can help you do this. They’re available at most garden centers and hardware stores.
The Problem: Too Much or Too Little Water
Plants, like humans, need moisture to survive. Humans can feel very unwell if we guzzle gallons of water or if we’ve gone too long without it.
Plants are no different — they are affected by the amount of water they have (or don’t have).
If a plant is in dense or poorly drained soil, it can become waterlogged, making it impossible for the roots to absorb the oxygen they need to properly function. Root damage increases the longer the plant has to deal with reduced oxygen supply.
Ultimately, the roots get damaged when overwatered and some may even die. This makes it impossible for the rest of the plant to get the necessary nutrients and water needed to sustain life.
If your plant is curling up, or its leaves are wilting, you might be under-watering it. The pores on the surface of leaves, called stoma, let air into a plant. If a plant doesn’t have enough water, it closes up the stoma to prevent any evaporation of the precious little moisture it still has. This results in wilting.
The Solution: Rethink Your Plant’s Bedding
If the soil around your plant is dense and doesn’t drain well, add mulch around plants or throughout the entire flowerbed. You can also add organic matter, including compost, to help boost drainage.
Remember: A dry soil surface isn’t always a true sign of a plant needing water. Even if the surface of the soil is dry to the touch, it doesn’t mean the roots are dry, as well. Test the moisture content lower in the plant’s pot or plot to truly gauge if water is needed.
Keeping your plants happy and healthy can be a bit of a process. It can take time and some problem-solving skills to get just the right combination of growing conditions. If you pay attention to the appearance of your florae, including the yellowing of the leaves, you’ll be able to make the necessary adjustments.