Saturday, August 30, 2014

Not Just Another Pretty Flower!

                Although borage is most notably used as an herbal supplement in the United States, my goal with this post is to expand your understanding of what it is and how it can be used in its natural form.

                Borage is a plant that grows two to three feet tall and has flowers that have hues of blue, purple, and white (like seen in the picture here).  It is literally grown worldwide and is a versatile plant that can succeed in virtually any soil type.  Borage actually has many nutrient qualities that make this easy-to-care for garden item a must have as well. It has fatty acids, calcium, iron, potassium, and B vitamins. It is renowned as an adrenal gland aid and has actually been associated with improving mood and is currently being looked at as a possible anti-inflammatory.

                A practical application of Borage that I implement for my own programming is planting it in rows in a garden as it draws in beneficial insects and birds. When flowers are at their height in August (in Zone 3), the honey bees , butterflies, and hummingbirds all swarm to the plants to feed. The garden literally is buzzing as they are out in full force. The honey bees are especially helpful with pollination as they are drawn to the Borage planted and then frequently visit other plants in the garden.  If you do not have a garden, have no worries as the seeds can be grown effectively in pots as well. Just make sure that they have sunlight and you water them and you are good to go.

In addition to the practical uses in which we can turn to Borage, I have found them to be highly palatable. It is not all that common where you can plant a packet of seeds and literally have a hundred plants that add aesthetics and a distinct taste to any salad. To me, Borage tastes like a cucumber, and when used in a salad with fresh cucumbers, it almost tastes like there are two different cucumbers being used as part of the dish. It is great when you can cut a plant out of your garden at the base, take it into your kitchen and start cutting it up and put into your salad, and then watch the reactions of your guests. “Are you sure you can eat that?” is a frequent question that I have encountered when making the salads in front of others I have served, and with trying it, they realize how Borage adds freshness and vibrancy to the dish. While it always makes me laugh to get the reactions that I just mentioned,  the thing I like most about Borage is that you literally can eat the entire plant. Whatever you do not harvest in the fall, you can just till it into the ground as a soil enricher because of its nitrogen value.

Borage is definitely not just another pretty flower!

Mark Maule
Health and Wellness Instructor


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Natural Garden Helpers

Natural Garden Helpers

                One of the biggest items that surfaces with growing foods successfully is what to use for fertilizer for plant and product growth that is also safe. There are literally hundreds of fertilizers that can be purchased on the market, but there are numerous natural fertilizers that you can use for your gardens from spring through fall that work, are safe, and are extremely cost effective.

                The first readily available fertilizer that I wish to suggest is using weeds. That’s right, I said WEEDS! Nettles in particular are high in nitrogen, a vital component to any fruit or vegetable that you plan on growing in your garden. To use nettles effectively, you can incorporate them into the soil in a couple of different ways. You can cut them off at their base and till them into the soil or you can make a liquid solution with them. The solution is quite easy as you simply fill a 5 gallon bucket half full of water and then grind up nettles and fill the bucket until it is nearly full making sure that all nettles are immersed. Place a cover on it for 2-3 days, remove the nettles, and then water your plants as you would regularly.

                The next consideration for natural plant food is eggshells. Eggshells offer calcium that helps with plant growth, decreases the possibility of blossom rot, and it can be used as a deterrent for pests like slugs. To use as a plant food, eggshells can be washed immediately after cracked and then dried. After they are dried, they can be powdered in a coffee grinder and then applied/worked into the soil. I have found it especially helpful to use this method for tomatoes and have noticed significant changes in plant quality. Just crushing the shells and sprinkling around any garden plants can help deter slugs as the jagged edges on the shells cut these pests. Start with a tablespoon of eggshells and add more if the plants are not responding.

                Believe it or not, those coffee grounds that you continue to toss out each day after you are finished with your cup, are actually worth saving. Like nettles, coffee grounds are high in nitrogen. They can be sprinkled around the base of plants and allowed to be absorbed when it rains or when you water them. They  can also be worked directly into the soil. One of my favorite applications with coffee grounds is to combine them with powdered eggshells as you then get a powerful combo of nitrogen and calcium. Like eggshells, I would start with 1 tablespoon and increase as needed.
                The last item that I like to use in my garden is fish entrails. Although it can be kind of nasty at times, the entrails that I use from fish incorporates bone meal and promotes earthworms to work through the soil. Worms help with aeration and transform the fish entrails into usable plant food. I prefer to use fish that I have caught myself and then bury them at least a foot down on the side of the plant. I can honestly say that every plant I have ever taken this approach with has flourished. One squash plant has already produced 14 fruits this summer and has numerous others on the way! If you are unable to catch fish and plant them in your garden, fish emulsion formulas are available on the open market that should have a similar effect. 

                The main thing that I wanted to present as part of this blog is the fact that you have many natural fertilizers at your disposal if you choose to take the extra time to use them. You can decrease your financial costs, reuse products that you once discarded, and you can actually promote a healthier overall system in your garden as you will know exactly what you are putting into your respective system as fertilizer.

Mark Maule
Health and Wellness Instructor
Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Dairy Free Recipe

Renee Gosselin, MS MBA RD

With so many different types of allergies that are prevalent in the United States, I would like to share a recipe for those with food dairy restrictions

Vegetable Pot Pie


2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 onion chopped
8 oz of mushrooms
1 clove garlic
2 carrots, diced
2 Potatoes – diced (peeled or unpeeled your preference)
2 stalks celery – sliced
2 cups cauliflower
1 cup green beans – (1/2 inch pieces)
3 cups vegetable low sodium broth
1 tsp salt (optional)
1  tsp black pepper
2 tablespoons corn starch
½ teaspoon sodium reduced soy sauce
1 pasty pie crust (make sure to opt for a dairy free one or find a recipe that makes it dairy free)
                I found an example of one at this website

Oven preheated to 425 F

Heat the oil in a skillet (Large)
Cook onions, garlic, and mushrooms in the oil for about 5 minutes
Stir potatoes, carrots, and celery into this mixture
Next, stir in cauliflower, beans, and vegetable broth
Bring mixture to a boil and simmer for approximately 5-10 minutes under tender
Season with pepper and salt (optional)

In a bowl, mix cornstarch, reduced sodium soy sauce and ¼ cup water until dissolved
Stir into vegetables and cook until the sauce thickens about 3 minutes
Pour filling into pastry crust – seal with pastry dough and flute the edges
Bake in oven for 30 minutes or until pie crust is brown
Monday, August 25, 2014

Boosting the Brain with Nutrition

Written by Renee Gosselin, MS MBA RD
Nutrition Instructor

Forgetfulness can be a problem for many people.  There could be a number of reasons why an individual’s memory is impacted such as lack of sleep, genetics or environmental conditions. However, diet does play an impact on the overall body. There have been some associated foods that have been highlighted due to their impact on the brain and memory. 

Vegetables have been associated with increased memory retention. All types of vegetables could be recommended. However, vegetables such as broccoli and dark leafy vegetables can help give your memory a boost.  Fruits including berries including blackberries and cherries can allow for additional memory status.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids are needed for good brain growth. Seafood, fatty fish, and herring can be some foods that can improve the overall status of the brain. Walnuts have also been associated with memory retention. 

Overall, these are small changes in foods that can be added to help improve someone’s overall memory status.

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