Tuesday, 15 February 2011
It's been raining and the garden is just lovely to be in, so I took the opportunity to do a little weeding and was surprised to find several lebanese cucumbers lurking beneath the cover of vine leaves. They sneak up on you - no sooner do you notice them swelling behind their bright yellow flowers than they are a foot long and ready to pick. There are about a hundred more out there setting, so the chooks will be well sick of cucumbers by the time they are finished, but I intend to use a fair few myself. They are delicious juiced up with a little yoghurt and mint.
However, today's pickings are not just cocktail hour and tonight's laksa - it is medecine!
I have a new book courtesy of the good people at ABC books - Grow Your Own Medicine: a guide to growing health giving plants in your own back yard by Mim Beim, and it's a cracker. Easy to consult with simply arranged information about how to grow and use fruit, vegetables and herbs with health as it's central raison d'etre.
So, those cucumbers are not only incredibly easy to grow, they area diuretic and will help control fluid retention. That cabbage contains glucosinolates which protect the liver from damage and improve its ability to eliminate toxins and excess hormones. The shallots, of the allium family like onions, possess antibacterial sulphur-containing compounds that assist the immune system in staving off infection. ANd the lemons? Well,we all know they contain vitamin C, but I didn't know they were helpful with constipation , sluggish liver or iron deficiency.
Sure, the book duplicates the 'complete herbals' I own, and yes, I could just google all this stuff , it's all out there on the web, but the beauty of the book is that the information is organised around the plant, not the ailment. However, if you wish to find a remedy for a specific health issue, there is a comprehensive index to point you to it.
Starting out with a general guide to gardening for the beginner, Beim then includes a section on how to prepare the plants like nana used to do in her kitchen - teas, tinctures, poultices, compresses and creams etc. Then each plant is given a brief explanation, an 'at a glance' rundown of its general properties, followed by its medicinal uses, parts used and how, and then a list of culture notes on how to grow it.
Beim also provides a list of suggested medicinal gardens. I have planted medicinal gardens before but they fell by the wayside. Her groupings of various plants into medicinal properties has re-inspired me to give over a few beds this year to a detox garden, perhaps a sleep garden and my personal favourite - a mood enhancing garden growing damania, gotu kola, lemon balm and St John's wort.
All food is medicine. For starters, it cures the pain of hunger. Our cows know which plants they need to forage for if they are ailing, but we humans appear to have forgotten this vital lore. With more and more chemical and genetic intervention in our western food chain, a book like this is gold if you care about what you put in your mouth.