Yard Weeds Help Bring Pollinators to Your Yard

“Ah Come On, Yard Weeds Aren’t So Bad!”

You’ll never hear me say, “Waaa! There’s a dandelion in my lawn. Quick, get the herbicide!”

More like, “Hey! Did you see that cool butterfly on that dandelion flower?”

Hasn’t anyone heard that there’s a big problem with all the bees dying off? All you RoundUp® users should know that you’re not part of the solution. The bee problem has been traced to the use of pesticides, so every time you spray chemicals to kill so-called weeds the environment is harmed so badly it affects the bee populations.

Without enough bees to pollinate the fruits that we eat, then what?

We all need to understand that we are all part of a bigger scene. The things we do on a daily basis will affect generations to come. Things we take for granted today may not be the same for our grandchildren. Polluting the environment with pesticides has to be one of the worst offenses we can do to the Earth.

Life needs diversity. The more complex the food web the healthier environment.

Every time we kill plants with chemicals it not only takes the plants out of the food web, but many other unseen, uncounted organisms can be killed or harmed.

We don’t know the full impact of using said chemicals, say, on the fungi or nematode population in your garden. How would that impact the availability of nutrients in the soil that plants can take up and use? Lots of unanswered questions out there!

Let’s use caution with those pesticides and herbicides, ok? Better than that use mechanical means of removal where ever possible. Your grandchildren will thank you.

Even better than that, why not let them go? Yard weeds are so beneficial!

The other day I saw a hummingbird visit the closed flowers of Field Hawkweed early in the morning. I was surprised to see the tiny bird visit the closed flowers that were still getting shade from the oak trees.

So really, who hasn’t seen a honey bee or butterfly on a dandelion? Yard weeds definitely help to bring the pollinators!

Dry Garlic Harvest for Storage

After harvesting the garlic plants from the garden, what’s next? Drying, of course, and prepping for storage.

The garlic plants were moved into the garage late in the day they were harvested to protect them from rain and the morning dew. We’re trying to dry out the plants so any moisture isn’t good at this stage.

Garlic plants were dug up and laid out on a sheet to dry in the shade for part of the day. By having the plants on a sheet it made it easy to transport them easily into the garage. The ends of the sheet were gathered into a big bundle for carrying and just as easily unfurled on the work bench in the garage. Sheets helped to contain the dirt and loose leaves, too.

The garlic was laid out in mostly a single layer to dry some more. The plants were adjusted here and there for a couple of weeks so that all plants would dry out.

After about two weeks time the outer leaves were stripped away and the tops cut back to 6-8 inches long. The plants were left to dry again.

About a week later another set of outer leaves were stripped from the bulbs so that a white outer layer remained and the dirt removed. Roots were trimmed with scissors and the tops or hard necks were trimmed down to 2-3 inches long. The bulbs were laid on planting trays for continued curing.

Do you think we have enough garlic to share? You bet!
Do you think we have enough garlic to share? You bet!

Any of the cloves that were exposed to the air were either taken into the kitchen to be used soon or poked into the garlic patch in the garden.

An improvement we could make for next year would be to selectively pull some of the small garlic plants that come up so that other bulbs would be able to grow larger. A more uniform harvest would be possible if each garlic plant had a little more room to grow. Any of the pulled sprouts could be cooked to our delight. Anyone for tasty broiled garlic sprouts?

We did harvest a few big bulbs of garlic, but most of the harvested garlic bulbs ranged in size from small to big.
We did harvest a few big bulbs of garlic, but most of the harvested garlic bulbs ranged in size from small to big.

Now, we’re looking forward to cooking with all that garlic!

Where Does Your Garlic Come From?

Garlic is one of those kitchen staples that we can’t seem to do without. Rice stir-fries, steamed veggies, pasta, seafood, steaks, potatoes … all these dishes go better with garlic, don’t you think?

We grow garlic in our garden because we love to eat it, but I have a revelation for you. We also enjoy growing it because what is offered in the grocery stores now comes from China. Surprised? Probably not as so many other things we buy come from there.

I found Made in China labels on packaged garlic bulbs in the produce section and also on powered garlic in the spice aisle of my local grocery store. Knowing that California grows lots of garlic, I was quite surprised about this so I called McCormick, the spice company, to ask them about it.

The young-sounding customer service person did a fine job reading the canned responses to my simple questions, but he was stumped when I asked him why did they sell food products from China?

When pressed on this issue it was offered that a gourmet version of garlic powder (the one with the black lid and glass container) contained California-grown garlic. The garlic powders and garlic salts with the red lids were…Made in China! So, if you don’t want to eat garlic produced halfway round the world, you’ll have to buy the more expensive gourmet spices from McCormick.

Alternatively, get to a local vegetable stand and pick up some locally produced garlic. Ask the people there where does this food come from? We all should strive to know more about the foods we eat and where they come from. If we all consumed more food that is produced locally, more of our dollars would stay in our communities and not disappear to lands so far away.

Buying foods locally helps to reduce the burden of transportation on the Earth by reducing pollution and the use of fossil fuels, not to mention the impact on global warming. Local produce is the freshest one can get and that’s got to be healthier for us. Support your local farmers and buy fresh, local produce. ‘Tis the season!

Curry Turmeric Spice Good For Health

Herbs and spices that we use to flavor our foods are used according to tastes that differ widely in local and regional areas. The availabilities of herbs and spices also has a lot to do with what kinds of flavor enhancers are added to foods. It’s the added spices and herbs that can really make a dish. But, did you know that a lot of the spices and herbs that we use in food and drink can benefit our health?

One such spice is curry, a favorite food for many in India and nearby regions of the world. It’s so popular that curry is the name used for the food dish and for the spice used to make such a dish. Turmeric is the actual spice that is used to make curry. It is a deep yellow powder that is obtained from drying and grinding or pounding turmeric roots.

Turmeric root plant, Curcuma longa. Image from Franz Eugen Köhler, 1897, public domain in US.
Turmeric root plant, Curcuma longa. Image from Franz Eugen Köhler, 1897, public domain in US.

The root of the turmeric plant contains a chemical called curcumin which is purported to have a number of health benefits. The anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin may be responsible for the observations of improved health when curry is eaten regularly.

Pre-clinical studies have shown that curcumin has positive effects on the brain in rats that were engineered to have Alzheimer’s disease. After being fed a curcumin-laced diet the rats were healthier. Their maze times improved, which speaks to a better memory, and the degree of inflammation in the brain was reduced. Perhaps one day a drug can be developed from this knowledge that will aid Alzheimer’s sufferers.

Curcumin has been shown to have anti-cancer properties, at least in Petri dishes, but those early studies spawned further investigation. At a hospital in the UK a clinical trial will study a combination therapy involving curry capsules and a chemotherapy agent on bowel cancer. It is purported that a combination of the spice plus a chemotherapy performs much better than either one alone in fighting cancer. The ultimate goal of the research is helping to understand if there are benefits to using curcumin, and if so, how much is needed.

The theory is that curcumin somehow latches onto a cancerous or damaged cell and that may trigger cell death. Killing cancerous cells is paramount to success in riding the body of cancer as that would halt the spread of the disease if the affected cells could be destroyed. Esophageal and bowel cancer are being targeted by research teams studying the health effects of turmeric and curry.

Some other benefits of turmeric include that it aids digestion, fights infections, improves skin conditions, helps heal stroke damage, and may improve the memory of dementia patients. With all these benefits, why not have a weekly curry meal?

We invite you to share your stories on how the spice turmeric has been good for your health. How do you cook with turmeric and do you find that it aids digestion? How else do people use turmeric root or preparations with curcumin?