grow your own, sprout, seedling, seed sprouting, grow your own food

Brave New World

Do you remember the first time you felt The Fear? When you’re a kid, the world is enormous, and there are often dimensions to it your grown up counterparts cannot even see, let alone protect you against. You are afraid, but you do not have The Fear. You are small, but there hasn’t been enough time for you to really doubt yourself. Come what may, you’ll put your hands up, jump with your scraped knees and shout until the walls come down.

I’m asking, because I see you.

I see you, thinking you can’t grow things. Your thumbs are parched from sticking them out in the sun, trying to catch a break. You have so many things to do, any plant in your periphery is doomed to wither and die because your kids have to eat before you do. And actually, you don’t like nature that much. Bugs are lethal these days, aren’t they?

So start small. Go back to the smallness of what a person was expected to do, when your face was a bare peek above the table top. Head to your local nursery, and stand in the greenhouse, enveloped by sweaty oxygen and feel small. Stand next to a plant that looks bright, and green, produces something (in theory) that you might eat. Say hello. Do it in your head, if it makes you feel less silly. Feel less silly, anyway, when the person standing next to you is also talking to seedlings.

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Take your bundle of leaves home with you, see that it is small. Find it a biggish home, for the summer, where it will try its hardest to grow for you, if you are willing. Set it in the sun, so it can feel warm, and water its roots every few days, so it can stretch its legs. Grow, inside, as you watch your plant multiply, and marvel at the shrinking Fear inside you. Even if it does not fruit this year, even if aphids take it down after weeks of fighting against them valiantly, you have succeeded.

This is the marvel of the plant world. A physical representation of the magic of energy, and how it is never wasted, only reimagined.

You can do it.

aloe, aloe vera, aloe plant, aloe for burns, aloe for healing, healing aloe vera, using aloe vera

5 Ways to Use Aloe for Health and Wellbeing

Just about everyone I know has an aloe plant in their house. Most keep it in the kitchen, as it’s incredibly handy to have close in case of burns or scrapes, but mine is three feet tall and weighs about 60 pounds, so I have it in a massive pot in my living room. Truth be told, this wonderful plant ally is perfect to have in any room in the house, as it helps to purify the air and won’t poison pets or small children who might gnaw on its stalks.

Aloe has been used medicinally for thousands of years, and with good cause! It has many benefits when used both internally and externally, and it’s rare for anyone to be allergic to it. It’s also incredibly easy to cultivate, as it almost thrives on neglect, and will grow and reproduce merrily on its own as long as it gets a fair amount of light and water.

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Burns 

I can’t count the number of times I’ve burned myself in the kitchen, whether it was by brushing up against a wire rack while taking something out of the oven, being spattered by cooking oil, or just  being careless and touching a pan without realising it was still hot. Aloe has been a massive plant ally each and every time, and I make sure to thank it whenever I turn to it for help.

Cut aloe stalks into half-inch slices, freeze them on a wax paper-lined baking sheet, and then pop the hardened slices into a bag or plastic container to keep in the freezer. If you burn yourself, just take out one of the slices and rub it on the affected area. The cold will help to alleviate any pain, while aloe’s properties will soothe the burn and speed healing. (The combination of cold + aloe gel can also prevent blisters from forming, depending on the burn’s severity.)

Note: These slices also work well for sunburns, windburns, and chapped lips.

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Overall Oral Health

From reducing gum inflammation and swelling to treating gingivitis, aloe has countless benefits when used as a toothpaste and/or mouthwash. Since aloe has natural antibacterial properties, it can help fend off tooth decay and various types of gum disease, and its soothing properties can alleviate pain and sensitivity from cold sores, cankers, and soreness from denture use.

IBS and Other Intestinal Upset

For many people, a bit of fresh aloe vera juice may calm the gut inflammation caused by IBS, Crohn’s, and Celiac Disease. I have the latter, and I can speak from firsthand experience that when accidentally “glutened”, small amounts of aloe juice have helped with the cramping and overall discomfort that ensued.

Just be careful taking this, as it has laxative effects. When in doubt, talk to your healthcare provider about contraindications and such.

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Sore, Tired Eyes

If you find that your eyes are tired and achy after long days spent staring at a computer screen, keep a snipped-off aloe branch in the fridge. You can squeeze out a little of the gel and dab it on your eyelids before bed.

You can also use the gel as a very safe, gentle eye makeup remover. It won’t work very well on waterproof mascara, but for regular eyeshadow and eyeliner, it helps to wipe everything away and leaves your skin moisturised and refreshed.

Vaginal Yeast Infections

Gel fresh from the aloe plant soothes the burning, awful itchiness associated with yeast infections. Apparently its antifungal properties also work wonders for inhibiting the growth of Candida, so it might be able to eliminate a yeast infection without needing to resort to store-bought creams or tablets.

The fresh gel can be spread around externally to alleviate inflammation, and suppositories can be created to treat the infection internally. You can mix 1 oz of fresh aloe vera gel with about 8 oz of organic coconut oil. Blend well to make sure it’s a homogenous mixture, then spoon that mixture into an ice cube tray. (Aim for a tray that has small ice cubes, as those are a lot easier/more comfortable to insert.) Once frozen, pop one suppository inside just before bed, and wear a pad. Symptoms should improve significantly within a couple of days.

 

Greens to Grow Indoors This Winter

By Catherine Winter

If you’re in the northern hemisphere, chances are things are already getting a bit chilly where you are. Out here in Quebec, we’ve already had about five inches of snowfall, and that’s likely to increase exponentially over the next few months. As an avid gardener, I used to spend months pacing and champing at the bit to get my hands back into the soil so I could grow my favourite vegetables, but since the snow often doesn’t melt out here until mid May, that’s a lot of pacing and frothing.

Fortunately I’ve discovered that there are plenty of food plants that can be grown indoors during the cold half of the year, and few require any kind of special equipment. I’ve had a hell of a lot of luck growing vegetables and herbs beneath standard LED lights in my basement, as well as on windowsills. South-facing windows are ideal, as they get the most light and warmth over the course of the day, but any window that allows in a fair bit of sunshine will do the trick. Just don’t place your plants too close to the glass if it’s seriously below freezing outside, as the chill can kill tender greens.

These are a few varieties that I’ve managed to cultivate quite easily. If they can grow in my chilly, rural Quebec basement, chances are they’ll thrive in your space as well. I’ll link to a few of my favourites from the organic/heirloom companies I order from in case you’re interested in cultivating them yourself.

sprouts

Microgreens

These don’t take up much space, and you harvest them shortly after their leaves appear, so you don’t have to worry about them surviving for months. I like mizuna, but you can also get a great microgreen mix that has several varieties mixed in.

Mache

Small and really quite adorable, these buttery little leaves are great in salads or sandwiches, and grow best in cool conditions.

Lettuce

You can either grow your winter lettuce in pots, or get creative and hang it in a mesh basket. Just cram it full of seedlings and hang in a sunny window. You can snip off leaves for salads and let them re-grow over the course of the season.

Purslane

Its leaves may be teensy, but purslane is packed with flavour and thrives in cool, shady conditions. Those little leaves have a wonderful, meaty texture and slightly lemony-green bean flavour, and are wonderful in salads, soups, and tabbouleh.

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Climbing Peas

These hardy plants are ideal for growing on a wall or lattice indoors. They’re sweet, juicy little pearls that brighten up dark winter days with bursts of flavour.

Kale

All brassicas grow well in cooler conditions, but kale can even grow in the snow. Seriously. I’ve brushed knee-deep snow out of my garden beds and found kale still thriving beneath, so it’ll do just fine in a cool room with just a bit of winter sunshine.

Sprouted Legumes

These are probably the easiest of the lot, as beans and peas will sprout if you so much as wave a glass of water in their general direction. As far as equipment goes, you just need a jar, wire netting or cheesecloth, a bean/pea mix, and some water, and you can cultivate a crop of sprouts on your kitchen countertop.

Winter Savory

A bit hardier and more aromatic than summer savory, this herb can take a beating and still keep growing strong.

Sorrel

Alongside chervil, sorrel is the first green to make an appearance in my garden every spring, stubbornly pushing its way up through cracks in the ice and snow. It’s known as Sauerampfer in German, and is a key ingredient in one of my favourite soups.

There are, of course, just a few varieties that I’ve been able to cultivate with ease indoors. Right now I have rainbow chard sprouts arching enthusiastically beneath the living room table lamp, and potted chives that are doing surprisingly well. I’ve never been able to keep basil alive indoors, nor dill, but savoury, thyme, rosemary, and parsley have all thrived on my kitchen windowsill. Ultimately, it’s really a question of trial and error to discover what will grow well in the space you have available, and what you like to eat.

Don’t waste time, space, or resources growing anything that you don’t actually want to eat, just because you think it’ll grow well in your space. Is there a particular vegetable or herb that you’d like to grow indoors this winter, but don’t know whether it’ll thrive or not? Let us know in the comments section!

 

Photos via Wikimedia and Flickr Creative Commons