chocolate

Grocery Inflation

As if we needed yet another reason to garden–have you seen the price of food lately?  From fresh vegetables to coffee and cotton, prices have jumped.  And don’t even ask about the price of chocolate.  Our beloved sweet may become a rare commodity, indeed.  No kidding.  Seems West Africa farmers are giving up the crop in pursuit of better wages in the cities while at the same time, world demand is increasing.  Have you heard the health benefits of dark chocolate?  Heavy on the cocoa, easy on the milk.  Not a good combination when it comes to the demand side of the equation. 

Then of course there’s a certain hedge fund manager who bought a ton (literally, I think) of cocoa beans for investment.  Downright evil market manipulation is what I call it.  How could he be so cruel?  Why, I have a mind to grow some cocoa plants myself.  I’m in Florida, they grow near the Equator…  Sounds like a feasibility study’s in order!

Thank goodness gardening is easy and fun, else we’d all starve of malnutrition and chocolate deprivation.  Plant, water, harvest, consume–easy!  

Okay.  You caught me.  I’m luring you in.  But truthfully, gardening doesn’t have to be hard.  In fact, once you learn the secrets to mutinous-proof weed maintenance, it’s even easier.  If you don’t believe me, ask my kids. 

Or, follow along as I guide my friend Julie through the process of starting a family garden.  We’ll begin from scratch and work our way through each step of the process, much like we did with Mandie.  Remember her?  She’s still gardening, I think.  (Please, Mandie–tell us you’re still you’re still growing green and strong!) 

But there are more great reasons to garden than it’s easy and fun.  Think of the health benefits (non-toxic, because we only garden organic), the convenience (who has time to run to the store every time they feel like a fresh strawberry and spinach salad?), the educational aspect (last time I checked, botany was still a subject at school), and of course, who can forget the main reason:  gardening for the sheer joy of it.  For the kids, it’s more the adventure factor–creepy crawlies tend to be exciting for them whereas we seem to have lost the enthusiasm for that kind of thrill.  (Wait–I know it’s here somewhere…) 

Stay-tuned and watch the fun as Julie and her family venture into the land of green.  Better yet, how about join her and start a garden of your own and share your experience wit us?  We learn by doing!  A lesson best achieved in the company of fellow enthusiasts. 

Though it sure would be nice if cocoa plants grew like this row of garlic.  I could wait a season.  But five years is pushing it.

Health Benefits of Herbs and Plants

Ever suspect you might have bad breath, and not an ounce of mouthwash on hand (but don’t dare lean to your lunch date and ask)?   And speaking of bad breath, how’s your sinus?  A bit stuffy today?  Not to worry — simply munch that sprig of parsley on your plate, dab a pinch of chili pepper on your tongue and problem solved.   It’s the natural solution.   Parsley freshens breath while the capsaicin in the pepper clears the mucus–voila!

And let’s say that handsome waiter bumps your arm with the oven hot skillet dish you ordered (an accident, though you couldn’t be mad at him if you tried), leaving a mild red burn in its place.  Sure, mild is relative, but if you’ll pluck a branch of aloe from the attractive plant nearby, then squeeze some of its gooey gel over the burn, the healing will be almost immediate.  Disregard the “stink” factor — we’re concerned with saving skin here, not sensibilities.

One of my favorites is the cocoa bean.  There’s a reason we reach for a chocolate bar when we’re feeling blue:  it’s the natural antidepressant.  Yes, we women are innately brilliant this way.   Neurotransmitters send relaxing messages to your body while the phenylethylamine makes you feel like you’re falling in love.   (Hint to men:  if you’re standing nearby while she’s devouring said chocolate, you may reap some lovey-dovey mood benefits!)  Chocolate is also good for your cardiovascular health, due to its polyphenols (think red wine).  So take heart fearless men and consume to your heart’s content!  So long as the chocolate in question doesn’t belong to a female.  If so, I’d take sword and shield and run for cover.

And if your sweetheart takes you out for a night of sushi, but your stomach disagrees, nibble a bit of the pretty ginger on your plate.  It does wonders for an upset belly, though my preferred remedy is Coke.  Much like chicken soup eases the symptoms of a cold — and I couldn’t tell you why —  this soda cures a tummy ache like nobody’s business!   And if you’re still feeling sick, it may mean something more serious.  Try leaving a few sliced onions around the house.  It’s said the onions attract the harmful bacteria from the air, thus keeping them from entering your system.  Could be an old wives’ tale, but most old wives I know are pretty smart!

So more than a place to grow gorgeous herbs and vegetables, your garden is like nature’s pharmacy.  I knew this gardening thing was a good idea.