health

How To Grow Peanuts

These are the gems of the South, sold in stores green and ready for boiling. Wonderful for roasting, making homemade peanut butter, this is the garden crop for kids.

oven-baked "roasted" peanuts

And peanuts are easy to grow. Really, while you’re on summer vacation, these guys will be basking in the sunshine. Peanuts like it warm and are light feeders, however they do like their calcium. Be sure to supplement, say, tossing in a few crumbled eggshells at time of planting. You’re peanuts will be happy. And because they grow underground, be sure your soil is light and fluff–soft beds are always best!

add compost to peanut plants

After the last frost, plant your peanuts in the ground, about 3-4″ deep. Amend the soil with a bit of compost or composted manure, just to give them a good start. Note of caution here, if you live where the crows and critters are prevalent, consider covering your bed of peanuts with a screen material, securing it over them.

peanut debris

This will prevent the marauders from stealing your buried peanuts and sprouts.  They will. I’ve seen them. The evidence is shown above. Once your plants grow to be about 4-6″ you can remove the screen. They’re safe now.

peanut flower blossom

Water heavily until your peanuts set their pegs.  Pegs are the spindly “legs” you’ll see dropping from your peanut plant after the appearance of beautiful yellow flowers. The peg is actually the flower’s stem and peanut embryo. It will bend toward the soil and bury itself. When it does, help out by mulching around the plants with hay/straw.

row of peanuts

To harvest, check for peanuts about two months after the appearance of blooms. Similar to potatoes, you must poke around the soil GENTLY as you search for ripe peanuts. They are delicate at this stage, their outer skin papery and thin. Think about the skin of a newborn baby. VERY soft and delicate until it becomes accustomed to the air and sun. Same thing. If you find your peanuts are of nice size, ease the entire plant from the soil and shake excess dirt.

peanut roots

Lay out in the sun for several days, preferably on a screen or something similar to keep it off the ground. This will toughen the skin. Next up, separate the peanuts from the plants and place in a warm, dry spot for a few weeks. This will cure them and prepare them for storage. If kept in an air-tight container, your peanuts will last for months. These are the same peanuts you can plant next season. Or, better yet, use them right away for boiling. Using fresh green peanuts cuts boiling time, considerably.

boil stove top

If you’ve never had a boiled peanut, try one. They really are worth the exercise, then start a batch of your own using the recipe found here on my blog. Southern Boiled Peanuts are divine!

Problems: Other than the previously mentioned crows and critters, peanuts don’t have a lot of trouble growing. Crickets and grasshoppers seem to prefer other vegetables in my garden over peanuts. Occasionally, your peanuts will get spots on their leaves, maybe a fungus of some kind, but in my experience, the damage is minimal. However, if they suffer extremely moist conditions, they can develop a fungus known as aspergillus which in turn produces a toxin known as aflatoxin. Boiling can eliminate this danger, but it might be best to discard of the fungus-peanuts. Your call.

Good Companions: Beets, carrots, corn, cucumber, squash.

Bad Companions: Kohlrabi, onions.

Health Benefits: Except for those plagued by peanut allergies, peanuts are quite healthy. Not only an excellent source of vitamin E, niacin, biotin and folate, peanuts contain resveratrol, the same ingredient found in red grapes that infamously make red wine healthy for the heart! Studies have also found high concentrations of antioxidant polyphenols, and that roasting actually increases the benefit of this antioxidant. Wunderbar! Just remember, they are high in fat, so consume in moderation.

Forget Pumpkins–Fall Means Garlic!

While I adore all things pumpkin this time of year, I love growing garlic and October is the month to begin. You can purchase garlic online via a variety of seed growers, though I get mine from my local seed and feed. Gotta support my community, right? Better yet, I can choose the bulbs I think look best and not lacking in any way. One of the issues with garlic is fungal disease–another reason I like to eyeball my bulbs before purchase.

One thing to keep in mind when growing garlic is that these babies take time, and lots of it. Like sweet onions, I plant garlic in the fall and harvest the following summer. By my count, that’s about six months. UGH. Tough when you’re the gardener excited about growing and harvesting your garlic.

line of garlic

But once you make the decision and commit, you’ll be glad you did. Homegrown garlic is worth the wait. Here in Florida, I plant my bulbs in October, after I pre-soak them overnight in a baking soda-vinegar solution to prevent fungal diseases, about 1 TBSP of each per gallon of water. Some suggest the addition of liquid seaweed to the solution to encourage root growth, though I usually wait and use the seaweed to fertilize them once in the ground.

As with most vegetables in the garden, garlic prefers an organic-rich well-drained soil. If you live where it freezes, you’ll plant your bulbs in fall and mulch well, protecting the garlic and encouraging worms to hibernate with your bulbs. More

The Anti-Inflammatory Garden

No, I’m not talking about placing special seats between your raised beds to ease the strain on your achy joints.  Though that would be a nice invention, wouldn’t it?  And while they’re at it, perhaps one of our smart scientist-types could devise some miracle gadget to relieve the stress from my neck and shoulders–especially when I’m staking those gorgeous tomato plants of mine.  Jimney Cricket, my massage therapist is tired of seeing me!

Actually, I’m talking vegetables.  And illness.  More specifically, the relationship between the two.  Over the years, our friendly researchers have been hard at work studying the connection between food and body (not my silly gadgets) and have discovered some interesting correlations.  Seems a diet loaded with inflammatory foods (refined sugar, dairy, meat, refined grains, alcohol, caffeine) coincides with a diet higher in acid-forming foods (refined sugar, dairy, meat, refined grains, alcohol, caffeine).  Notice any similarities? 

Technically, it’s not acid foods that are the problem, but how certain foods affect the pH in your body, ie. do they become acid-forming once ingested.  For example, lemon is an obvious acid, yet once consumed, its effect becomes more alkaline due to your body’s digestive breakdown process. Grapefruits, limes, nectarines, pineapple…they too have an “alkalizing” effect. 

Where should your pH be?  The average is 7.4 making the human body more alkaline by nature.  Imagine if your diet consisted of mainly acid-forming foods.  It’s doesn’t take a calculus whiz (lucky for me) to realize you’re decreasing your body’s natural pH and thus, introducing unhealthy conditions.  How?  Basically, by eating acid-forming foods you’re forcing your body to “work” to neutralize the acidity level and reestablish a healthier more natural pH level; its preferred and optimum performance level.

While no major studies have proven this cause and effect relationship, some test-tube lab results have demonstrated that certain cancer cells grow faster in a more acidic solution.  It’s no coincidence that many a cancer patient has been advised to make sweeping changes to their diet–eliminating processed foods, meats and dairy in favor of fresh leafy vegetables, fruits and nuts.  Is it because their physician believes in the alkaline diet?

Or is it simply common sense food choices they’re after.  Remember, there are ninety-year-olds running around out there who partake in all the no-no foods and have no issues.  Probably because they’re running. (Or gardening!)  But it doesn’t negate the alkaline  premise.   Just because it hasn’t been proven, doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

But while the debate continues, it’s up to us to decide.  We decide what goes in (food) and what goes out (activity). If you ask me, moderation is always a good starting point.  And consider the source.  Do you think the pretty pink bon-bon shaped like a heart is best, or the lovely pink beet shaped almost the same is better?   (Hmmm…wish the questions on my final exams in college were this easy.)  Seems to me, the closer my food resembles its natural state the better!

Which is why my family is taking the challenge.  And challenge is no understatement.  While my kids’ friends think I’m some kind of health nut who only eats sticks and leaves, I’m not.  I love sweets–how do you think I knew about pink bon-bons?–adore cheese, crave a juicy cheeseburger now and again and enjoy both wine and coffee.  How should you divide your time between the two? 

For our raw diet challenge, I plan to make a concerted effort to stay on the alkaline/anti-inflammatory side, though most medical authorities recommend a diet of 75-80% alkaline-forming foods.  Whew.  Maybe my organic yogurt is okay…

“Whew” is right. Eating an all raw diet will definitely be a challenge for me.  Sure I’m leaving the door open for my daily dose of dairy in the form of yogurt, but think of what I’m giving up! Focus on what I’m adding

I DO prefer to look for the positive.  Keeps my “happy-attitude-cap” in place.  For those interested in joining the fun and delving into the alkaline-weighted menu–

CAUTION:  depending on which resource you consult, opinion will vary on which foods are the powerhouse alkalizers and which are the worst acid-offenders.  The following list is only meant as a guide and NOT an absolute authority on the subject.  In fact, my personal search found several discrepancies.  Take blueberries–good or bad?  Acid or alkaline?

Do your own research, but know the reviews are mixed at best. 

Alkaline-forming

Vegetables:  spinach, kale, broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, lentils, cabbage, garlic, avocado, shiitake mushrooms

Fruits:  raisins, lemon, watermelon, nectarine, bananas, pineapple, tangerines, blackberries

Nuts/seeds:  hazelnuts, pumpkin, flax, sunflower

Spices:  turmeric, ginger, chili pepper, cinnamon

Acid-forming

Vegetables:  corn, olives

Fruits:  cranberries, blueberries 🙁

Nuts:  peanuts, walnuts, cashews

On second thought, perhaps I’ll go 50-50 and split the difference.  One blueberry for me, a cranberry for you.  Trade you a peanut for a dozen sunflower seeds?