"The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves." - Bill Mollison
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Health By Allium
Last year we planted around 700 onions, by sets and seed, this year we hope to grow at least 1,000. It always amazes us how many we use and how fast we go through this dietary mainstay, there just never seems to be enough. Between onions, leeks, and garlic I will be planting well over 2,000 members of the allium family this year, mostly for this year's winter storage. Mrs. H always gets a bit aggravated when I exhibit stinginess with onions in the summer because I am worried about having enough to get us through until the next spring. This year I have decided to plant what I hope will be an excessive amount in order to avoid becoming an onion Grinch.
Alliums are one of the largest genus of plant species in the world, this family includes such edibles as onions, shallots, ramps, scallions, leeks, garlic and chives and are some of the oldest known remedial plants. We grow all of these, except for the ramps which are a form of wild leek, and I hope to get more into the cultivation of shallots and multiplier onions in the future...maybe this fall.
As a firm believer in the health benefits of natural food that is grown in ones own unpolluted non-toxic soil, as usual, I can't help but mention some of the best properties of alliums besides the obvious culinary aspects of this incredible plant species. Being a good source of vitamins B6 and C, along with various other nutrients such as protein, calcium, sulfur, fluoride, vitamin A and E they have long been used for medicinal purposes. These pungent foods are made up of hundreds of beneficial compounds promoting health through the antioxidants they contain.
Fresh and in varying degrees alliums contain sulfur and enzymes that combine when the their cells are damaged. This particular makeup is thought to be designed as a defense mechanism against pathogens in the soil. When attacked the cloves, or bulbs, immediately excrete pungent sulfuric compounds. This becomes quite obvious, especially in onions and garlic, when they are crushed or cut up. Once the cells are broken acids are released in the form of vapors that give onions their tear-inducing properties along with a distinct flavor and smell. The sulfuric acid causes a burning sensation when it reacts with moisture in the eye and then our bodies form tears to help dilute the acid in order to protect the eyes. The sulfur is known for it's antibacterial and anti-fungal properties, and helps stop allergic reactions and inflammation. The best part is that many researchers believe it is possible that one of these enzymes, "allicin"... highly concentrated in garlic, may be an extremely powerful antioxidant. Makes every onion tear I shed worth the irritability. As man made antibiotics continue to decline in effectiveness it only makes sense that we focus more on mother natures original bacteria fighters.
Alliums also contain strong antioxidant chemicals called flavonoids and phenolics which reportedly have been found to provide strong protection against free radical damage...free radicals are essentially atoms that break down cells in our bodies over time causing aging and disease. The over four thousand flavonoids that can be found in everything from apples to black tea are thought to help defend the body against these free radicals and may help prevent illnesses such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
Flavonoids are not only anti-cancer but also are known to be anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-allergenic and anti-inflammatory and so on. The effects of high levels of quercetin, a flavonaoid found in onions, is being investigated as a reducer of blood pressure, and may help in the prevention of cardiovascular disease. What it comes down to is that even though much antioxidant research is unproven or unknown, the evidence in it's favor seems to be overwhelmingly positive.
Even without the advances in health and nutritional research that we have today, people far back in history were well aware that these foods had medicinal value as they consumed them regularly, perhaps daily, in order to protect themselves from not only getting sick but as a way to help in the healing process after illness had occurred. It is said that ancient Egyptians used onions to alleviate literally thousands of different ailments.
I have read many an article that has shown studies using these herbs may be just as effective as certain pharmaceutical drugs...without the side effects of course. Unfortunately these medicinal vegetables are probably considered a little too old fashioned to be prescribed by today's sophisticated medical intellects. But us poor country folk can still obtain the many benefits they may provide, especially as a preventative, by simply growing our own.
For this is every cook’s opinion, No savoury dish without an onion; But lest your kissing should be spoiled, Your onions should be thoroughly boiled.
- Jonathon Swift
I must disagree with the Irish poet Jonathon as I think it would be better to spoil the kiss and eat some of the onions raw as we do daily in our salads and reap the many benefits rather then cook all of the goodness out. Either way I hope to reap a mighty harvest of this most versatile vegetable along with it's brethren... over 300 leeks, 700 garlics planted last fall, as many bunching onions as I can find a spot for and of course a few chives for our winter garden rows.
Weary of the world and its illogical ways my wife and I have chosen a path towards self-reliance in all aspects of our lives. Our main focus is on growing and gathering our own food. We hope to use this blog as an avenue to share with and learn from others with similar interests.
The Good Life (click↓)
"To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves." M. Gandhi
"Deep inside everyone of us is a call to the wild. Much of the impatience, discontent or violence around us is due to a lack of opportunity to reconnect with where we came from. For sanity and generosity of spirit, we should be able to witness nature at its unceasing, rejuvenating work." - Abdul Kareem
On Permaculture, Edible Landscaping and Garden Plants
"As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances there's a twilight where everything remains seemingly unchanged, and it is in such twilight that we must be aware of change in the air, however slight, lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness." - Justice William O. Douglas
First They Came For My Seed..▼
"Let your life be a counter-friction to stop the machine" - Thoreau
Even while I dreamed I prayed that what I saw was only fear and no foretelling, for I saw the last known landscape destroyed for the sake of the objective, the soil bludgeoned, the rock blasted. Those who had wanted to go home would never get there now.
I visited the offices where for the sake of the objective the planners planned at blank desks set in rows. I visited the loud factories where the machines were made that would drive ever forward toward the objective. I saw the forest reduced to stumps and gullies; I saw the poisoned river, the mountain cast into the valley; I came to the city that nobody recognized because it looked like every other city. I saw the passages worn by the unnumbered footfalls of those whose eyes were fixed upon the objective.
Their passing had obliterated the graves and the monuments of those who had died in pursuit of the objective and who had long ago forever been forgotten, according to the inevitable rule that those who have forgotten forget that they have forgotten. Men, women, and children now pursued the objective as if nobody ever had pursued it before.
The races and the sexes now intermingled perfectly in pursuit of the objective. The once-enslaved, the once-oppressed were now free to sell themselves to the highest bidder and to enter the best paying prisonsin pursuit of the objective, which was the destruction of all enemies, which was the destruction of all obstacles, which was the destruction of all objects, which was to clear the way to victory, which was to clear the way to promotion, to salvation, to progress, to the completed sale, to the signature on the contract, which was to clear the way to self-realization, to self-creation, from which nobody who ever wanted to go homewould ever get there now, for every remembered place had been displaced; the signposts had been bent to the ground and covered over.
Every place had been displaced, every love unloved, every vow unsworn, every word unmeant to make way for the passage of the crowd of the individuated, the autonomous, the self-actuated, the homeless with their many eyes opened toward the objective which they did not yet perceive in the far distance, having never known where they were going, having never known where they came from.