Friday, January 31, 2014

Sick and Tired? An Autoimmune-Boosting Paleo Diet May be the Cure


Swollen joints, body aches, fatigue? You may need to consider an autoimmune Paleo diet. If these symptoms plague you each day, you may be one of millions suffering from undiagnosed autoimmune diseases. The prevalence of autoimmune disease is on the rise–the rate of the diseases is up to 3.2 percent, according to a recent study. And the key to autoimmune symptoms is controlling inflammation.

Every single thing you put in your body either stokes the fires of inflammation or cools them off. Your diet can be the key to suffering ever-increasing symptoms or living nearly symptom-free. If you know you have or suspect autoimmune disease, an autoimmune Paleo diet could be crucial to improving your health and happiness.

The autoimmune protocol (AIP) of the Paleo diet is one of the most popular ways to naturally reduce internal inflammation. In addition to the restrictions of the standard Paleo diet, those suffering from autoimmune disease are encouraged to avoid inflammatory foods for at least 30 days. At that point, you can try reintroducing each food one at a time to see if your body can handle it.

Eggs, dairy, nuts, seeds, nightshades, nitrates, alcohol and all inflammatory foods are all to be avoided initially.

Every person is different. Once you eliminate inflammatory foods for a month, you can test out each food and eventually return to a more simple grain-free, legume-free Paleo diet. You may even eventually be able to consider occasional grains and legumes once your system has sufficient time to heal the inflammation damage.

Keep in touch with Kristi on Facebook, Twitter @VeggieConverter and Pinterest

Related on Organic Authority:
Is Paleo a Healthy Low-Carb Choice?
30 Days of Paleo: Resources & Results
3 Paleo Pancake Recipes

Image: minimallyinvasivenj via Compfight cc


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Monday, January 27, 2014

Botanic Notables: Quintessentially Mediterranean Quercus

This oak bears truly unique bark for interest at eye level that's even better at night when uplighting creates shadows that bring out all the furrows and textures.

They're native to the Mediterranean, but for thousands of years Quercus suber, the cork oak has been an orchard tree in Spain and Portugal. It's easy to identify by the thick, deeply fissured, spongy bark which is the source of wine corks. The cork bark builds up over time to a layer up to a foot thick, then it's stripped away for harvest every ten years.

Cork Oak
The cork oak is an upright branching tree for plenty of room beneath for shelter and shade.

Cork is an adaptation to wildfire much like redwood tree bark resists burning. Unlike other oaks that resprout from the root after the tree burns, a cork oak canopy regenerates from the branches so it returns to beauty far sooner. These trees are also very tolerant of salt spray for a problem solver in coastal gardens.

There is no better tree to enhance the history and aesthetic of Mediterranean style gardens. Cork oak is a natural companion for olive trees and Italian cypress which share similar water demands.

very old cork oak
Specimens of very old cork oaks line the entry walk to the San Diego Botanical Garden, a legacy of foresight by the original owners of the property.

This is a fine shade or street tree, but it does not tolerate winters colder than 10º F or USDA Zone 8. They prefer well drained soil and are tolerant of a long dry season. This is a slower growing tree that rarely exceeds sixty feet tall and wide, its life span short for an oak at just 250 years. An old saying shared among growers attests to the growth rate which keeps it perpetually in bounds for urban landscapes. “Eucalyptus trees are for us, pine trees for our children, and cork trees are for our grandchildren.”

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Friday, January 24, 2014

Escarole and Pomegranate Salad

Once my nephew had a girlfriend from Spain. For the holidays, they brought an escarole and pomegranate salad to dinner that I’ve been wanting to make it ever since. I’ve recreated it from taste and description, and it’s good. My …

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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Botanic Notables: Plants of The Hunger Games

Editor’s Note: When The Hunger Games sequel, Catching Fire opens this Friday, early reviews say the dramatic and subversive storyline will not disappoint its ravenous fans. In anticipation, we pulled this article from our archives as a horticultural hat tip to Suzanne Collins and The Hunger Games trilogy.

“Plants are tricky. Many are edible, but one false mouthful and your dead” —The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

Whether or not you've seen the movie or read the book, you probably know that The Hunger Games is a dystopian story of competition and survival in a post-apocalyptic world. Much of the narrative takes place in the wilderness, a setting that comes with its own cast of characters: plants. The book (not so much the film) is a wonderful collection of ethnobotanical references. Flowers that heal, trees that feed, and berries that kill—plants are the ally and the enemy. 

Author Suzanne Collins considered the significance of the wild plant when she scripted a food-insecure world, and her characters are often defined by a plant—some can identify them (they live), others can't (they die). Collins has even named several major characters for plants that symbolize them. And, in the months since The Hunger Games premiered on screen, there has been a renewed appetite for foraging and wild plant literacy. A high school in Texas was inspired to introduce a course on plant identification and foraging, and there have been a number of Hunger Games-inspired recipes, many of which include plants mentioned in the book.   

Without further ado, a list of several significant plants in The Hunger Games. To readers who aren't familiar with the story, two warnings: first, [SPOILER ALERT] the list contains some spoilers. Second, beware the deadly nightlock berry!


Katniss Everdeen, the story's heroine and champion forager is named for a plant. Hardy, valuable, and sometimes sweet, the katniss plant is also an adaptable survivor, just like the character. Also known as duck potato and swan potato, the plant is sometimes called "arrowhead," derived from the Latin name for its genus: Sagittaria, which refers to the archer in the zodiac—a master with the bow and arrow, just like the young protagonist. 

In the wild, the katniss plant is found in wetlands. Its leaves are edible, though it's most valued for its roots: large, nutritious tubers whose taste is comparable to a sweet potato. Katniss was once a staple food of Native Americans, especially in the Northwest (where they dug up the plant with their toes). Of the 30 katniss species, Sagittaria latifolia is most prevalent in North America.


Katniss plant. Image credits: Wikimedia Commons


Primrose Everdeen, Katniss's gentle sister, is most likely named for the evening primrose, Oenothera spp, a plant that Collins describes as beautiful and delicate. Like the character, primrose flowers are not all that hardy—they're not at the Games either. The evening primrose is a medicinal plant, called "king's-cure-all, and a softening agent, both of which reflect Primrose's character in the story. The flowers will thrive in forsaken land, just like the young girl—except in regions west of the Rockies, which is where the story's "Capitol" is likely located—and also where the character herself dies.

Evening primrose (Oenothera lamarckiana). Image credit:


The rue plant (Ruta) is an evergreen "herb-of-grace" that carries many metaphors. It's been called the plant of purity and it is featured in many cultural and religious ceremonies. In literature, it has been used as a symbol of both regret and freedom. And so it is an apt name for the young girl who befriends Katniss during the games, whose death serves as a turning point in the narrative. When Rue is killed, Katniss's regret becomes a sense of freedom, prompting her to launch the critical rebellion. 


Rue plant (left); Rue listing in Tacuinum Sanitatis, a medieval handbook on wellness (right). Image credits: Wikimedia Commons.

"Tomorrow I’ll stay here, resting, camouflaging my backpack with mud, catching some of those little fish I saw as I sipped, digging up the roots of the pond lilies to make a nice meal."

Katniss's survival plan sounds very pleasant—a picnic by the lily pond. Collins does not mention the species, so the lilies of The Hunger Games could be any species of the most common three genuses—Nuphar, Nymphaea, and Nelumbo, all of which have edible rhizomes. Pond lily roots are enormous, spongy, and sold in many street markets (think of the lotus root, which the Chinese call a "cooling" food, thought to restore balance in the body). 


Nuphar luteum (left); Nymphaea mexicana, native to the southern United States (right). Image credits: Wikimedia Commons.

Pine Trees

“I slowly chew the stuff as I walk along ... it’s a little hard to choke down.”

With little else to eat, Katniss turns to a pine tree. Its soft inner bark can be a good meal and its needles are a good source of Vitamin C. Native Americans often chewed on pine tree bark during the winter months to conserve food reserves. 


Edible pine bark. Image credit:


"I had just turned away from Peeta Mellark's bruised face when I saw the dandelion and I knew hope wasn't lost. I plucked it carefully and hurried home. I grabbed a bucket and Prim's hand and headed to the Meadow and yes, it was dotted with the golden-headed weeds. After we'd harvested those, we scrounged along inside the fence for probably a mile until we filled the bucket with the dandelion greens, stems and flowers."

In the story, the dandelion becomes a symbol of hope for Katniss, and evidence of her resourcefulness and expert foraging. When she sees the field of dandelions, she gains confidence in her ability to feed her family. Dandelions are entirely edible—to a forager, a dandelion field means something entirely different than what it means to the gardener. Dandelion leaves have more beta carotene than carrots and more iron than spinach. The root can be applied as an herbal remedy for a number of ailments and the milky sap can soothe bee stings and blisters. 


From Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler's Medizinal-Pflanzen, 1897 (left); dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) (right). Image credits: Wikimedia Commons.


When Katniss emerges from the tracker jacker (engineered wasp) hallucinations, she reaches for a honeysuckle to soothe her spirits and sweeten her tongue. The edible nectar can be eaten directly from the flower—remove the stamen from the bottom of the flower, and suck the nectar droplet.


European Honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum). Image credit: Wikimedia Commons


Nightlock, the poison of the forest, doesn't actually exist, but its name is most likely derived from two living plants with similar toxicity: deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna), and poison hemlock (Conium maculatum). Ancient Romans used the nighshade's berries and leaves as a poison, and hemlock was famously used in the death of Socrates. In The Hunger Games, Katniss accurately identifies some berries that Peeta collects to be deadly. A competitor who doesn't share Katniss's plant identification acumen later eats the nightlock's berries, with fatal consequences.


Deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna). Image credits: Wikimedia Commons.


Collins writes about one plant whose identity eludes us. The leaves of an unnamed plant are used several times to heal various wounds and ailments: in one instance, Rue chews the leaves, then applies the pulpy salve to Katniss's tracker jacker wounds; in another, Katniss's mother boils the leaves to make a medicinal elixir; finally, Katniss uses the leaves to treat Peeta's leg wound. It's possible that the plant is Calendula officinalis, which herbalists often laud for its beneficial tinctures, tea, and oil. Calendula leaves and petals have been applied to reduce inflammation and as an antiseptic against infection. Calendula is a good candidate for this unnamed plant, but it's hard to be sure. Hunger Games fans, what do you think it could be? [Editor's note: Our commenting system is a little wonky right now and being fixed, but you can comment on our Facebook page or tweet at us through Twitter!]

calendulaCalendula officinalis. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons.Anna Laurent is a writer and photographer. Her work explores how we look at plants, and how those plants behave.

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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Apple Cake Recipe with Nutmeg and Cinnamon

apple cake recipe

At my local market, near all of the other apple varieties, there is always a flat of apples with a sign on it: pommes à compote, apples for applesauce. The harvest season here in France is nearly over, but the apples have been stored on the farms and orchards for months, and while their skins might be a bit wrinkled, they’re still delicious when cooked. As I picked some of my own apples a few months ago, I have some pommes à compote in my pantry; this apple spice cake recipe is one of my favorite ways to use them. This apple cake recipe is just the thing to make your home smell like warm autumn spices.

Yields: 1 12-inch loaf

This “cake” is technically a quick bread, which means there’s no need to feel guilty should you decide to have a slice or two at breakfast. It’s a clever and delicious way to get your healthy apple a day!


2 apples (baking apples or slightly acidic apples)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar + 2 tbsp. raw sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/3 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 pinch nutmeg


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a loaf pan.

Grate the apples (skin and all) into a large mixing bowl. Add the oil, cup of sugar, eggs and vanilla and mix well to combine. Without mixing, sift the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg over the top. Carefully fold the dry ingredients into the wet, and pour into the prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle the top of the cake with the reserved sugar.

Bake for 40-50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool fully before slicing. on Organic Authority:

The Lazy Gal’s Breakfast: Make Quick Breads Over the Weekend, Eat All Week!

Eat Your Veggies: 3 Vegetable Quick Breads for the New Year

Go Loaf Crazy: 3 Creative Quick Breads

Image: Emily Monaco

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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Escarole, Farro, and Chicken Soup

I’d been craving escarole in soup for years—hence the long search for organic escarole. There’s just something about escarole in a soup that is so clean and nourishing. When I served this soup at dinner (along with some garlic-butter toast) …

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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Explore a Tropical Paradise

The moment you enter Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables, Fla., you are transported to the tropics. It is the only garden of its kind in the United States, encompassing 83 acres of rare tropical plant collections and native wildlife.

Did you know there’s only one spot in the continental U.S. where tropical plants are able to thrive outdoors year-round? This tropical paradise, near the Florida Keys, in Coral Gables, Fla., is the site of the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, one of the premier tropical botanical gardens in the world. Nowhere else will you see in one place such an amazing collection of palm trees, exotic flowering plants and vines, and lush rain forests.

Bailey Palm GladeFairchild’s beautiful Bailey Palm Glade features a display of unusual palm trees and provides incredible views of mangrove preserves and Biscayne Bay.

More than 350,000 people visit Fairchild annually to take in these incredible plant displays including a 16,400-square-foot conservatory featuring 1,900 species of rare palms and cycads, ferns, orchids, bromeliads, fruit trees and other tropical plant specimens; the Palmetum, a world-renowned display and research collection of palm trees from all over the world; a butterfly conservatory containing host plants for more than 30 species of native butterflies; and 8 acres of tropical flowering trees collected from all tropical regions of the world. You can also tour a 4-acre collection of plants native to South Florida and see birds and other wildlife native to the Florida Keys.

Butterfly Garden The Lisa D. Anness Butterfly Garden displays host plants for more than 30 species of native butterflies, serving as an important educational resource for local gardeners.

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, which opened to the public in 1938, is the oldest major cultural institution in Miami-Dade County. It is named for Dr. David Fairchild (1869-1954), founder of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Foreign Seed and Plant Introduction Section. Many plants still growing at Fairchild were collected and planted by Dr. Fairchild, including a giant African baobab tree. Fairchild Garden is open every day of the year, except Dec. 25. For more information, visit

palm trees
At Fairchild’s Palmetum, you can see a collection of palm trees of all shapes, textures and sizes from all over the world.

In this paradise of the exotic and beautiful, you will dazzled by the sight and heady fragrances of colorful orchids and tropical flowering plants of all kinds.

Rainforest Stream
Explore Fairchild’s rainforest and find yourself walking along a rushing stream with waterfalls and petite cascades.

A breathtaking sunrise over one of Fairchild’s 11 lakes.

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Saturday, January 4, 2014

Trans Fats Out: 5 Processed Foods Impacted By the FDA Ban

doughnuts with trans fats photo

The FDA announced that it’s moving toward further limiting trans fats in processed foods because the agency has decided that there’s no acceptable limit for human health.

Trans fats are popular because they give foods taste and texture while improving shelf life. But they’ve also been directly linked to heart disease. The CDC recommends keeping trans fat consumption as low as possible because they increase LDL low-density lipoprotein or “bad cholesterol” and decrease HDL high-density lipoprotein or “good cholesterol”. The agency states that further reducing trans fats in American diets could prevent 10,000-20,000 heart attack deaths and 3,000-7,000 coronary heart disease deaths every year. Personally, I’m shocked that knowing their death toll anyone would eat a food with trans fats. But surprisingly, these artery cloggers are still in quite a few of the processed foods that we Americans can’t seem to resist.

5 Processed Foods Brimming with Trans Fats

1. Doughnuts

You know you love them, whether at your Friday morning office meeting or with a cup of potent coffee at the coffee shop. But doughnuts are loaded with trans fats and if the ban goes into place they just won’t be the same. Without trans fats they’ll likely be slightly more oily than what we’re used to. But I’ll take the oil if it means I won’t drop dead from a heart attack after the morning meeting.

2. Popcorn

Microwavable and movie popcorn are currently loaded with trans fats but if the ban goes into place, they may have to use actual butter in their “butter flavor” popcorn. I think the more obvious question is: why weren’t they using butter in butter popcorn beforehand?

3. Frozen Pizza

Frozen pizza contains trans fats but with the ban, food manufacturers may have to switch to vegetable oil. But the pizza might not last as long. “We don’t want other additives to make these last longer. Do we really want something in our food that can stay in our pantry for three years?” says Kristin Kirkpatrick, a wellness manager and registered dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio on Time.

4. Cookies and Crackers

Cookies and crackers tend to contain trans fats because it improves their texture and keeps them crisp.

5. Refrigerated Dough and Pie Crusts

While ready-made dough and pie crusts can make homemade dessert that much simpler to make, they also contain trans fats. But with the new ban, food manufacturers will likely switch to regular canola. (Look out for the canola oil; it’s mostly GMO.)

Related on Organic Authority:
FDA Finally Pulls The Plug On Trans Fats
10 Processed & Fast Food Options That Are Full Of Trans Fat
Can a Food’s Nutrition be ‘Improved?’

Image: Amy Loves Yah

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