The glory of autumn explained: Chris Packham reveals why leaves change from greens to reds and golden yellows.
For many, the unassuming acorns that fall from an oak tree are the bane of those with driveways and front lawns that they’d like to keep clean underfoot. But in recent years, there has been a growing trend towards finding an alternative use for acorns, rather than just raking them together in a seemingly endless heap.
In many ways, acorns are the crystallization of the recent wild, foraged food trend; they are frequently considered an annoyance (like nettles) but are secretly a superfood– a gluten-free nut and grain alternative that’s high in amino acids.
Acorns can also be stored in their shells for years, and– when properly treated– can be used in a multitude of recipes, infusing nutrients and essential vitamins wherever they are added.
Eating acorns is, of course, not a recent trend; along with their progenitor, the oak tree, they have long been revered as a resource, with a rich history in mythologies around the world. In Sanskrit, the word for oak evokes the concept of thunder, life, soul, and spirit; for the Druids, the oak tree was the most sacred tree– so much so that historians believe the word “Druid” itself is from the Celtic word for “acorn”. Abundant as they are, it’s little surprise that acorns have long been consumed both as a delicacy and as an everyday meal.
Acorns are a token of nature’s alchemical magic: a tiny, hardened nut transforms into a tall, wizened tree.
In America, most people know that Native American tribes– particularly those in California– make use of acorns, cooking them into porridge, pancakes, cakes, breads, soups, and patties.
But internationally, different cultures across the world have found their own ways of adopting the nut and incorporating it into their cuisine: in Korea, acorns are transformed into a jelly known as dotorimuk while in Turkey acorns are buried in the dirt to remove tannins (which is the compound that gives acorns their bitter taste) before being washed, dried, and ground with spices into a drink known as raccahout.
Outside of direct human consumption, acorns also have had an important culinary role: jamon iberico, derived from pigs raised on acorns, is considered a Spanish specialty, and oak trees are being planted to help support truffle production. Historically, acorns have also enjoyed uses outside of the gustatory world, used as dye and prepared into a medicine taken by Native American elders to promote longevity.
Today, acorns are becoming more of a mainstream commodity as foraging increasingly becomes a popular activity, one that has spread beyond the realm of picking berries and gathering mushrooms.
Acorns are cropping up in classic recipes (acorn mousse anyone?), especially as acorn flour becomes more readily available and mechanization has cut out the long and arduous process of leaching tannins by oneself (which in days of yore could sometimes take months).
If you do want to
Did you know the Japanese have a word for “forest bathing”? It is shinrin-yoku. As you can imagine from the translation, it just means losing yourself in the forest while enjoying the air, the scents, the vegetation and the sounds of birds and animals that live there. But did you know that there are some amazing health benefits as well? Apart from the obvious ones like getting fresh air and exercise, there are studies that show that a walk in the forest or a park with lots of trees may be the healthiest thing you can do.
1. It may help prevent cancer.
A vital part of our immune system is made up of NK (Natural killer) cells which can fight cancer. Could a walk in the forest really get those cells going? That was what researchers led by Dr. Li of the Nippon Medical School in Tokyo, set out to show. They took blood samples from small groups of volunteers before they set out on their forest expedition. They spent two or three days in the forest. After their stay in the forest hotel, their blood was taken again for analysis and it showed a remarkable increase in the NK cell activity which also lasted for a month afterwards. Even a one day forest trip showed an increase in these cells although the long term effects were obviously shorter. Imagine the health benefits of doing this on a regular basis!
2. Scents of the forest may reduce stress.
Scents and smells have a powerful effect on our health and emotions. It seems that smells are closely tied to the emotional center in our brain. This is why certain smells and scents can arouse a sense of nostalgia or other emotions relating to our past.
But can they help reduce stress? This is what researchers at Kyoto University wanted to demonstrate. They asked subjects to evaluate their moods and stress levels on their forest days and on the control days when they were in their normal environment. Their conclusions show that the forest days were crucial in reducing their chronic stress.
As to why this happened, the explanation given by scientists is that pine, fir, cedar and cypress trees contain the phytoncides such as alpha-pinene and beta-pinene which make up the essential oils of many plants and trees. These were found to decrease levels of the cortisol stress hormone.
3. It may help with depression.
In an interesting study, Londoners living near trees were found to have better mental health. Even the presence of street trees seemed to have a positive outcome and one study found that areas with
When you are so used to cooking the same things, meals tend to feel monotonous. One of the best ways to change things up in the kitchen is to add fresh herbs. Not only do they have pungent flavor profiles, but they also usually come with added health benefits. Buying fresh herbs can get expensive, and they also tend to go bad if not used quickly, which is why so many of us use dried herbs. Instead, we are sharing our list of the easiest herbs to grow, their health benefits and how to get started.
First, let’s talk about the environment.
If you want to grow the best indoor garden, you need to ensure that the herbs will get sufficient sunlight. Most people tend to have a windowsill with adequate light in the kitchen, but if you do not, place your garden in any sunny room to grow. The ideal temperature would be 55-75 degrees Fahrenheit, and it would be good to give the room some ventilation daily.
What form should I plant them in?
Many common herbs grown indoors do better rooted from a cutting of an existing plant (except parsley, cilantro and dill). This technique is as easy as snipping a stem from a mature herb plant and putting the cutting in either a plant pot or water. Rooting in water works especially well for soft-stemmed herbs such as basil, mint, lemon balm, oregano and stevia. For woody herbs like rosemary, sage, oregano and thyme, take cuttings from new, green growth; older brown stems do not sprout roots easily.
Now, let’s discuss which herbs are best to grow and what nutritional benefits they provide.
Start basil from the seed and place the pots in a
Garden year-round with these smart sheds
If you have a green thumb, or just want to try your hand at horticulture, a greenhouse can be a great choice for protecting plants during chilly weather, starting new plants or raising high-humidity plants like cactus. Gardeners love the ability of a greenhouse to trap heat and humidity, and it can help your vegetation to weather unseasonable temperatures or adjust to life outdoors after being raised from seeds in an indoor climate. There are greenhouses of all sizes — ranging from small pop-up units or simple shelving covered with greenhouse PVC to larger and more elaborate polycarbonate and aluminum or cedar structures. When you choose the best greenhouse to buy, consider your gardening needs, whether you want a freestanding ‘shed-style’ greenhouse or a lean-to, and if features such as built-in gutters and self-opening vents are important to you. Once you purchase a greenhouse, you can look forward to enjoying a ‘greener’ getaway right in your own backyard! Here, the best greenhouses for you and your garden.
Best Overall: Ohuhu Large Walk-in Plant Greenhouse
If you are looking for a greenhouse that will keep your plants humid and happy through almost any type of weather, the Ohuhu Large Walk-in Plant Greenhouse is our top overall pick.
This greenhouse offers plenty of space, but also has a small enough footprint that it won’t take over your entire backyard. The greenhouse measures a little over four feet long and four feet wide but offers over six feet of headroom inside — making it easy to tend to your plants without having to bend over or feel cramped. Inside, you’ll also have 12 shelves, with six on each side positioned in three rows.
Our top pick for a greenhouse is also easy to put together. Most people agree that the design is relatively simple and can be completed in about an hour. A few users added additional tie-downs to stabilize the structure in the event of high winds. People comment on the fact that the greenhouse accomplishes its purpose of keeping plants in a warm, humid environment – even when outside temperatures begin to dip. If you’re looking for an easy-to-assemble greenhouse with plenty of space for your plants and room to move around inside, order the Ohuhu Large Walk-in Plant Greenhouse.
Best Budget: Flower House PlantHouse 3 Pop-Up Plant House
This portable greenhouse is easily assembled in a matter of minutes and comes in a few different sizes depending on your needs. The PlantHouse 3 is 3.5″ x 3″ x 3″ so it can easily be positioned over existing shrubs, or place your containers inside of the greenhouse to protect from cooler temperatures. Another nice feature that sets this budget greenhouse apart is the fact that
Homesteading is the dream for many people. I know we’ve always been curious – simple living, self-sufficiency, a greener lifestyle.
Wikipedia defines it as a lifestyle of self-sufficiency, characterized by subsistence agriculture, home preservation of food, and . . . the small scale production of textiles, clothing, and craftwork for household use or sale. This didn’t clarify much. We wanted to learn more – the ups and downs, the dos and don’ts, and most of all, how to start. So we called our friend Chantel Johnson, of Off Grid In Color. She describes the homestead as the foundation of living: the way back to nature, a point of reference, and the source of wisdom. In our interview with Chantel, she explains her homesteading journey as taking control of her basic needs and monitoring her health and environment. Her mission is to lead others to greater self-sufficiency through farm raised food, birth coaching, and community outreach. She shares with us some of the challenges she faced as a homesteader, the importance of community, and tips on how to get started on your own homesteading journey.
1. Tell us about yourself. How long have you been living off-grid and homesteading? What inspired you to become a homesteader?
I’m a city gal gone country! I’ve been homesteading and living off-grid-ish for about two years. I say off-grid-ish because in my current setup the water supply is provided by a well using traditional power. There were previous places where I was 100% self-sufficient.
“I WAS DEPRESSED, UNHAPPY”
I was born and raised in Chicago. I overcame barriers that many poor and people of color face in under-served and under-resourced communities. After high school, I won a scholarship to Carleton College, one of the best liberal arts schools in the country. It was there I discovered the educational gap between the “rich and poor,” as well as the surface level impacts of racism and sexism. But that did not stop me from persevering and graduating with honors. Unsure of my next move, I spent two years serving in AmeriCorps. Later I obtained my masters degree in social work from the University of Washington.
In 2014, prior to my graduation, my youngest brother was shot several times in Chicago. It rocked my world. Later that year I decided to move to North Carolina where I got a job working for a research company. I hated it, but I did not understand why. I did all the “right things” – what I thought society expected of me. I “made it” out of the hood. I went to school, worked hard, acquired two degrees, and landed a decent job. For what? I was depressed, unhappy.
In August of 2015, my brother died from the complications of his shooting. That was the last straw. I began considering the influences that played into my brother’s death – such as lack of quality jobs, the closing of schools, and poor access to nutritious foods. It was well known that my brother was involved in gang and drug activity, but that lifestyle becomes an easy choice when your basic needs are not met in your community. This is a common occurrence in many poor black and brown communities.
“…THE EARTH PROVIDES EVERYTHING WE NEED TO THRIVE! THE SUN RISES FOR LIGHT AND ENERGY. THE RAIN PROVIDES WATER. THE SOIL IS OUR SOURCE TO GROW FOOD”
My journey as a homesteader came from a desire to take control of my basic needs. To free myself from the influences of the government and corporations. This gave me the power to monitor my health and environment.
You see, the earth provides everything we need to thrive! The sun rises for light and energy. The rain provides water. The soil is our source to grow food.
2. Tell us about your homestead.
My homestead is a sanctuary for health and wellness. I follow basic minimalism principles and simple living practices. My home is a tiny house on wheels and I own very little material things. The homestead is a place where a person can come heal, rejuvenate, and nurture their body, mind, and soul. I facilitate this by providing natural farm-raised goods, holistic doula services, and meaningful community outreach.
“MY HOME IS A TINY HOUSE ON WHEELS AND I OWN VERY LITTLE MATERIAL THINGS”
I primarily raise pigs! I just love these creatures, their eyes are so human-like. They are very large, but sweet and friendly. My pigs are raised in the woods where they have plenty space to roam. They are rotated every month to a new plot of land where they have access to new bugs and greenery. A few times a year I raise chickens for meat. During the holidays I raise turkeys. I also have a small flock of egg layers. All my poultry are pasture-raised with plenty space, and rotated often. The animals are all given non-GMO feed, love, and hugs… when they let me! I invite you to come out and visit!
By: Chantel Johnson