Harvest Health

Harvest Health

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Weekend pancakes

Every weekend for the last few years, my family has made pancakes for Sunday breakfast.  I've always tried to make them as healthy as possible, while also trying to make them enjoyable for my children.  While most things can be made to taste good with maple syrup or jam, I have to admit that often what I served up was a bit heavy and not what would be accepted as pancakes in most households.  The reason being that I was using buckwheat flour to make them gluten free.  Although, to be honest, sometimes, I would throw in a 1/4 cup of wheat flour, just to make them a bit lighter.

I'm extremely happy now though, after a bit of experimenting to serve light and fluffy, yet filling, gluten free pancakes.

The addition of two things - ricotta and baking powder has made a world of difference.

Recipe for Buckwheat and ricotta pancakes:

2 cups buckwheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of sea salt
1 1/2 cups milk (more if you like a thinner pancake)
1 cup ricotta
2 eggs
2 tablespoons of melted coconut oil or butter.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

In another bowl, combine the milk, ricotta and egg together with the melted butter or coconut oil. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry until combined. Let sit for 5 minutes.

Heat up a frypan, grease it lightly with butter or coconut oil and drop batter (about 1/4 cup for each pancake) onto the pan. When bubbles form on top and the slides look almost set, turn over to cook the other side. Remove and repeat. Unfortunately there's no getting around the fact that butter (or coconut oil) needs to be added to the pan before each batch of pancakes!

These are delicious with yoghurt and maple syrup.  The addition of the ricotta makes the pancakes much higher in protein and more filling.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Embracing Winter

After a summer that was relentless in its heat and that seemed to extend into a large part of Autumn, Winter is finally upon us here in Melbourne.  After such an intense Summer it is with some relief and delight that I welcome Winter.  Of course, it brings its own challenges - feeling tired, suffering with illness, and longing for sunshine being top of the list.

There are many things we can do to make sure Winter is enjoyed, and not just endured.  Here are the top things on my list.  Please  share any others you may have in the Comments.

Strategies for a Healthy Winter:

Move your body

Although there is a natural inclination to hibernate during Winter, it is also important to get regular exercise. As well as helping to stop us becoming sluggish and put on weight, regular exercise is important for our immune system

Wash your hands!

This may sound a little odd, or obvious, but regular hand washing is an effective strategy against contracting infectious illness.  Special anti-bacterial soap is not necessary - just plain soap and water, with a proper scrub of the hands is all that's needed.

Warming foods

Ok, so it's fairly obvious that at some point I was going to mention food!  During the colder months it's important to eat warming foods - this includes soups, casseroles, roasts.  The root vegetables come into their own during winter and can form the basis of a meal by just cutting up and roasting in a pan, with some olive or coconut oil and a sprinkling of herbs such as rosemary.  Garlic is immune enhancing and can be added near to the end of cooking lots of soups and casseroles for maximum benefit.


It is no coincidence that many of the vegetables in season now are orange, such as sweet potato, pumpkin and carrots.  Orange vegetables are high in Vitamin A which is strengthening to the mucous membranes of the respiratory system.

Raw and green are good too

As well as enjoying the delights of winter comfort food, include some greens on a daily basis.  Winter provides an abundance of green veggies - silverbeet, spinach, parsley, broccoli and salad greens all grow well.  Some raw greens will give your body beneficial enzymes and fibre.

Drink warm drinks

Remember Enid Blyton books always contained the characters having 'steaming mugs of hot chocolate'??  A warm drink is very comforting.  Beyond the usual tea and coffee, there is a whole world of herbal teas to try.  Some good ones to start with are Licorice, Ginger, Dandelion root and Y.E.P (yarrow, elder and peppermint).  The occasional hot chocolate is a winter treat to be enjoyed, not to feel guilty about!

My favourite immune nutrients

Vitamin C
Vitamin C is effective in preventing and treating common respiratory infections such as the common cold and the flu.  It is most effective when taken right at the start of the infection, when you first suspect you might be ill.  It is possible to take quite high amounts by taking small doses regularly over the day.  Vitamin C is absorbed in the bowel, and maximum absorption is attained when taken in divided doses rather than one large amount.

Zinc is an essential trace element that is involved in many aspects of immune function.  It is essential for the normal development and function of many immune cells.  Zinc lozenges are very useful at the start of a cold, and can be taken in conjunction with Vitamin C.  Just be careful when taking Zinc, not to take it on an empty stomach as it can make you feel nauseous.

My favourite immune herbs

If taken early and often enough, the immune enhancing herbs can stop a cold from developing.  At the very least they can lessen the duration and severity of a cold.  My favourite ones are Andrographis, Echinacea, Elder and Ginger.  They can be taken in tablet form or as liquid extracts.  In order to be effective though, they have to be quality herbs taken at the right dose.

A cold or two over the winter months is to be expected.  However, by taking care of yourself and boosting your immune system, you can make sure they are mild and not debilitating.  Embrace the goodness of winter while it's here.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Gluten free Zucchini fritters

Not wanting to waste any of our zucchini bounty, we have been eating it a few to several times a week.  It is possible that I was getting just a tiny bit sick of it.  That is, until, in an effort to use up several zucchinis in one meal, I made zucchini fritters.  They were delicious and restored my love for the vegetable of this summer.

It's also possible that the world doesn't need another zucchini fritter recipe, but they're so easy and so yummy I feel compelled to share.

Zucchini fritters

3 medium zucchini
2 eggs, lightly whisked
1/2 cup chickpea flour (besan)*
1/2 tsp sea salt

Choose any combination of the following depending on what you like or have on hand:
1/2 onion, sliced thinly
3 spring onions cut into 1cm pieces
1 cup peas
Handful of chopped mint and/or parsley
Zest from 1 lemon

Grate zucchini either with a grater or food processor.  Place in a colander and sprinkle with a pinch of salt.  After a few minutes grab handfuls and squeeze out the liquid.  Place in a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients.  Add more flour if mixture is too wet.

Cook fritters in olive oil for about 2 minutes each side, or until golden brown.  You can then either eat straight away or put into a low to medium oven to keep warm.

Delicious served with a green salad or tomato salsa.

*Chickpea flour can be found at most whole food shops and even the supermarket.  You can also use almond meal or coconut flour to keep it gluten free.  Or simply use plain flour if gluten in not a problem.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Chamomile - a small herb with big actions!

First up in my series of common herb profiles is one that is known and used world wide - Chamomile.   Chamomile (Matricaria recutita; Chamomilla recutita) is a herb that has been used since ancient times.  Traditionally it was considered to have two specific fields of action: the nervous system and the digestive system.  It works particularly well therefore on nervous conditions that affect the digestive system.  Chamomile has always been used with children, indicating that it is considered a very safe and gentle herb.

Chamomile has the following actions:
carminative (soothing to the gut wall, and reduction of gas),
mild sedative,
vulnerary (wound healing) and
diaphoretic (promoting or inducing a sweat).

You can see that is a lot of actions for a little common herb!  Do not under-estimate the humble chamomile.

A herbalist might use chamomile to treat the following conditions:
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Food sensitivities
  • Flatulence and colic
  • Diarrhoea
  • Gastrointestinal inflammation
  • Infantile colic
  • Gastritis, peptic ulcers, reflux
  • Restlessness and anxiety
  • Topically for eczema (dermatitis)

You can use chamomile yourself at home to also treat the above conditions.  A cup of chamomile tea may not seem like strong medicine, but if it is made correctly with quality dried herb, it can have the same actions as outlined above.  Beware though, a cup of chamomile tea made with a teabag from the supermarket is not the same thing!  We are very lucky here in Victoria to have Southern Light Herbs, a family run business that grows and sources the very best quality herbs for their teas.  Visiting their farm made me aware of the vast difference in quality between their organic loose leaf herbal tea, and what is packaged and sold as tea in teabags.  Their tea is available from organic whole food shops, health food shops, and many naturopaths.

Making a cuppa:

Get yourself  some real dried chamomile flowers.  Add 1 - 2 tsp per person to a teapot or a cup with a lid.  It is very important when making a cup of chamomile tea that the tea is enclosed either by a lid or in a teapot, or else many of the active constituents may escape.  Leave to steep for at least 5 minutes.  Make it as strong as you enjoy, but I think the stronger the better!

Although night time is the classic time to drink a cup of chamomile tea to help with sleep, it can be enjoyed at almost any other time of day.  Make a cup to soothe an upset stomach, to decrease period pain, or to relieve a tension headache.

Chamomile - small herb - big actions!

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Herbal Medicine

If you have never been to a naturopath, or are new to the naturopathic world, you may be unfamiliar with how we treat.  The main modalities I practice are Herbal medicine, and Nutrition.  Both are wonderful and effective entities in themselves, but when used therapeutically together, they can be outstanding in their effect on people, helping them to become well.

Herbal medicine is under utilised by our largely Western society in Australia.  However, from a world-wide point of view, the majority of medicine taken around the world are herbal remedies.  Herbal medicine is not a primitive form of treating that has been superseded by modern medicine.  It still has relevance and so much to offer to people in the 21st century.  It is my wish that more people are going to learn about and turn to herb medicine.  The 'world of the weed' has so much to offer!

Some of the herbs I use in my dispensary would have been familiar to, and used by the Greeks and Chinese 3000 years ago.  This is exciting.  Remedies would not be handed down over thousands of years if they weren't effective.  Our ancestors had a different concept of illness than today's modern medicine.  Back then they viewed diseases as imbalances to be corrected, rather than invasions to be attacked.  Herbal remedies were used to adjust patterns of disorder, and gently nudge a body back to health.

One of the most wonderful things about the herbal world is that herbs behave as more than just an assembly of chemicals.  Whereas many drugs are used for only one action on a specific disease state, many herbs can be used across different body systems, and have multiple actions.  I may be a bit biased, but I think that's tremendously exciting.

I am going to run an occasional series on some of the more common herbs that I have in my dispensary, so that you can get a sense of just how amazing these common plants, or weeds are.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Zucchini....vegetable of the Summer

For the first time, this Summer, I have been growing Zucchini. I can't believe I've never grown it before.  Without much effort on my part, the plants have grown lush and green, and provided a bumper harvest of zucchinis that just keeps giving.  The vegetables seem to grow centimetres overnight.  Despite some, which have become bulbous and hard, most are delicious.  Luckily I have been craving zucchini many lunch and dinner times.

Here are some of the ways we have been eating zucchini over the Summer:

This has been a revelation for me.  Prior to the last year, I have to admit I have never considered eating zucchini raw.  Now I can't believe what I've been missing for so long.  Raw grated zucchini is delicious just with just a pinch of salt and pepper, lemon juice, olive oil and shredded mint.  Also, whenever I am making a 'thrown together' salad for my lunch, I grate in about half a zucchini.

Zucchini spaghetti
This is a nifty little trick to decrease carb content and increase nutrient content of pasta meals.  It's very easy to make spaghetti like shapes from zucchini to have in place of traditional pasta.  Use a mandolin if you have one, otherwise using a vegetable peeler, (or I find a cheese slicer works really well), slice zucchini into thin wide strips.  Then pile the strips on top of each other and cut into thin strips.  They can either be used raw, or lightly fried in oil and garlic before placing the pasta sauce on top.

Cooked minted zucchini
Finely slice zucchini and add to a pan with olive oil and 2 cloves of crushed garlic, and salt and pepper.  Add a chopped handful of mint and chilli if desired.  Cook until soft.

As you can see, not really recipes, but just some ideas of how to enjoy abundant zucchini.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

A New Year

It is usual at this time of year to be thinking in terms of resolutions, or 'intentions', and many people are busy making resolutions in relation to their health or fitness.  It is timely however, to remind ourselves that the basis of good health is actually simple.  It is not the latest superfood, or super expensive supplement that is going to make you healthy, it is the foundation of health that is created by a few simple habits that will increase your vitality and make you feel really well.

Being healthy requires effort.  You have to take control of your own health and make the necessary changes to your diet and lifestyle.  By looking at four key areas though, you can make a big difference to your health.

1. Food
Is the majority of what you're consuming making a positive or negative contribution to your health and well being?  It is an un-avoidable fact that vegetables are the cornerstones of good health, closely followed by fruit.  Make vegetables the main component of lunch and dinner, and then add some protein (animal or vegetarian) and a good quality oil for a salad dressing.  For example, eat a large salad for lunch and enjoy plenty of veggies at dinner time.  You don't want to be hungry, so add enough protein, and good quality fats (such as avocado) and oils.

Remove all white products (flour, rice and sugar) from your pantry and diet, and replace with whole grains e.g. brown rice, quinoa, oats, millet.

2. Exercise
Our bodies are designed to move, not sit for long periods of time.  As well as creating specific exercise times during the week, make a determined effort to move more during your normal day.  The extra movement over a day really adds up.

3. Hydrate
Many people are living in a state of partial dehydration.  Our bodies need for fluids to be replenished is often overlooked.  Aim for 6-8 glasses of water a day, plus some herbal teas.  Start each day with a glass of warm water with squeezed lemon juice, and be mindful of how many caffeinated drinks you drink.

4. Rest
The best diet in the world, or the highest quality supplements aren't going to be able to do their job and make you feel great if you're not getting adequate sleep and rest.  Sleeping well is the cornerstone of good health.  Address any sleep problems you have, and get help if necessary.  Our bodies need between 7 - 8 hours sleep most nights.

The New Year is a great opportunity to get serious about your health goals.  Instead of doing it on your own, experience the difference it makes letting a professional help you achieve your goals and guide changes to your diet and lifestyle.  A naturopath is in a unique position to help you achieve the best health possible.

Make this year different