Gardener ‘Shape Up’, Tomato Nutrition Is Tops!

It’s Friday (yay!) and possibly this weekend there will be some time to browse seed catalogs (sans cookies) and make some decisions on what to grow in the edible garden.  Tomatoes are a staple in my garden (probably in most people’s) since ‘growing your own’ has become the way to enjoy them fresh.  Of course, buying them at a local farmer’s market works well too, but still, the point is they were grown locally and harvested a short while before purchase.

DSC_0007Find a plot for tomatoes because besides their sweet/savory flavor, they are tops in nutrition and health benefits.

DSC_0038Rich in vitamin C and vitamin A, tomatoes offer up antioxidants in a big way.  The concentrated levels of just these two vitamins, a.k.a. antioxidants, promote a healthy immune system along with eye/vision health.  (A substantial amount of beta carotene, which the human body converts to vitamin A, is found in tomatoes and is the reason they are known to aid in preserving eye health.)

DSC_0002These are just a couple of the health benefits of eating a diet rich in tomatoes but there are others such as lower risk of high blood pressure and heart disease and better regulation of blood sugar along with helping bones stay strong. Basically, tomatoes pack a powerful punch when it comes to vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

DSC_0060Yes, vitamins and minerals such at vitamin K, B-6, folate and potassium are found in tomatoes but their ‘claim to fame’ is the concentrated levels of lycopene found in them.  (Tomatoes are literally known as the most concentrated food source of lycopene.)

DSC_0012I’m sure you all already know (None of you has been living under a rock for years!) lycopene is an antioxidant compound that is known to scavenge free radicals, or potential problem cells (cancer cells) in the body.  Also a carotenoid, lycopene does the cool job of giving tomatoes and certain other fruits/vegetables their color.

DSC_0074When you consider the tasty availability of all these vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants, along with the fact that they are naturally low in sodium, pretty high in fiber and cholesterol free, it becomes a no-brainer  - you must find a spot or at least a pot for your very own tomato plant!

tomato1Decisions, decisions, decisions… one challenge I face is cutting back my list of tomatoes to grow this year.  You see, I attended a local tomato tasting last summer and discovered so many wonderful flavors and variety in color, texture, and size that I came home with quite a long list for the 2014 growing season.

Here’s what is currently on my list.  (OP= open pollinated, HY = hybrid, Heir = Heirloom)

  • Ghost cherry (OP)
  • Golden Currant (OP)
  • Cherry Punch (HY)
  • Sun Sugar (HY)
  • Sweet Million (HY)
  • Juliette (HY)
  • Costoluto Fiorentino (Heir)
  • Costoluto Genovese (Heir)
  • Carmello (HY)
  • Jaune Flamme (Heir)
  • Box Car Willie (Heir)
  • San Marzano (Heir)
  • Sun Gold (HY)
  • Black Krim (Heir)

As you can see, this is a lot and if I were to grow this many varieties, it would probably be the end of me come harvest time!

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How about you?  What tomatoes will you grow this year?  How do the health benefits of tomatoes influence your growing decisions.. at all? Is one of your favorites on this list?

P.S. If you are new to gardening and do not understand the difference between open pollinated, hybrid and heirloom, here is a basic explanation.

Gardener Shape Up: Try A Green ‘Pick Me Up’

Well, it’s mid-week and if you are joining me for the 30 day ‘Gardener Shape Up – Being Mindful of Health,’ you might need an energizer to get over hump day.  Late afternoon is when I could use a boost and coincidentally it’s also when I might start to snack (the kids come home from school and snacks are flying around the kitchen).

I’ve found drinking a green smoothie this time of day helps hold the energy high and satisfies the desire to snack.

DSC_0019Here’s a combination I like because it tastes GOOD – very fresh, with a little zing!

  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 cups of spinach
  • 1/2 cup of broccoli (raw)
  • 1 orange (peeled)
  • 1 pear (cored, not peeled, unless you like)
  • 4 small dried figs (chopped)
  • the rind of 1 lemon
  • juice of one grapefruit (some pulp o.k. too)
  • 1 tablespoon of chia seeds or flax seeds
  • 3-4 ice cubes if you want it cold

This concoction is all about vitamin C and calcium.  The pear, orange, grapefruit, lemon rind, and broccoli all sport vitamin C as their number one nutrient. The spinach provides vitamin A and calcium and if you throw in a tablespoon of chia seeds or flax seeds, you get even more calcium along with good fiber and manganese.

Beyond all of this good stuff…you feel satisfied.  I mean think about it…if you sat down and ate  an entire orange, entire pear, 2 cups of spinach, 4 figs, 1/2 cup of broccoli and some juice, rind and seeds you would be FULL.  Actually, overfull and would likely not feel well.  But combining this into a creamy smoothie…well then, it’s just a glass of afternoon delight!

A quick note on blending.  If you are an owner of one of the high performance Vitamix or Blendtec blenders, making this smoothie will be a breeze and you probably have your own fantastic creations. Maybe you’d like to share one?  If not, no worries, most any blender can take on these ingredients.  However, I suggest chopping everything into small/medium size pieces, especially the figs as they are soft and sticky, before giving a whirl.  For the most smooth consistency, you may want to whirl several times, depending on the horsepower of your blender.

A quick note if you’re just ‘not a green smoothie person.’    If you’ve tried the juicing/smoothie thing and it’s just not for you…  Say your best afternoon ‘pick me up’ is the classic cup of joe, then by all means go ahead.   Recent studies show caffeine is likely not the serious diuretic we all thought it was and furthermore it can help improve memory!  Check it out!

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Seriously, don’t feel guilty about sticking with the classics but maybe think twice before reaching for the afternoon pastry!? :)

Gardener Must-Have: A Strong Back!

I’m starting out the 30 days of ‘Gardener Shape Up – Being Mindful of Health,’ with a post focused on a critical item for happy gardening – a strong back.  Well actually, knowing what it’s like to have a strained back,  it’s a critical item to get the clippers from a top shelf or even put your pants on!  What I mean is, your back connects everything and when it is unhappy, odds are you’re in a disagreeable mood too.

Although I have exercised regularly for years, (even longer than I have been gardening) each year returning to the garden and the many lifting, bending, stretching activities…I notice it gets a bit harder for my body to handle.

In particular, I notice the stiff, achy feeling in the lower back and hamstrings that are present any time I put a good amount of work in.  This year I’m hoping to avoid some of the nagging aches and tightness by working beforehand, BEFORE I hit the garden, to strengthen them.   I really don’t want to be limited in the scope of projects I take on this season and that is motivation to be disciplined about strengthening them.

After quite alot of research, ranging from the MAYO clinic to MMA videos, I’ve selected  3 exercises to do 3-4x per week to develop more strength in my lower back and hamstrings. And of course, since everything is connected these will improve core strength as well. These exercises (or a form of them) are present in most any back strengthening information you come across.  They are found in physical therapy, yoga, pilates and even intense body building regimes.

Here’s a bit of an eclectic collection of video and instruction that you can check out to learn the proper way to do each exercise.  All information is brief and accurate in showing how to do the exercise properly.  Afterall, time spent here could be time spent doing the exercise!

tumblr_ln5xa4l8Gu1qfmjcoThe Superman:  This strengthens abs and lower back and gluts secondarily.   There are several versions that can be done as you will see in this 2 minute demo. (Don’t be concerned that since this comes from Popworkouts that I think celebrity workouts are the only ticket for us gardeners to become new and improved!) :)

Superman demo  (scroll down a little)

hamstrings-buttocks-bridge The Bridge:  This exercise strengthens your gluts, hamstrings and lower back and can be modified to become more challenging as strength improves.   Here’s a 2 minute video showing the exercise and possible options and you can choose to watch either a guy or girl.

Male demo

Female demo

bird dgo-2The Bird Dog:  Attributed often to Dr. Stuart M. McGill this exercise is very popular for improving lower back and core strength.  It works abs, back, butt and hips and can be done anywhere, but pay attention to the details of body position for best result.

Bird dog step-by-step

One other simple reference guide for improving back strength comes from Real Simple.  I like this easy guide because several of the exercises include lunging, turning and twisting (in a controlled manner) and that is so the case when it comes to gardening.  I mean seriously when do we ever have complete access to what we are working on?  There is always quite a lot of leaning, reaching and twisting involved, so some of these exercises can help with those movements.  Also, this regime is quick – 15 minutes!

Here’s to strength of the back side!  Feel free to share if you find this info helpful and have additional comments.

Gardener ‘Shape Up’ – It’s Not A Challenge, It’s About Being Mindful

It’s January and yes it’s the time of year that many of us are revitalizing our commitment to living healthy.  Although do you ever feel January seems to run counter intuitive to this goal?  It’s colder, darker and gloomier than most other times of the year (in the Northern Hemisphere anyway) so it’s tougher to maintain that positive energy and keep yourself on track ‘livin’ the good life’ with fresh food, exercise and gusto.

Being mindful. So as I was reading about 2014 gardening trends (Garden Media Group report) and discovering ‘gardening for mindfulness’ is top of mind this year, it occurred to me that it might be nice to come together in these darker days and do more than look at seed catalogs. (Because you know, I always have a cup of hot tea when looking at seed catalogs and with that –  some cookies – 2,3,4 and it goes from there and then, you know, I’m off the track!)

How about for the next 30 days, let’s us gardeners “plan” for the 2014 growing season by getting in better shape and being mindful of our health.  In 30 days, it will be mid-February and the skies will be lighter longer and many of us will see the beginnings of new life in the garden (or at least in pots).  Thirty days is also enough time to kick bad habits and get on solid footing with good habits.

The details are simple.  Let’s commit 20 minutes of EVERY DAY to some sort of exercise (whatever you choose) where you are mindful about why you are doing it and grateful to be able to do it.  Think about how it will make you stronger, happier and more well-rounded.  (Er, maybe not the best choice of words, how about more dynamic!)  If you already exercise frequently, maybe make the commitment to do something every day or add 20 minutes more of a new activity such as stretching, meditating, simple calisthenics’ or outdoor walks.

Lastly, take another 10 minutes of your day and plan what you will eat the next day.  Make a shopping list, check food stores and plan for a bit of time to prepare it.

That’s it!  Just 30 minutes each day spent on being mindful about our health.

Who’s in?

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Not sure you can find the time?  Thirty minutes can be found in most anyone’s day, after all, we will all find 30 minutes a day to spend in our garden as soon as Spring hits.  Let’s get ourselves ready… with stronger backs, legs, forearms, increased flexibility, etc…  it will make a difference with what projects we decide to take on this season.  Feeling strong generates a ‘can do’ attitude and with that comes new creativity and accomplishment.  Even if your goals are to downsize or edit your garden this year, it still takes a strong individual to take out the overgrown clumps of perennials, the looming shrubs, old vines, etc…

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O.K., if you’re ‘in like Flynn’, join me here during the next 30 days for inspirations focused on edible gardening, exercise, healthy eating and mental well-being. And please, feel welcome to share your activities focused on being mindful about health and gardening.

Borrowing some words from fellow garden blogger, David Christiani, ( “It’s A Dry Heat.” )…  Let’s ‘Shape Up’ so we can re-shape ‘Out of Shape’ spaces come Spring!

Addendum

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December Daily Wreath: To New Beginnings!

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This wreath is so colorful and festive that I just had to post it on New Year’s Eve!

Here’s to mud in your eye if you are a gardener!  And if not, well then simply cheers!  Cheers to new beginnings wherever you decide to start them but most definitely in the garden!

Many thanks to all who stopped by during December for the daily wreath fun.  I look forward to potentially hearing from you again as I share garden happenings in the coming year.

The Daily Wreath: Emphasize Your Assets!

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As we head toward the new year and possibly entertain a little self-reflection about starting afresh, remember to emphasize your assets in your new ventures!  I think that is what was decided here…have a pink door – go with it!  (Spotted at the entrance to a grooming salon.)

And for a bit more on this vibrant color… you might think about embracing it!  For the color of the upcoming year as selected by the Pantone Color Institute (www.pantone.com) , is “Radiant Orchid” which is basically the purply-pink of Phalaenopsis orchids.  (How did this little salon know what was to be hip! :)

Yes, the color of the year is most heavily seen in fashion and home decor but some fellow garden bloggers and writers say gardeners will most likely see many more plants with flowers of this hue this year. So if amiable, when planning vignettes, think pink, er… I mean “radiant orchid!”

December Daily Wreath: Winter Twilight

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You just never know what you might see…  I saw this pretty wreath while driving a tiny back road near the foothills.  The winter light and it’s shadows are so interesting together.  Winter twilight, fleeting but lovely.

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