Getting your Vitamin C dose on International Scurvy Awareness Day

International Scurvy Awareness Day is celebrated on 2 May. Scurvy, a condition typified by tiredness, muscle weakness, joint and muscle aches, rash on the legs and bleeding gums, is caused by a lack of Vitamin C. Interestingly, Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, got it’s name from ‘scorbutus’, the Latin name for scurvy.

Citrus fruit is full of scurvy-fighting Vitamin C. (© All Rights Reserved)
Citrus fruit is full of scurvy-fighting Vitamin C.
(© All Rights Reserved)

Scurvy used to be a common ailment suffered by sailors, soldiers and others who did not have access to fresh fruit and vegetables for extended periods of time.

These days, with most people having ready access to fresh fruit and veges, or alternatively Vitamin C-enriched processed fruit, scurvy is usually only found among people on very restricted diets, people who are under extreme psychological stress, chronic alcoholics or heavy smokers. Babies weaned from breast milk and switched to cow’s milk without Vitamin C supplementation may also develop symptoms, including swelling of the legs, fever diarrhoea and vomiting. Once symptoms of scurvy manifests in a patient, it can be effectively treated with a daily dose of between 300 and 1000mg of ascorbic acid (or 50mg taken 4 times a day, in the case of infants). Left untreated, however, the condition can result in death.

The amazing thing is that, despite the cure for scurvy being so simple, and well-known, there are still hundreds of cases of scurvy reported each year.

So, on International Scurvy Awareness Day, the message is to treat yourself to regular helpings of fresh fruit and vegetables, and preferably to also take a daily Vitamin C supplement, especially if you are under stress, on medication, or regularly smoke or use alcohol.

Avoiding scurvy is as simple as anything. To quote Limestrong.com, home of International Scurvy Awareness Day, “This goal is made even easier by the fact that Scurvy is one of only two diseases known to modern medicine that can be easily cured by drinking a wide variety of readily available cocktails. Just enjoying a Bloody Mary, Margarita, fruit tart, or even just a cool glass of lemonade twice a week will ensure that you stay fit and healthy.”

Unfortunately no mention is made of the other disease that is curable by cocktail… 🙂

Finding that elusive variety on Seed Swap Day

Today, the last Saturday of January, is Seed Swap Day. Since the day originated in the US, it makes sense that it takes place this time of year – the ideal time for our Northern Hemisphere neighbours to get the range of seeds, bulbs etc you need for that vege patch you’re planning, or to ensure your spring garden is a feast of colour.

Here in the Southern Hemisphere the time is not quite ideal – its approaching winter, and heading away from the growing season for most veges, flowers etc. Still, the concept is so good that it’s worth mentioning, even if we end up doing a ‘Southern Seed Swap’ later in the year, around August perhaps. Or perhaps now is the time for a winter swap (brassicas, asian greens, celery and other winter crops).

Harvest quality seeds from your vege patch this year - it's all the currency you need to source great seeds from your next seed swap.(© All Rights Reserved)
Harvest quality seeds from your vege patch this year – it’s all the currency you need to source great seeds from your next seed swap.
(© All Rights Reserved)

The whole principle behind Seed Swap Day is that people get together regionally to swap seeds from their previous year’s crop. Why buy expensive seed from commercial seed companies every year if you can source fresh seeds & bulbs from neighbours in exchange for seeds from your prize veges? Not only do you effectively get seeds for free, but its often the only way to get your hands on some rare and unusual varieties not easily available commercially. And best of all – by swapping locally, you can find seeds and bulbs from plants that are well acclimated to your climate.

Can’t find a seed swap near you? Well, maybe that’s the universe telling you this is your time to take action – pick a date, arrange a venue (perhaps a local school or church hall, or even your garden for that matter), and start getting the message out to neighbours and the wider community. Most community papers also provide space to advertise local events.

If you want to seriously get into seed saving and swapping, it’d be worth your while to learn more about best ways to store and keep seeds and bulbs. There’s some good information sources available online – check out the online Vegetable Seed Saving Handbook, for example. It’s a good idea sharing this with other interested people in your area too, to increase the knowledge base in the region over time, and to ensure everyone can bring good products to your local swap.

OK, yes, it means a bit of effort from your side, but the rewards will be so worth it. And you will have that great feeling of knowing you did something really good, promoting environmental sustainability and local economic development.

So let this year’s Seed Swap Day be your call to action. And best wishes for an abundant vegetable patch and a luscious garden!

Getting hot under the collar on International Hot and Spicy Food Day

Today is International Hot and Spicy Food Day, so are you ready for a meal that gets the heart racing and the perspiration pumping?

This year, I am spending this special day enjoying our first home made Mexican salsa verde, authentically made with the decidedly strange tomatillo fruit (home grown, of course!). Somewhere between a tomato and a cape gooseberry, the tomatillo is essentially a tomato-like fruit wrapped in an inedible, papery husk. Eaten when fully grown but still green of colour and full of flavour, the tomatillo is the key ingredient in Mexican cuisine, including the hot and spicy salsa verde – a green sauce made from tomatillo with chili peppers, garlic, onion, coriander and a touch of lemon or lime juice. Hot, spicy, bursting with flavour, and great with some cheesy nachos!

The tomatillo (Physalis philadelphica), also known as a husk tomato or Mexican tomato.(© All Rights Reserved)
The tomatillo (Physalis philadelphica), also known as a husk tomato or Mexican tomato.
(© All Rights Reserved)
Hot and spicy Mexican salsa verde goes down a treat with corn chips and cheese.(© All Rights Reserved)
Hot and spicy Mexican salsa verde goes down a treat with corn chips and cheese.
(© All Rights Reserved)

Speaking of hot and spicy – we (my wife, actually) recently decided to plant some Bhut Jolokia chili peppers. They’re still babies, so it will be a while still before we have the ‘privilege’ of tasting one of the hottest chili peppers in the world, but I will be sure to report back on the experience (if I’m still able to think straight after the fact).

One of our Bhut Joloika babies.  Considering the punch of the adult fruit (with a Scoville rating of over 1 000 000 units), the baby plant looks deceivingly innocent.(© All Rights Reserved)
One of our Bhut Joloika babies. Considering the punch of the adult fruit (with a Scoville rating of over 1 000 000 units), the baby plant looks deceivingly innocent.
(© All Rights Reserved)

Of course chili peppers aren’t just a great slap across the taste buds; filled to the brim with vitamin C, most B vitamins, potassium, magnesium and iron, they are also really good for you. And it is said that when your body is hit by the sensation of a hot chili, it releases endorphins and serotonin – a great feel-good boost resulting in a natural high similar to the ‘runners high’ experienced after intense exercise. Chili peppers also increase your metabolism, reduce hypertension, fight inflammation and have been found to lower bad cholesterol.

The chili pepper - from the genus Capsicum, and members of the nightshade family, Solanaceae. With a taste that stands out from the crowd, and packed with health benefits, the chili pepper is one of the true celebrities among the edible plants. (© All Rights Reserved)
The chili pepper – from the genus Capsicum, and member of the nightshade family, Solanaceae. With a taste that stands out from the crowd, and packed with health benefits, the chili pepper is one of the true celebrities among the edible plants.
(© All Rights Reserved)

Now if that’s not enough reason to try out some new chili-based recipes on International Hot and Spicy Food Day, I don’t know what is. Have fun, and if you find a good hot and spicy recipe, let me know!

Bean me up, Scotty! It’s Independence from Meat Day.

Not only is July 4th Independence Day in the US, it is also Independence from Meat Day. This day, originally created by the Vegetarian Awareness Network in Tennessee, has grown beyond its original US-only focus to being an international day for celebrating a meat-free diet and lifestyle.

Vegetables – they taste so good, ’cause they look so good!
(© All Rights Reserved)

Arguments for and against eating meat has raged for years, and while there has been many scientific studies published on the health benefits of a meat-free diet, many of these are inconclusive, given the huge variability on human diets both with and without meat. Also, many of the health risks posed by processed meat, for example, has more to do with the chemicals and fats introduced as part of the processing, than it has with the meat itself.

Much stronger arguments are made on moral grounds against the slaughter of animals for human consumption, and many great thinkers have made succinct arguments for a meat-free diet. In the words of outspoken vegetarian George Bernard Shaw, “Animals are my friends… and I don’t eat my friends.”

The fact of the matter is that, despite evolving as omnivores, the human mouth and gut is such that we don’t need meat in our diets. Our bodies can extract the necessary nutrients from a plant-based diet, as long as you take care to provide your body with good alternative sources of the proteins and other nutrients typically found in a meat-diet. Growing children require more protein in their diet than adults, so vegetarian children need to make extra sure they get all the required nutrients in sufficient doses.

Vegetarian or not – it can’t hurt enjoying a meat-free day every so often. So give it a go – celebrate your Independence from Meat, wherever you are.