Monthly Archives: May 2016

Start a Garden Guide

A beautiful garden isn’t just something to be admired in glossy magazines. There are solid reasons to start a garden, including the health benefits of gardening — from physical activity (calorie burn!) to the fruits (and vegetables) of your labor. And there are emotional benefits, such as connecting with your kids when you garden as a family and the joy of watching a seed grow into a plant from your efforts.

Jess Bloomer, lead garden educator at the Edible Schoolyard at Samuel J. Green Charter School in New Orleans, has been guiding urban elementary school children through the process of gardening as part of their school curriculum. “For many of our students, the gardens may be their first focused and immersed encounter with the natural world,” Bloomer says. “In the garden, they are exposed to the interconnectedness of all living things, and they get a chance to create a personal relationship with plants, animals, and nature in general.”

Read on about all the benefits of gardening, and you’ll soon be ready to cultivate your green thumb.

Benefits of Gardening

Here are some fabulous reasons to start a garden for yourself, your family, or your community:

  • Gardening burns calories. Light gardening burns about 330 calories an hour. Because gardening is a physical activity, increase your workload slowly to avoid aches and pains.
  • You’ll try new tastes. In a 12-week pilot project involving fourth- and sixth-graders in gardening activities during a summer camp, researchers publishing in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found an increase in enjoyment of and willingness to try new fruits and vegetables. “We have countless examples of students who would refuse to try vegetables in most circumstances who take a risk and try a vegetable in the garden that they have helped to grow,” says Bloomer, who recently worked with a sixth-grade class to grow kale, harvest it, and make kale chips for snacks. (Kale chips are now a favorite snack at the school.)
  • Your family will bond. According to a study published in the Journal of Community Health, when researchers followed 42 families involved in learning organic gardening techniques in a community garden, they found that in addition to the nutritional health benefits of gardening (participants reported eating more vegetables), families said they felt more united and bonded. The researchers theorized that time spent working together in the garden increased family unity. “The garden is a safe place for families,” says Bloomer, who is certified in permaculture design.
  • Kids learn responsibility. Gardening tasks can be delegated according to age and ability, giving even the littlest members of your family a sense of ownership and competence. “Children see firsthand that if they plant a seed, water, and care for it, it will grow into a plant that can provide them food,” says Bloomer. “That is magical.” Also, she points out that the care of plants and the observation of animals in the gardens help children develop a sense of responsibility for things that are smaller and dependent on them.
  • Gardens nurture learning. One of the benefits of gardens is that they spur curiosity and learning, providing a real-world classroom to study life science in action. As an adult, you’ll be on a learning curve if you’ve never gardened before — and so will your children. Bloomer says that this hands-on learning environment supports curiosity, research, and collaborative problem solving. Gardens also lead to more learning in the kitchen as you and your family try out new recipes with your home-grown foods.
  • Gardens are great conversation starters. Once family, friends, and neighbors find out you’re gardening, you’ll be surprised how easily conversation flows as you talk about the food you’re growing, how you cook it, and how you can handle problems such as weed removal and area wildlife (“How do you keep the deer out of your garden?”). All this helps build community, says Bloomer.

How to Clean Refrigerator

Having a healthy home means doing what you can to keep your family well and safe. One simple way to do that is to maintain and clean your refrigerator regularly — it will save energy and money and reduce your family’s risk of food-borne illness.

Smart fridge maintenance involves keeping the refrigerator temperature in the recommended range, properly organizing your fridge food, and cleaning it up. Here’s how to get started.

The Right Refrigerator Temperature

Monitoring and maintaining your refrigerator temperature is one of the best ways to prevent food-borne illness, since keeping foods properly chilled can help prevent or slow the growth of microorganisms, like Salmonella and E. coli, that cause these illnesses. You should keep your refrigerator at or below 40ºF and your freezer at or below 0ºF. Consult the appliance manual to find out how to make these adjustments.

Since your refrigerator’s efficiency can change over time, it is important to check your refrigerator temperature regularly. The best way to do this is to buy and use an appliance thermometer.

You can also help your refrigerator work at its best by positioning it in a relatively cool location, out of direct sunlight and away from heat sources, like the oven or a heat vent. This will help it run more efficiently, which can save energy and money.

Tips for Handling Fridge Food

Refrigerators allow us to keep fresh foods fresh longer, but just because a food is in the fridge doesn’t mean you can keep it indefinitely. Below are some tips for keeping your fridge food safe:

  • Avoid crowding. Allow enough space between items so that air can circulate and keep foods at the proper temperature.
  • Read labels. Follow the directions on food packaging and be sure to promptly refrigerate all foods that require it. Discard any food that may have been mistakenly left out of the fridge for too long.
  • Throw out tainted foods. If food has visible mold on it, a foul odor, or other signs of spoilage — or if you just suspect it might have gone bad — discard it right away.
  • Separate high-risk foods. Keep the foods that are most likely to contaminate other foods — raw meat, poultry, and fish — in plastic bags, bowls, or pans on the lowest shelf of your refrigerator, where drips will not contaminate produce or any other foods.