Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Food, Family, Thanks

As we prepare for our feasts tomorrow lets think about what is important to us in our lives and how this relates to farms and agriculture. The AgChat Foundation suggests that we take time out today to give thanks for food, #foodthanks. Some of my best childhood memories include gardening and cooking with my Mom as well as going to U-Pick farms for fruits. I hope that my children have developed similar experiences of food; both cooking and growing in their memories.

On Thanksgiving most of us will come together with family and/or friends to celebrate and give thanks for the things in our lives that are important. As I reflect on my life the things that come to mind that I am thankful for include:

Quality of life

My family, parents and siblings, had always come together at the dinner table over food. Family dinners are a tradition I have continued after I started my own family and something I hope has impacted my children. It is a way of teaching nutrition, spending time together and learning how to cook using real food rather than prepared packages. I am shocked when I hear that many families do not eat together.

When I spend time with friends, it is often over a meal where we can sit and talk. Health for each and everyone of us depends upon food. The less processed our food and closer to the farm it is the healthier it is. In fact the American Institute for Cancer Research suggests that we can decrease the risk of cancer significantly by eating more fruits and vegetables.

My work also centers on farming to a certain extent. I grow herbs on my farm that I use to make botanically based skin care products. Although most of us do realize that farms are necessary for our food, do we realize that farms also produce fiber, animal feed, fuel, medicines, vegetable oils used in body care and more.

So how we can both celebrate agriculture and thank those involved in agriculture. For me its supporting farmers markets and local food. A lot of fossil fuel is used in transporting produce from one part of the country to another, or even from other countries. Fossil fuels are also used to power farm equipment, produce pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. Because of this I look for small farms that grow without the use of pesticides and herbicides and use limited fuels. I do not search for certified organic however because I know how costly and distracting it is to become certified.

Supporting small farmers can increase our sustainability as a nation. The more centralized our food system is the more devastating and debilitating it would be in case of a disaster caused either by terrorism or natural causes. Large factory farms can be the source of a lot of problems in our food system. Support smaller farms that practice crop diversity and seed saving for our future.

To decrease the carbon foot print of food you could also plant a garden in your yard. Some of our country’s best agricultural land is to be found in our housing subdivisions now. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt first encouraged home gardeners during WWII to plant home gardens to raise awareness of healthy food. 20 million victory gardens were planted during WWII producing 9-10 million tons of fruits and vegetables; enough to meet 50% of the county’s needs. The number of families doing canning also increased during this time. Unfortunately, food shortages occurred at the end of the war when citizens abandoned their victory gardens. First Lady Michelle Obama has once again drawn attention to food by planting a 1100 square foot Victory Garden on the White House lawn, the first since Eleanor Roosevelt planted one in World War II to raise awareness of healthy food.
You can view this video

This Thanksgiving, give thanks not only to the farmers who grow the food for our feasts but also for our natural resources that make it possible.

You can view this 1940's film put out by the Department of Agriculture to help teach people how to garden.

Monday, November 22, 2010

New Product: Botanical Oat Face Cleanser

Since Colorado Aromatics has some new products out I thought I’d introduce them to you in a series of blogs.

Botanical Oats Face Cleanser

We’ve been working on this face cleanser for awhile. I wanted to formulate a mild cleanser that contained beneficial botanicals. One that was cleansing without being drying, and contained not only all vegetable derived ingredients but also was biodegradable and had no ethoxylated ingredients. And I think we formulated a winner here.

I started with oats. Oats have long been used in skin care and were probably used by Cleopatra in fact. Oats are soothing to the skin, can act as an anti inflammatory, anti irritant and antihistamine. They have been used to treat various types of dermatitis including psoriasis and rashes. I used hydrolyzed oat powder because it is very water soluble. Oats also contain beta glucan which can boost collagen.

For botanicals we chose willow bark, rose extract, mallow root, and cucumber.

Willow bark extract is anti inflammatory and soothing. It contains salicylic acid which can be slightly exfoliating and decrease the signs of aging. Rose extract is a great hydrator and astringent for skin. It is suitable for dry and sensitive skin. Mallow (Althea) grows prolifically on our farm. It has mucilaginous and soothing properties and is used as an anti-irritant to treat inflammations, irritations, and wounds. One type of mallow was found to inhibit hyaluronidase activity, resulting in improved skin hydration. Additionally, mallow has been found to inhibit pigmentation.



Cucumber extract is astringent and by using cucumber distillate it helps balance the pH of the cleanser.

We use organic olive oil which has been found to act as an anti-inflammatory agent and protect the skin barrier function. Jojoba oil offers improved skin barrier function and helps dissolve dirt trapped in the skins natural oils without stripping them. Shea is a nut from Africa that has become very popular in skin care because it contains a wide variety of phytosterols to provide antioxidants, antiimflammatory agents and moisturization.

Aloe juice is added for its nourishment and antiinflammtory properties.Honey acts as a humectant to help keep moisture in the skin.

Surfactants are ingredients that help to dissolve dirt and oils on the skin. We use decyl glucoside and sodium lauroyl lactylate as surfactants. These mild, natural surfactants are accepted in Europe as ECOCERT. Glyceryl Stearate, Cetearyl Alcohol, and Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate are emulsifiers and thickeners that hold the water and oil phase together. Added benefits are that stearoyl lactylate is a skin conditioner that helps moisturize the skin. These ingredients are all ECOCERT ingredients by European standards.

To use this cleanser pump one squirt into your hands and gently rub into the skin on the face. Rinse off. You can also use a washcloth to remove the cleanser to provide some exfoliation. You will find that this cleanser will leave your face well moisturized. You won’t get that ‘squeaky clean’ feeling which is actually an indication of skin being dry. You also will not get much foam from this product as high foaming surfactants are more drying. What you will get is a rich feeling cleanser that contains nutrient rich vegetable oils and botanicals. I think you will enjoy it.

You can purchase this from Colorado Aromatics website either alone or as part of our Face Spa Kit.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

What is Digitalis?

Digitalis is a common drug used today to treat congestive heart disease; a condition in which the heart does not pump out the entire volume it should be pumping. These drugs were first isolated from the foxglove flower, Digitalis purpura. Dr. William Withering is given credit for discovering the use of this herb in treating congestive heart disease, called ‘dropsy’ at the time. However, it was his observation that a local herbalist was successfully treating dropsy patients that piqued his interest and he learned that she was treating them with the digitalis plant. This prompted him to begin studying her patients as well as treating his own patients this way. His data was collected and published as “An Account of the Foxglove and some of its Medical Uses With Practical Remarks on Dropsy and Other Diseases” in 1785. Because the therapeutic window for this herb was so narrow foxglove is difficult to use and has high toxicity. These cardiac glycosides have been purified and are now used as a drug, digoxin, which also has to be monitored carefully. Digitalis (and digoxin) inhibits the sodium-potassium ATPase which leads indirectly to increased intracellular calcium. Increased calcium increases strength of contraction.

I've never grown foxglove because although it is a beautiful flower, is considered toxic due to its effects on the heart. It is especially dangerous to children. This is one of those cases when it is best to use the purified drug rather than the whole herb I think.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Cooking Pumpkin

Although it is convenient to use canned pumpkin, it really is easier than you may think to cook your own pumpkin to use in pies and breads. First you have to be able to identify the right kind of pumpkin. The typical ones you see at the supermarket before Halloween are not suited to eating, they are not sweet and tend to be tough or granular. They are good for soapmaking though and if you are cooking a pumpkin to use in soap you can cook it the same way. For eating be sure to get a pie or sweet pumpkin. These are usually (not always) smaller, darker orange, and the ribs are fewer and less emphasized. See the picture above; the one on the left is a pie pumpkin, the one on the right is a Jack-O-Lantern pumpkin.

Using a large, sharp knife, cut the pumpkin in half longways - just next to the stem. Scoop out all those seeds and give them to your chickens; they will love them. If you don't have chickens you can cook them for yourself or save the seeds to plant next summer. Put each half of the pumpkin open side down on a cookie sheet or in a baking dish. If you use a baking dish you can add about a cup of water to it so the pumpkin steams. I find it easiest to just roast the pumpkin face down though.

Put the pumpkin in the oven at 375 degrees F for 45 minutes or until soft. The time is not too important as it can overcook some and still come out good. I love doing this on a cool autumn afternoon because it warms the house and smells wonderful. Roasting enhances the natural flavor of most any vegetable, including pumpkin and make it sweeter.

Once the pumpkin is soft, take it out of the oven and let it cool. Using a large spoon begin to scrape the pumpkin flesh from the skin and put that into a bowl. Then using a stick blender, whiz the pumpkin flesh so that it is smooth. At this point you can go ahead and make your favorite pie or bread recipe or you can freeze it for use later. Or, if you are cooking this for use in soap, just substitute about a third of your water for pumpkin flesh in your favorite soap recipe. If you are looking for soap head over to my website. Pumpkin soap is seasonal though so it doesn't always make it to the website. If you don't see it there, email me.

Farmers markets should still have a good supply of pumpkins at this time of year so look for them if you have fall or winter markets.


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