GROW O'ahu

Island Style Gardening and Plant-Based Living


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An Epic Pot of Lemongrass Tea

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We have nice neighbors. So when my lemongrass plantzilla started shading half their yard, it was time to cut it back. Lemongrass is a great permaculture plant- perennial, grows easily, lots of uses but it does get HUGE in Hawaii. There’s no real science to where to cut it on the stalk, I probably could have cut it closer to the ground but my scissors weren’t that sharp so I did the best I could.

It was about a 5 gallon bucket full, if I had a clean bucket. But they are all in use so had to use this basket. (Seriously, where do all the buckets go??)

I chopped it up, using a knife and sometimes scissors and filled my 40 cup stockpot. To keep the boy busy, I had him carry water in cups from inside to fill the pot. Busy hands keep him out of trouble. 😀

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Plopped it up on the stove and let it come to a boil while dinner cooked and the scent of lemongrass took over our house. It’s such a lovely smell!

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The straining part was a bit more complicated than the cute ladies on the YouTube videos I watched…maybe because in organic gardening you have bugs? Yeah. Lots of bugs that met their demise in the boiling water now needed to be strained out of my nice tea. I tried a regular tea strainer but some holes were still too big so I found a thin cloth that worked really well.

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This made a LOT of tea. 😀 I also added some organic Hawaiian honey which really makes it delicious. I gave some to a neighbor and will share some with a friend tomorrow. The rest I full intend to drink because I’ve been battling a sore throat and mild head cold for about week and lemongrass tea has antibacterial properties among many other things.

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Medicinal Properties 

Lemongrass has been reported to have innumerable therapeutic and other health benefits. Widely used to alleviate certain respiratory conditions including laryngitis and sore throats, lemongrass has earned a reputation for its anti-pyretic property which reduces high fevers. Called fevergrass in some cultures the vapor is inhaled, leading to increased perspiration and eventually the complete removal of fever.

Lemongrass has powerful pain relieving properties. It helps to alleviate muscle spasms by relaxing the muscles thereby leading to the reduction of pain-related symptoms. It is thus useful for all types of pain including abdominal pain, headaches, joint pains, muscle pains, digestive tract spasms, muscle cramps, stomachache and others. This remedy has also been linked to increasing the body’s ability to repair damaged connective tissue such as cartilage, ligaments and tendons and is thus recommended for these types of injuries. Another related benefit is for improvements in blood circulation.

As an antifungal and antibacterial, lemongrass inhibits bacteria and yeast growth. For this it is useful for gastrointestinal infections and may also be applied externally to wounds as it fights germs. As an antioxidant lemongrass, contributes to liver and pancreatic health by helping the body to more quickly remove toxins. It has also being linked to lowered or normalized cholesterol levels. It also treat digestive issues including gastro-enteritis and may be helpful in relieving constipation.

Some sources suggest that lemongrass has antidepressant properties and is thus beneficial for nervous and stress-related conditions. It is said to be helpful in alleviating anxiety and depressive symptoms. It helps to strengthen the nervous system and may thus be useful for conditions such as Parkinson’s disease.

The presence of Vitamin A in lemongrass makes it helpful for skin issues such as acne pimples. It helps to brighten the skin and eyes and clear up oily skin thus improving acne. Its antibacterial property is also valuable for skin infections. Lemongrass may improve poor body odor by controlling excessive sweating.

One research conducted at the Ben Gurion University in Israel has found possible benefits of the citral found in lemongrass on cancer. It reveals that this compound may contribute to the death of cancer cells with no noted negative effect on normal cells.

 

 

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Lentils with Hawaiian Sweet Potato and Chard

Rainbow Swiss Chard, cut from the garden 15 minutes before cooking :-)

Rainbow Swiss Chard, cut from the garden 15 minutes before cooking 🙂

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Easy quick, gluten free, one pot dinner! And a great way to use the chard that was taking over in the garden 🙂

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large onion chopped

3 cloves garlic minced

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

4 cups vegetable broth

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 cup dried lentils (I used red)

2-4 sweet potatoes, depending on size cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1 tsp salt

Pepper

8 cups chopped stemmed Swiss Chard

Heat the oil over medium heat, add onion, cook until soft. Add garlic and thyme, cook another 30 seconds. Stir in broth and wine, increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Add lentils, reduce to simmer and cook partially covered for about 15-20 minutes

Add sweet potatoes, salt, pepper to taste and cook 10 minutes more. Add chard last, stirring until all ingredients are tender about 10 minutes more. Serve hot.

(Using purple Hawaiian sweet potatoes adds a nice sweetness to this stew. Orange varieties would also be yummy.)

The combination of thyme, wine and sweet potatoes make this easy stew really delicious.

The combination of thyme, wine and sweet potatoes make this easy stew really delicious.


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Eggplant Taco Filling

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Eggplant Taco Filling on top of greens with chopped tomato, avocado and vegan “cheese” sauce

Tricking small boys into eating large amounts of organic vegetables is getting more difficult. I suppose tastes change as kids grow, because he used to love everything I put in front of him, and now, it’s like, “meh.”

Eggplant grows really easily here and so it’s one of those vegetables that belongs in the garden, but what can you do with all of it? Eggplant parmigiana or the dozen or so other ways to fry eggplant is not so healthy so we only have that once in awhile. But THIS way to eat eggplant we could do once a week.  WIN.

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I give you Eggplant Taco Filling!

 

There’s no precise “recipe” here but here are some guesses:

1 tbsp olive oil

2-3 eggplant chopped into about 1/2 inch pieces

1/2 onion chopped

2-3 garlic cloves (minced)

1-2 tbsp taco seasoning (or mix your own with cumin, chili powder, garlic, onion, oregano)

STOP HERE if you just want eggplant tacos. I added more stuff:

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1 can vegetarian refried beans

1 can organic corn

Saute some onion and garlic in a bit of oil for about 5 minutes in a skillet. Add the chopped eggplant and cook until eggplant is soft. Add seasoning and some liquid as you cook- the eggplant can get really dry and stick to the bottom of your skillet.

When finished, pulse a few times in the food processor.

Then, if you are adding more stuff, put back in the skillet and add the beans, corn or whatever else you are adding. Heat through and serve in taco shells, burritos or on top of a big ol’ Mexi-salad like we did. Ethan ate his on top of some quinoa with chopped tomatoes, avocado and a sprinkle of cheese. 🙂

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Chaya! Why isn’t EVERYONE growing this?

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The easiest plant in the garden.  Bugs don’t bother it.  Propagation is as easy as breaking a piece off and sticking in the ground.  It’s super high in nutrients.  Move over fussy spinach.  Chaya is my new best friend.

Traditional leafy greens like spinach are notoriously hard to grow in Hawaii.  If the bugs don’t get ’em, the heat or sun does, and so we are left with Swiss Chard (pretty easy); some collards (different varieties for different areas) and Tree Spinach, or Chaya.  

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Compared to other leafy greens, Chaya is at least two times higher in protein, calcium, iron and vitamin A.  It can help regulate blood sugar in diabetics and is a good source of anti-oxidants.

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How do you eat it?  It is crucial to COOK the chaya, boiled or steamed for at least 20 minutes to remove the toxicity of the raw leaves. However, after boiling, you can consume the water as a tea, and it’s quite tasty with a bit of honey or mint added. Then, simply eat the cooked leaves as they are, or add some coconut oil and salt.  I’ve cooked the leaves and added them to omelets, chopped up in marinara sauce and friends have prepared dolmades with them.

There’s a few places on Oahu to get this awesome plant. Best bet is to search Craigslist for “underground” nurseries propagating it, or better yet, ask around.  It might be that your neighbor has some and you can just take a few cuttings.

Aloha 🙂


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Chickpea Burgers with Kale

So much kale…what to do?! Harvest it, clean it up, chop, steam & pile it high on these chickpea burgers….so yummy.

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Kid approved, as anything on a bun usually is. Also added some vegan cheese & a dollop of marinara sauce.

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Chickpea burgers are from Happy Herbivore Light and Lean. They are an easy go-to at our house and remind me of those frozen chicken patties from our junk food days. So comforting on a rainy yucky day!

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Nearly Gourmet Collards

Long time no see friends! Writing has taken a backseat to loads of other demands lately, but we are still eating good!

We dug up a little patch of grass on the sunny-side of our yard back in February to test out some new stuff. We planted corn, beets, collards, green onion, arugula, strawberries, cilantro and cauliflower.  Since we have only lived in this house about a year, it has taken us that long to figure out where stuff will grow. The concept of “right plant, right place” is essential in Permaculture and was the first lesson I learned as a Master Gardener. All the fancy tricks in the world won’t help you grow stuff that doesn’t want to be there!

Good news is, stuff wanted to grow here! In about 6 weeks (from wee seedlings) we got all this! I’ve never grown collard greens before (and only eaten them when served to me!) so I was excited to try out some recipes. The traditionally Southern way of eating collards with loads of pork and chicken broth wasn’t going to work for us so I headed to the kitchen to experiment. I found the taste of the collards to be really good in these simple recipes. Not much added “flavor” was needed at all. Even our 4.5 year old like the creamy soup and asked for seconds!

Our little test plot

Our little test plot

Only two plants yielded a huge amount! After cutting the thick stems, and chopping the leaves, I stuffed two gallon size bags full. Collards pack a big nutritional punch too. Check out the chart on this page for amazing facts.

Rinsing in a bath of water and vinegar to get rid of little critters. Organic gardens have bugs! :-)

Rinsing in a bath of water and vinegar to get rid of little critters. Organic gardens have bugs! 🙂

 

One bag became Hearty Collard Stew.

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Hearty Collard Stew

About a week later I made the other bag into Cream of Collard Soup.

Cream of Collard Soup with Roasted Carrots

Cream of Collard Soup with Roasted Carrots


 

Recipes (if you can call it that!)

Hearty Collard Stew (for a 6-8 people or for freezing)

Vegetable broth or water with seasoning

Gallon size bag of collards (with thick stems removed and chopped into about 1 inch pieces)

1 large onion, chopped

4-6 Carrots, sliced

1-2 large Potatoes, cubed

1 can or 1.5 cups cooked beans of your choice (I used pinto)

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

2-3 tbsp of lemon juice of white vinegar

Saute the onion and garlic over a little oil or in a thin layer of water in a large pot.

Add collards and cover with broth or water, bring to a boil the reduce to simmer for at least 45 minutes (probably more like an hour or hour and fifteen minutes. Collards are tough!)

When they are nice and soft (you might have to add liquid) add carrots, potatoes and cook for another 15-20 minutes. Add beans last.

Salt and pepper to taste!


 

Cream of Collard Soup (for 4-6 people or for freezing)

Water or vegetable broth

1 gallon size bag of collards, (stems removed and cut into 1 inch pieces)

1 potato

1 cup cashews

1-2 tbsp onion flakes (or sauté some onion)

1-2 tbsp garlic powder (or sauté some garlic)

Place 1 cup cashews and 1 cup water into your blender and set aside. Do not blend yet.

Place collards in a large pot, place enough liquid in the pot to boil them (about half way up the side of the pot) As they cook, you can add more liquid). Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer for over 1 hour.

Cube the potato and add. Cook for another 20 minutes or so. Add onion, garlic or other seasonings.

Blend your cashews and water VERY thoroughly. Can add a drizzle more of water if it’s too thick, but the consistency should be that of heavy dairy cream.

If you have a good immersion blender use that, if not, pour the cashew cream into the warm pot of collards, stir, then put in batches into the blender. I had to do two batches. Puree well. It should be a thick, creamy soup.

Serve warm and salt to taste 🙂

 

 


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Happy Herbivore Light & Lean: Peanut Soba Noodles

 

Light and Lean_Tour blogger badgeI feel really great about writing this book/recipe review today because Lindsay Nixon, aka The Happy Herbivore, has helped make my own transition to a plant-based diet simple, painless and actually fun.  I have the original Happy Herbivore cookbook, Happy Herbivore Abroad and now Light & Lean.  When I learned that she was looking for blog writers to review the book I was excited!

I share my life and home with an awesome husband, a four and a half year old son, my mom, a newborn baby and many animals…so the transition to plant-based living has had logistical challenges to say the least, and I have met some resistance from time to time. *ahem* 🙂 However, Lindsay’s books have helped so much because the recipes are simple, easy, use stuff we usually have on hand and the hubs and my mom have both gotten in on the cooking.

A few nights ago we made this: Peanut Soba Noodles and it was delicious! We made ours with shelled organic edamame, organic soba noodles and fresh green onions and cucumber from the garden. We omitted the hot sauce for our son, but if I made it again, I think I would add a dash for myself. 🙂

Soba Peanut Noodles

Soba Peanut Noodles
Serves 2
Gluten-free, Quick, Budget
All the taste you love in creamy peanut noodles but with less fat and calories thanks to a surprise ingredient: vegan yogurt! I call this a “cheater” recipe since I use a dab of peanut butter, but it’s still light compared to most peanut noodle recipes.
4 oz buckwheat noodles (could sub spaghetti)
2 green onions, sliced cubed tofu or edamame (optional)
vegetables, like broccoli or cucumber (optional)
Creamy Peanut Sauce
2 tbsp plain vegan yogurt
1 tbsp smooth peanut butter
1 tbsp sweet red chili sauce
few dashes garlic powder
few dashes ground ginger
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1–2 tsp low-sodium soy sauce or gluten-free tamari
Asian hot sauce (e.g., Sriracha; optional)
Cook noodles according to package instructions, rinse under cold water in a colander, and chill in the fridge for a few minutes if you can. Meanwhile, whisk peanut sauce ingredients together. Taste, adding more soy sauce or tamari, garlic, onion, or hot sauce as desired. Toss noodles with sauce, then stir in green onion, tofu or edamame if using, and vegetables, if using.
Chef’s Note: Despite having “wheat” in the name, buckwheat flour is completely gluten-free. Just make sure your noodles are 100% buckwheat if you have an allergy or sensitivity.
Per serving
Calories . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .274
Fat. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6g
Carbs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47.5g
Fiber. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6.6g
Sugars. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.7g
Protein. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10.4g
WW Points. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

Simple, easy plant-based recipes are Lindsay’s trademark, and I love them especially because there is usually at least on or two ingredients I can reach into my garden and grab, like the green onions and cucumbers here.  And as our whole family works on healthier living this year, we plan to use the Meal Plans, which remove the stress of planning, list-making and thinking about what to eat! Check them out: Happy Herbivore Meal Plans (gluten & soy free!).