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Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Fruits of our Labor - 2013 (Harvests #3)

Though I’m really very late in posting this, I still would like to share the last part of our garden story.   Yes, you heard it right.  I repeat, “This will be the last part of our garden story.”  It’s sad to say, but I’m no longer living in a country.  I decided to live in the city for personal reason and move on with my new life.  The memories of everything I spent in almost 6 years of living in a country will always remain in my heart.   It was during this time that I initially had more time to make use of my God’s given talents to do the things I like to do using all the parts of me – my heart, mind, and hands.  That’s why I always state in every post  about what my hands can do, what my heart feels, and what my mind thinks of. 

While in my deep thoughts,  I always want to think more of what I can do to make good use of something.  I always vision a project in my mind first, as if I’m drawing a picture.  It just comes to me naturally.  My being emotional shows my true feelings and sincerity and can be felt in my poems. I may not be too intelligent, but I can share my views based on my personal experiences of family relationships as shown in my articles. Should my mind prevail over my heart or should my heart prevail over my mind?  I have done both ways in my life.  I have experienced the ups and downs in my life.  My reflections on each Sunday Gospel are based on my personal experiences and that of my friends and family relatives.  Throughout all those years, it has been always through the grace of my Lord that I’m able to survive.  In every struggles I have,  I just consider it the ‘bumps’ in my journey to find the right place where I should be.   It’s like driving a car without direction. It’s also like going to a place, but when you don’t know how to get there, you will encounter these ‘bumps along the road.’  

In addition, being a practical woman helps me resort to do positive ways rather than linger on negative matters.  The more disheartened I am, the more I give time to doing my work, like greencrafting, crocheting, knitting, cooking, gardening, and take my source of strength - His Word - with me in my place of solitude.  Whether living in a country or city, gardening will always be in my heart.  I may not have a big space, but I can still think of other ways how to have even a small garden in my own oasis where there will be peace of mind and heart.  In deep thoughts, to express what my heart feels, what my mind thinks of,  and what my hands can do continuously, as long as I can …. 

Among the three bell pepper plants I planted as shown above, this is the most lovable plant because it bears so many bell peppers. When there are already bell peppers growing, keep watch of the branches because they might break due to its increasing weight, especially if there are several bell peppers growing in one branch or stem.  You have to set up a support to keep the branch standing and avoid breakage at the onset.  Even when it was already getting near the fall season, this plant didn’t stop bearing bell peppers. 

When harvesting, you can choose to harvest them either before they turn red or when they are still green in color.  Once picked, green bell peppers will turn red as it aged.  But if you wish to have a sweet bell pepper, don’t pick them yet till they turn red while on the plant.  Aside from its size and color, if its skin is glossy, then it is ready for harvest.

Bell peppers are an *excellent source of Vitamin C, E, and six of these carotenoids namely, alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, cryptoxanthin, and zeaxanthin.  It was found that only two vegetables contained at least two-thirds of all the listed nutrients.  One of these vegetables was tomato and the other was bell peppers.  The Vitamin C content and carotenoid content of bell peppers both increase with ripening thereby increasing their total antioxidant capacity.

Before, I don’t like eating bell peppers when I was young.  Knowing its nutritious health benefits, I asked my elder daughter to make a recipe out of these bell peppers which we named ‘Venison Stuffed Bell Peppers.’ You won’t regret trying it.  

Blueberry Plants

I planted the second batch of berry plants the Great Gardener ordered.  I even arranged the soil with every bricks I could gathered to keep it from eroding while watering them.  I was very happy to see this plant bore its first fruits.  This plant is not a bushy plant, like the blackberry and raspberry plants.   Its stem can stand on its own with minimal support needed only. 

Blueberry Harvests 
(Oops, sorry about the position of this picture.  I failed to rotate it while it was in my camera.)
When you see the fruits turning dark, bluish color, then they are ready for harvests.  You can see the color difference between the ripe and unripe blueberries, as shown in the first picture above.  Though there were only few I harvested,  I still enjoyed its good taste while eating them raw.  I just wish it will produce more next year. 

What do you think this little, cute fruit has to provide us with health benefits? They contain *antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds necessary to optimize health by combating the free radicals that can damage the cellular structures, as well as, DNA.  They contain Vitamin C for collagen formation to fight aging and maintain healthy gums and immune system.  Because it contains Vitamin C, it helps decrease the potential for developing eye problem, like glaucoma.  Aside from these, they also provide blood sugar, cognitive, anti-cancer, and cardiovascular health benefits, as well as, **improve memory.  Because it contains  a compound known as gallic acid, it can also protect you from neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson's.  They do this by preventing oxidation of cells in the brain, allowing them to degenerate slower. 

Raspberry Plants
This plant grew not so tall, like the blackberry plant.  They are considered bushy plants.  Their branches are not that strong enough to stand straight and firm.  They need maximum support to hold the branches up to keep this little, cute fruits from touching the ground.  Their stems are thorny, like the blackberry plants. 

Raspberry Harvests
Obviously, when the fruits turned dark, reddish in color, they are ready for harvest.  Don’t wait for another day before harvesting them, otherwise, its flesh will turn dry.  When I first harvested them, the taste was sour.  I have to be extra careful in harvesting this fruit because each little part of it will easily fall off from its stem, especially if it is overripe.  It was my first time to taste this fruit, just like the blueberry.  I think I prefer blueberry better than raspberry when it comes to taste. Probably, this is the reason why juice manufacturers make raspberry drink added with lots of sugar to lessen its sour taste.  I just wish it will bear sweet fruits when it becomes old through the years.

They contain *Vitamin C, E, K, magnesium, manganese, copper, folate, iron, and other nutrients that help lose weight, reduce wrinkles, prevent macular degeneration, prevent infection and cancer, and strengthen immune system.

Strawberry Plants

This plant was planted by the Great Gardener in a circular manner, instead of by rows. You can see it how it looks like before in my Fruits of our Labor - The Garden (2013).   He patiently planned and installed this, probably to contain them in one area only and to care and harvest them easily.  This plant is also thorny in its branches, but still bearable to endure once you are pricked.  Unlike the blackberry and raspberry plants, their thorns can really hurt your skin. When they grew, they became bushy, too.  But I was still afraid  that a garden snake might get and hide into the inner area without my permission.  

The biggest Strawberry I harvested

Strawberry Harvests
Though there were not so many strawberries I harvested, I was still thankful to God for every harvest I got.  They are ready to be harvested when its fruit turns dark reddish in color.  Strawberries are the only fruit with their seeds on the outside. 

Strawberries contain *Vitamin C that protects the cells from free damaging radicals, makes collagen, heals wounds, helps with the absorption of iron, and enhances our immune system.   It also contains flavonoids that provide cardiovascular and anti-inflammatory health benefits.

These plants are combination of different varieties of lettuce seeds in one package we bought, hence it’s called lettuce blend.  They can easily grow and bloom like flower plants.  

I harvest them by leaves only to preserve the plant itself and have more reserves.  I love eating salads and these lettuce blend harvests can be a good meal in a day for me already. I just have to mix other vegetables like the Cucurbitaceae family of vegetables and my favorite salad dressing, Honey Mustard salad dressing by Kraft.  Having different colors make them more attractive and appetizing to eat. 

They are an *excellent source of Vitamin A and beta-carotenes, Vitamin C, K, folates, iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, zeaxanthin,  and Vitamin B-complex group of vitamins like, thiamin, B6, and riboflavins.  Lettuce leaves are the storehouse of many phyto-nutrients that possess health promoting and disease prevention properties.

There were only 4 rows of onion seedlings planted by the Great Gardener.  But look at how they were planted and grown.  When its tops become yellowish and fall over, loosen the soil to let the bulbs become dry while on the ground. When the tops become brown, the onions are already ready for harvest.  I harvested more than 50 pieces of onions.  I placed and arranged them on a table in our garage for a curing period of 2-3 weeks.  The top necks should be completely dried and its outer skin should be slightly crisp. After the curing period, I tied together 2 to 4 pieces of onions by its top necks as a set.  Then I hung them in a long, thin bamboos installed by the Great Gardener in our garage.  In this way, I can easily get onions by set only when I need them for my cooking.  Onions are expensive to buy in the market or grocery store.  They are one of the good spices to mix in any food recipes, though they smell bad.  

ONION Harvests

Onions contain *Vitamin C, folate, thiamin, B6, and other minerals like, manganese, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus.  The health benefits of onions can reduce the spread of cancer, regulate the blood sugar level, relieve sore throat and coughing symptoms, provide relief from urinary disorders and earache, reduce pain caused by bee sting, boost immune system, prevent tooth decay and oral infections,  relieve stomach ache and treat anemia,  and act as good anticoagulant agent. 

Aside from bell peppers, this was the one I also didn’t like to eat when I was young because of the smell it can cause my mouth.  Knowing also these nutritious health benefits makes me change my mind.  I don’t care anymore about the side effect of eating it.  I care more of what health benefits it can provide me. 

They are the very last vegetables I harvested because it took them longer time to become matured than any other vegetables. The size is so huge that the first and biggest Argonaut Winter Squash I harvested is shown in the picture below.  It looks like I’m carrying an eight-pound baby.  I gave one to a friend and placed the rest in the front porch of our house.

The first and biggest Argonaut Winter Squash I harvested
This Argonaut winter squash is rich in *Vitamin A, C, E, calcium, manganese, and potassium.  They provide health benefits for your eye and heart, blood pressure level, weight loss, strong bones and teeth, premature aging, and pregnant women.  

Then one day,  I didn’t expect that these plants would be affected by the frost, even the ones I placed in the front porch of our house. They were many of them and sad to say, all of them got rotten, especially the green ones that were not yet matured enough to be harvested (‘_’)  There was no one to help me because the Welder hadn’t come back from work yet that time which was very unusual of him…. 

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