Last year was the first time I attempted to grow tomatoes. Edible food appearing seemingly out of nowhere. I did not have a bountiful harvest by any means. I had just one tomato plant that I bought, and each tomato grew and ripened in a staggered fashion. I had already enjoyed growing different types of herbs but seeing food growing before your eyes, is especially rewarding. Eventually, I had a few tomatoes of my own and I got a bunch more from a friend who had also started growing tomatoes. I wanted to make something with these precious home grown treasures that I could savour for a bit longer, rather than just blending them in to everyday use. It was also a good lesson in finding different ways of preserving / storing a surplus crop, as fresh food perishes quickly. I found a recipe for ‘Tomato and Onion Relish’ and decided to give it a go for the first time.
1 lb tomatoes
1 lb onions
2 large garlic cloves crushed
3 oz sugar (I used brown)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp paprika
1/4 pint [5 fl oz] white vinegar (I used white wine vinegar)
The ingredients can be doubled, tripled etc. depending on the amount of tomatoes you have to work with.
Place the tomatoes in a large bowl and cover them with boiling water, allowing them to stand for about 30 seconds. Drain, peel and finely chop them. Finely chop the onions and in a large saucepan, mix them with the tomatoes and all the other ingredients. Bring the mixture to a boil and leave it to simmer uncovered for an hour. Stir the relish from time to time so that it doesn’t stick to the saucepan. Transfer the relish to warm / sterilized storage jars. Cover them immediately with an airtight lid. Allow the relish to mature for at least 1 month. It can be stored for 6 to 9 months.
I waited patiently for a month to pass after I made my relish. It was worth the wait. I don’t like to waste food so I was especially pleased the relish turned out to be to my taste and that I could find many ways of using it. I would describe it as both moderately sweet and sour, and mildly spicy. It was all gone in no time. No long term storage required. 🙂
The recipe suggested that the relish could be served with grilled meat, sausages and barbecued chicken. To that list I would add that it makes a tasty accompaniment to any form of breakfast eggs, on the side of a cheese toasties, with cheese on crackers, in a sandwich, with quiche or with oven baked fish and home made chipped potatoes.
This year I will be attempting to grow tomatoes from seed. A new venture!! I may be getting way ahead of myself but if it turns out to be a success and I have a bumper crop, I now have a tried and tested plan for a surplus of those precious Tommie-Toes.
From a nutritional point of view cookedtomatoes are an excellent source of lycopene. Lycopene is an anti-oxidant found in red and pink fruits. Intake can be increased dramatically with lycopene supplements but it may be most effective when consumed in lycopene rich foods like tomatoes. While lycopene has been shown to have anti-aging, heart health and other health benefits, it is most noted for its beneficial effect on male fertility and a reduced risk of prostate cancer, when regularly consumed in the diet. Thanks to Dr. Josh Axe you can read all about this nutrient here.
I have been doing lots of research to back up my presentation slides for the workshop on ‘Hormone Balance’ and it has become very apparent that for this and related issues like infertility and excess weight, which are very common today, there are a couple of key drivers. By making our lives more and more convenient with convenience foods, transport, labour saving devices etc. we run the risk of losing our natural metabolism and balance, resulting in the many chronic diseases we now suffer. If the original intention was to make life easier it has not equated to less stress and better health. What we need are whole foods, fresh air, movement, relaxation, sleep, spending time in a natural environment and doing activities that engage us fully. Modern life has disconnected us from our human nature and even though it makes perfect sense when we are reminded of the simple and basic needs of the body, we have a hard time believing that addressing these needs can have a significant impact on our health. We can’t turn back time but we can take more control and make better choices for the sake of our health.
One such example is the overproduction of Insulin produced by the pancreas in response to food we have eaten with a high sugar or (glycaemic load), leading to blood sugar imbalance. We’re not just talking here about white refined sugar, although it is that too, its also white bread, pasta, potatoes, cakes, processed food containing sugar or flour, sweets, alcohol, sodas and even fruit juices that tend to spike blood sugar and cause excess release of insulin. Historically, people had sugar as an occasional treat. Today …… it is tempting you everywhere you go! It’s even hidden in foods you would never have expected to find it in. And, given that sugar in all its forms is highly addictive, as it fires up (endorphins) the addiction chemicals in the brain, it is little wonder we are hooked and coming back for more!
Dr. Mark Hyman has summed it up in a nutshell in his instagram post below. I couldn’t have put it better myself so you have it here from the expert! For the ladies and gentlemen who suffer issues of infertility, take note!
What I love about good nutritional advice is that even if you don’t have these particular issues, lowering the glycaemic load of your diet has health benefits for everyone bar none! Modern life is set up to encourage us all to lean more towards higher glycaemic load foods and lifestyle factors.
If you click into the post on-line, among the hundreds of comments is one from a woman who states that her 17 year old daughter exists only because she changed her diet and lifestyle after being told she would never have children. There are many more stories like this in the comments and around us everyday that you don’t hear about.
I have seen for myself in clinic, on a number of occasions, the very real success of balancing hormones for fertility. It does require dedicated compliance to dietary and lifestyle changes but these are not beyond anyone’s capabilities.
The other driver of hormonal imbalances including infertility is excess ‘cortisol‘ levels in the body. Cortisol is the stress hormone. Eating a lower glycaemic load diet will help with overproduction of cortisol too. Getting some moderate exercise, managing stress levels with mindfulness, meditation, deep breathing or finding a hobby that is engaging enough to reduce stress levels. Also, getting adequate shut eye (sleep), will really help.
Conditions are more favourable for fertility when the body is in ‘relaxed mode’ or parasympathetic nervous system mode, and not in ‘fight or flight’ or sympathetic nervous system mode. Our modern high stimulation diet and a lifestyle which is fast paced, indulgent, highly stressful and busy busy busy, sends a message to the body…… “this is not a good time to have a baby, I’m way too busy just surviving”. The dietary and nutrition suggestions in the post are right on point to aid fertility. Also, to bring your body into parasympathetic mode instantly, practice deep breathing or tuning in to your breathing on a regular basis. Start by doing some long exhales (10 in succession) and soon you will be breathing deeply. Another easy technique to switch your body into parasympathetic mode is to elevate your legs above the level of your heart. Lying flat on the floor use a chair, the bed or the wall to elevate your legs and relax for 5 minutes in this position. A daily practice will impact over time and the body will get the message “life is good, I am calm and capable, all is well, I have plenty of resources to reproduce”!
You can follow Dr Mark Hyman on instagram or by searching for ‘Dr Mark Hyman Instagram’ on line.
These strategies are not rocket science but are shown to bring about positive results for those that implement them. The view that there needs to be a pill for every ill, as if we are machines that need a screw here and a drop of oil there, is being replaced with an integrative approach to restoring health to the body that recognizes us as individual beings, affected by our unique genetics, environment, food, movement, sleep, thoughts, emotions and beliefs.
Further reading recommendations:
The Low-GL Diet Bible, Patrick Holford
The Low- GL Diet Cookbook, Patrick Holford
Fat Around the Middle, Marilyn Glenville, PhD
The 4 Pillar Plan, Dr. Rangan Chatterjee [Balanced Living]
The Hormone Cure, Dr. Sara Gottfried M.D. [Hormone Balance]