Danger in the Raw

There has been a lot of information in the popular press about the benefits of a raw diet. According to WebMD, those who eat their food raw believe that cooking destroys the nutrients and natural enzymes present in our food. Eating raw foods ensures that we get the full benefit of all the intact nutrients in the food items, which results in a more nutritious diet and healthier bodies among the humans who consume raw food.

The overall benefits of a raw diet are debatable. What is not debatable is that certain fruits and vegetables should never be eaten raw, as doing so can cause illness or even death. These particular vegetables either have harmful microbes or contain compounds that can cause digestive upset. Cooking inactivates the compounds and kills the microbes, rendering the foods safe to eat.

So which fruits and vegetables should never be eaten raw?

Brassicas (e.g. cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, mustard, etc.) — While most people can eat these vegetables raw, others may experience gas and bloating from the complex, difficult-to-digest sugars present. Those who have thyroid conditions should definitely cook these vegetables, as they also contain thyroid inhibitor compounds that can worsen these conditions.


Beans — Raw beans contain lectin, a glycoprotein, which, when consumed, can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea within three hours of consumption. Eating five uncooked kidney beans is enough to cause illness. Boiling beans, however, inactivates the protein and renders the beans safe to eat.

Beans 2
Potatoes — Uncooked potatoes, especially those that have a greenish color to them, contain high levels of the toxin solanine, a very dangerous toxin. And if the solanine doesn’t get you, the uncooked starch will — with the gift of gas and bloating. And if that isn’t enough, the hemagglutinins present can disrupt red blood cell function.

Mushrooms — Though not a vegetable, I’m including them here because we often consume them along with vegetables. Raw mushrooms contain agaritine, a suspected carcinogen. Cooking, however, inactivates agaritine and renders it harmless.

So go ahead and eat that raw diet if you think it will benefit you. But if you want to really want to live a little longer, and you plan on eating the vegetables mentioned above, then cook them. The life you save may be your own.


Bring On the Good Guys!

In the movie Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, the protagonists, Bill and Ted, have to confront their evil robot doubles. They decide that the only way to confront the “evil robot usses” is to build some “good robot usses”
A similar analogy apples to your garden. From the point of view of the gardener, there are “evil” creatures — cutworms, Mexican bean beetles, corn borers, rabbits, squirrels, etc. that are out to do great harm to your garden. Oh sure, you can use pesticides, traps that kill, etc., but that’s not playing very harmoniously with nature. No, the best and most natural way to combat the “evil” creatures is with sanitation, repellents, and “good” creatures. By good creatures, I’m referring to the animals and insects that prey upon the creatures that prey upon your vegetable crops. Encourage them to come into your garden — provide them with suitable habitat, and they’ll repay you by devouring those crop destroyers.
Just who are these good guys? Allow me to introduce you to a few.
Lady bird beetles — Lady bird beetles are voracious predators of aphids. Each larvae can eat as many as 400 aphids, while each adult can eat as many as 50.



Lacewings — Lacewings are probably the most effective insect predator you can invite into your garden. Their larvae, which looks like a tiny alligator, preys on aphids, caterpillars, mealybugs, leafhoppers, insect eggs, and whiteflies.



Parasitic wasps — Trichogramma, braconid, chalcid, and ichneumid wasps lay their eggs on aphids, corn earworm, tomato fruitworm, cabbageworm, and tent caterpillars. The larvae then feed on these pests, eventually either killing it or completely disrupting its activities.


Braconid Wasp

Hover flies — Hover flies look like bees, but they zip through the air in a manner similar to flies. Hover flies will lay their eggs near aphids or other soft-bodied insects. The larvae will then feed on the aphids. A single hover fly larvae can eat as many as 60 aphids per day.


Hover Fly

Pirate bugs and big-eyed bugs — These two “true” bugs feed on eats aphids, thrips, mites, whiteflies, and insect eggs.


Pirate Bug

In addition to insect predators, there are also animals that you can invite to your garden. Toads and frogs will eat insect pests in the daytime; bats will get them by night. Snakes will eat insects, rats, mice, moles, and gophers, as will hawks, foxes, and coyotes. All of these creatures, yes even the bats and snakes, should be encouraged to set up residence in your garden. And nothing rolls out the red carpet for these good guys better than creating the right kind of habitat around your garden. This means providing them with food, water, and shelter. Grow plants such as tansy, fennel, zinnia, and statice, which are good sources of nectar for adult insect predators. Provide shelter in the form of leafy plants for the beetles and ceramic “toad abodes” for frogs and toads. Provide a source of water for these predators to drink by watering overhead and leaving puddles on the leaves or by providing a saucer filled with water.
Most importantly, don’t use insecticides!

It’s true that nature is filled with creatures that will make a meal out of your garden. But nature also provides creatures to devour the garden-eaters. So invite these “good guys” into your garden and let nature work for you.

Support Your Local Farmers Market

Farmers Market


They show up every spring; they’re here through September or October; then they’re gone for the year. Nearly every town and city has one, and they are growing in popularity. I’m speaking, of course, about farmers markets, and, next to your own garden, they are one of the best sources of fresh fruits and vegetables you’ll find. In addition, you’ll find vendors that sell baked goods, meats, soaps, spices, eggs, and honey straight from the hive. Some even have live music provided by local talent.

Most farmers market vendors accept cash only as payment for their wares, but some will accept credit and debit cards. A few farmers markets are set up to accept food stamps and their equivalents — a wonderful way to provide good nutrition to lower income people.

But just as a movie theater needs butts in seats to survive, farmers markets need bodies in their booths to stay alive. So I encourage everyone to patronize their local farmers market. Yes, we should all plant our gardens and grow our own food. I encourage that; that’s what I’m all about. But a garden is merely a means to a goal — providing a consistent supply of fresh produce that hasn’t been tainted with potentially harmful chemicals. Farmers markets can be another means of helping you to reach that goal. Though you may have your own garden, your space for it is limited. As much as we may like to, we gardeners cannot grow everything. Furthermore, due to city ordinances, many of us cannot raise our own chickens or keep our own beehives. Farmers markets, with their wide array of fresh food offerings, can provide for us the items that we cannot produce for ourselves. And when you buy from a farmers market, you’re helping small family farm operations to stay in business.

So get yourself down to your local farmers market and avail yourself of all the wonderful fresh offerings. It’s good for you, good for your family, good forĀ farmers, good for the economy, and good for America!

I’m The Garden Troubadour, and I approved this message!