In the Garden
THE HUMBLE APPLE TREE
The first star in our armoury of home grown health allies is the apple tree. Remember the saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”?
“If you could plant only one tree in your garden it should be an apple.”
Says famous French herbalist Maurice Messegue.
From an apple tree you can eat the fruit fresh, preserve by drying or boiling, and make sauce as well as apple cider vinegar which is reputed to be one of the world’s first medicines.
An apple tree is a must. If you have enough room plant an early, a medium and a late fruiting variety for a longer season. You can plant your fruit trees on the border of your section as close as 2 metres apart; the branches will tangle into each other which has the advantage of keeping the birds away even if you need a ladder to reach the fruit.
Another way is to train your apple tree on to a trellis which will flatten out the branches – in this way your fruit tree can double as a good border fence; or up against a north facing wall of your house or shed or other high retaining wall.
Take advantage of any north facing area in your garden to maximise the most of the sunlight; also consider terracing, placing lower growing plants to the front and progressively taller plants at the rear.
Remember that you can prune trees to fit your space. However in the small home garden where space is limited you need to think outside the square. I recently purchased a loquat tree, the fruit is delicious, however it does not travel well hence it is not the sort of fruit available in the supermarket. They crop in spring, are ever green and flower in winter. Give your loquat a sheltered sunny area with room to grow from 2 – 6 metres in height.
The beauty of growing your own fruit is that you don’t have to stick to the commercial varieties, which are chosen because they travel well – not because they are the tastiest.
When pruning fruit trees the general rule is the more upright the branch the more vigorous it will be. The greatest plant growth is at the top- most trees will survive very well without pruning at all with the exception of peaches which fruit on the previous year’s growth and need to be pruned to get a good crop. Plants photosynthesise through their leaves; remember this whenever you are tempted to prune.
Consider planting nut trees as well. While a walnut tree is far too big for most gardens the hazelnut tree can be trained into a hedge. I have also seen a variety of walnut that can be grown in a hedge row- it pays to shop around. Nuts as a source of protein are great in the diet; nuts that are picked from your own tree are far superior to anything you can buy because the oils in nuts start to deteriorate as soon as they are picked.
Berries are valuable to home growers as they are low growing and crop quickly. Shelter them from frosts to help get them growing quickly in spring. Most berries can be dried except for strawberries. Plant your strawberries around your fruit trees – they prefer an acid soil and can get each year’s leaf litter this way. Pine needle mulch is excellent and remember to shelter them from full summer sun. While many people grow strawberries with black polythene this can be too hot in the height of summer. Alpine strawberries can be divided and don’t have runners. They produce in the winter, not as tasty as the regular varieties, they produce a small white fruit, but do well as an under growth around your fruit trees. You will need at least 50 plants of both varieties for a good feed once or twice a week.
Apple cider vinegar can be used in your house hold cleaning especially if infused with a bunch of aromatic antibacterial herbs such as lavender, mint, thyme, garlic, rosemary and adding many more beneficial germ killing allies that grow in your garden.
Apple cider vinegar is an old folk remedy claimed to be beneficial in treating a long list of ailments. A great detoxifier, for those suffering from arthritis, rheumatism or gout. A guard against osteoporosis, acid reflux, heartburn and gas formation; lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, thins thickened blood, prevents cancer, destroys infection, relieves night time cramps, soothes sprained muscles, eases headaches, relieves corns, callas, athletes foot, insect bites and sunburn; a remedy for urinary tract problems, destroys bacteria in food, detoxifies fruit and vegetable sprays, assists in digestion and weight control, maintains memory and protects the mind from aging.
Vinegar is said to have been used for 10,000 years. The Babylonians first converted wine into vinegar in 5000 BC using date palms, grapes and figs believing in its exceptional healing properties. Hippocrates used vinegar as an antibiotic. Samurai warriors used vinegar as a tonic for strength and power. During the US Civil War, soldiers used vinegar to prevent gastric upset and as a treatment for various ailments including pneumonia and scurvy. It was used to treat wounds during World War 1.
Modern medical research identifies beta-carotene in apple cider vinegar as that which destroys free radicals in the body. Free radicals are involved in the aging and mutation of tissues and in destroying the immune system. Apple cider vinegar’s beta-carotene is said to be in a ‘natural, easy to digest form’.
Pectin found in apples works through the digestive system binding to cholesterol and removing it from the body. US studies have shown pectin also protects us from the ravages of pollution, binding to heavy metals such as lead or mercury in the body and carrying them safely out. Malic and tartaric acids in apples help neutralize the acid by-products of digestion, and help your body to cope with excess protein or rich fatty food.
In a fascinating series of tests described by Jean Carper in, “The Food Pharmacy”, virologist Dr Jack Konowalchuk and colleague Joan Speirs from Canada’s Bureau of Microbial Hazards exposed a wide range of viruses in tissue cell cultures to a number of fruit juices including blueberry, cranberry, grape, plum, pomegranate, raspberry, strawberry and apple juice, taken off a supermarket shelf. After 24 hours almost none of the viruses survived. The researchers remained unsure just what substance in the apple – pulp or juice or skin had had this effect – certainly they’re present even in commercial juice.
Probably one of our biggest health concerns with many people today is acid reflux and heartburn from pour digestion. If left to escalate this will only cause more health problems. The most useful reason for drinking ACV daily is its ability to neutralise an over acid stomach. Many people suffer from acid reflux and heartburn with little or no relief from prescription drugs and I find the method of action is disputable. Drugs such as Losac stop hydrochloric acid production which in turn eliminates the symptoms but hydrochloric acid breaks down food and absorbs nutrients; – to stop hydrochloric acid production is completely wrong. ACV on the other hand is reputed to stop acid reflux almost immediately, because it causes your pH levels to become more alkaline. Acidic pH balance will discourage bacteria, yeast and fungal growth and prevent poisons from reaching the systems of the body.
ACV will also improve the health of dairy cows, horses, dogs and other animals by reducing common infections; is an aid in whelping, improves stamina, prevents muscle fatigue after exercise, increases resistance to disease, reduces intestinal and faecal odours and protects against food poisoning.
You may feel inclined to make your very own ACV; there are plenty of recipes on the internet and I strongly suggest you google ‘Organic apple cider vinegar’. Although some sights may urge you to boil your vinegar; nothing will be as beneficial as the raw food with the live mother included. The mother is the jelly-like sediment, which can be saved and used in the next batch to get everything started.
Consider making or purchasing organic apple cider vinegar to make your own household cleaning agents as well as preserving other beneficial herbs to use in cleaning, cooking and cosmetics. We can do this by making tinctures which is a way of extracting beneficial constituents from selected herbs.
How to make a tincture for home use
- Chop the fresh or dried herb and place in a clean, sterilized jar – pour over ACV to cover herb
- Seal jar with a plastic lid and place in a dark place for 2 – 6 weeks
- Check and shake jar daily to ensure herb material is well covered by ACV
- Remove plant material and discard onto your compost heap
- Place remaining infused ACV into a sterilized bottle with a non metal lid, and label
All preparations should have the following information on your label:
- Name of plant material used
- Type of preparation process
- Date of preparation and date of bottling as well as the expiry date
Vinegar tinctures keep up to 2 years.
Do not use the boiling vinegar, use only organic apple cider vinegar from your health food store or local apple growers.
Do not use metal caps as these will corrode.
Vinegars can be used as a medicinal preparation or in cooking, cleaning and salads.