Tag Archives: constipation

An Apple a Day?

In honor of the birth of each of my girls we planted an apple tree.  My older daughter, who will be 4 this week, has a braeburn and my 2 ½ year old a macintosh.  Due to a combination of an incredibly good growing season for fruit and since these trees have finally spent a few years in the ground and have established themselves, we have our very first apple harvest this year.  Hooray!  I know that there are many folks out there who have old apple trees in their yard that produce beautiful apples every year without a moment of attention, and I cringe as I walk by the yards where those apples fall to the ground and go to waste.  In our yard, however, we have a steep pitch and difficult soil, so these trees have been tended lovingly and consistently for 3 or 4 seasons now.  If we can beat the magpies, earwigs, moths and squirrels to it, we plan on enjoying every bite.

My husband harvested the macintosh tree yesterday, and due to our friends mentioned above, we ended up with about half perfect and half slightly munched apples.  The intact apples went into cold storage for eating in the weeks to come.  The imperfects go bad quickly so I had to come up with a plan for about 45 apples by this morning, and I decided upon apple butter.  With apples in particular I love having fresh and cooked options as they are both so delicious and beneficial in their own ways..

Apples are a wonderful food to support the body as we transition from summer into autumn.  They are somewhat cooling in nature which is nice in these still warm days, but are supportive to the systems that work the hardest during this time of year.  One of the primary issues I see emerging during September is many colds start to pop up, especially in school aged kids.  The combination of added stress and close proximity means everyone tends to end up with the sniffles.  In Chinese medicine, fresh apples have historically been used to moisten and cool hot, inflamed lungs. Apple peels have also been shown to be high in antioxidants which helps the body recover from stress and generally support the immune system.

Another thing I see manifesting at the beginning of the school year is digestive issues in kids.  New schedules and stress seem to really affect those with a natural tendency towards constipation.  Apples are particularly high in a type of soluble fiber called pectin.  Pectins are able to bulk and soften the stool and allow it to pass more easily.  Baking apples helps to release those pectins and makes the apples more warming and supportive to digestive function.  1-2 baked apples per day depending on the size of the apple (and the person eating them) is one of the best and least invasive ways to relieve constipation.  On another note, pectins are also helpful for decreasing cholesterol levels and stabilizing blood sugar.

After 8 hours of peeling, chopping, cooking, pureeing, and reducing, I am thrilled to finally be putting my apple butter in jars.  It will be a wonderful reminder of these bright fall days in the colder months to come.  For now, though, enjoy the apples straight from the tree or bake them into a warm treat for breakfast or dessert; they are fantastic now when they are fresh and so good for you. Put one on your teacher’s desk, and save one for yourself!

Rhubarb: Saturday Breakfast, Sunday’s Medicine

Here in the foothills of Colorado, we can tend to be a bit behind other parts of the country when it comes to food production; while friends in Arizona, California, and even Washington are currently enjoying peas, strawberries, and artichokes, we are just barely starting to see fresh leafy greens here.  So it is extra exciting to see my friend the rhubarb pushing its way up into the garden early in april.  We are on our second round of rhubarb here, hoping to hold out long enough for our first strawberries to ripen for our first seasonal cobbler out of the backyard.

Rhubarb is an interesting plant because it is one part food, one part medicine, and one part poison.  The leaves are best avoided in any situation, they are simply too toxic for use.  The stems are  wonderful eaten raw, stewed, or baked.  In Chinese medicine, rhubarb stems are said to be detoxifying and cooling to the liver, which makes it perfect for spring.  Rhubarb is in the same family as spinach and beets and similar to these has high levels of oxalates.  For this reason I would probably avoid rhubarb for babies under 10 months or adults with a history of kidney stones.

Rhubarb rhizomes have been used as medicine for over 4,000 years in China.  Chinese rhubarb root is most commonly known for its ability to relieve constipation.  It contains a class of compounds called anthroquinone glycosides.  These are the same type of chemicals in other classic constipation remedies such as senna or cascara sagrada.  English rhubarb rhizome, the type we commonly see in our own backyards (and sold at the grocery store) has similar action but is not as strong as its Chinese counterpart.

In our family, rhubarb stalks are actually best enjoyed by my kids sliced into sticks and dipped in a bit of sugar.  That said, we also love rhubarb compote (With or without strawberries) atop pancakes on Saturday mornings. Because this is such a favorite and so simple, here’s a quick recipe for both:

Saturday Morning Rice Quinoa Pancakes with Strawberry Rhubarb Compote

Pancakes:
1 cup brown rice flour
⅓ cup quinoa flour
3 Tbsp sweet rice flour
2 Tbsp sucanat
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
3 Tbsp melted butter
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 ½ cups milk of your choice (we like coconut)

Strawberry-Rhubarb compote
1 cup sliced strawberries
1 cup rhubarb, cut into ½ inch cubes
2 Tbsp maple syrup

For pancakes: Whisk flours, soda, sucanat and salt together.  Mix butter, eggs, vanilla and milk in a separate bowl.  Add wet ingredients to dry, then mix together until just combined.  Cook as for normal pancakes.  For compote: Mix ingredients together in a small saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until all the fruit is broken down and it looks like sauce.  Adjust sweetener if necessary. Spoon over pancakes and enjoy!

Sources:
Healing with Whole Foods: Paul Pitchford
Plant Medicine in Practice: William Mitchell
Potter’s Encyclopedia of Herbal Drugs and Preparations