Month: September 2015

Of Bidens pilosa and Retin A

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Bidens pilosa, Spanish needles, IMG_3079Picao preto.   By any name an amazing plant.

The entire plant may be used and here is a list of its potential power:

  •  antibacterial, including MRSA
  • antifungal
  • hepatoprotective, inhibits prostglandin and COX
  • antiulcer
  • anticancer
  • immunomodulatorIMG_3170
  • and, antiaging!!  This is what I am currently exploring with various Biden pilosa infused oils soaking up the sun.  In recent Pubmed studies there is evidence of Bidens increasing growth factors, stimulating extracellular matrix elements and modulating retinoid receptors potentially even better than other well known retinoids (for example, retin a).

Once the oils are ready in a few weeks it will be on to exploration and experimentation by documenting any changes to a patch test area.  If this works, imagine not only am amazing plant for pollinators but an amazing, readily available plant source of antiwrinkle concoctions.


Ceresaa Tea on NPR but more fun as Momordica charantia

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      I had never heard of Ceresaa tea but an introduction on NPR this morning speaking of Islanders in search of a vine in Miami caught my ear.  It was never mentioned that the plant they were discussing is also called bitter melon and even more fun by its Latin name, Momordica charantia.

     According to the show, it is used to treat just about everything by the people they interviewed.  My introduction to it was while volunteering at Solace International’s organic farm where they planted and harvested for sale.  It was a new vegetable encounter however, once reading about its taste as well as its medicinal use for diabetes it was not something I needed to include in my diet.

     Quickly put on the back burner of new plants to explore, it came to the forefront on several hikes that followed.  I found it a beautiful plant with much smaller fruit than the cultivated variety.  Just little orange walnut sized fruits, filled with lycopene according to Green Deane on a foraging walk.  He also mentioned it is toxic to dogs.

Tiny House Truths

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IMG_2221I live in a tiny house with a not so tiny companion.  I researched tiny houses for over a year and thought I had everything covered.  Yes, I had things covered when one is looking through rose colored glasses!  My interest grew after attending the ethical fashion classes taught by amazing Carmen Artigas at FIT.  She went far beyond addressing fashion in her passion to educate about sustainability, environmentally friendly choices, etc.


Funny, how in retrospect a little deeper digging would have told me the headlines: “Move when ever you want” were not quite true–tiny houses may be on wheels but most are not structurally sound to be moved many times.  “Be free of a mortgage, paying rent, etc”.  Yes, but tiny houses are not legally permitted to be parked in most areas (Orlando, Florida has a legal tiny house community in an RV park with a dynamite view if you happen to get a lot on the water but the front entrance is crossed by railroad tracks……and really, the tiny house/RV park is not on the best side of the tracks so to speak).

So, one is confronted of where to park it, trusting the “landlord” if you do not own your own land, hoping you are not caught illegally parking, where to find running water and electricity ( I have a composting toilet and solar panels but the solar will not run A/C and the necessary dehumidifier required to live comfortably and I might add, in a healthy indoor environment in South Florida.  Therefore, electricity is a must!).  Yes, the list can go on and again, all this is depicted online but not on the shiny “Tiny House” websites nor apparently on “Tiny House Nation” which I have only been told about as I do not have a TV in my tiny house.  No TV is a plus!

Cooking in a tiny house is a questionable feat depending upon one’s cuisine.  I initially thought, great, this is the time to really delve into a RAW diet.  Then I heard an NPR talk by the neuroscientist Suzana Herculano-houzel on how we have evolved such a large brain with so many more neural connections than the great apes due to cooking our food.  This change allowed us the ability to fuel this brain with calories.  RAW was out.  Not a sustainable lifestyle.   Ironically, just as I am finding a  tiny house not to be when one loves to pursue artistic endeavors, needs crafting (i.e. creating linocuts and blockprinting, jewelry construction, natural dying, glass works…) and cooking space to do so.  Plus all those wonderful books tucked away.

With RAW out, I returned to being a vegan which is just fine.  However, I am a vegan who likes to utilize a lot of different spices for both their taste and health benefits.  Cooking in a tiny house means sleeping with the aromas of your meal, vent running and windows open aside.  This quickly morphed into cooking outside which translates into camp cooking.  Fun sometimes but not when it is a daily necessity.  Mostly raw vegan is where I have settled.

Fortunately, I have found a quiet place on the back of the farm where the creepy landlord to whom I pay electric bills finally realized I have no interested in his “boring, married life and open marriage”.  YUCK.   Why living a happy, tiny, minimally consumerist life with a growing edible potted garden and a beautiful funny dog as a companion seems to bother people is beyond me.  This is the plus side of my tiny house living arrangement but only because I can found a nice parking spot under a very large bamboo for shelter and do not mind bringing in the water needed.

We have just celebrated our one year anniversary.  During this time, researching quite a bit on tiny houses, looking at tiny houses for sale listings and revisiting a tiny house builder in Florida over a year later only to discover he has the homes I first saw back him constructing for clients on the lot, it seems quite a lot of people do not live in them long term.  It is an experiment I am glad to be participating in but has numerous limitations.  At times I think I would love to move up to a Tennessee Tiny Home which would be a small house compared to my tiny one but the reality hits: Who really wants to crawl into a loft everynight?  I like to put my pajamas on standing up!

Buddha Dog and Moringa oleifera

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Moringa oleifera seedlings meditating with the Buddha dog as they get ready for transplantation.

According to the herbalist who provided me with the seeds, moringa are pretty foolproof, can be cut back once they have one inch thick trunks.   These trunks are then cut down to 6-8 inch pieces and each planted, resulting in new trees.  Far from that point with my moringa forest, yet armed with that firsthand information I was startled to read that transplanting the seedlings often causes them to go into shock–thus a little help from the Buddha dog before the deed is done.

As many of you probably know, Moringa oleifera has an incredible bounty of nutrition in its leaves (8.3g protein, 424mg calcium, 404mg potassium, 738mg Vitamin A and 164 mg of Vitamin C per grams of raw leaves).  It is very easy to grow here in South Florida so purchasing supplements is far from necessary.  In fact, eating the quickly blanched or sautéed leaves may be preferable as it has magical sulforaphane just like broccoli and broccoli sprouts.  The act of chewing the leaves allows myrosinase to catalize the reaction which makes the isothiocyanate sulforaphane available.  Personally, I like to use the leaves to make a tea (not quite boiling hot water) and eat the leaves left in the cup to obtain the sulforaphane benefits.

Moringa also has another bioactive component (RBITC) that is more potent than sulforaphane in preventing inflammatory responses (source Pubmed extract).  This is much more interesting to me than the loss of Vitamin C that may occur in adding the leaves to the warmer water of a tea.   The addition of Amla (Indian Gooseberry) in a morning smoothie has that vitamin covered.

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American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) is a ubiquitous plant found on our hikes and needed to be explored further than taking pictures of its vibrant purple hued berries with a handsome fellow looking on.

Of interest was the possibility of making jelly with its berries, and an insecticide with the leaves.  However, upon a little deeper research, a plant growth induction concoction came to light.  The Callicarpa species have a natural plant growth promoter caller calliterpenone which can be extracted from the leaves.   I am familiar with making a Comfrey “tea” to use as a growth promoter on my plants (gibberellic acid at work here according to the herbalist who suggested utilizing it to me, a farming newbie) but now wish to try wild Callicarpa americana leaf tea as a side by side experiment on some Moringa oleifera seedlings.  An experiment documented online showed an increase in biomass in the case study of Mentha arvensis as well as an increase in the essential oil production.

AB Tea is brewing in the sun!