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Secret Garden of Health

I have always had a fascination with homegrown health. My maternal grandparents had a fabulous vegetable garden. Papa was a retired postman, but I am quite certain they had a garden for most of their married lives, as did probably everyone during that era. The garden took up pretty much the entirety of their long, narrow backyard. It included flowers (I particularly remember cosmos growing), and a gnarled old apple tree that was perfect for climbing, but largely consisted of truly heirloom vegetables.

Summer dinners at Nana and Papa’s always included freshly picked vegetables, in season (winter meals were complemented with preserved bounty from the garden). The tomatoes were particularly fabulous, as they always are when grown outside in the fresh air and genuine sunshine. And I never ate a boiled potato there whose cooking water had not contained fresh mint. Even the leftovers were spectacular. Have you ever tasted a cold, cooked with mint, new potato? Heaven in the mouth, and we now know from science that its resistant starch (only there when it is eaten cold) tends not to be stored as fat.

My paternal grandparents had the most divine raspberry patch in their backyard. When we visited, we ate fresh raspberries every idyllic summer day, plus many more baked in delectable desserts. Whenever I eat raspberries now, trying to ingest those ketones I am always reading about, and knowing that they are a perfect match with fats and proteins when Somersizing, I fly right back down memory lane to Florence Street in Huntsville. Those raspberries may not have been certified organic, but I am pretty sure they were never sprayed with any sort of pesticide. In fact, they formed the property division between my grandparents and the neighbours below, as did my Auntie Rene and Uncle Tommy’s raspberry patch in Willowdale. What a superbly neighbourly idea! If we all did that, multiple families could enjoy the bounty from their respective sides of the patch, and concurrently enjoy chit chat and connection while smiling over the hedge.

My own parents did not have a vegetable garden per se – by the fifties, when they married, and the sixties and seventies, when I grew up, the necessity and economy of the depression and World War II’s Victory Gardens had been replaced by the movement towards processed foods and factory farming, which have subsequently evolved into the horror of GMOs. But we did have 2 lovely pear trees and a red currant bush that were harvested and used specifically for baked pears and red currant relish (fondly coined “Red Goddess” by my dear departed and greatly missed, Uncle Ross). And, we had a compost pile! In the seventies!!

During my teen years I more commonly tried to harness nature’s bounty as a means to beauty. I remember sitting with towel draped over head, steaming my pores over a bowl of freshly boiled water. I commonly followed this with a homemade mask of yogurt and honey, long before we knew anything about alpha hydroxyl acids. At other times I rubbed a cut lemon over my face as an astringent, poured apple cider vinegar over my hair after its last rinse in the shower, or probably my most often used concoction, soaked my long tresses in a bowl of warm olive oil and then traipsing around the house with my hair in a plastic bag, before finally washing the oil out. Please note this is not suitable for all hair types. It worked like a charm on my split ends, but my best friend and college and beyond roommate, Julie, tried it once and couldn’t get the oil out of her hair afterwards. This was not good because she did it on my recommendation right before we both had to attend an “important” party; note to self: all parties are important at that age. Her normally gorgeous blonde hair had turned dark, heavy, and dare I say, a touch on the stringy side. We laughed about it for a long time after.

These fond reminiscences were sparked by a recipe I came across, courtesy Dr. Al Sears, for homemade shaving cream. I do mean to make this if I can figure out where to buy shea butter. I usually use natural conditioner for shaving cream and my husband likes to lather up soap, which is also natural if it is found in my house, but I want to channel my inner teenager and whip up some of…

Dr. Sears’ Homemade Shaving Cream

· Melt 2/3 cup of coconut oil and 2/3 cup of shea butter gently in a double boiler.

· Remove from the heat and stir in ¼ cup of olive oil or grapeseed oil.

· Add 10 to 20 drops of your favorite essential oil. Lavender, chamomile, cinnamon, and peppermint are all good choices.

· Refrigerate until solid. Remove from the refrigerator and let soften slightly.

· Beat the mixture with an electric mixer until it looks like cake frosting. It may take up to six minutes.

Please let me know if you tried this, and specifically, where you found the shea butter. To purchase Dr. Sears’ Pure Radiance line of ready-made natural, chemical-free skincare products, visit

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