foodscout blog

Our first harvest: Summer Squash

summer squash pickedIt doesn’t get any fresher than going out to your back yard garden and picking your food for lunch. Yesterday we harvested our first vegetables since planting our garden. 4 Beautiful yellow summer squashes were ready to go.

We are so excited about tasting our own home-grown food that we didn’t do too much with fancy recipes.  On the other hand, summer squash is not our favorite food to eat raw because it has a sort of sliminess when you cut it open.

So we enjoyed our squash by slicing it into rounds and steaming them for about 15 minutes. Then we liberally applied nutritional yeast and added a dusting of herbamare (sea salt mixed with herbs). So delicious.

Summer squash from the store is pretty tasty. Summer squash direct from the garden is full of a buttery flavor. Easily the best squash I’ve ever tasted!

At least a couple of dozen more squash vegetables are already forming on our  8 squash plants so we should be enjoying them a few at a time for a while. Next vegetable ready for harvesting will probably be our chard greens.

Time To Plant the Fall Greens

Garden bed #3 is ready for planting, just in time for some fall greens. We’ve got 2 rows of beets (more for the greens than the roots), 2 rows of red lettuce, and 1 row each of tat sai and collards. They should all be sprouting within 10 days.

We’re saving a little space on the end for whatever else looks good at the garden supply store in the next couple of weeks.

Vegetable Gardening: Lessons Learned

Chard almost ready7 Weeks ago we put our first vegetable seeds in the dirt in our 2 raised beds. We’re getting ready to plant a 3rd bed and harvest some of our squash and greens. I thought I’d take the opportunity to share a few things I learned along the way on my first real attempt at vegetable gardening.

  1. Fertilize your plants! Plants need water and they also need food. Your local gardening store will have great advice to share with you about what type of fertilizer is best for your area and particular plants. Just sprinkle half a cup or so around each plant and gently mix it into the soil. Our plants were growing very slowly at first. After giving each one some fertilizer, they perked up and started growing much faster.
  2. Soapy water kills aphids. Our okra plants were being attacked by aphids. If you see a lot of ants crawling around on a plant, check the underside of the leaf for aphids and their eggs. Ants “herd” aphids in order to eat the nectar they produce. Take some natural dish soap or Dr. Bronner’s Soap, mix a small amount with water, and gently wash the leaves with it. Do this in the morning so they will be dry before the hot sun comes out and definitely dry before nightfall. Works like a charm. Aphids have not returned.
  3. Tomato and tomatillo plants need extra support. My beautiful tomatillo plant was growing like crazy. I had it tied to a stake for support, but it quickly grew  well past the string and I did not tie up the long branches. After a big rain storm, both of the 2 main branches fell from their own weight and split right off. The plant is now down to it’s little stumpy stalk and a new leafy little branch is starting again. I noticed that my 2 tomato plants were quite sprawling as well, so I took the opportunity to tie up all the long heavy branches to the stake using garden tape.
  4. Shop at your local garden supply store. If you are not already convinced of the benefits of supporting local shops, then consider a purely selfish reason instead. The workers at Lowes and Home Depot don’t know jack about vegetable gardening. Everyone who works at your local garden shop is an expert in exactly what you need for your particular plant in your particular climate. And if one person doesn’t, they can ask the owner of the store who most definitely will.
  5. Check on your plants every day. Look for holes in the leaves and pests. Stick your finger in the dirt to see if it’s dry. Check that each plant is growing. Look for fungus. And just generally get to know your plants so that you can recognize when something is wrong.
  6. Keep a garden journal. I regularly need to remember when I planted something or which plant was planted where. Don’t kid yourself into thinking you’ll remember. Keep a journal and write down when you planted. Draw a diagram of the garden and where the plants are. Make a note of when you watered, what bugs you found on which plants and what you did about it.
  7. Get a rain gauge. Or at least do what we did and put an even-bottomed plastic bowl outside. That rain storm might have seemed like an inch of rain, but more often than not in our town, it was maybe 1/10 of an inch. The plants need to be watered deeply to develop strong roots. Just because the top of the dirt is wet, doesn’t mean you don’t need to water.

All these things are simple and inexpensive but they make a world of difference.

Okra, aphid-free Tomatillo down to just a stalk Tomato taped to a stake Cucumbers - no fruit yet  Summer Squash almost ready

Natural Remedy: Dry Brushing Mosquito Bites

dry brushQuite by accident, we’ve discovered a great natural remedy for the awful itch of mosquito bites. As soon as a bug bite starts to appear and itch, scratch it with a dry brush that you’d use for body exfoliation. The immediate benefit is that it will be the most satisfying itch you ever scratched.

Secondly, you will notice that your bite does not continue to itch. If it does, scratch it with the brush again. At most, I’ve had to do this three times before it stopped itching permanently, but usually once or twice does it.

And finally, unlike scratching your itches the traditional way, the dry brush will not break the skin or leave any redness or scabs whatsoever.

We’ve been getting eaten up by mosquitoes pretty good this summer and the dry brush has worked like a charm for us. It also works great for rashes.

Give it a try and let us know if it works for you too!

The World Is Made of Food

bunny and dandelionsAfter mowing the back yard for the first time in over a year, I discovered a baby bunny. He was cornered by the fence and too terrified to run. I managed to fight off the urge to pick him up and play with him, but I did run inside to grab my camera and get John to come outside and see him.

“Should we feed him?” John asked quite sincerely.

“He’s a bunny. His world is made of food.” John immediately felt silly for asking such a question. As though us humans would do a better job of feeding a bunny than he could do for himself. Humans don’t even know the difference between actual food and the boxes full of chemical-laden junk they sell in grocery stores.

But it got me thinking. The world isn’t only made of bunny food. It’s made of food. For everyone.

dandelion greensIf there was a food shortage for a few months, most of us would starve to death while edible plants were growing all around us. Or worse, we would have already killed them off with weed killer. They now sell dandelion greens in natural food stores. People pay $3 for a bunch, while mowing over the dandelions growing in their own yards.

Don’t have a green thumb for a vegetable garden? You can still include some garden fresh foods in your diet. Find out what grows in your area. Dandelion, lambsquarters, plantain (not the banana), and lots more are probably growing all around your neighborhood right now. Let a portion of your yard grow wild. See what shows up.

There is nothing more nutritious than wild plants. Just make sure you pick them from areas free of car exhaust, pesticides, and passing dogs.

Foodscout Garden: Beyond Organic

okra sproutsFor the sake of the planet and for the sake of our health, we’ve been eating as much organic produce as possible for several years, regardless of any cost difference. A few years ago, we began hearing about the “Buy Local” trend, felt that made a lot of sense, and now we do our best to buy produce that’s at least from a nearby state, if not from a local farmer’s market. But never being satisfied with “good enough” we’ve decided to do even better.

After dabbling unsuccessfully with planting a vegetable garden over the last year or so, we finally got serious, got professional help, and are creating a beautiful backyard garden. Linda over at Mountain Rainwater helped us by building 2 raised beds to get us started, bringing in some rich organic soil, and telling us what to plant. If you happen to live in the Asheville, NC area and are looking for help getting your garden started, we highly recommend Mountain Rainwater*.

tomatilloWe planted a little later in the summer than is ideal but we found a few items that should still grow well in our Southern mountain climate. From seed, we planted cucumbers, summer squash, a few okras, chard, and cilantro. Presumably, if nurseries are selling any vegetable starts this time of year, it should be OK to plant these already started vegetables as well. We found some peppers, tomatoes, and a tomatillo plant that Linda gave to us.

It’s now our job to keep the cats out of our garden beds, and our soil watered if there has not been enough rain. Currently, we are using city water from the hose which has tons of chlorine and who-knows-what-else in it. In a future project, we will be adding rain barrels, a solar water pump, and some soaker hoses so that our freshest produce possible will be watered with the cleanest water possible. Stay tuned for that!

It’s been 10 days since we planted and already all of our seeds are sprouting up and our pepper plants are starting to produce little peppers. We can’t wait to be able to eat the absolute freshest produce possible on a regular basis. As we learn about what to plant when, and how to keep our garden thriving, we’ll post that information here to share it with you. And if you have any tips to share, we’d love to hear ‘em!

empty boxes raised bedsplanted garden

*We receive absolutely no compensation in any form for recommending Mountain Rainwater. We are just truly happy with the service we received.

Worried about Swine Flu? Look to Antiviral Foods

swine fluThere has been a lot of concern these last several days over Swine Flu, a severe flu thought to have started its most recent round in Mexico. The government’s advice? Wash your hands often, cover your mouth when you cough, and most of all don’t panic.

We concur with all of that advice, most of all the last one. And we offer one more piece of advice not likely to come from officials: eat well and consume plenty of anti-viral foods.

When your body is healthy, and your immune system is at its best, you are able to combat viruses more effectively. Here are some tips on staying healthy during a flu outbreak (or any outbreak for that matter):

  • Don’t eat sugar! There are few things more important than this when battling illness. Sugar paralyzes your immune system for as much as 2 hours after eating it, giving viruses the opportunity to take hold of your health. So avoid it at all costs. If you’re a sugar junky, just remind yourself that this ban on sugar is not permanent and you can have it again soon. Also, there are plenty of naturally sweetened treats out there that don’t use sugar. Indulge in those. Ideally, you would avoid all processed food, especially starches. But do the best you can.
  • Eat anti-viral foods. Coconut oil, cranberries, dandelion leaves, garlic, and mango are all believed to fight viruses. Coconut oil, garlic, and cranberries have scientific studies to back up the claim. Eating these foods won’t guarantee perfect health, but they will definitely help. And don’t forget your Vitamin C and Zinc!
  • Enjoy a cup of Pau D’Arco tea. Experts have isolated over 20 active chemicals in pau d’arco and it has been shown to effectively combat bacterial and viral infections. Pau d’arco increases the supply of oxygen to cells, helping to destroy bacteria, fungi, parasites and viruses.

If you are planning to travel by plane or know you will be in tight quarters with many others, take special care to follow the above guidelines before and during your travels.

Happy anniversary foodscout!

One year ago today, we launched We built the site and collected the data for it as a labor of love after our frustration at not being able to easily find and organize basic information about natural foods, their nutrients, and their health benefits.

Over the last year, we have watched our traffic steadily quadruple! We have received appreciative emails from other health seekers who were looking for a place to start on their health journeys and found it at foodscout.

To all of you who have visited us regularly, passed our link on to your friends and family, and posted our site with an enthusiastic recommendation, we thank you!

We have many ideas and updates in the works that we can’t wait to share with you. Here’s to another year of increasingly good health!

Find a Spring - help build the database

spring waterWhat could be more important to our health than fresh, clean drinking water? Most municipal water is full of chemicals, such as chlorine, fluorine, and who knows what else. More people than ever are turning to expensive home water filtration systems or signing up for water delivery services.

Now, a new website,, is helping people find and share the location of fresh natural spring water, so that health seekers can get clean water straight from nature. They are just getting started, so if you know of a natural spring, submit it to their database.

As they say on their site, you’ll need to independently verify that the water is safe for drinking as findaspring does not test the validate water safety.

Visit and “Reclaim Your Water”

Flat Stomach Secrets

Every health and diet magazine these days is talking about flat stomach secrets. We’ve had some recent insights into this topic so we figured we’d join in the discussion. If you are close to your intended weight but you can’t quite figure out how to get rid of that little poochie belly, this article is for you.

As a healthy 33-year-old female and a healthy, let’s just say, “over 40″ male, we struggled for years with the question of how to get rid of that little gut. We were already eating a healthy diet - no sugar, very little processed foods, lots of fresh produce. We work at our computers all day so we don’t get a lot of exercise and probably won’t change those habits any time soon.

A combination of a couple of new lifestyle changes seems to have done the trick for both of us and the first one doesn’t cost a dime. The second is admittedly a little pricey.

  1. Quantum EatingDon’t eat past 6pm: You’ve heard this before, but now really do it. If you don’t get home from work until 6, make dinner right away and shoot for 7pm. We learned this trick from the book, Quantum Eating, by Tanya Zavasta. She actually suggests not eating past 2pm, but we aren’t ready for that. We started with a 7pm “curfew” and then moved it to 6pm after a few weeks. According to Zavasta, your body benefits from this nightly 14+ hour fast in numerous ways, not least of which is it gives your body a chance to finish digesting and move on to the important task of cleansing and detoxing. When you eat late at night, your body can’t burn all those calories and instead stores them as fat. Related to this change in eating habits, we eat our biggest meals for breakfast and lunch and have only a large green smoothie for dinner, making digestion in the evening even easier on our bodies.
  2. Cellercise!: The Cellerciser is a small trampoline, sometimes called a “rebounder”. According to their website, exercising on the Cellerciser “applies weight and movement to every cell causing the entire body, it’s parts and functions to become stronger, more flexible and healthier.” It sounds a little cheesy, but it made enough sense that we decided to give it a try. We use it every morning for 12 minutes. It’s a fun way to wake up in the morning (much healthier than a cup of coffee) and it feels like a good workout when we’re done. After using the Cellerciser for a couple of weeks, we noticed more definition in our muscles. After a few more weeks, it translated into flat stomachs for both of us. The more we use it, the better our stomachs look, both in terms of flatness and muscle definition.

We are always changing aspects of our diet and habits to achieve better health and there may be other factors that have helped in our quest for a flat stomach. We mention these two specifically because we have directly observed that if we cheat on either one, there are clear consequences that show on our bellies. Once we get back to our good habits, that pooch melts away within a day or two.

These obviously aren’t scientific studies, but they work well for two of us. Give it a try and see if it works for you too!

We have no affiliation with the Cellerciser company and make absolutely no money from them. We just really like it!

« Prev - Next »