Plas­tic

Why Jane is cru­sad­ing against

NZ Lifestyle Block - - In Jane's Garden -

I’M RE­ALLY, re­ally look­ing into our use of plas­tic. This won­der­fully use­ful stuff is ev­ery­where in a bad way all over the planet, in­fil­trat­ing our lives and mak­ing its way from the land trash of hu­man­ity to the guts of whales.

I sus­pect it is im­pli­cated in many health is­sues and it makes sense to me to min­imise its use. I’ve been qui­etly and per­son­ally on this band­wagon for decades, but now I’m get­ting louder!

This means no plas­tic bags with the shop­ping, no buy­ing or stor­ing of food in plas­tic con­tain­ers, such as yo­ghurt, and all those spreads and things. No non-stick pans, no plas­tic uten­sils. Food gets stored in glass and old bis­cuit tins.

Bulk items such as rice and flour are still stored in big plas­tic bins be­cause I haven’t got any­thing else sorted, yet. Maybe the an­swer is wooden boxes lined with pa­per bags, with in­sec­tre­pelling herbs such as bay and rose­mary scat­tered at the bot­tom.

No generic plas­tic con­tain­ers, no plas­tic lunch boxes, no plas­tic bot­tles, and no plas­tic wrap which I’ve al­ways thought was ter­ri­ble stuff any­way. There were se­ri­ous de­bates when I re­fused to buy it for teenagers who wanted it just be­cause all their mates had their lunches in plas­tic wrap.

This selec­tive di­vest­ment of plas­tic isn’t new, it’s just reach­ing an­other level. I’m all for plas­tic in the re­ally use­ful long term, in more sta­ble aspects such as wa­ter pipes and tanks and hoses and troughs, fit­tings etc. It would be dif­fi­cult to live life with­out it th­ese days. But that does not mean we need to have so much. I think all the un­nec­es­sary plas­tic and plas­tic rub­bish in the world could be rounded up, stored in an al­ready trashed place on earth – we’ve made more than a few – and used as a re­cy­cling re­source.

Pre-in­dus­trial times, all so­ci­eties were throw­away so­ci­eties, but it was nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als which were re­turned to the earth as they wore out. We could still do that. Pack­ag­ing could be plant-based with cel­lu­lose prod­ucts. It’s not, as the say­ing goes, rocket sci­ence, but it does take com­mit­ment on a per­sonal level.

Why grow food in a healthy way, then store it in dodgy con­tain­ers? Food gar­den­ing is not about pretty pic­tures, straight lines and prissy plants; it’s about feed­ing the house­hold.

Tour­ing through the vege gar­den of Andy Bur­nett at Somer­field’s Nurs­ery in Ox­ford is al­ways fun, and on this day I spot­ted a palm tree-like, sculp­tured rosette of heav­i­ly­tex­tured, deep green leaves that I hadn’t seen be­fore.

“That’s Cavolo Nero or black Tus­can kale,” he replied.

It’s al­most black, sort-of a black­ish-blue green re­ally. This in­trigu­ing veg­etable is re­lated to cab­bage and cau­li­flower but doesn’t re­sem­ble ei­ther, grow­ing in the shape of a palm tree and mean­ing you har­vest its long leaves from the bot­tom up.

It’s some­times called di­nosaur or ‘dino’ kale as its blis­tered leaves were thought to re­sem­ble di­nosaur skin. They cer­tainly look an­cient and this is an old plant, de­scend­ing from wild cab­bage and thought to have been brought from Asia Mi­nor into Europe in 600BC.

The flavour is rich, in­tense and slightly sweet, and it’s one of the few veg­eta­bles whose flavour is im­proved when plants are ‘kissed by frost.’ As frosts set in the leaves wrin­kle, curl and strengthen, be­com­ing more tex­tu­ral and chewy, de­vel­op­ing a richer, more in­tense flavour. It’s the per­fect mid-win­ter veg­etable – you can even har­vest it in the snow – and now is a great time to start plant­ing it out.

Last May Ken and I were sur­prised when we were served Cavolo Nero while out on an an­niver­sary din­ner in an award­win­ning restau­rant. The rich dress­ing wasn’t to my lik­ing but I could see the po­ten­tial. It in­spired me to grow some and I now con­sider it an in­dis­pens­able win­ter green. The dark green fo­liage lit­er­ally shouts ‘Eat me, I’m healthy!’ Last month this col­umn fea­tured wa­ter­cress, of­fi­cially the most nu­tri­ent­dense veg­etable on the plant, but kale comes a close se­cond, pack­ing in more nutri­tion for fewer calo­ries than al­most any other food. On the Ag­gre­gate Nu­tri­ent Den­sity In­dex (ANDI), a scor­ing sys­tem that rates foods on their nu­tri­ent con­tent, kale scores 1000, the high­est pos­si­ble score.

Dur­ing WWII kale cul­ti­va­tion was en­cour­aged for its nu­tri­ent value and in Ja­pan kale juice is drunk as a di­etary sup­ple­ment. One cup of raw kale con­tains al­most seven times the rec­om­mended daily al­lowance of vi­ta­min K and more vi­ta­min C than a whole or­ange. The form of vi­ta­min K – K2 – is in­volved in pre­vent­ing heart dis­ease and os­teo­poro­sis.

Kale con­tains four times more mag­ne­sium and five times more cal­cium than Brus­sels sprouts, and un­like spinach, it is low in ox­alates (which can pre­vent nu­tri­ents be­ing ab­sorbed).

Ev­i­dence also shows kale has ben­e­fi­cial com­pounds, in­clud­ing anti-ox­i­dants, with pow­er­ful medic­i­nal prop­er­ties. Th­ese have been linked to re­duc­ing the risk of can­cer, mac­u­lar de­gen­er­a­tion and other health ben­e­fits. Like other bras­si­cas, Cavolo Nero con­tains com­pounds thought to have a pro­tec­tive ef­fect against can­cer, in­clud­ing sul­foraphane and in­dol-3-carbinol.

All kale cul­ti­vars are rich in pow­er­ful an­tiox­i­dants in­clud­ing beta-carotene,

vi­ta­min C and many flavenoids and polyphe­nols which counter ox­i­da­tion dam­age in cells. Beta-carotene is con­verted in the body to vi­ta­min A.

Cer­tain flavonoids in kale – quercetin and kaempferol – are also im­pli­cated as car­dio-pro­tec­tive, blood pres­sure low­er­ing, anti-in­flam­ma­tory, anti-vi­ral and even anti-de­pres­sant

Kale is high in lutein and zeax­an­thin, linked to a re­duced risk of age-re­lated mac­u­lar de­gen­er­a­tion, im­paired night vi­sion and cataracts.

Kale has been found to con­tain bile acid se­ques­trants which bind with bile acids and lower the to­tal choles­terol in the body. Steam­ing kale in­creases th­ese bile acid-bind­ing prop­er­ties. One study showed steamed kale was 43% as po­tent as cholestyra­mine, a drug which low­ers choles­terol.

Kale is a source of in­dol-3-carbinol, which boosts DNA re­pair in cells.

An Ital­ian study sug­gested Cavolo Nero may ben­e­fit MS pa­tients through neu­ro­pro­tec­tive and im­munomod­u­la­tory ef­fects.

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