Friday, 1 July 2016

July 2016: food and mood

What we consume, not only affects our health: it also greatly influences our mood.
What we eat determines how we feel and, on the other hand, how we feel can also determine what we eat. 
Let's take a look at this. It is a huge subject, so I can only touch on the basics here.

* To be alertwe must have enough protein [1]. Whole grains like bread; cheese, yoghurt, fish, meat, eggs, legumes are all good. As long as we don’t eat too much, for this will diminish our performance, regardless of carbohydrate or protein content.

To feel safe, content and pleasantly filled, we need to boost our serotonin production [2]. Serotonin also helps us control our impulses. For best results, combine carbs and proteins to make it more available.
To achieve this: 
1) healthy fats are vitally important. They are in fatty fish, walnuts, flax seeds. Too much of the wrong kind of fat, on the other hand, makes us sluggish [3].
2) vitamins B12 and D, calcium, magnesium and folate help us use serotonin [4].
A deficiency in serotonin causes, to name just a few: migraines, insomnia, panic attacks, anorexia/bulimia, depression, alcoholism, and over-eating, particularly of carbohydrates.

* To calm our brain and relax, we should eat a meal high in proteins, carbs, and calories: for instance poultry, seafood, dairy, nuts and seeds. 
Carbohydrates have long been demonized, but we need them to produce serotonin, see above. However, only complex carbs, that is, food in its natural state, have a positive effect on mood. Such as: whole foods (brown bread, wholemeal pasta etc), unprocessed veg and fruit, and whole, ideally unpasteurized milk. 
Refined carbs cause blood sugar to spike and then drop quickly, which leads to mood swings and fatigue [5].
If you particularly suffer from anxiety, see [6].

We must eat something every 4-5 hours, to prevent our blood sugar from plummeting. Breakfast is particularly important, especially for children: they perform better and get into less trouble in school. Eating breakfast leads to improved mood, calm, better memory, more energy throughout the day.
And what makes a good breakfast? Lots of fiber and nutrients, protein, good fats, and whole-grain carbohydrates.

* Both skipping meals and overeating are bad. They will only cause cravings, especially if the food you did have was, what Michael Pollan calls, an 'edible food-like substance' [7]. 
1) If you think you just need more impulse control, go for the serotonin, see above.
2) If you want to find out what is behind the craving, you might like to look at the June 2012 Thought for Food: “cravings” [8]. Or for a different approach, see 

* Are you tired or depressed, or do you have a short attention span? You may be getting too little iron. Iron-rich foods include red meat, egg yolks, dried fruit, beans and liver.

Depression can also be caused by low thyroid function. Oily fish, dairy, eggs, oats, nuts, whole grains, sesame seeds, bananas, avocados, and almonds all help. So do fresh fruit and veg, but if you suffer from hypothyroidism, limit the brassicas [9] unless very well cooked [10].
For depression, see also the Thought of February 2014 [11].

* You can also lift your mood by adding foods that are rich sources of tryptophan to your diet, like turkey, chicken, beef, brown rice, nuts, fish, milk, eggs, cheese, fruit, and vegetables - again [11a]. 

Hyperactivity, caused by too much sugar or certain additives, is a well-known issue, especially in children. Here are some good websites: [12].

Trans fats affect our mood: inflammatory responses interfere with mood-boosting neurotransmitters like serotonin. Avoid packaged pastries and crackers and fast food.

* And, without eating or foregoing anything at all, you can increase your general sense of well-being by laughing! Laughing triggers the release of natural painkillers. It also lowers blood pressure, reduces stress hormones and boosts immune function. [13]

See also

PS It’s important to know that certain kinds of foods interact badly with some psychiatric medications [14].


Fancy a nice long article to chew on? The New Scientist,  of 11/6/16 has some interesting things to say about the influence of diet on diabetes 2. Click on "Fat vs. Carbs", in the sidebar. 

Veg: beet, broad beans, carrots, chinese leaves, globe artichokes, kohlrabi, cauli, cabbage, (sugar) peas, beans, lettuce, sweetcorn, turnips, courgettes, broccoli, spring onions, squash, radish, tomatoes, samphire, spinach (beet), chard, endive.
Fish: mackerel is at its best in July, cheap and an invaluable source of omega 3. Otherwise: dab, black bream, crab, mackerel, clam, dover sole, megrim sole, grey mullet, flounder and American signal crayfish.
Meat: lamb, rabbit, wood pigeon.

Chinese/spring cabbage, calabrese, carrots, chicory, coriander, endive, florence fennel, kohlrabi, salad onions, (mangetout/sugar snap) peas, mooli, pak choi, turnips, black and white radish (mooli), perpetual spinach, chard, parsley, beetroot, french beans, mini cauliflower, lettuce*.
End of the month: corn salad, black radish, endive, kohlrabi. Sowing kohlrabi late in July should supply them well into the winter. They will stand in the soil until needed.
*Remember: only crisp lettuce (little gem, cos, webb) germinates well when soil temperature goes above 25C. 
Plant: kale, sprouts, leeks, winter cabbages, broccoli, calabrese, cauliflower.



If cooked indifferently, kohlrabi tastes, well, indifferent. However when you mash it, or make it into soup, it tastes delicious and unlike anything else.
Another simple way to make it special is the following: 
2 tblsp butter, 3-4 kohlrabi, 2 minced cloves garlic, 240ml stock or to cover, 1 tblsp lemon juice.
Slice kohlrabi into thin strips. Sauté in butter with garlic for 2-3 mins. Add stock and lemon juice. Cover, simmer for 20 mins, or tender. Season.

4 courgettes, lemon juice, zest, 30g butter, 1 tblsp olive oil, salt, pepper.
Slice courgettes ab. 1 cm thick. Gently melt butter, sauté them until golden. You may need to do this in batches, keeping the cooked ones warm as you sauté the next batch. Return all the courgettes to pan and add lemon juice and zest. You may want to add the juice of up to a whole lemon, but don't make it too sour. Mix and gently reheat. 

BLOTE BILLETJES in het GRAS: Dutch traditional fare. For another version, see August 2014. 
1k floury potatoes, 500g runner beans, 4 shallots, 1 clove garlic, some finely cut rosemary, 1/2 lemon, 1 tin of white beans,  200g tomatoes, 2 tblsp olive oil.
Cook potatoes and runner beans in salted water for 10 mins till nearly done. Chop shallots, Drain white beans and catch the liquid. Chop tomatoes. Saute shalots with rosemary, add chopped garlic. Grate  (untreated!) lemon rind and squeeze out the juice. Add grated rind and and a bit of juice to the shalot mix. Add white beans with tomato pieces and warm through well. Drain potatoes with beans and mash. Add white bean mix while stirring. If necessary, add some cooking liquid. 
Serve with sausage or chunks of nice mature cheese.

450g runner beans, 1 sliced red onion, 240ml crumbs, 6 good quality anchovy fillets, extra-virgin olive oil.
Prepare and precook runner beans for 3-5 mins. Mash up anchovy fillets and saute till they dissolve, add onion, stir for a few mins. Add beans and pepper, cook till practically done. Add breadcrumbs, stir to coat. Cook for one more minute, done.

For more recipes, see former July issues: click on 2016 at the right hand side of this page. 

Next month: NUMBER ONE.

[1] Protein-rich foods increase tyrosine, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which help to increase alertness.
[2] Serotonin is a brain chemical that has a calming effect. Perhaps that's why people often crave carbohydrate-rich foods when they are under stress. See also
[3] Processed fats, which result form high-heat commercial processing, (trans fats for example) are always bad. Also refined and partially hydrogenated oils and commercially deep-fried foods. See and
[4] To find in which foods you can get these nutrients, see the Thoughts of March and April 2013: under “2016” (yes, I know) in the column on the right hand side of this page. 
[5] Enriched, bleached, or processed whole wheat does not count as a complex carbohydrate because, during the processing, all the nutrients have usually been stripped. The flour becomes 'enriched' when those nutrients that are considered important are added back in. However, not all nutrients are put back, and for this reason the body doesn't process enriched foods the same way as it does unprocessed foods (
[8] Find this under “2016” in column on the right hand side. 
[9] cabbage, cauli, cress, brussels’ sprouts, kale, swede, turnip, radish etc.


New Scientist, 7 June 2016

Fat vs carbs: What’s really worse for your health?
The traditional balanced diet may be way out of whack. To fight obesity and diabetes, doctors and nutritionists are embracing diets that were once called fads. By Clare Wilson

“PEOPLE have told me what I do is dangerous. They have walked away from me at meetings,” says David Unwin, a doctor practising in Southport, UK. Unwin suggests to his patients with type 2 diabetes or who want to lose weight that they do the opposite of what official health advice recommends. He advises them to stop counting calories, eat high-fat foods – including saturated fats – and avoid carbohydrates, namely sugar and starch. Telling people to avoid sugar is uncontroversial; the rest is medical heresy.
But crazy as it sounds, Unwin has found that most of his diabetes patients who follow this advice are getting their blood sugar back under control, and that some are coming off medication they have relied on for years. Those who are overweight are slimming down.
This might seem like just another controversial fad diet, but a growing number of researchers, doctors and nutritionists around the world are backing it, and reporting their findings in peer-reviewed medical journals. Last month, the National Obesity Forum, a UK body for health professionals involved in weight management, made headlines when it overhauled its advice, telling people to ditch calorie-counting, low-fat foods and carbs in favour of fats.

The recommendations provoked a furious backlash from mainstream scientists and dieticians, but they should concern us all. If the advice is to be believed, starchy food isn’t just bad for diabetes, it makes us fat and causes heart attacks. This is analogous to finding that smoking protects people from lung cancer, says David Haslam, an obesity specialist at the Lister Hospital in Stevenage, UK, and head of the National Obesity Forum. “It is terrible,” he says. “We have let people down.”
For decades, standard dietary advice has been to shun fat and fill up on starchy food like bread, potatoes and rice. We are told this is good for our waistlines and our hearts, and is especially important for anyone with diabetes. Guidelines in the UK, the US and Australia, for instance, tell people to fill around a third of their plates with starchy food (see “Food fight”). When the UK government agency Public Health England revamped its “Eat Well Plate” earlier this year, it cut added fats (such as oils and spreads) down to a mere 1 per cent of the recommended food intake.

Fat first came under suspicion when research early last century found that the arterial plaques that can lead to a heart attack contain the fatty compound cholesterol. Then came several studies showing that heart attack rates were higher in countries where people ate more fat, especially saturated fat from meat and dairy foods. Fat was also deemed the enemy of people wanting to stay slim, since it has over twice the calories, gram for gram, as carbohydrates and protein.
From the 1950s onwards, these ideas crystallised into official dietary guidelines, and the health-conscious started switching to leaner cuts of meat, low-fat milk and swapped butter for vegetable-oil based margarines. And they filled up on starchy carbs.
Yet average body weight has continued to climb, as have rates of associated problems such as type 2 diabetes, culminating in what is now arguably a health crisis. In the UK, US and Australia, around two-thirds of the population are either overweight or obese.
The orthodoxy was challenged when some dieters adopted the Atkins diet, which caused a sensation in the early 2000s. This urged people to shun fruit and veg and scoff meat, butter and cream. Doctors warned it couldn’t work and all that saturated fat was a heart attack waiting to happen.
And yet, research showed otherwise. One trial directly compared 156 women on either the Atkins diet or a low-fat diet. After a year, those following Atkins had lost more weight, and their blood pressure and cholesterol profiles were, if anything, better than those on the low-fat diet. Another trial, which lasted two years, had similar results.
The idea that those with type 2 diabetes should ditch carbs has also been led by people defying medical advice. Unwin first learned of it when he called in a diabetes patient who had been missing check-ups. “Her blood tests were amazing,” he says. “They seemed to show that she wasn’t diabetic anymore.”
This broke all the rules. Type 2 diabetes is supposed to be progressive and irreversible. It is the result of our cells becoming increasingly resistant to insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas to help with the uptake of glucose from the blood. The pancreas works ever harder until it cannot produce enough insulin to keep blood sugar levels under control. As a result, blood sugar gets too high after meals and this gradually harms blood vessels, leading to a range of nasty consequences such as foot amputations and heart attacks.
Newly diagnosed diabetics are usually advised to lose weight with exercise, and by eating less fat and more fibre, including bread, cereals and fruit and vegetables. But like most dieters, they usually don’t succeed, and the majority need oral medication to control their blood sugar within a year of diagnosis.
Unwin’s rebellious patient told him she began low-carbing after stumbling across a website that recommended it. As Unwin researched the idea, it started making sense. Diabetics are told to avoid sugar, but starch is basically long chains of sugar and is quickly digested into sugar in the gut.
Yet diabetics are told to eat starchy food just like everyone else to help them eat less fat. Fat is the bigger enemy because it leads to heart disease, says Louis Levy, head of nutrition science at Public Health England.
And even wholegrain carbs, which are recommended, cause our blood sugar to rise, albeit more slowly than their milled equivalents. A slice of wholemeal bread raises blood sugar the same amount as three teaspoons of pure sugar, according to research due to be published by Unwin and his colleagues in the Journal of Insulin Resistance. A jacket potato – archetypal healthy fare – is akin eating 9 teaspoons of sugar (although how fast it is released depends on what you eat with it – fat or protein lowers the speed).
The sugar triggers release of insulin, which stimulates fat storage, and in the long term worsens insulin resistance. Eating fat and protein, in contrast, releases less insulin, and protein is the most filling food group, so will suppress appetite more.
People with type 2 diabetes are sometimes told to eat food with a low glycaemic index (GI), a measure of how quickly blood sugar rises. The faster the blood sugar rises, the harder it is for cells to take up glucose quickly enough to avoid a spike. But a strictly low-GI diet can end up being high-fat by default.
Startled into action, Unwin took the maverick step of offering weekly meetings on this dietary approach to his patients with diabetes or who were overweight. He put them on a less extreme version of the Atkins diet, telling them not only to cut down on starchy food but also to eat lots of non-starchy vegetables and the less sugary fruits, such as blueberries and raspberries. In place of carbs they should fill up on meat, fish, full-fat dairy products, eggs and nuts (see “Food fight”).

Under control
It seemed to work. “They weren’t hungry and every week they came back smaller,” he says. Their blood tests showed improvements in glucose control, as well as blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Unwin published the results from his first 19 patients in 2014. It wasn’t a randomised trial, but there have been such studies in the US. In one study of 34 overweight people with type 2 diabetes, those on a low-carb, high-fat diet with no obligation to calorie count ended up with significantly better blood sugar control after 3 months than those following the low-fat guidelines for diabetes. Three times as many low-carbers were able to stop taking at least one diabetes drug as those on the standard diet.
Unwin’s unorthodox approach has not gone unnoticed. Earlier this year he received a National Health Service innovator of the year award, partly in recognition of the savings being made at his practice, Unwin says. Their per-patient spend on diabetes drugs is about 70 per cent of the local average.

So is it time to overhaul official dietary advice? The National Obesity Forum is certainly leading the charge with its new report. But in an official statement, Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, called its contents irresponsible, saying the report was based on opinion rather than evidence and that it ignored “thousands of papers”. Her colleague John Newton said it was at odds with the international consensus. And it has also caused a rift within the National Obesity Forum, with a number of members unhappy about the report.
Critics of the idea argue that mainstream nutritional advice is based on decades of research, involving many hundreds of thousands of people, showing that a diet too high in saturated fats is bad for the heart.
And yet in the past few years, a body of literature has emerged to suggest that the question of fat might not be as straightforward as we once thought. For instance, a recent analysis of past studies found that diets lower in saturated fat are not significantly associated with less heart disease or stroke. Another found that the effects of reducing saturated fat depended on what people ate instead; there was a small benefit from replacing it with polyunsaturated fats, but no benefit from replacing it with carbs. The best kind of study is a randomised trial that alters people’s diet to see how their health changes. Here too, there is conflicting evidence – some trials show a benefit from reducing saturated fat, while others indicate none or even the opposite.
A high-fat diet could also be concealing other aspects of lifestyle or diet, such as too much sugar or a lack of exercise, which may be the real culprits for heart problems.
It also seems fat is a more diverse food group than it first appeared. Oils from plants tend to be unsaturated fats, liquid at room temperature; we thought of these as “good”, unlike saturated fat, mostly found in meat and dairy products and solid at room temperature. But recent studies suggest that dairy fats, which are saturated, do seem to protect people from type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Unsaturated fats too, are a mixed bunch (see “Slippery substance”).
The role of insulin resistance, the key problem in diabetes, also seems to be a bigger player in heart problems than we thought. One recent study found it is a bigger heart attack risk factor for men than high blood pressure, high cholesterol and being overweight. “We have been focusing on the wrong things,” says Aseem Malhotra, a cardiologist at the Lister Hospital, who is a vocal advocate of low-carbing.
“The question of fat might not be as straightforward as we once thought“
Still, many mainstream dieticians remain unconvinced. Julie Lovegrove at the University of Reading, who is a member of the UK government’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition, says that while not all the studies show consistent findings, “a diet high in saturated fat is not optimal for cardiovascular health”. Susan Jebb, professor of diet and population health at the University of Oxford, takes particular issue with the idea of not bothering to count calories on a low-carb diet, espoused in the new report. “Very few people manage to control their weight without some dietary restraint,” she says.
Such conflicting advice might well leave many of us scratching our heads over what to eat. Almost the only thing both sides agree on is that sugar is bad for you (see “Food fight”). If you tried to hedge your bets and avoid both fat and carbs, there would be little left. A more moderate approach is to limit just saturated fat, added sugars and refined carbs, leaving you more or less with an extra-oily Mediterranean-type diet, high in whole grains, fish, fruit, vegetables, nuts and olive oil.
This diet is higher in fat than the standard recommendations, but a recent large trial of a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra olive oil or nuts found that either approach cut heart attacks by nearly a third over five years compared with the standard low-fat diet.
People with type 2 diabetes, who are most at risk of heart disease and weight gain, seem to be voting with their feet. Unwin has published his diet advice on a free website and since its launch last November, 110,000 people have signed up, and over 80,000 people have completed the 10-week course. Of 2500 who took a survey 6 months later, the proportion taking diabetes drugs had dropped from 70 to 60 per cent. Although this was not a randomised trial and the results need to be replicated, Unwin thinks it’s a sign of what the diet can achieve without much input from health professionals. “The internet is democratising medicine, and patients have taught me so much,” he says. “It’s a new world – doctors should join in”

Slippery substance
The idea of “good” and “bad” fats has come under scrutiny in recent years. The benefits of unsaturated fats, traditionally seen as good for the heart, may vary due to their omega-3 content, which is thought could have anti-inflammatory effects. Then there’s the fact that when most vegetable oils are heated, they form toxic compounds called aldehydes, which have been linked to heart disease, cancer and dementia. So you might be better off frying in butter than sunflower oil.
Many cherished beliefs about cholesterol have also turned out to be wrong. Too much cholesterol in the blood, especially a type called LDL cholesterol, can cause dangerous plaques to build up in blood vessels. But more recently we discovered that smaller LDL particles cause more plaques than large LDLs. And while eating saturated fat raises large LDL levels, small LDLs are boosted most by refined carbohydrates.
That’s alarming because it suggests past research that used total LDL as a proxy for heart attack risk would be misleading – underplaying the dangers of eating processed carbs and exaggerating those of saturated fat.

July 2015: stop


Enough. It can be as hard to say ‘enough’, as it is to start something new. New things are exciting, they follow hope: “Life could be better if I did this!” Often, of course, after the excitement has died, we end up the same way we always were. 

‘Stopping’ is different. We may be taking a medicine. Or following advise, from experts, or a friend. We have a relationship, or smoke, or follow a habit, routine business.
There is an art to saying ‘stop’ at the right time. We don’t want to give up too easily - but nor do we want to end up doing the same thing all our lives, just because we once started.

How to decide? 

Listen to yourself. Listen, first, to your body. We like to trust machines, doctors, measuring our blood pressure and our cholesterol, our driving speed or test results. More and more we depend on gadgets to tell us whether to see a professional, or when the chicken is done in the oven. 
Can we still feel? Are we able to realize that we’re going too fast, even when the speedometer says it’s ok? Can we gauge that we’re working too hard, before our heart stops forever?

Saying ‘stop’ to ourselves, at exactly the right moment is very difficult. 
On the other hand, maybe we’d like to stop but can’t? 

Maybe it’s time to stop trying. To admit defeat. To stop beating ourselves up. To relax. To let go ……..

If you really can’t stop doing something, you may have chosen the wrong strategy. Something else may have to change first. 
Resisting the temptation of those elevenses biscuits is a whole lot easier when you’ve had a decent breakfast. Or you might be short of nutrients, which makes you crave particular foods - see [1].
Or a hormone called leptin, which normally tells you when to stop eating, is not doing its job. ‘Leptin resistance’ might be caused by consumption of fructose (in soft drinks for instance), sugar in general, stress, or overeating. In that case too, to try and stop eating has become impossible, unless you fix the leptin resistance first [2].

What can’t you stop doing, why not, and - should you? 


See our WATERING SPECIAL (right hand side, below July 2015), especially if you live in Somerset!


Veg: beet, broad beans, carrots, chinese leaves, globe artichokes, kohlrabi, cauli, cabbage, (sugar) peas, beans, lettuce, sweetcorn, turnips, courgettes, broccoli, spring onions, squash, radish, tomatoes, samphire, spinach (beet), chard, endive.
Fish: mackerel is at its best in July, cheap and an invaluable source of omega 3. Otherwise: dab, black
bream, crab, mackerel, clam, dover sole, megrim sole, grey mullet, flounder and American signal crayfish.
Meat: lamb, rabbit, wood pigeon.

Chinese/spring cabbage, calabrese, carrots, chicory, coriander, endive, florence fennel, kohlrabi, salad onions, (mangetout/sugar snap) peas, mooli, pak choi, turnips, black and white radish (mooli), perpetual spinach, chard, parsley, beetroot, french beans, mini cauliflower, lettuce*.
Half Julyif you like fresh greens early spring, sow endive, escarole type. If the winter is not too cold they won't need any protection, and will produce leaves either for salad or the famous Dutch 'andijviestamp'[1] till March. 
End of the month: corn salad, black radish, endive, kohlrabi. Sowing kohlrabi late in July should supply them well into the winter. They will stand in the soil until needed.
*Remember: only crisp lettuce (little gem, cos, webb) germinates well when soil temperature goes above 25C.
Plant: kale, sprouts, leeks, winter cabbages, broccoli, calabrese, cauliflower.


When your chives flower, that's not the end of it. The flowers can be used whole or torn up, fresh in salads, or fried. You can even dry them, and use for a subtle flavouring in the same way. If dried properly, they'll last for years. 

On a hot day, if you like cold soup (I don't), try:
Plenty of radish tops, onion, garlic clove, butter, cumin, sour cream, (1 tsp curry powder, walnut oil). 
Saute onion, garlic, cumin and curry powder in butter. After ab. a minute, add  l stock/water, bring to the boil. Add radish tops and cook for ab. 5 mins, whizz. Add sour cream, take off the heat and put some walnut oil on top if you have it.

400ml shelled broad beans, 10 radishes, 2 tomatoes, 150g lettuce, rocket or young spinach leaves, 2 tblsp olive oil, 1 tblsp cider vinegar, 1 level tsp mustard, (½ tsp honey/sugar, soy sauce, herbs).
Cook beans about 5 mins (with some of the herbs), drain and let cool a bit. Tear the leaves into smallish pieces, chop radishes and tomatoes. Mix dressing ingredients, and then everything together.

450g sliced courgettes, 225g sliced (uncooked)  new potatoes, 3 tblsp oil, 1 sliced garlic clove, 1/2 tsp chilli powder, 2 tsp ground coriander, 1 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp salt, 2 tblsp water, 1 tblsp finely sliced red pepper
Fry garlic for 30 secs. Add spices, salt and water, stir and fry gently for 2 minutes. Add vegetables and a bit more water, stir, cover and cook gently until the veg are done, stirring occasionally. Garnish with red pepper and  some fresh coriander if you have it.

MIXED VEGETABLE PASTA: use any veg you fancy or which needs to be eaten.
Pasta for 4, 150g fresh tomatoes or (part of) a tin, 2 courgettes, ab. 10 runner or broad beans, 150g cooked butter/kidney beans or chick peas, 1 heaped tblsp of pesto, 100ml creme fraiche, sour cream or yoghurt,  knob of butter and 1 tblsp of olive oil, 50g grated Cheddar (optional).
Chop courgettes into 1 cm pieces. Cut tomatoes into halves or quarters, depending on size. Slice the runner beans into 2cm chunks, halve french beans or pod broad beans. Cook pasta normally. Meanwhile, heat butter and oil. Add courgettes and tomatoes if fresh, mix. Cover and cook on a low heat until the courgettes are soft, add tinned tomatoes at the last minute. Stir occasionally. Add all the beans to the pasta 4-5 minutes before it is due to finish. Add creme fraiche/cream/yoghurt, cheese and pesto to the tomato-courgette sauce. Drain pasta and mix with the sauce.

500g courgettes, 4-5 tomatoes, 1 anchovy filet, 1 minced clove garlic, 1 tblsp bread crumbs, oregano, 3 tblsp olive oil, salt, pepper.
Slice tomatoes and courgettes into 1cm slices. Cook courgettes for 10 mins, drain. Preheat oven to 190°C. Arrange veg in a buttered dish. Mince garlic and anchovy, combine with oil, pour on top. Season and dust with oregano and crumbs. Bake for 25 mins.

Sauté slices of cooked potato in oil until they begin to turn golden. Add slices of chorizo, the cooked beans and chopped tomato. Stir until the beans are hot and the chorizo crisp and heated through. Finish with chopped parsley. You can use mint and leave out the chorizo, to make it vegetarian. 

1k potatoes, 800g runner beans, 250 gram (half a tin) white beans, 25g butter, 100ml milk/stock, nutmeg, pepper, salt, 200-250g ripe tomatoes, (herbs).
Cut the runners into strips. Cook them with the potatoes for 25 mins, drain, let steam dry without lid for a sec. Add butter, warm the white beans and tomatoes in the milk/stock, add everything else. Mash, season. Nice with sausages.

480g carrots cut in 7cm julienne strips, 225g French beans, 1 tbsp. oil, 2 tbsp. grated mature cheese (Montgomery's is very good!).
Cook carrots and green beans in 1-2 cm boiling water until tender; drain. Mix with oil, sprinkle with cheese. Nice with fried potatoes and onion. 

[1] See Thought for Food June 2012: cravings.

NEXT MONTH: diarrhoea.


Having looked at the weather forecast for the coming month, I decided to give you some watering information. It comes from, a very comprehensive organic website. To access this particular information  you have to become a member, which is why I copy it here in full.


Many people water the very surface of the soil which will then evaporate rapidly without ever reaching the plant roots. Check with a trowel that you are actually soaking the soil beneath. It is better to give the soil a good soaking every few days rather than just wetting the surface regularly.

Target the water at the soil rather than wetting the foliage. Water on the foliage will just evaporate or remain on the leaves encouraging fungal disease. Drip irrigation systems are by far the most effective way of delivering water to plants, as water is targeted to the plant roots rather than wetting the soil surface. They take a lot of setting up, but once in place, watering takes very little effort.


Mulching with compost or straw has a huge effect on reducing the amount of water that evaporates from the soil surface. It reduces the amount of watering needed and will also suppress weed growth. There are many different materials that are suitable for mulching from newspaper and cardboard, hay and straw to grass cuttings and leaf mould. All are excellent at retaining moisture in the soil and reasonably cheap. Gravel and grit on pots are also useful but may not be quarried in a sustainable way.


There are critical stages when it is most important to water plants. For directly sown plants the soil should be kept moist otherwise the seeds won't germinate. Likewise after transplanting, plants only have poorly developed roots so will frequent watering. After this critical period, the water requirement of plants differs.

As a very general rule, more leafy vegetables (eg spinach) will require more continuous water to allow leaf expansion. For plants that produce fruits (eg tomatoes, beans) watering is most critical from fruit or pod set onwards. If you want potatoes to be free from scab then you need to avoid letting the soil dry out for about six weeks after tuber initiation. This is approximately when the plants are 15 cm high, but you may wish to dig up a few to check.

If you have a very light sandy soil, water will drain out quickly. Improving the organic matter content by regular additions of compost, garden waste, manure and crop residues will gradually, over time improve the ability of the soil to retain moisture.

For more about harvesting and reusing water, and greenhouses, become a member of GardenOrganic,