Real Food

May 31, 2011


Greetings, friends of Enota!

Today we will talk about  some of the benefits of eating real food… organic, unprocessed food,  picked from the garden and eaten… the less “fixed”, the better.

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Yes, some people feel that a diet based on raw fruits and vegetables is outlandish and impossible to do.  Yet these same folks seem to think it is perfectly normal to eat a plateful of food oozing with fat and filled with dozens of chemicals that alter their body chemistry.  Our culture has become brainwashed into thinking that a meal of processed foods that come from a can or a box,  and which are laden with chemicals that most of cannot even pronounce,  are somehow what our bodies need…

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Let’s talk a little bit about why this is not so…

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Nutrition is a hot topic these days.   Almost every issue of every ladies magazine will feature some sort of diet; meanwhile, the cover of that same magazine has a photo of triple-layer  “Death-by-chocolate- fudge-delight”  cake!   Hmmm… which has the most impact?

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News media,  health food stores,  diet and health books all have advertising campaigns to educate the public about the fact that we need vitamins and minerals.  But, we are receiving a lot of misinformation from many sources. For example, we are not told that there is a big difference between the vitamin C in a fresh apple and the vitamin C in a pharmaceutically-produced synthetic pill!  The same problem exists with the synthetic vitamins put into breads and cereals to  “enrich”  or  “fortify”  them.

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Here’s the problem:  Our bodies are living organisms.  They consist of living cells that are constantly regenerating. The food we eat,  the liquid we drink, and the air we breathe provide us with energy and the building blocks our bodies needs for this constant regeneration.  Raw fruits and vegetables are also composed of living cells – exactly what our bodies require – natural vitamins, living enzymes and amino acids which the cells in the human body needs.

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Cooking,  freezing,  radiating,  and other processing kills this food and, of course, the cellular activity in the foods stops.   Once the life is gone from food,  it cannot be restored.  This alters the form of minerals and amino acids,  and completely destroys all enzymes and most vitamins!

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Despite  scientific proof that live vitamins are better for the human body,  we are bombarded with advertising that seems to say that processed food and synthetic vitamins are equivalent to fresh raw food….

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Why?  Well… there is a lot more

money to be made selling synthetic

vitamins and processed food than

there is selling fresh veggies from

your garden!

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If you look at the leading health food magazines,  you will see that more than 90 percent of their advertising come from manufacturers of synthetic vitamins and processed foods.  Obviously, this has a huge effect on the articles the magazine prints!  They are not likely to publish an article  with information about the difference between the nutrition found in raw fruits and veggies versus synthetic vitamins and processed foods.

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Here is one example of that difference. We can consume the nutrients from a pound of carrots by drinking an 8-ounce glass of freshly-juiced carrot juice. Ten minutes later the carrot nutrients are in the bloodstream and on their way to the cells.  (The vitamins in carrots include beta-carotene – which becomes vitamin A in our body – the B complex vitamins, vitamins C, D, E, and K,  along with the minerals iron, calcium, phophorus, sodium, potassium, magnesium, manganese, sulphur, and copper, in addition to 8 amino acids!

Contrasting carrot juice with

synthetic nutrients:

One pint of carrot juice has more constructive body value than 25 pounds of calcium tablets. Medical science knows that we need calcium to build strong bones.  But, we also know that the inorganic calcium we put in our bodies can form kidney stones.

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Here is a simple explanation.  The earth is full of minerals.  But the only source of organic minerals our bodies can benefit from is from plants.  We know we can’t eat a spoonful of earth and get nutrition from the minerals in it.  That is because the minerals are inorganic.  The only way we can benefit from the earth’s minerals is by turning them into organic minerals – through plants and their photosynthesis.

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Plants take in these inorganic minerals through their roots and transform them into living, organic minerals. Heat from cooking returns the minerals to their dead,  inorganic form.

 

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So,  increase the amount of raw food you eat every day. Decrease the processed foods.  Do some juicing.  And reap the health benefits of eating REAL food.

 

To learn more about raising your own organic fruits and veggies, visit us here at Enota Mountain Retreat.  We have hands-on lessons on organic gardening and farming.  Book your reservation today for a cabin, RV site, or campsite – all nestled in the North Georgia Mountains and surrounded by streams, woods,  and waterfalls.

 

Enota Mountain Retreat

1000 Hwy 180, Hiawassee, GA 30546

(706) 896-9966

email: enota@enota.com

official website: www.enota.com

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Portable Chicken Coops

May 27, 2011


Greetings, Enota friends!

Today we will discuss an interesting way that you can have a few chickens in a small movable coop,  easily managed on a small bit of land – even in the city or suburbs!  Of course, here at Enota we have large permanent chicken coops – and lots of chickens – but for the average person just wanting a few lovely organic eggs for themselves,  this might just be the way to do it!

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Movable Chicken Coops

Movable chicken coops are a great option for people who want to build a backyard chicken coop. They work well because you can relocate the coop to a new at will,providing your chickens with fresh grass to eat. Movable chicken coops are much more versatile than most standard coops. Keep reading to see why….

Portable Chicken Coops vs. Standard Chicken Coops

Standard chicken coops can be wonderful…. if you have plenty of space for one, that is! Not only do they require more space, but a lot of things factor into the location of the coop. It needs to get plenty of sunshine, but also stay cool enough during the summer. Plus most standard coops require more maintenance and need to be cleaned much more frequently.

On the other hand, movable chicken coops,  are very low maintenance. They can be moved to a new location at any time and are much more forgiving than standard coops are.

They also have the added benefit of providing your chickens with a fresh supply of grass when they need it. This prevents the chickens from eating too much in one spot and running out of food. Plus the chicken manure left behind will fertilize your yard, making clean up a breeze!

Portable chicken coops may be the

right choice for you if:

You don’t plan on owning more than about 6 chickens at a time.

You want a low maintenance coop that doesn’t require much clean up.

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You want to have the option of relocating the chickens to another area if desired

You want to supplement some of the cost of chicken feed and stretch your dollars further by allowing the chickens to eat fresh grass.

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So what do you think about movable chicken

coops after reading this far? Does it sound like

an option that you’re interested in?  Throughout

this post are ideas for constructing your own

portable coop…

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A chicken ark is basically a coop and grazing pen in one movable package. It generally has sleeping quarters above and a fenced pen below. A gangplank connects the two parts and can be raised at night to keep the birds in and predators out.

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Handles on each end allow two people to easily move the ark around the yard, giving the chickens fresh grass every few days. It also can be placed directly over open garden beds in the fall to let the birds fertilize, cultivate, and eat bugs.

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Other portable chicken coops/arks have various types of wheels or a combination of wheels and carrying poles.  Some can be moved by one person, but most require two people to move them.

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The bigger the wheels,  the easier it will be to

move your portable coop…

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As you can see from the various photos included in this post,  a portable chicken coop can be made from various materials.    Many folks have made them from scraps,  recycled materials,  and yard sale finds.  Part of the charm of portable chicken coops  is their uniqueness.  But, if you are “not-so-handy”, there are websites on the net that will instruct you on how to buy materials for and build a portable chicken coop.  Give it a try!

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And, for a hands-on experience with organic farming,  visit us here at Enota Mountain Retreat.   Come see  and interact with the chickens,  turkeys,  horses, goats,  ducks,  rabbits,  peacocks,  and more…  Book your reservation now for a cabin or campsite at Enota and enjoy the beautiful North Georgia Mountains.

Enota Mountain Retreat

1000 Hwy 180, Hiawassee, GA 30546

(706) 896-9966

email: enota@enota.com

official website: www.enota.com


Hello again,

friends of

Enota!

Today we will continue our discussion on growing olive trees.  We will also look at the use of all the parts of the olive tree and some of the history of the olive tree.  We hope you will find it informative and entertaining…

 Some History on Olive Trees:

Olive trees, the fruit, and the oil, all have special meaning in the Bible.  The olive tree  is one of the symbols for Israel and/or her people.  Olive oil is symbolic of the Holy Spirit.  The fruit is good deeds… One either bears fruit or does not…  Olive oil was  (and still is) used for anointing as well as for burning in Jewish and Christian ceremonies.

Very fine olive wood is often selected to be used for the spindles upon which a Kosher Torah scroll is wound. 

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Every part of the olive tree is used.   The wood,  the leaves,  and the fruit –  which is classified as a drupe. The simple way to think of a drupe is that it is a “stone fruit,” meaning it has a hard pit in the middle of a fleshy, edible fruit.   The stone contains the actual seed inside of that inner hard shell. Peaches and cherries are other examples of drupes. The various cultivars of olives can be described as having flavors and aromas anywhere from fragrant and fruity to buttery and meat-like. How’s that for a range of tastes?

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The olive tree an evergreen  but it is nothing like a conifer or a holly. Unless you allow the tree to become greatly stressed , it’s leaves don’t turn brown and drop off.  Olive trees don’t mind frost. Damage does not occur to the tender parts of the tree, such as new branch and twig growth, unless the temperature gets below 22° F and it takes several hours below 15° to do serious damage to the thicker parts of the tree. This is why it’s a good idea to keep an olive tree in a nice pot and be prepared to move it inside if you live where it gets consistently colder than those temperatures, as we do here in the North Georgia Mountains.

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 An olive tree can produce a fairly decent amount of fruit in a five to eight gallon sized pot. Fruit production will depend on the species and cultivar, weather conditions and the level of care given the tree.

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Olive trees hate to have their “feet wet.” Not only do olive trees produce better and tastier olives in drier conditions, they are very susceptible to fungal disease if they are planted in very rich soil that stays moist all the time. The conditions that are great for most vegetables and other plants are totally wrong for olives. They prefer rocky, sandy, almost consistently dry earth to grow well in and produce the richest tasting olives. When the trees are just getting started they need some care and better conditions, but the older they get, and the more trials they endure, the tougher they get. (  Is there a lesson there, or what?)

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The olive leaves are now harvested because it has been discovered that they have anti-aging, immune system stimulating, and anti-biotic effects. Of course, it has been known since the Garden of Eden that olive oil is an anti-biotic and has many healing qualities. But actual clinical research has now shown that olive leaf extracts are proven to reduce blood pressure, fight fungal infections, and reduce inflammation. A fresh extract of the leaves was recently shown to have more than double the antioxidant qualities than that of green tea extract. On top of that, it had 400% of the vitamin C content.

Among natural medicine practioners, olive leaf is used to fight all kinds of viral infections, including colds and flu, yeast infections, and ailments such as Epstein-Barr, shingles, and herpes. Consumption of both the oil and the leaf extract reduce blood levels of low density lipoproteins or LDL cholesterol.

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Olives are one of the few fruits that are good to eat whether picked green or fully ripe. They can be preserved in pickling brine or in their own oil.

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The process of extracting the oil would take an entire post by itself, and perhaps the day will come when we might want to experiment in learning how to do just that. In ancient times it was done by grinding the olive flesh into paste and then crushing it between mats of palm frond or grass mats, using pits carved out of rock and using small cranes with counterbalances to load stones on top of the mats. The liquid is crushed out of the meat of the fruit and then the watery part separates from the oil. Olives that are grown for their oil have up to half of their weight in oil.

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Perhaps you are wondering about the designation “Extra-Virgin” for olive oil. How can something be “extra-virgin?” Kind of like being “extra-dead.” You either are or you aren’t…   Actually,  it developed as a grade and has a very specific meaning. Not only is it from the very first pressing of olives, but it has to have a certain subjective grade of aroma and taste, as well as a maximum level of fatty acid content no greater than 0.8 gram per 100 grams. The first pressing of the olive oil was what Father God commanded to be used in lighting the menorah in the Temple, and for use in formulating anointing oil. Many healthcare practitioners today recommend first-cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil as the healthiest kind to consume.

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So,  grab a large flower pot, order an olive tree,  and get started on growing your own !  Olive trees are ornamental and relatively easy to grow;  and, after a wait of a couple years, your tree  will provide your household with olives.  Enjoy!

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For a personal experience with organic gardening and farming,  come visit us here at Enota Mountain Retreat.  Make your reservation today for a conference facility, cabin, RV site, or campsite.  You can relax and enjoy the beauty of the North Georgia Mountains.

Enota Mountain Retreat

1000 Hwy 180, Hiawassee, GA 30546

(706) 896-9966

email: enota@enota.com

official website: www.enota.com


Greetings, Enota friends!

Today and tomorrow  we will talk about olive trees,  olives,  olive oil… even olive wood… Enjoy!

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photo by Marcel Germain

Yes, you can grown your own olive trees!   Depending on your climate zone, you can either plant them in the ground or plant them in containers,  bringing them inside for the winter if temperatures drop below 22 degrees Fahrenheit.   Here in the North Georgia Mountains we will need to bring in our potted olive trees…

The olive tree is known to botanists as Olea europaea, with six basic subspecies and over twenty well known cultivars, each having unique qualities and flavors.

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saplings growing out of olive tree

Olive trees may seem like a paradox. They are extremely tough compared to most plants,  yet severe enough cold can kill them. In fact, they are more likely to be killed by too much water or too much cold and yet they are known to survive severe drought and even fire. A mature and healthy olive tree can be chopped down to the ground and its root system will put up new shoots and likely survive and thrive. Same thing can happen if you burn one of these trees to the ground.

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Olive trees don’t like a fully tropical environment. They prefer a moderately cold period in order to flower and set fruit well. Apparently it needs to get below 45° F for a couple months…

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Once olive trees become well established in the right environment they can grow very old. In several places around the Mediterranean Sea, there are olive trees that are over 2,000 years old.  Some of the trees on the Mount of Olives outside the old city walls of Jerusalem are at least two millennia old.

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Olive wood from the Holy Land and wherever it grows is used to make all kinds of things from furniture to eating utensils to jewelry.  Many people feel that it would be a sin to use any kind of stain on olive wood before sealing it;  the wood is just too beautiful with all the variances of grain color and naturally occurring patterns.

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beautiful patterns in olive wood

Of course, there is no reason to seal any wood that is used for food or beverage consumption. Some may think that it’s just a coincidence that wood still makes the best cutting surface for food. Not just because wood won’t dull a knife edge quickly the way other materials might, but because there are natural substances in wood that are powerfully anti-microbial. This is true even with very old cutting boards.

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Growing olive trees (holy land or domestically grown varieties) definitely falls into the category of delayed gratification. That being said, like many things in life, they’re worth the wait. Under the proper conditions, olive trees don’t begin to bear fruit until they are about five years old. This means that the tree you purchase at a nursery will probably not produce any fruit for at least 2 years after you bring it home. Luckily, olive trees are beautiful and worth growing purely as an ornamental tree, so you’ll have something nice to look at while you wait.

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Varieties of Olive Suitable for

Container Growing:

There are two very general types of olive, fruiting and fruitless. In case that wasn’t self-explanatory enough, some olives produce fruit that you want to eat, while others don’t produce fruit and are grown solely as an ornamental plant.  Since our focus  here at Enota Mountain Retreat is on growing organic foods,  we will only write about the fruit-bearing species.

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There are a number of fruiting varieties that are suitable for container growing.  Olives are slow growers, and adapt very well to container-gardening.  Here are a couple  varieties that will do well in containers:

Arbequina (zones 7-10) – Is slow growing and has a weeping habit. Produces inch long fruit that can be picked green or black. Responds well to harsh pruning, so it would be a good choice for someone who doesn’t feel confident about their pruning skills, or for balconies with a low overhang.

Picholine (zones 8-10) – Has an open, airy, upright habit. Pick fruit green. Picholine olives are highly prized by olive connosieurs.

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Caring for Olive Trees:

Olives are pretty low maintenance, great for someone who is new to growing fruit trees, or who likes plants that don’t mind a little neglect. Choose a large pot, something in the range of 24 inches wide and at least the same depth, and fast draining potting soil.

Sun: Full sun to bright partial shade. Can withstand hot, baking sunlight.

Watering: Allow them to dry out a bit in between waterings, never allowing the soil to become saturated. When the soil is dry in the first two inches, it’s time to water.

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Pruning: Thin out young plants to 3-4 main branches. After blooming in spring, clip the tips of the branches. Make the cut just above the point where a pair of leaves attaches to the stem. Leave each branch at least six inches long, but how much longer is up to you. 

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Winter Care: If you live in zone 7 or lower, bring your tree inside for the winter. Leave it in a cool room, away from a heater or furnace, near a south or west facing window.  As noted in the photograph to the left,  snow won’t harm olive trees… (But,  sub-freezing temperatures will… specifically, temperatures below 22 degrees Fahrenheit.)

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Olives are wind pollinated, and generally self-fertile. However, you will get better fruit production if you have more than one tree. Be sure to either choose two of the same variety, or if you are picking different varieties, two or more trees that bloom at the same time. Also, fruiting olives need two months of winter temperatures below 50F and above 22F, so plan to move your tree indoors at a strategic time so that they can get the cold weather they need without being damaged by temperatures that are too low.

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We hope you have enjoyed this educational gardening experience, and that you will consider growing an olive tree in your yard or garden.  Tomorrow we will continue our discussion on how to grow, harvest, and use your own olives.

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And,  for a hands-on learning experience in organic farming and gardening,  come visit us here at Enota Mountain Retreat.  Book a reservation now for a cabin,  RV site,  or campsite.   You’ll be glad you did!

Enota Mountain Retreat

1000 Hwy 180, Hiawassee, GA 30546

(706) 896-9966

email: enota@enota.com

official website: www.enota.com


Greetings, Friends of Enota!

Today we will talk about last-minute plans for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend.  There’s still time to plan a GREAT time!

         When is Memorial Day?

In the United States Memorial Day is always observed on the last Monday on May.  This year, Memorial Day will be May 30th.

Memorial Day also is the unofficial start of the summer travel season.  It is often the first day for public swimming pols to open, etc.,  with Labor Day being the  unofficial end of that same season.

While the holiday honors members of the military who died in service to their country,  it has also become a time for family gatherings,  with an emphasis on outdoor activities – cookouts, camping,  hiking,  swimming.

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What About Traveling this

Memorial Day Weekend?

Per an Associated Press article on the AAA website, the following article was posted about Americans travelling this year on Memorial Day:

DENVER (AP) — More Americans are ready to travel for Memorial Day but high gas prices and airfares will force them to cut back on activities like dining and gambling.

That’s the forecast from AAA. The auto club predicts that nearly 35 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more over the long holiday weekend.

That’s slightly more people than a year ago but less than the 35.3 million who traveled over Memorial Day in 2007 before the recession.

The auto club says 30.9 million people will travel by car and nearly 3 million by air.

Memorial Day Weekend at Enota!

A visit to Enota for Memorial Day weekend would be a pleasure as well as a relatively inexpensive family treat.  Enota is a two hour drive  north from Atlanta,   or south from Ashville, North Carolina.  Enota Mountain Retreat is a nature preserve in the North Georgia Mountains – located between Hiawassee,  Blairsville,  and Helen  Georgia.  Enota has cabins, campgrounds, a conference lodge with dining facility,  and an all-inclusive Retreat Center.  Enota also has organic gardens and farm animals.

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Enota offers a retreat and conference center for individuals,  couples,  families,  and groups up to 200 people.

Enota offers Wi-Fi internet access.

Cabins – 1 to 4-bedroom rustic cabins with fully equipped kitchens,  linens and towels,  grills,  and decks…  all surrounded by mountains,  streams,  and waterfalls.

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Enota is pet friendly!  Wouldn’t it be NICE to not have to leave “Fido” in “doggy jail” during your vacation?

RV sites : Top-rated premium full hook-up sites on the stream… level pad,  shaded with large wooden deck,   picnic table,  grill,  and fire pit.   Big Rigs welcome.   30 and 50 amp available.

Enota also offers streamside tent and pop-up camper sites.

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Group and extended-stay specials.

Catch-and-keep trout fishing.

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Organic gardens and farm animals.  In addition to our own Memorial Day weekend activities,   Enota is located in the center of many entertaining places to go and things to see.

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Book your reservation now for  a really nice escape to the mountains…

Enota Mountain Retreat

1000 Hwy

180,Hiawassee,GA 30546

(706) 896-9966

email: enota@enota.com

official website:www.enota.com



Greetings,  Enota Friends & Readers!

Today we will talk about the not-so–well-known sweetener,  yacon,   (pronounced, “ya-cone”,  with the accent on the second syllable).   Described as an “underground pear”,  yacon is really in a class of its own – usable as a vegetable in a salad, or made into powder or syrup for sweetener,  or just to munch on like a piece of fruit.

Fresh out of the ground yacon  looks very much like a baking potato.  But its flavor isn’t what what you might expect from an underground tuber – it’s like a sweet cross between early apples, watermelon and very mild celery, with a touch of pear. The tubers have that fine texture of water chestnuts.

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Yacon is also refreshingly juicy. “Yacon” means “water root” in the Inca language and its tubers were historically highly valued as a wild source of thirst-quenching refreshment for travellers. The liquid can also be drawn off and concentrated to produce yacon syrup. As with Jerusalem artichokes, yacon tubers are rich in an indigestible sugar – inulin – meaning that the syrup they form has all the sweetness of honey or other plant-derived sweeteners like maple syrup, but without the calories.

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Yacon also benefits the bacteria in the intestinal tract and colon that boost the immune system and aid digestion. This potential as a dietary aid and as a source of sweetness for diabetics has led to yacon being grown more widely, especially in the USA.

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Growing

Yacon is a perennial plant.  It is  easy to grow in most climates where there is reasonable rainfall and moderate heat. The plants do require a long season to grow – forming their tubers in autumn – but anywhere that parsnips and Jerusalem artichokes  grow will suit yacon.

You can either buy plants or, if you know someone who has them, you can divide the crown including the smaller roots that grow above the main tubers.

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Yacon can be slow to get growing in spring but quickly puts on lush, leafy growth through the summer to a height of 5 or 6 feet, once established. It flowers some years towards autumn, but it’s what’s happening under the surface that’s of most interest… Nose below the surface in late autumn and you’ll see that yacon produces two sets of roots – the large edible tubers that act as the energy storage facility for the plant, and the smaller propagation roots (resembling Jerusalem artichokes) which grow just under the soil surface and are the seeds for the following year’s growth.

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When you lift your yacon plants to harvest the tubers, cut the stems back to about 4 inches long and store the crowns covered in damp compost in a cool frost-free place where they won’t dry out.

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In early spring plant the crowns into large pots and wait for shoots to start growing from each small tuber. Split the crowns into individual shoots with their tubers attached and plant into smaller pots.  Yacon plants are quite sensitive to cold, so plant them out when you would tomatoes.  Plant them about 3 feet apart  (they will become big plants!) in a sheltered, sunny spot. 

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Yacon is very rarely troubled by pests or diseases, but they are hungry plants so  add  compost and/or rotted manure between growing seasons or move their growing spot altogether.

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Harvesting:

Yacon tubers develop into autumn, and as the frosts approach it’s worth putting a little straw around the plant to protect the tubers. The leafy growth is withered by the cold – as soon as this happens, use a long fork to gently lift the tubers. It helps to have another person pulling on the stems of the plant at the same time to get the whole plant up.

Snap the large tubers from the crowns. They’re crunchy, tasty and refreshing immediately, but a few days in the sun can add to their sweetness.

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Yields can be variable –  first year  you might expect about six tubers the size of very large baking potatoes per plant, in the second year considerably more.   A cool, dry shed or garage is perfect for storing yacon tubers until you’re ready to eat them. They may well sweeten a little over time, and  they can last many months if stored properly.

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Eating

yacon in a salad

Yacon has a crunchy texture, slightly reminiscent of water chestnuts, and a sweet flavor, so it’s rather good simply peeled, sliced and eaten as a snack. 

It’s great in salads too, though its tendency to brown means that you should add it at the last minute, once everything else is assembled and ready to be dressed, or sprinkle with a little lemon juice to prevent it discolouring as it’s peeled (and do peel it, the skin can be a little bitter).

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Yacon also has a delightful tendency to absorb sauces and dressings, which make it a fantastic vehicle for other flavors. Try it grated with carrots in a mustardy vinaigrette with a handful of sunflower and pumpkin seeds, or combine peeled, chopped yacon with chunks of pineapple, chopped papaya and mango and dress in freshly squeezed orange juice and a spritz of lemon.

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You could also use yacon instead of apples in a Waldorf salad. Just peel and dice the yacon and toss it in lemon juice to stop it from going brown, then combine it in a bowl with chopped celery, some raisins and walnuts. Serve immediately on crisp lettuce leaves.

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don’t waste an opportunity with the leaves – they make a delicious wrap, in much the same way as vine leaves or cabbage leaves do, for any number of fillings.

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As mentioned early in this post, yacon can be made into syrup or powder and used as a healthy sweetener.  It also can be made into “chips” and makes a nice sweet tea. Yacon is so versatile!  It is well worth it to grow yacon in your organic garden!

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Thanks for joining us today;  we hope you have found this post educational and interesting.  For hands-on organic farming and gardening experience,  book a cabin or campsite  here at Enota Mountain Retreat.  Situated in the beautiful North Georgia Mountains, Enota is a nature preserve, surrounded by mountains, waterfalls, and streams.

Enota Mountain Retreat

1000 Hwy 180,Hiawassee,GA 30546

(706) 896-9966

email: enota@enota.com

official website: www.enota.com


Hello, Friends of Enota!

A week or so ago we wrote a series on garden pests.  Today we will take an interesting look at a garden friend – the spider.  (Yes, the spider!)  Many of us have a love/hate relationship with spiders…

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We have no problem working outside and having bees buzzing around us.  Honeybees especially, couldn’t care less that we are working around them, as long as we don’t make any overly aggressive moves toward them.   Carpenter bees,  bumblebees and most wasps don’t  pay much attention to us either.  A praying mantis crawling on a bare arm is no threat at all….

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But spiders seem to give us the creeps. Discovering a spider crawling on our clothing can make us dance!  There are poisonous spiders, as we will note later in this post;  and, perhaps that is why so many of us are “creeped out” by spiders….

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When we posted here before about beneficial insects in the garden, we barely mentioned spiders.  But then, spiders are not insects. They are in another whole class by themselves. The class arachnida.  (Ticks and mites are also in this class and we don’t much like them either, although they don’t seem quite as scary.)  If it were not for the venom thing,  gardeners could really love spiders!  A knowledgeable gardener would not kill spiders outside the living quarters.  That’s because spiders are so much more effective at killing the  bad bugs that we don’t want in our gardens.  Spiders don’t hunt humans;  they don’t want to suck our blood. Nor do they  want to eat any of our precious plants. All they want to do is  hunt down and capture  bugs, sometimes setting  elaborate traps to capture them.

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If spiders are not an example of intelligent design, then such a thing does not exist. It would be amazing if all spiders only spun one kind of silk and all of them made the same kind of webs. Nothing could be further from the facts. Most people think of spider webs as the typical two-dimensional, spiral pattern screen created to catch flying insects. It should boggle the mind that a tiny creature that never had a course in engineering knows that anchoring only three points creates a flat plane of stability upon which to build such a net. Then they may place more anchor lines for added strength, but always in the proper position to maintain a flat plane.

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A spider web with droplets of dew in the tall grass looking like a diamond encrusted hair net is a beautiful sight. That web is designed with two very different kinds of silk. The radial arms are of a non-sticky kind that the spider knows are the safe lines to run along. The spiral strands are made from a very sticky formula even though they come out of the very same spinnerets. Some of the silk that the spider spins has very little to no elasticity when it needs a strong cable. But the sticky spiral strands have a chemical structure that lets them stretch quite a bit without breaking. All the better to enhance the tangling effect on the prey.

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Funnel web spiders build something entirely different. These spiders are a bit scary  because they are quite venomous. It makes sense that they are, since their web is not designed to do any actual catching of prey. Like the spiral web, it serves as home, but that’s the only similarity. The funnel style is an elaborate surveillance network. The cave- like opening that is very apparent in the photo is barely visible enough to get your attention.

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The vast majority of the funnel web spider’s web stretches far beyond that opening and is very fine and delicate. The spider sits hidden inside it’s little lair reading and interpreting the signals that get sent down the line from creatures that are touching it’s amazing array of sensor wires. The spider can tell approximately how big the insect is and probably has it encoded in its DNA to be able to identify the exact species based on its movements. When the prey gets close enough to the entrance, the spider darts out and injects a  lethal dose of poison,  then drags the helpless insect back into the hole for dinner.

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The most common spider most gardeners will  see is the wolf spider.  Wolf spiders don’t seem to build webs of any kind. They crawl all over in the garden and tend to blend into their surroundings, only becoming visible when disturbed enough to move to safety. They chase down and capture their prey;  they are the gardeners’ friend.  Should you be bitten by a wolf spider, it is good to know that their venom is  painful and irritating, but not having any long lasting effects.

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This is in great contrast to the spider that informed people fear most; the brown recluse or Loxosceles reclusa. This spider’s venom is so bad that a bite it causes necrosis in the flesh… It causes the skin, fat, and even muscle tissue to die.  Should you be bitten by a brown recluse,  seek medical attention immediately;  this is no time for  “do-it-yourself”  doctoring!

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Before you scroll down any farther, we must warn you that the pictures below are graphic. They show the results of bites from the brown recluse  (also known as the fiddle head spider). If you are easily grossed out by such things, this is where you will want to exit the article or scroll past it very fast.

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The first picture shows the initial stages of blistering and decay from a bite.

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This is about a day after a Loxosceles  ( Brown Recluse/fiddle head spider)  bite with later stage necrotic damage.

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An example of having to have necrotic tissue removed prior to skin grafting. This damage was all from a Brown recluse spider.

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Okay, so that is why many of us don’t like spiders. But we should  tolerate them and appreciate the fact that they provide a lot of good to our gardens.

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How do Spiders Eat?

Grass spider retrieving prey from her web

Spiders don’t chew their food. When they get to the bug in their web, they bite it and inject venom. The venom either paralyzes or kills the bug. Then the venom turns the bug’s insides into liquid. While the venom is working, the spider wraps the bug in silk. She may drink the liquid then, or tie the little silk bundle to her web so she can snack later.

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Why  Spiders Are Our Friends:

Even though they can bite, spiders are our friends. They eat more insects than birds do, especially yellow flies, which really bite people a lot. Spiders don’t see very well. If you stay more than a foot away from them, they can’t even see you, and they certainly can’t bite you. If a spider gets on you, the only thing it wants to do is get off. Don’t squash him; just flip him off. He may well eat the bug that was going to destroy your garden or sting you tomorrow!

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Once again, we hope you have enjoyed this reading and that you have learned something new as well.  For a great learning experience on organic farming and gardening,  come visit us here at Enota Retreat.  Book a cabin or campsite.  Our facilities can handle a group varying anywhere from 1 person to 200!  We hope you will visit us soon.

Enota Mountain Retreat

1000 Hwy 180,Hiawassee,GA 30546

(706) 896-9966

email: enota@enota.com

official website: www.enota.com

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