Dill weed, as it is sometimes called, is part of the family of plants with hollow stems called umbellifers. Other plants included in this family are carrots, fennel, cilantro and parsley. Its origin can be traced back to Southern Russia, the Mediterranean and Western Africa but its name is derived from an Old Norse word “dilla” which means to calm and sooth. The Greeks used it as a symbol of wealth. The Romans believed it brought good fortune and made wreaths for their athletes from it. The Egyptians used it as an aphrodisiac and to ward off evil. However, in spite of all the beliefs placed on this herb, these different cultures used dill to sooth stomach ailments and to relieve one of flatulence. In fact it was commonly served at large banquets to sooth over-indulgence. The essential oils in dill seem to stimulate the secretion of bile and digestive juices and at the same time usher gas gently down the digestive tract and out of the system. It accommodates and enhances the flavors of vegetables, meats and seafood. My personal favorite use of the herb is simply mixing it with scrambled eggs.
Plant life possesses special chemicals that may have a tremendous impact on our quality of life. They have been given a special classification called phytochemicals. These are chemicals that are responsible for giving a plant its protective coloring, its unique odor and special taste. Vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds are rich sources of these phytochemicals. These chemicals have a tremendous effect on the chemicals in our body. Scientists are now attributing plant chemicals with the power to prevent one in five cases of cancer. Studies are finding that they are powerful in stimulating the immune system against fighting off bacteria and viruses. They can reduce inflammation, block environmental carcinogens, trigger death of damaged cells as well as regulate hormones. As far back as the early 1900s scientists started questioning why people who ate a diet rich in plant food had lower rates of cancer. It was then discovered that certain plants such as broccoli had sulforaphane which seemed to stop cells from becoming cancerous. However, not all of these chemicals have been named or classified. Some of the more commonly known are lycopene in tomatoes, resveratrol in grapes, curcumin in turmeric, beta-carotene in sweet potatoes and the list goes on and on. Supplements have now been made available for many of these chemicals. However, they are not as effective and, in some cases, have even proven to be toxic if taken in large amounts. Phytochemicals are best absorbed if taken in combination with their original food source. Some questions remain to be answered. What quantity is sufficient for maximum health, how long does their protection last, how do they react with each other and to what extent does cooking affect them? Until all of these questions are answered it can’t hurt to sit down and enjoy a colorful plate of mixed fruits and vegetables.
Myopia (nearsightedness) is a condition that has steadily increased since the 1970s. According to the National Eye Institute, 90% of high school graduates now have this condition. With Myopia there is an elongation of the eyeball changing the angle in which sunlight hits the eyeball in turn making it difficult to focus on distant objects. The condition has been attributed to the many hours young people spend on technology. A new study in Jama Ophthalmology is attributing Myopia to many hours spent indoors and the lack of sunshine. The London school of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine examined 3,100 older Europeans. All factors were considered from careers to hours spent reading. Those that had been exposed to UVB radiation from the sun, between ages 14 and 19, were 25% less likely to have developed Myopia by middle age. Caution should still be taken as to avoiding sun exposure during peak hours.
Researchers at Cornell University discovered that diners in cafeterias that grabbed a tray before collecting a meal were more inclined to collect foods of a more balanced nature. Selections usually included a salad, entree and a dessert. A tray-less trip usually forced diners to leave one of the choices since only one dish could be carried in each hand. The study showed that those individuals usually left out the salad and kept the dessert.
The challenge for fruit growers has always been, how can you leave fruit on the vine long enough to ripen and still be juicy when it arrives at market? This is the goal of Apeel Sciences a company whose aim is to eliminate gas and wax used by most commercial farmers. We have grown accustomed to fruits and vegetables that are devoid of taste simply because of their ability to withstand time and transportation. In so doing most produce is picked before it is truly ripe. Crops can be dipped in a solution called Edipeel created by Apeel Sciences. It is a product that has been derived from totally organic sources composed of grape skins after wine-making, stems of broccoli that have been discarded, banana peels and other fruit and vegetable waste. Edipeel creates an edible barrier that can repel pests and fungi during transport.
A study published by the Journal Chemosphere found that Manhattan neighborhoods that had the highest blood lead levels in children also had high levels in pigeons that inhabited the same region. Rebecca Calisi of Bernard College conducted the study. Data from 825 pigeons was examined. There was a direct correlation between pigeons and children in both Soho and Greenwich village according to statistical analysis by the New York City Health Department and data from the Wild Bird Fund. Pigeons are easy to study because they live in close proximity to humans, eat the same food and spend most of their lives in a square mile. This information could prove invaluable in detecting areas of the city that might pose a potential risk for lead poisoning and therefore prevent health problems before they arise. The benefits of using pigeons could extend outside the city limits where they could be useful in monitoring heavy metals, pesticides and fire retardants.