xxxxxxxxxThe Many Uses of Epsom Salt

Today, Epsom salt has become an almost forgotten folk remedy — something that might crop up among the creased and yellowing pages of a farmer’s almanac. Sure, you can still find it on pharmacy shelves just about anywhere, but what the heck is this stuff, and what is it used for? These days, most people regard it as a medicinal soak for things like sore feet or insect bites. And, yes, it works wonders for both, but that is only the beginning. This multipurpose miracle salt can help cultivate internal and external well being, and it is also a great go-to ingredient for happy gardens and houseplants.

What is it? • Unrelated to table salt, Epsom salt (also known as magnesium sulfate) was originally discovered in mineral waters bubbling from a spring at Epsom in Surrey, England. It is a crystallized mineral compound of magnesium and sulfur — both essential to human wellness — that is naturally present in seawater and brine pools.

Health and beauty booster • Many people’s diets today are deficient in magnesium and sulfates, minerals that can be hard to come by when processed foods dominate grocery stores and restaurants. Enter Epsom salt. Magnesium and sulfates are absorbed right through the skin when we soak in a bath of Epsom salt, and so while we’re luxuriating in a warm tub, our bodies are benefiting from a boost in circulatory health and nerve function, as well as a reduction in muscle pain and inflammation. Not to mention, Epsom salt is a natural emollient for our skin. Unlike other salts, it leaves the skin feeling soft and silky rather than dry. Here are a few ways to take advantage:

Soothing soak • Add 2 cups of Epsom salt to your bath to soak sore muscles, soothe bug bites, speed the healing of bruises and help remove splinters.

Foot bath • Add 1 cup of Epsom salt to a basin of warm water as a balm for aching feet.

Skin scrub • Rub a handful of Epsom salt over wet skin for deep cleansing and smoother skin. Rinse and pat dry.

Bath crystals • Mix 2 cups of Epsom salt with a few drops of essential oil to create custom bath crystals. Store in an airtight container.

Laxative • Yes! It can even help with occasional constipation. (Follow directions provided by a pharmacy.)

Green garden ingredient • Did you know that Epsom salt can be used as a natural fertilizer? It is most commonly applied to potted plants, or to magnesium-hungry crops like potatoes, roses, tomatoes and peppers. The advantage of using magnesium sulfate over other magnesium soil amendments (such as dolomitic lime) is its high solubility — it melts right into the soil. Here’s how to use it:

Houseplants • 2 tablespoons per gallon of water; feed plants monthly.

Tomatoes • 1 tablespoon per foot of plant height per plant; apply every 2 weeks.

Roses • 1 tablespoon per foot of plant height per plant; apply every 2 weeks. Also scratch 1/2 cup into soil at base to encourage flowering canes and healthy new basal cane growth. Spray with Epsom salt solution weekly to discourage pests.

Shrubs (evergreens, azaleas, rhododendron) • 1 tablespoon per 9 square feet. Apply over root zone every 2 to 4 weeks.

Lawns • Apply 3 pounds for every 1,250 square feet with a spreader or dilute in water and apply with a sprayer.

Trees • Apply 2 tablespoons per 9 square feet. Apply over the root zone 3 times per year.

Garden startup • Sprinkle 1 cup per 100 square feet. Mix into soil before planting.

MaryJane Butters is the editor of MaryJanesFarm magazine. E-mail her at everydayorganic@maryjanesfarm.com.
Copyright 2010 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


xxxxxxx12 alternative uses for coffee filters

By Lori Bongiorno

I was surprised to come across several articles with long lists of alternative uses for coffee filters. I'd never really considered them for anything more than making coffee, and even then I know that choosing a reusable filter or making coffee in a French press is one way to stop throwing money away and cut back on waste.

I have to admit, though, that there are some very good reasons to keep a box of coffee filters on hand. They can come in handy in a number of situations and ultimately save you money since coffee filters are less expensive than other options.

Here are some of the most interesting and practical uses for coffee filters that I've come across.

1. Clean windows and mirrors. Coffee filters are lint-free so they don't leave behind any residue.

2. Save a bottle of wine. Broke the cork? No problem. Just place a filter over a pitcher and carefully pour the wine into it.

3. Line flower pots. Place a filter at the bottom of the pot to prevent soil from leaking out of the drainage hole.

4. Protect china and non-stick cookware. Place a coffee filter between dishes or pans when storing or packing.

5. Wipe off smudges. In a pinch, you can use to clean eyeglasses, camera lenses, televisions, and computer monitors.

6. Keep your microwave clean. Prevent splatters by covering dishes or bowls in the microwave with coffee filters. Using another plate is your best bet, but filters are a good alternative to plastic wrap. And you can easily reuse them a few times.

7. Make a bouquet garni. Tie up bay leaves, parsley, or other herbs in a coffee filter. Drop it in your stew or soup pot, and easily remove it when you're done cooking. Recipes often suggest cheesecloth for this process, but a coffee filter is an easy-to-find alternative.

8. Diffuse the flash on your camera. Place a coffee filter over your flash to soften the brightness. You can also try putting coffee filters over lights or lamps to lessen the harshness of direct light when taking indoor photos.

9. Make sachets. Tie lavender or other dried flowers and herbs in a coffee filter to make great-smelling bundles you can store in drawers and closets.

10. Use for sewing projects. Coffee filters make a great backing for embroidering or appliqueing soft fabrics.

11. Make tea bags. Wrap loose tea in a filter and tie with a string.

12. Use for storage. Wrap Christmas ornaments and other rarely used fragile items before packing away.

Environmental journalist Lori Bongiorno shares green-living tips and product reviews with Yahoo! Green's users. Send Lori a question or suggestion for potential use in a future column. Her book, Green Greener Greenest: A Practical Guide to Making Eco-smart Choices a Part of Your Life is available on Yahoo! Shopping and Amazon.com.


11-22 Oven Roasted Asparagus with Mint Dressing

For roasted asparagus:

1 bunch of fresh asparagus, with woody stems trimmed
3-4 thin slices of lemon
olive oil
salt and pepper

For dressing:
1-2 sprigs of spearmint (or 10-15 spearmint leaves), chopped finely
2 cloves garlic, minced finely
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a baking sheet, place the asparagus and coat with a generous amount of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with the lemon slices. Bake in the oven until the asparagus becomes tender - about 15-20 minutes.

While the asparagus is in the oven, combine the minced garlic, chopped mint leaves, lemon zest, lemon juice and olive oil in a bowl. Whisk together and add salt and pepper to taste.

When the asparagus tender, remove from the oven and allow it to cool for 5-10 minutes. Then spoon the dressing over the asparagus and serve.

11-22 Vegetable Pot Pie

2 carrots, small cubes
2 potatoes, small cubes
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
2 leeks, finely chopped
2 stalks of young garlic, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup cauliflower, small pieces
4-5 sugar snap peas, rough chopped

2-3 sprigs of thyme
1 pinch of herbs de Provence
1 tbsp all purpose flour
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 sheet puff pastry, at room temperature
2 tbsp cheddar cheese
1 tbsp Parmesan cheese
1 cup vegetable stock or water
1 cup half and half
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease a ovenproof casserole dish.

In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter and olive oil. Add the leeks and garlic, and saute until they become translucent. Next add the carrots and potatoes, and saute for 3-5 minutes until they start to become tender. Add the remaining vegetables, the thyme leaves (without the actual stems), and herbs de Provence.

Saute for 4-5 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir. Next, add the stock and half & half. Let the vegetable mixture simmer. The flour will help to thicken the sauce. Add the Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Pour the mixture into the casserole. Top with a sheet of puff pastry cut to size. Sprinkle the cheddar cheese on top. Bake until the puff pastry rises and the vegetable mixture bubbles. This could take anywhere from 25-45 minutes, depending on the thickness and temperature of the puff pastry sheet.

Serve hot.

Note: You could add pretty much any vegetable you have on hand. Just ensure that everything is chopped to roughly the same size.

11-22 Kale and Barley Soup

1 bunch kale, stems removed and roughly chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
5-6 cremini or baby Bella mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, chopped into 1/2 inch chunks
1 bay leaf
1 pinch herbs de Provence
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup barley
plenty of vegetable stock or water
salt and pepper

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute till they become translucent. Add the mushrooms and saute for a few minutes until they brown. Next stir in the kale. Add the bay leaf, herbs de Provence and the fresh thyme (minus the stems). Wash the barley in some warm water, drain, and add the barley. Add more than enough stock to cover the veggies and barley. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover the pot and let simmer for 25-45 minutes until the barley is cooked. (If you have quick cooking barley, it will become ready in 20-25 minutes. Otherwise, it might take up to 45 minutes or so.)

Serve with crusty bread. Enjoy!

xxxxxxxxxxxLearn how to be safe when canning your own foods & more about BPA-free canning lids

Bottom line: Here's the solution:


Here's the problem with BPA canning lids:


My wife and I belong to a CSA. We are getting some cucumbers that I would like to try and pickle. My wife says the lids to the classic mason jars have BPA in them. Do you know how much of a concern this is in the context of canning? Is this a recent development? Are there alternatives to mason jars?



She's right about the classic mason jar's connection to BPA. The glass jars themselves do not have BPA. It's the lids -- or more accurately, the lid linings. What a pickle! You want to can, not get can-cer!

BPA, the abbreviation for bisphenol A, is a synthetic estrogen used to make some plastics hard and as a resin in can linings so they don't rust. BPA also shows up in odd places like non-metal dental fillings, the thermal paper used for cash register receipts, medical devices, baby bottles, some plastic water bottles, and food containers. It's been in use for several decades. But it is definitely something you want to avoid. Even trace exposure can disrupt your endocrine system and create all kinds of health problems, including cancer, adult-onset diabetes, and obesity.

But here's the problem: it isn't easy to avoid BPA. The Centers for Disease Control found that 93 percent of Americans tested have BPA in their bodies. Canned food may be the primary source of exposure. So if you're going the extra mile to can your own food, Teak, it would be nice to go the extra, extra mile to be free from BPA.

I spoke to Dr. Anila Jacob, Senior Scientist and the resident physician at the Environmental Working Group, about ways to avoid BPA when you're canning.

"We know BPA leaches when it comes in contact with the food," she said. "One thing you can do is try not to fill the jar all the way up to the top, but that's hard because when you move it, it's going to shake."

The safest solution is BPA-free lids. And they're out there. Jacobs recommends calling lid manufacturers to check; most have a 1-800 number for concerned consumers like yourself. You might also take Jacobs' advice and drop the Food and Drug Administration a line requesting that they ban BPA. "The more the FDA hears about it, the more likely they are to take action," she said. For safer options, go to link at the top of the page.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxCheck out this video about Lisa. She and I think very similar...


SherylXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXLisa and I have very similar beliefs and passions... check it out.