August 2016

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We can learn a lot from studying our urine. When I was young, in Holland we used to have toilets with a little platform, so we could see what we had produced. I gather they still have them in Germany. Things are less clear with the British, more considerate, system. However, it can be useful to be aware of what’s going on.

If everything is normal and healthy, the colour of your urine should be a pale yellow to gold.
If it has no colour at all, you may have been drinking a lot of water or taking a diuretic [1]. But there are other possibilities.
Very dark honey coloured, orange or brown: you’re dehydrated and need to get more fluids right away. It could also warn of liver problems, or bile in your urine.
Pink or red: you’ve eaten carrots, blackberries, beets, or rhubarb. It can also be an effect of medications. If not, there may be blood in your urine, caused by kidney disease, a UTI (urinary tract infection, see below), prostate problems, or a tumor.
Bright yellow or orange: you may have had a lot of vitamin C or B2, carrots, beets – or it can be caused by medications.
Blue or green: shows food dye or medications, or, possibly, a few rare conditions.
Foamy or frothy: a sign of protein in your urine, which may mean you have kidney issues.
Cloudy urine suggests the presence of phosphates, possibly a precursor of kidney stones. Cloudiness can also indicate an infection. If it worsens and you feel burning or urgency, you may have a UTI – see below.


Ammonia means dehydration: drink!
Sweet-smelling urine may be a sign of diabetes or liver disease.
Foul smell can mean you have a UTI. Other symptoms are: burning during urination, fever, chills, and back pain.
Asparagus has its own aroma, but coffee and vitamin B6 supplements can also affect the urine.


If you’re constantly feeling the urge to go, without drinking any extra fluids, this can indicate: an overactive bladder, a UTI, interstitial cystitis, or diabetes. Urgency means you need to go right away, have difficulty holding it in, and wake up several times to use the bathroom.
For men, urgency and frequency could be symptoms of a bladder problem or, more commonly, an enlarged prostate. Prostate problems can also cause incomplete emptying of your bladder, so you still feel like you have to go again minutes later. This is not something to be ignored, and won’t go away on its own.
Increased frequency and urgency in women may be a symptom of infection, kidney stones, or a more serious condition.
Don’t assume drinking less water will lessen the trouble, for dehydration can cause urinary issues too.

Check with the doctor if you notice a change in your pee that doesn’t seem linked to new medications or to a recent meal – especially if it lasts more than a day or so, or if it comes with fever, back or side pain, vomiting, feeling very thirsty, or discharge.
For more detail, see


There is stress-, urge-, and overflow incontinence [2], each of which needs a slightly different approach.
For exercises and other natural remedies, see,,20457139,00.html,, and


The risk of getting a UTI is increased if you don’t drink enough, have frequent baths (retrograde infection) or wait long to urinate; or if you are pregnant, menopausal or use a catheder. With diabetes the risk is worse, as a high sugar level in the urine is very favourable for bacteria.
Make sure you use cotton underwear, wipe from front to back, urinate before and after sexual activity and don’t wear tight clothes,.
Though most will want to take their UTIs straight to the doctor, there are things you can do yourself once you have it.
Drink plenty of water! Avoid drinks that may irritate your bladder: coffee, alcohol, and soft drinks containing citrus juices or caffeine. Unsweetened cranberry juice, blueberries, and vitamin C are excellent. For more food and drinks which help, see
See also

And since you ask, yes, unless you have kidney problems you can drink your own urine! See


And some good news: Asda now sells boxes of imperfect in-season vegetables! One box  will feed a family of four for a week and costs £3.50 – 30% less than standard lines (

veg: aubergines, french/runner/broad beans, calabrese, cauli, cucumbers, fennel, chard, spinach (beet), summer squash, sweetcorn, globe artichokes, beet, carrots, courgettes, cabbage, kohlrabi, lettuce, peas, peppers, radish, turnip, marrow, tomatoes, spring onions, salsify/scorzonera, samphire, rocket, watercress.
Cheap, free range good-for-you meat: rabbit and wood pigeon. Puffballs!
Fish is excellent at this time of year: mackerel, black bream, crab, grey mullet, trout, scallops, sea bass, flounder.

Chinese cabbage, spring cabbage, chicory, kohl rabi, lettuce for harvesting November/December, quick variety peas, mooli (=white) and black radish, chard, spinach beet. Lamb’s lettuce (corn salad), rocket and especially land cress will survive the winter.
Perpetual spinach, (spinach beet, or leaf beet) tastes as good as ‘true’ spinach, is more forgiving of soil and weather and doesn’t go to seed so quickly. Sow now for winter/spring crop.
Early August only: chard, florence fennel, spring onions, turnip.

Screen Shot 2016-06-07 at 19.50.27BROAD BEAN and COURGETTE SALAD
4 courgettes, 200g podded broad beans (1kg unpodded weight), 2 tbsp olive oil, 10 walnut halves, thyme or savory.
For the vinaigrette: 1 tbsp cider vinegar, 50ml olive oil.
Whisk vinegar and oil with seasoning, set aside. Cook beans in boiling water for 3 mins. Drain, and if they are very old, you may like to remove the skins. Cut courgettes into four lengthways and slice into 5mm thick pieces. Heat oil, add courgettes. Cook, stirring, for 8 mins, until they are light golden. Add beans, thyme/savory and seasoning, cook for another 30 secs. Remove from heat and stir in vinaigrette while still warm. Serve warm with chopped walnuts on top, or cold with some lettuce leaves.

CHARD SOUP with SOUR CREAM (or use spinach)
200g Swiss chard, 3 tblsp sour cream, 1.5l water/stock, onion and/or garlic.
Saute onion (and garlic), add liquid, bring to the boil. Add finely chopped chard, cook till done, blitz if you like. Dilute the sour cream with some of the soup, mix all together, season.

2 roundhead lettuces, 1 tblsp oil/butter, 3 thinly sliced shallots or 1 onion, 1 tblsp flour, 200ml stock/water, 300g (frozen) peas, (3 tblsp yoghurt or sour cream).
Remove lettuce cores, halve and thinly slice the leaves. Sauté the shallots, ab. 2 mins. Add flour, stir, ab. 30 secs. Add stock, bring to the boil. Stir in the lettuce and peas, cover, and simmer until they are both tender. (Stir in yoghurt or sour cream.) Season.

PARSLEY SALAD: served as a small sidedish to go with meat. Enough for 8 people, but the leftovers will keep.
100g Italian parsley, 2 tblsp fresh lemon juice, 2 tblsp lemon zest, 6 tblsp walnut oil, 2 tsp dark sesame oil, 1 tsp honey, salt, pepper, 3 tblsp toasted sesame seeds.
Discard parsley stems. Whisk together lemon juice, zest, walnut oil, sesame oil, honey, salt and pepper. Add parsley and sesame seeds and mix. Let sit for at least 30 mins so that flavors meld.

RUNNER BEAN STEW serves 2   
300g runner beans, 3 tblsp olive oil, 3 sliced garlic cloves, large pinch chilli flakes, 2 cloves; 2 x 400g tins plum tomato drained of juice or 400g tomatoes and some tomato puree; basil, grated cheese.
Destring beans and cut on the diagonal into 1 cm pieces. Heat olive oil in a frying pan, add garlic. Cook for 1-2 mins then add beans, potatoes, chilli and cloves. Cook for 2 mins then tip in the drained tomatoes. Cover and cook for 20-30 minutes until beans are tender and the sauce is thick and rich. You may want to add a bit of water while this is cooking, but don’t add too much. Stir the basil through just before serving and season to taste. Serve with grain or pasta and grated cheese.

Cook pasta, and when it is almost ready add peas, broad beans, thinly sliced runner beans and thinly sliced carrots. Strain and immediately put back over the heat with a splash of the best olive oil, sea salt, cracked pepper, snipped chive blossoms, small pieces of goat’s cheese and chopped chives or chervil. Stir briefly together.

ab. 50g cooked corn (from the cob, or a tin), 100g spinach, 130g tomatoes, small onion, 1 egg, 5ml water/milk, 30g flour, salt, pepper, butter/olive oil, chilli pepper (grated cheese).
Mix flour, egg, and liquid into a batter, add corn, season. Saute chopped onion with sliced chilli for 1-2 mins, add chopped tomatoes, fry for 2 mins. Add batter, spread it well over the mixture, cook very low without stirring. In the meanwhile, cook spinach, drain. When the top of the pancake mix is dry, turn it over, fry for 1 min. Put on a plate, spinach on top, plus some cheese if you like.

If you have nothing much in the garden, try the following:
use one variety of greens, or a mix: bolted lettuce, beet greens, borage, spinach, oriental greens, rocket, cos etc, does not matter whether rough, bitter or not very pleasant. Dunk in water immediately – this is important! – after picking, and keep submerged for a few hours. Strain. Cut the leaves. Add some chopped onions and plenty of garlic if you like it. Also lots of herbs and spices – the leaves themselves will have hardly any flavour.
Saute in oil or butter. First, stirring, on quite a high fire to let them wilt; then turn it down. Simmer very gently, covered most of the time for half an hour or longer. Stir every so often. Add salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar. Also grated cheese if liked. Stir and heat through. Done! Nice, and not bitter at all, in spite of the title.

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“Full-fat food can reduce obesity.”
“Leading public health bodies collude with food industry.”
“The recent Eatwell Guide from Public Health England was produced with a large number of people from the food and drinks industry.”
Says the independent professional organisation Public Health Collaboration.
Who knew? You did, if you read this blog regularly ….. See [3].

[1] Normally drinking too much does not matter, but if you go really over the top this can lead to hyponatremia, which occurs when someone drinks so much liquid the body’s balance of sodium to water goes off-kilter – a dangerous condition. Other risk factors for hyponatremia include some medications and medical conditions, such as kidney disease.

Next month: forgetfulness or Alzheimer’s? 


July 2017: the immune system

Our immune system is responsible for preventing and fighting infections, germs and cancer. Located throughout the body, it includes, amongst many others: the thyroid, adrenal glands, and the intestinal system. The appendix, generally thought to be useless, in fact is made entirely of immune tissue and contains the best and most useful bacteria for the gut.

Symptoms of immune disorders are: frequent sickness, allergies, tiredness and fatigue; blood disorders, inflammation or infection of the internal organs; digestive issues, delayed growth and slow development.

Reasons why the immune system may not be functioning properly are, for instance: emotional stress, poor sleep, viral or bacterial infection, drug therapy, blood transfusions, surgery, overtraining, UV and other forms of radiation. Also: smoking, alcohol, excessive use of medicines (antibiotics), a sedentary life, obesity.
And of course: bad diet!

How we can help
The state of our immune system is of vital importance for our wellbeing – and we can do a lot about it ourselves.

Even small changes will make a big difference.
Try ditch processed foods, the usual culprit. Sugary snacks, soda, fried foods and red meats are best avoided. See [1].
Most lists of immune-boosting foods contain yoghurt, garlic, honey, mushrooms, tea, coloured vegetables, chicken soup and Ceylon or true cinnamon – see for yourself [2].

We tend to be too hygienic! Both advertising and peer pressure make us clean ourselves and our environment far more than necessary. Not only do we damage the natural protection of microbes on our skin, we also add dangerous substances like triclosan, a carcinogenic pesticide which disrupt our hormone system and normal breast development. It is now found in practically all cleaning products [3]. For children in particular, it is important to come in contact with dirt. If you have been exposed to a variety of germs in your early years, you are far less likely to get allergies and asthma later [4].
And do we really need a shower every day? More and more, experts are coming to a different conclusion.
Some researchers think that by washing our skin on a daily basis we could be scrubbing off a natural shield. The harmless bacteria on our skin help form a barrier against microbes that are potentially harmful, says Elizabeth Grice from the University of Pennsylvania. They protect us, they educate the immune system, modulate the immune and inflammatory response and don’t allow pathogenic or opportunistic bacteria“ [5].
As well as getting a tiny bit dirtier, what else can you do? Lemon, cooking oil, vinegar and baking soda are just a few multipurpose cleaning items you may find in your closet. For how to use those, see [6].
As to shampoo – some do it differently. Heard of the No Poo movement? It’s not what you think …. [7].
And if you dislike the smell of Febreze type air fresheners, you’re absolutely right. Like so many similar products foisted upon us by the clean brigade, it produces a ‘fragrance’ which is both highly poisonous and impossible to get rid of [8].

Habits are very important, they keep us together in this life. But change is possible – and babysteps work!


And … don’t shun the sun! I just read in the New Scientist that they have finally discovered that sun is good for you. Unless you have rarely ventured outside and then, suddenly, go on a sunbathing holiday. But if you catch the sun regularly, you escape many other diseases from which even taking vitamin D won’t protect you.
So no need for all those nasty chemical sunscreens! See ‘Don’t shun the sun!’ on the right hand side of this page.
And if you got yourself a bit burned, apparently there is always sage tea. See Who knew?

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.
Plant: kale, sprouts, leeks, winter cabbages, broccoli, calabrese, cauliflower.
*Remember: only crisp lettuce (little gem, cos, webb) germinates well when soil temperature goes above 25C.

250g French beans, stock, 2 tblsp fresh dill leaves, 2 tblsp chives, smallish onion, butter, pepper.
Mince dill and chives. Bring stock to the boil, add beans for 10 mins or until tender. Meanwhile, sauté the onion in the butter. Pour the liquid off the beans, stir in chives and dill. Mix the bean mix with the sautéed onion, stir for a minute, season, done.

TOMATO and BERRY SALAD: an unusual combination, but both Mike and I liked it.
2 tbsp sherry or balsamic vinegar, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, 300g really nice, ripe tomatoes, 200g seasonal berries: raspberries, blackberries, gooseberries, redcurrants, blueberries, white currants, chopped or left whole depending on size; 100g stale bread, 1 tbsp butter, seasoning. Fresh herbs like basil, dill, tarragon, parsley, chervil, chives, nasturtium.
Cut up the tomatoes, rather fine. Combine vinegar, soy and oil.
Gently toast the breadcrumbs in a hot pan, add butter and keep toasting until golden. Season, let cool. Mix tomatoes and berries with the herbs and the dressing. Scatter with crumbs. (Nuno Mendes, Guardian)

Mackerel and broccoli for two; 3 anchovy fillets, 2 garlic cloves, 1 chilli (or powder), olive oil, (rosemary).
Chop three anchovy fillets, two cloves of garlic and one red chilli – mash to a near-paste. Melt the paste in a small frying pan with 2 tblsp of butter. Meanwhile, grill or sauté the mackerel in oil. Top with rosemary if you have it. Don’t add salt, because the sauce will supply that. Steam the broccoli, drain, then stir it into the anchovy sauce. Serve next to the mackerel.
Best with plain cooked potatoes, methinks.

A lovely cheap and easy dish, as long as you do the work beforehand. Every lamb has a heart, so if you ask your butcher he may well come up with one, if only from the freezer.
450g lamb or beef hearts.
For the marinade: 2 tblsp balsamic vinegar, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp ground black pepper and 1tsp thyme.
Trim the heart(s) and cut in 1.5 – 2cm cubes. Marinate for at for least 8 hrs. Grill, spreading out into a single layer, and let brown for a minute or two. Toss and let brown on the other sides for another minute; remove. Delicious.
For more recipes see June issues from former years – click on June 2017 on the right hand side.

If you’re lucky enough to have lots of parsley, try this salad, It is not actually a salad in that you eat lots of it: best used as a sidedish/condiment with meat or fish.
50g flat-leaf parsley (weighed without too much stem), 50g finely chopped red onion, 2 tbsp rinsed capers, 12 anchovy fillets, 50g chopped tomatoes, lemon zest, lemon juice, 4 tbsp extra virgin olive  oil, salt, pepper.
Chop parsley and fish, mix everything, season.
This is great to serve on toast, mixed with pasta or as a side dish with grilled chicken or fish.

LETTUCE MASH! for 3-4.  
What to do when you have bolting lettuces but not much else? Try this:
800g potatoes, 200g (just bolting) lettuce, 300g peas (after podding), 60g butter, salt.
Cook potatoes in not too much salted water; add peas 5 minutes before they are done. You may want to cut the thick middle veins out of the lettuce, especially if bolting. Chop and add lettuce, stir in and heat through thoroughly, drain, season. Add butter, mash.

Next issue: did you know?

[1] However: red meat is ok if you eat it with all the bits and pieces: organs and fat. It’s the ‘steaks only’ habit which messes you up, see





and many others! Just search for ‘healty cleaning agents’. Or buy them from a wholefood shop!