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Apple and prune benefits

Apples are strong medicine. I, Ted, am urging Grainews readers to plant more apple trees. Now there’s a new “old proverb.” Also, other health-promoting stuff such as… prunes can contribute to strong bones… plus the challenges of successfully growing your own plums. Read on for the rest.

WOULDN’T IT BE NICE

… if we could put a pair of handcuffs on illness and disease and then throw away the key for a long, long time; maybe even for the rest of our natural lives? Well we’re getting closer!

There’s something special about hearing the snap when you bite into a homegrown apple (Malus) and some of the juice squirts on your face. I love it! But then who doesn’t? Not only are apples pleasant to eat but best of all — beneficial to the human body from the top of the head to the heels of feet. In other words, from brain to breath; from the pineal to the prostate; from toes to teeth; from the throat and tonsils to every gland, organ and nerve pathway in between. Study after study confirms the tremendous health-promoting power of apples.

For example! A couple of fresh apples eaten daily and drinking pure apple juice may well contribute to improved memory, sustained brain health and help halt progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

A mountain of ongoing research vigorously confirms that apples are also the near-perfect food for diabetics and those with heart disease, the wrong kind of cholesterol, obesity and constipation issues.

The old proverb used to be an apple a day keeps the doctor away. But now, the new recommendation is two apples daily for optimum health benefits. It’s no surprise the following newer expression has surfaced. It goes like this: To eat an apple before going to bed, will make the doctor beg for his bread.

GOT ARTHRITIC PAIN?

A few weeks back I was at a thrift store and one of the lady volunteer workers said to me: “I’m trying your prune recipe for my arthritis.” I confirmed with her my belief that fresh and dried prune plums can really improve bone health and ease pain. I encouraged her to continue eating prunes along with other health-promoting foods, plus exercise appropriate to her age and lifestyle.

Fortunately, dried prunes are available year round and here’s the best news. Recently, a team of researchers released study results in the esteemed British Journal of Nutrition. What a revelation to learn that a handful of naturally dried prune plums eaten daily can help prevent fractures and osteoporosis in the elderly. The research team leader says it’s great news, especially for post-menopausal women, who commonly struggle with the loss of bone density and an increased risk of fracture.

The test group of women consumed 100 grams of dried plums daily. The control group consisted of women who ate 100 grams of other dried fruit each day, including dates, figs, raisins and strawberries. To complement their diets, all participants in the study received daily supplements of calcium (500 mg) and vitamin D (400 units). Comparisons confirmed there was no similar beneficial effect on bone density to what prunes provided.

During the first five to seven post-menopausal years, women are at risk of losing bone at a rate of three to five per cent per year. Around the age of 65, men start losing bone with the same rapidity as women. The conclusion? Dried plums are an amazingly useful food resource for middle-aged individuals.

Don’t wait for a fracture to happen or be diagnosed with osteoporosis. Consider eating two to three dried prune plums daily, then gradually increase to between six to 10 per day, depending on weight. Prunes can be eaten in all forms, including recipes. Matrimonial cake with prune plum filling instead of dates is tremendously delicious.

But like everything else — different people react differently to certain dietary and lifestyle changes and treatments. Results will not be immediate, so be patient.

SO YOU WANT TO GROW PLUMS! (genus Prunus)

Although there are more than 2,000 plum varieties, most have regional application. Practically all plums are self-sterile and need to be cross-pollinated in order to produce fruit, so plant two of a different kind. Other family groupings such as Nanking cherry, sour cherries, plus ornamental flowering plum will also cross-pollinate with edible plums.

Yet the question often arises…“why are plum trees so iffy and often short lived?” Plums are frequently affected by a deluge of bizarre and disgusting diseases such as brown rot, bacterial spot, black knot and plum pocket. The latter first appears as small, white, powdery blisters on the plum. As the fruit grows, these blisters enlarge rapidly. Before long, the entire plum blows up like a small balloon. It then withers, becomes hollow, distorted and covered with greyish mould-like spores. Infection sets in shortly after plum blossoms open, especially during a cool, wet spring. A reasonable measure of control is achieved with properly timed fungicide sprays.

There’s a wide range of plum pests too. The apple maggot can be troublesome, destroying as much as 25 per cent of a plum crop. Then there’s plum curculio, red mites, twig borers, leafhoppers and various scale. Soft-bodied sucking scale insects called lecanium scale can be an issue. They exude a sticky type of honeydew on which grows ugly black mould. If abundant for several years, these scale insects can kill branches or even the entire tree.

A bad scale outbreak is justification for application of a dormant oil spray as a pre-season cleanup of overwintering scale insects and other pests. Do this only during spring dormancy before the buds swell and sap flows. Choose a warm day because the oil-water mix must not freeze on the tree. Make sure coverage of twigs, branches and trunk is complete. Dormant oil concentrate is available at garden centres, as well as a commercial natural lime sulphur insecticide/fungicide for both dormant and growing-season application.

If you choose to make your own dormant oil spray, a fruit specialist suggests a five per cent solution of light vegetable oil such as sunflower or canola mixed with water (i.e. five per cent oil, 95 per cent water) and a bit of soap.

A FALL WEBWORM NEST

… is something I came upon last August on an apple tree. There’s usually only one generation per season here in Canada. The adults are white moths with a 55-mm wingspan bearing brown spots. Females lay masses of 400 or more white eggs on the underside of leaves. In about two weeks they hatch and develop into pale-green or yellow caterpillars covered in long, soft hair. True to its descriptive name, these larvae make silk nests close to branch tips and feed on leaves. Such an infestation can be con-trolled by cutting off and destroying the affected branch. A measure of prevention can be gained by spraying early in the season with B.T.K., (bacillus thuringiensis) a biological bacterial organism insecticide which kills caterpillars.

SEA BUCKTHORN AND MAPLE SYRUP

… are two ingredients in my Ted Tonic recipe. I buy Sea Buckthorn Pure at a health food store and add some each time I make my tonic drink. I take this pick-me-up once daily, especially during winter. It’s a blend of what I believe to be several health-promoting ingredients, including pure Neighbourhood Maple Syrup, made from Prairie-grown Manitoba and silver maples, tapped by Mitchell Omichinski of Portage la Prairie. (See my Grainews article September 2011 issue, page 38.) This spring, Mitch will increase the number of taps he’ll have on the go by almost 100 per cent, to about 1,000 trees. Albeit, if ideal weather prevails, Mitch expects to again turn harvested sap into “maple syrup that oozes like liquid gold.”

Maybe you’d like to grow sea buckthorn shrubs? This is a versatile plant that makes a good hedge and begins to fruit in about three years after planting. Sea buckthorn is very drought tolerant and capable of withstanding alkali and nutrient-poor soils. But do provide a well-drained location as it won’t tolerate waterlogged areas. Tiny yellow flowers appear early in spring, followed by clustered yellow and orange berries in fall.

Check at local nurseries and garden centres for sea buckthorn plants or via catalogues from T & T Seeds in Winnipeg and McFayden’s in Brandon, Man. †

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