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Have you or a loved one been diagnosed with a food intolerance or allergy? If so, trying to shop at the grocery store may seem like wandering through a foreign land. Gone are the days of simply picking up a product just because you like it. Now, you must read labels for hidden dangers and learn confusing terms like “cross-contamination.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, the top, eight, food allergens are:
Although allergens and intolerances cause very different reactions within the body, the prescription for either is the same: avoidance. Of course, if you are truly allergic to a food or other substance like bee stings, you must also carry an EpiPen®. Ask your doctor.
In 2006, I discovered I was both gluten (wheat) and dairy intolerant. No longer could I grab any old muffin and a glass of milk for breakfast, but the harder lesson was that wheat and dairy lurked within many of the foods I formerly enjoyed. For example, did you know regular soy sauce has wheat? Wheat free tamari does not. Although it was a learning curve, I navigated my way, and you will too.
Now, for some good news! Remember how your mom encouraged you to eat your vegetables? Most vegetables, other than corn and wheat, are allergy friendly.
So, why not grow your own! A vegetable garden is your personal space, and you can plant anything your heart desires as long as it grows in your climate. Take cucumbers and cantaloupe for example. My husband often can’t eat either, but I found varieties which pleased us both. ‘Ambrosia’ melon seems to be one of the easiest on the tummy. Asian cucumbers, along with some “burpless” cultivars like ‘Marketmore,’ are low in cucurbitacin, the compound which makes cucumbers bitter and barely digestible for some.
One of my favorite recipes from the garden is my grandmother’s pickled cucumbers and onions which I’ve tweaked just a bit for a more modern taste.
Cucumber and Onion Salad
Mix all the ingredients together and let the cucumbers marinate a few hours before supper. There is nothing like a cold cuke or a slice of watermelon on a hot, summer day.
We also love fried squash once or twice a year. I slice it vertically and very thin for the most seeds and therefore, flavor. After salting and peppering, I use a gluten free flour mix like that from Namaste Foods. It tastes just like my mother’s fried squash and brings back childhood memories. The rest of the year we use an iron skillet to sauté zucchini or yellow squash (now cut in round slices) along with onions and peppers from the garden. I melt olive oil and Earth Balance to prevent the olive oil from becoming overheated. It is delicious and much less fattening than fried squash.
A sauté of okra, tomatoes, onions and peppers is delicious especially if you crumble a slice of bacon into the pan. Also, add just a smidge of brown sugar at the end. I promise you will love it.
So, instead of eating out tonight where you can’t control the process or ingredients, why not instead cook something from your own home garden where you’re assured of no cross-contamination?
Then, pour yourself a glass of something good, take a deep breath, and taste the bounty. The garden is all yours to enjoy.