Thursday, June 27, 2013

Cancer cures and conspiracies! Oh my!

Now this post on cancer cures and conspiracies hits the mark this morning.  I cannot tell you how many extensively forwarded (FWD:FWD:FWD:....) emails I have gotten, titled something to the effect of "Beware, Science points to so and so causing cancer....", where I have to scroll all the way to the bottom only to find false information. (And yes, mom, all a number of them are from you.) Example:
Bananas can cure depression, PMS, anemia, blood pressure, constipation, heartburn, mosquito bites, stress, stroke, warts - just to name a few. And it also boosts your IQ to 200!! Don't forget to pass this on!
Yup, it's that bad. I'm not saying that bananas aren't good for you, but it clearly follows the Filipino joke where we say bananas are good for acne since you won't find monkeys with pimples. If bananas were the ultimate cure all, then we should all be on banana diet. Seriously, without citing references, you cannot ascertain the credibility of these reports.  

Now, how about this one on Asparagus?
"My Mom had been taking the full-stalk canned style asparagus that she pureed and she took 4 tablespoons in the morning and 4 tablespoons later in the day... Her oncologist said she does not need to see him for 3 months."

It even goes on to cite a reference! And more - it cites case studies: 
THE ARTICLE: Several years ago, I had a man seeking asparagus for a friend who had cancer. He gave me a photocopied copy of an article, entitled, Asparagus for cancer 'printed in Cancer News Journal, December 1979. I will share it here, just as it was shared with me: I am a biochemist, and have specialized in the relation of diet to health for over 50 years. Several years ago, I learned of the discovery of Richard R. Vensal, D.D.S. that asparagus might cure cancer. Since then, I have worked with him on his project We have accumulated a number of favorable case histories. Here are a few examples
Case No. 1, A man with an almost hopeless case of Hodgkin's disease (cancer of the lymph glands) who was completely incapacitated. Within 1 year of starting the asparagus therapy, his doctors were unable to detect any signs of cancer, and he was back on a schedule of strenuous exercise."
Cases 2 - 4 showed the amazing effects of canned asparagus too. (Note: Jen scrolls eyes.) It ranged from curing cancer to kidney stones, and even referred to experiments done in 1739. 
Here's the point: if you're going to pass on something as a scientific information, make sure you check the references given that there are many gullible souls out there, my relatives included. And if you're citing a reference, make sure it's credible, and not on the Retraction Watch list. Alternatively, you can always check on, which has served me well in debunking such myths. In this electronic age, the internet serves as a double-edged sword.  It makes it easy to pass on false information, but thankfully, it also makes it easy to check the reliability of these purported studies. So, when you weild that sword, make sure you're not using the blunt side.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Strawberry-filled dreams

The joy of summer starts with berries.  The season will not be complete if we haven't logged in enough hours driving to and from local pick-your-own farms. Who can resist the burst of colors? The sweet scent of succulent fruits? Alas! One may pass out from the heat, but with the lingering taste of ripe strawberries, it is with bliss that you fall to the ground!

Ok... That may have been an exaggeration, and we certainly don't want anyone passing out - even with strawberry-filled dreams. Technically, it's still Spring when the first harvest of strawberries occurs, and believe you me, as soon as the farms post their picking season schedules, we're already halfway out the door. Strawberry fields are always the first field trip for the summer.

What to do with the remaining 12.5 lbs of strawberries when you've eaten your fill, and your shirt is dotted in red stains? Toss it in a salad of mixed greens with walnuts, make frozen berries dipped in chocolate, and... make strawberry jams!  

Canning, or making jams, isn't difficult. With the advent of the internet, it is so easy to make jams that will last you through the next picking season. I know, I know, nothing beats Fresh. But, hey, DIY jams beat the generic storebranded jams, guaranteed. Canning, or Jamming as I like to call it, requires a special kind of jars with two-piece metal lids that you can easily get from Bed, Bath & Beyond. Old food jars from pasta sauce and such shouldn't be used because you won't be able to creat a vacuum seal. Aside from that, as far as equipment go, all you need is a water bath! When you properly prepare the jam, the fruit jars are heated at high enough temperatures to kill all microorganisms and prevent the growth of botulinum spores, which can guessed it: botulism. [Update: Hubby points out that botulism toxin are not found in acidic media, therefore this is not a problem for canning berries.]   But the first step is to make sure to wash the jars really well in hot soapy water, and keep them hot so they don't break when you put them in the hot bath.

Make jams in the summer because, you know, Winter is coming.

As much as I'd like to take credit for the wonderful jams, I confess, my hubby did all the work. Hubby jams = Wife desserts, which makes for a great partnership in our house (or any house!). We didn't have fruit pectin, so we used Agar Agar, which is the seaweed gelatin from the Philippines. (a.k.a. gulaman). It worked really well! Pectin or gelatin is needed as gelling agent to make the preserves not too runny, and spreadable instead. Hubby got very creative with the jams, and spiced some with cinnamon, some with mint and cardamom. YUM!
With 12 jars of strawberry jam, we're certainly set for the winter.  Our PB & J will never be the same again. But what else can you do with all those preserves, you ask? Well, you can warm it and serve on top of buttermilk walnut pancakes, or warmed pound cake. You can drizzle it on vanilla ice cream or you can also make a cheesecake cupcake with strawberry swirls. I'm beginning to think that a dozen jars of strawberry preserves isn't going to last us long after all...

Next up: cherries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries!