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  • Things Your Italian Grandma Never Told You But Should Have
    Part 2 of 2: Grandma's Garden and Cure Alls

    Continued from page 1
    Italian Memories

    by Cookie Curci

    In the garden she taught me early on that fish was the best fertilizer for fruit trees, that cucumbers and beans catch the best sunlight when planted near a northern fence and the best time to plant parsley was on Good Friday. On the Feast of Saint Joseph she insisted on planting her flowering herbs, such as garlic.

    Most everyone knows about garlic's pungent flavor, and is well aware of this bulbous preneals reputation. But to grandma, the garlic was irreplaceable. A relative of the Lily, the huge ball like blooms of the garlic plant are fused with hundreds of tiny lavender blooms that, like their bulbous root, are rich in sugar and almost as pungent in fragrance.

    Ancient Romans believed strongly in the power and value of garlic and grandma was no different. She believed it made her skin more beautiful and smooth, she used it to treat toothaches, sore throats and earaches.

    Modern medicine backs up grandma's belief in the herb. Researchers are finding that garlic contains allyl , an antibacterial agent that seems to affect harmful bacteria. Today, many people are taking garlic capsules to treat the cold virus, diarrhea and poor blood clotting and also to lower blood pressure.

    If grandma loved garlic, then it could be said that she worshipped the tomato. Her homemade tomato sauce bubbled on the stove like an eternal volcano. The familiar and mouthwatering aroma of her sauce permeated the kitchen. There are many things that link me to my past, but few rekindle memories as quickly as the smell of tomato sauce simmering on the stove.

    We didn't know that eating tomatoes was good for us, we just knew that grandma's sauce was delicious and we loved it. It wasn't until recently that I discovered the true health benefits of tomatoes in our diet. The tomato has antioxidant properties of lycopene, a carotenoid found in tomato based foods. It is believed that this may reduce the risk of lung cancer by 25 percent as reported in the American Journal of Clinical nutrition. Cooked tomato products contain the most lycopene. Eating at least five 1/2-cup servings of pasta sauce every week may reduce the risk of lung cancer. Lycopene may protect against intestinal and prostate cancers too. Grandma's adoration for the tomato was well placed.

    Grandma's medicine cabinet didn't include any of today's treatments or cure-alls. Whenever a cold or flu came around, grandma set a big pot of water on to boil tossed in a small chicken, parsley, garlic, herbs and vegetables Grandma's curative instincts were right on the mark. We have come to know now that parsley and garlic contain chlorophyll and antitoxins, carrots and celery contain vitamin A poultry meat has riboflavin, niacin and biotin, necessary to utilize oxygen and protein in the body.

    Grandma learned her homemaking skills from watching and observing her mother and grandmother at work in their kitchens, today; this is a luxury that few households can enjoy. Many women are working right up and past their retirement years. Also, many mothers and daughters are separated by distance, because of economics many families are uprooted and must change locations.

    Before turning on that TV set to search for a new recipe or household advice, why not try getting in touch with a senior family member. Do some research on a recipe that's been handed down through the generations, or one that you fondly remember enjoying as a kid? You may be surprised at the stories and infuriation you will unearth in an archeological dig through your older family memories and recipes.

    If, by chance, you come up empty handed in your search, don't be discouraged, it just means it's time for you to start some new traditions of your own. Grandma use to say, "it is just as important to begin new traditions as it is to uphold the old ones."

    Part 1: Memories of Grandma
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