Friday, April 25, 2014

So Good... Blueberry Vegan "Ice Cream" Recipe

Do you love ice cream, but want to avoid dairy or other troubling ingredients? When I have looked at the grocery to find a brand with minimal or no plastic packaging, no food coloring, no GMO corn syrup, no artificial flavors, and no conflict palm oil, big surprise, I'm always out of luck. That's why I was so happy to learn about this vegan 'ice cream' making method.  It tastes delicious, and is also easy on those with calorie restricted diets.  This ice cream doesn't store well in the freezer so it is best to make enough to eat as soon as it is finished. This recipe requires a high power blender, such as a Vitamix

Ingredients (serves 4)
5-6 bananas
1 cup frozen blueberries
1/2 -3/4 cup coconut milk

First step:  Peel, cut, and freeze around 5-6 bananas.  Freeze or purchase other chunked frozen fruits, around 1 cup.  We used blueberries. Let the fruits freeze overnight or until they are hard like ice cubes.  
Step 2: When the bananas are hard add the chunks to your Vitamix or other high power blender. Use the pulse setting to break up the banana chunks starting on low power.  If the blades get stuck, you will need to stop and tamp down the banana pieces a few times.  With the bananas being so thick, it reminds me of making peanut butter, and you might find the directions for making peanut butter in a Vitamix useful.  Keep blending with increasing speed until the bananas are completely smooth.
Step 3: After the bananas are smooth, add your blue berries, blend and add your coconut milk.  You can start out with a 1/3 cup and add more until you reach the consistency you prefer.
Step 4: Serve immediately topped with blueberries and enjoy

Thanks to Moira Johnson of Organic Kitty Land for introducing me to this vegan Ice Cream making method.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Mother's Day Flaxseed Pillow Giveaway: Win one for you and one for Mom!

We have added lots of new Organic Cotton Flaxseed Pillows to our line in time for Mother's Day. Included among our new Organic cotton pillow section are these prints from Harmony Art.  Harmony Art is a fabric design company specializing in Organic Cottons. This year for Mother's Day we are also having a special giveaway. One of our blog readers will have the chance to win a pillow for themselves and also one for their mom (or their favorite mom). The prizes are one unscented blue denim flaxseed pillow (below), and one brown floral flaxseed pillow (above) scented with Lavender, Spearmint and Chamomile. The winner will be chosen randomly with Rafflecopter. You can enter using the form at the end of this blog post.  

Our pillows are made to order, and we also offer them in other scents including plain lavender, lavender-rose, and lavender-spearmint. We use USDA Organic flaxseed and USDA Organic scented herbs for our pillows. The pillows can go in the microwave for warmth or be stored in the freezer for use as a cold pack.  

Also our Mother's Day soaps and soap sets are back. These make great gifts for mom too! Last year we sold out of these bars, so order soon if you would like one for mom, MIL or grandma. We received overwhelmingly positive feedback about these soaps last Mother's Day.

Lavender Vanilla I heart MOM soap          I Heart MOM lavender Gift Set

                           Lavender Rose Geranium            Lavender Tea Tree and Spearmint

US residents age 18 and over may enter the Flaxseed pillows giveaways. Shipping will be for US addresses via priority mail. This contest will be open until May 5th when we will announce a winner. The winner must contact us within 48 hours so that we can ship the pillow to mom on time. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Do you know the difference between Conventional Cotton versus Organic Cotton Fabrics?

In this article we will discuss cotton in agriculture, the historical use of cotton, and conventional versus Organic cotton cultivation and textile manufacture, and Aquarian Bath's switch from conventional to organic cotton fabrics.

The Cotton Plant
Cotton (genus Gossypium) is a native plant to tropical and semi-tropical places around the world. Cotton plants can be perennial, however for optimal cotton production they are grown as annuals. The cotton shrub requires lots of sunlight and around a five month long growing season. Cotton is highly susceptible to temperatures below freezing, so it does not grow well in the United States above the latitude of 46 degrees north. Also, the seeds take longer to ripen than the growing seasons found in much of the U.S. The plant itself reaches two to six feet tall, with branching stems and hairy leaves. The ideal growing temperature for cotton is 90°–95°F. The flowers of the cotton plant range in color from white or yellow with purple spots near the center, with some flowers turning rose color with age. After the flower petals fall, a hard capsule or boll remains, within which the cotton develops. Once the bolls are ripe, they burst open, revealing the cotton fibers. The cotton seeds are buried deep within the fibers, and can be pried out with some effort. The cotton crop requires significant fertilization. Drought, including droughts caused by climate change are a significant concern to Cotton farmers, both Organic and Conventional. The water requirements of this crop put it in direct competition with crops grown for food during severe drought periods.

In the U.S., the process of commercially picking and processing cotton is entirely automated. In others countries, such as India, farmers still rely on the handpicking process for harvesting the cotton in their fields. Here in Florida, Aquarian Bath raises what was received in a trade as a "native Florida cotton," pictured below. We grow the cotton for use in doll making, first aid, and for seed sharing and preservation.

Flowering Cotton plant in Florida.

A Brief History of Cotton
Cotton has played a big part in human history as far back as 7000 years ago in the Middle East, and cotton cloth dating to around 5800 BC has been identified in a cave in Mexico. Although different cultures around the world used cotton even in ancient times, huge production of cotton did not really start until the Industrial Revolution in Britain at the end of the 18th Century. At that time in 1738, Lewis Paul and John Wyatt, of Birmingham, developed spinning machines able to create large quantities of cotton cloth. To feed these spinning machines, the British relied on cotton raised in the U.S. South. After Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin, a mechanical device or “engine” which performed the function of removing the seeds from the cotton, the production of cotton in the South boomed, as did the dreadful use of slaves to handle this labor intensive crop. During the U.S. Civil War, from 1861 to 1865, Britain lost its primary source of cotton and had to look for other places around the world where cotton could grow, including Egypt and India. Cotton remains one of the staple crops in the Southern U.S. today. Other countries that supply a significant amount of cotton for the world market today include Brazil, Australia, India, China, Turkey, Argentina, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

Oklahoma Cotton Field 1897--98.
Modern Conventional Cotton Cultivation
Did the cotton industry ever recover morally and ethically from the days of commonplace slavery in the US south? Today cotton growers who would like to be certified as up to Global Organic Trade Standards must also be compliant in terms of fair trade and, labor must also not be forced. These standards also set forth a living wage, prohibition of child laborers, and provision of hygienic conditions. Below you will find some of the hazardous materials that conventional cotton farm workers are exposed to during cultivation.

The level of toxins generated by the cotton industry is frightening. One of the most disturbing aspects of conventional cotton cultivation is the large amount of chemicals needed to raise cotton from seed to harvest. Three of the top 10 pesticides used in conventional cotton agriculture, Aldicarb, parathion, and methamidopho, are among the most dangerous. According to the Organic Trade Association, cotton is the worlds dirtiest crop with around 45 million pounds of pesticides used on 11 million acres of cotton planted in the U.S. in 2010 alone, which breaks down into 4.1 pounds of pesticide per acre. Approximately 90 percent of cotton seed raised in the U.S. is genetically engineered to be “Roundup ready.” Roundup, the flagship herbicide for the U.S. chemical company Monsanto, is the most popular herbicide used on cotton fields in the U.S. The studies of its key ingredient, glyphosate, show that this chemical causes birth defects in study animals, as well as genetic damage, cancer and endocrine disruption in mammals. Despite Monsanto’s claim that glyphosate passes through the human body without leaving any residue, a recent study shows that glyphosate is found in human breast milk. Also, scientists have discovered significant levels of glyphosate in both water and air samples in the watershed of the Mississippi River, which means this chemical leaves the field where it is applied and enters the wider environment. Besides round up ready GMO cotton seeds, GMO Bt cotton crops, which are cotton plants engineered to create their own pesticides, are failing in India.

Conventional Cotton Textile Processing
The chemical bath for conventionally grown cotton does not end in the field. Once the conventionally grown cotton is taken to the factory to be made into cloth, the cotton is whitened with chlorine bleach, which can potentially be released into the environment. The warp fibers are stabilized using toxic waxes. The cotton is finished with synthetic surfactants in hot water, along with other chemicals, including the possibility of formaldehyde and arsenic. To make all the pretty colored cloth, conventional cotton material is dyed with heavy metal based dyes and sulfur content with the possibility that the pigments enter rivers and streams through water runoff. Residue from these chemicals can remain in the finished fabric.

Organic Cotton Cultivation
The answer to cleaner, better quality cotton lies in organic cotton cultivation using non-GMO seed. The problem of cotton pests, such as the cotton boll worm, is solved by a combination of methods. First, organic cotton farmers practice crop rotation, which eliminates a constant supply of food for harmful insects, along with adding increased organic matter to the soil. Organic cotton farmers also introduce beneficial insects, such as ladybugs, lacewings, spiders, parasitic wasps, beetles and ants to their fields to help destroy the harmful insects. Trap crops like okra, sorghum, sunflowers and hibiscus are grown next to the cotton. The trap crop attracts otherwise harmful insects and spares the cotton. If an insecticide is thought necessary, organic cotton farmers use organically sound products made from natural ingredients, such as neem spray, which is an extract from neem seeds (Azadirachta indica), or pyrethrum, which is made from extracts of chrysanthemum flowers. Organic cotton is now grown in 23 countries with most production is being made in India, Syria, China, Turkey, and the United States.

Organic cotton farmers and conventional cotton farmers considering to switch to Organic farming methods face various issues. A major problem farmers face is finding enough organic cotton seed. The vast majority of seed available is genetically modified seed, and many organic farmers report saving at least a portion of their cotton seed to replant next year. Other problems for organic cotton production include pressure from neighboring conventional cotton farmers, friends and family who don’t accept the benefits of organic farming. As other types of organic farming grow more popular in an area, organic cotton farmers find it easier to switch to organic practices. Also, organic cotton farmers still struggle with getting the word out about the environmental benefits of Organic cotton and advantages of Organic cotton textiles, therefore we are writing here to educate others about this industry.

GOTS Organic Cotton Textile Production
The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is an international organization that sets the definition of what Organic fabric should be. During organic cotton textile production, the warp fibers are stabilized using non-toxic cornstarch. To whiten the fibers, organic manufacturers use peroxide instead of bleach, a safer alternative. To finish the fabric, it is put through a soft scour of warm water and soda ash, which changes the pH of the water to 7.5-8. Dying and printing occurs using natural dyes or low impact fiber-reactive dyes, neither of which contain heavy metals.

Aquarian Bath now offers Hot and Cold therapy pillows made with GOTS Organic cottons
With the amount of organic cotton raised as of 2011 (the last available statistic) at less than 1.5 percent of total cotton production, we have worked very hard to locate the Organic cotton fabric suitable to be used in our line of single layer hot/cold therapy pillows. These flax seed neck wraps or facial pillows can be heated in the microwave for warm therapy, or put in the freezer for cold therapy relief. Our selection of therapy pillows now includes pillows made with GOTS Organic cotton, with eight new prints from the companies Harmony Art and Cloud 9 Fabrics. These fabrics are a bit more expensive to buy, but they are guaranteed GOTS cotton, which means they are certified Organic cotton, without pesticides and without tons of harmful chemicals used in processing of the cotton.  The fabrics are also produced without child or forced labor.
Here is one of our favorite canvas pillows made with GOTS cotton. The Line Leaf print is designed by Eloise Renouf for Cloud 9 Fabrics, and is available from us in black or blue.

Aquarian Bath also has a few pillows made from a base of blended organic cotton and hemp, and a washable pillow cover created from GOTS certified organic fabric like the one below.  We will be writing more on hemp and how it compares to cotton next month.  We added these double layer pillows to our line in 2013, and the added pillow cover makes them a bit more expensive. Aquarian Bath is in the process of phasing out all conventional cotton products used in our hot and cold therapy pillows.
Please be sure to follow our blog for a chance to win 2 of our Harmony Art flax seed pillows. We will be giving away 2 pillows for Mother's Day. One pillow will go to one of our blog followers, and one to that follower's favorite mom. The contest will start next week.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Mahyco GMO Bt Cotton Now Banned in Parts of India

Following failure the failure of genetically engineered Bt Cotton crops in 7 districts in the state of Karnataka, India, the GMO Bt Cotton seed from the small biotech company Mahyco Ltd has been banned.

A major concern with cotton production today is the use of genetically modified (GMO) cotton seed, and most of the cotton seed available today is GMO. The rationale behind the GMO cotton seed is that farmers no longer have to spend as much money on herbicides or pesticides, because the seed is engineered to fight off pests on its own, howevever GMO crops are associated with pesticide resistant insects and secondary insect infestation. The companies that produce GMO Bt cotton seed have introduced a gene from Bacillus thuringiensis or Bt that encodes a protein in cotton plants which acts as a pesticide. Under normal circumstances, Bt is a bacterium that lives naturally in the soil, and it is sometimes used to kill garden pests. However, studies, such as the reports available at Organic Trade Association and Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, indicate that Bt cottonseed has its own set of problems. First, by eliminating the pests most susceptible to Bt, the door is left open to secondary pests, whose presence in the field is normally held back by competition with the primary Bt susceptible pest. In the case of cotton, the cotton bollworm is susceptible to Bt. With the removal of the bollworm, other damaging insects, such as aphids, thrips and mealy bugs, are on the rise in cotton fields in India and other cotton growing countries.

The second problem with GMO cotton seed is that the primary insect pest, the cotton bollworm, is showing signs of developing a resistance to the genetically modified seed. This forces farmers to use stronger pesticides to kill both the bollworm and the other secondary insect pests.

Finally, studies indicate that humans and animals exposed to the GMO cotton can develop serious health issues from the plant matter. In India, farmers report their livestock become ill or even die after grazing on cotton field residue. Farmers who handpick the Bt cotton have reported respiratory or allergy-like symptoms after handling the cotton plants. Also, scientists have found that Bt is more toxic to humans and other mammals than previously thought. The report at collective evolution states that mammalian red blood cells are damaged in the presence of Bt exposure.

Another aspect of GMO cotton seed is the human cost, as documented in Miched Pelad’s 2011 film, Bitter Seeds. The GMO cotton seeds have had a devastating effect on Indian cotton farmers. The combination of high cost of GMO cotton seeds and massive crop failures has created a situation where the farmers can no longer afford to keep their land or support their families. The end result is a high suicide rate among Indian cotton farmers.

At Aquarian Bath we introduced hemp and Organic Cotton fabrics to our line of flaxseed pillows in 2013 in response to a growing awareness about the issues with conventional and GMO cotton and conventional cotton textiles.  We are continuing to add Organic cotton flaxseed pillows to our line this year and will discuss the differences between Organic cotton Textiles and versus conventional cotton textiles in a future blog post.  

Flax pillow made with GOTS certified Organic Cotton fabric from Cloud9Fabrics.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Herbal Giveaway: Signed Copy of Matthew Wood's Book of Herbal Wisdom

Last month I picked up a new copy of one of my favorite herbals which is herbalist Matthew Wood's The Book of Herbal Wisdom.  Within three days of receiving the new book, I found my other copy, which I had put away safely on one of my hard to reach book shelves.  I think this copy must be meant for someone else, so I am giving it away on our blog.  It was signed by the author, and was only used once by me to review the chapter on Teasel, the medicinal plant which is pictured below.  The root of Teasel, Dipsacus fullonum, syn. D. sylvestris, has been used successfully by Matthew Wood and other herbalists to resolve cases of Lyme Disease.  I will share a DIY Lyme extract recipe that I made in a later blog post. 

Some of the other medicinal plants discussed in this book include some of my favorites: Calendula, Yarrow, Chamomile, Burdock, Goldenrod.  Over 40 plants are discussed in detail.  I enjoy this book so much because Matthew discusses examples of using these herbs successfully with different clients.  I have used his suggested allergy formula from this book with much success.  

If you are a US resident over age 18, and yo would like to win this book, you may enter below using the rafflecopter widget. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway