Author: Jonathon Engels
Just about the same time I started getting into permaculture, I began developing an interest in the power of food as a preventative medicine. Permaculture appealed to me because it seemed obvious that the way we were cultivating our food with an overabundance of chemicals was destructive to the planet and to our own health. When it came to farming, doing what came naturally seemed, well, the natural solution. Letting food be my medicine paralleled this idea: We’ve become so accustomed to doping our bodies to ward off every cold or headache and boost our bodily systems that we’ve left ourselves in the same state as barren ground.
If the soil could be fixed by adding quality organic biomass, reinvigorating an entire ecosystem, then why couldn’t we do the same thing for our bodies, ecosystems in their own right? My wife Emma and I started watching documentaries like Food Matters and Simply Raw, reading books about herbal medicine and fermentation, and learning from people we were meeting through permaculture. We suddenly found ourselves thinking about enzymes, probiotics, gut flora, and antioxidants. We became fast fans of fresh herbs in every meal and including certain beneficial spices and veggies regularly. Undoubtedly, it felt right, and we felt better than ever.
What we found was that some of the most powerfully medicinal foods had been right at our fingertips all along. They were easy to grow, required little space (could work in pots, in fact), and naturally strengthened our immune systems, regulated blood sugar, steadied blood pressure, lubricated joints, prevented inflammation, helped our skin, and generally bettered our well-being. We adopted simple ways to include them in our meals throughout the day, and we started sharing our new dietary practice and home production methods. And, that felt right, too.
Very common, very potent, and very medicinal—garlic is nothing new on the medicinal scene. It’s even available in pill form these days, but when it’s so easy to grow, that just seems silly. What’s more, raw garlic is where the magic really happens. We’ve always grown our garlic as an annual, often as much for the sprouts as the bulbs, but I’ve recently discovered new (to me) techniques for growing it as a perennial, i.e. the permaculture way. While it can be grown in a pot, it’s also a great companion plant
Already something we used regularly to prevent motion sickness, ginger became a much larger feature in our everyday cooking. It pairs wonderfully with carrot anything, works well in oatmeal, and, with some citrus zests, adds a zip to rice. We also use it to make tea, again combined with a bit of orange or lime. But, by far, our favorite ginger practice has become fermenting ginger beer on a regular basis. It tastes great while providing both the medicinal benefits of ginger and probiotics. It’s a great shade-tolerant plant that works well in the tropics but can be grown indoors as a pot plant in more frigid locales.