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We canned the first phase of our grape harvest, because the green variety can well, but for our sweet Canadice, we prefer to freeze what we cannot manage to eat fresh. Freezing is much easier than canning. We simply rinse the grapes in hot water — use hot to kill spiders and earwigs — then stem them and put them into sandwich size Ziploc bags and freeze. They are very good this way, retaining their sweetness and juiciness.


We also have more green beans then we can use fresh, and freeze those as well. Immediately after picking, I trim the ends, cut the beans, blanch them in boiling water for three minutes, drain, and freeze in Ziploc bags. It’s all a very pleasant evening project, and probably looks much more industrious than it really is. The picking is the most fun, except for the spiders.

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My husband has the gift of canning. His gift flows from physical strength and family tradition. My gifts tend more toward looking out the window and sitting, occasionally, at poolsides with a book. The latter gift goes largely unutilized.


Our extravagantly beautiful summer bowed and bolted; fall arrived, and the first phase of our grapes, more than 20 pounds, ripened overnight. Rain split our thin-skinned varieties; especially hard-hit was the Sweet seduction, and mold set in quickly throughout much of the vine. The Interlaken held up well, and my husband picked 23 pounds from our vines. The Canadice, the sweetest and best of all, also held up well, and remains firm enough to go another week before picking. The Campbell’s Early, a Concord type, has never been true to its name, and probably has another week or two before it ripens. With plums and apples also in sight of ripening, canning will likely continue for the next three weekends. It makes for a homey time.


My husband canned about 17 pounds of Interlakens, juiced another couple of pounds, and refrigerated enough for us to enjoy fresh for the week. He does the canning outdoors on the deck on a propane stove. He has the method simplified to stemming the grapes, placing them in jars, adding water but no sugar, and placing them in the pressure canner for about ten minutes. The green grapes lose their vibrant color, and look rather like large canned peas, but they are very good, and we enjoy them through the winter.


I know that some women appreciate the sight of a linen closet stocked with neatly folded towels and sheets. I appreciate a well-stocked pantry with rows of mason jars containing the fruits of our own backyard. There is something inherently wonderful about growing and canning things, not from necessity, but from a love for the ability of the land to yield and the ability of the hand to work. Of course we can buy grapes the year round, but we would rather do it ourselves. Or at least, I would rather watch my husband do it.


I was diagnosed last year with reactive hypoglycemia, and I have to be attentive to the glycemic index of everything I eat. Unchecked, reactive hypoglycemia can lead to diabetes.


 For a while, I thought the problem had resolved when my endocrinologist lowered my dose of hydrocortisone, and I was seeing consistently normal glucose values for the first time in a Siberian winter. But as time passes, even on the reduced dose of hydrocortisone, bread is once again causing my blood sugar to spike. I saw 197 on the glucometer after eating two slices of toast with two eggs and a slice of cheese, and freaked out.


It’s all fairly complicated, but it’s carbs that cause my blood sugar to spike. Grains of any type — and the wholeness of the grains makes no difference, nor does brown rice, or any other color or texture — have more carbohydrates and a higher glycemic index per serving than, for instance, dark chocolate or carefully selected ice cream without corn syrup. In other words, what it seems I cannot eat if I wish to maintain safely sub-diabetic glucose levels, are grains: bread, rice, pasta, or any other type of grain; whether wheat or quinoa, it makes no difference. It’s the number of grams of carbohydrate per serving that counts.


I’ll mention here that this is about a quest for bread available in a store. I no longer make my own bread because my hands hurt all the time.


My husband and I have done a lot of research on carbohydrates and hypoglycemia, and did more again after the recent scary spike incident. The fact remains that I must eat like a diabetic or become one. Most competent diabetics count carbohydrates, and they don’t worry as much about the sugar they put in their coffee as they would about a serving of corn. My husband found a reference to low-carbohydrate bread that helped other people with reactive hypoglycemia to stay level without giving up bread entirely. One brand, proprietary to Trader Joe’s, was made without flour, and used pecan meal instead. Unfortunately, this variety is not available at my particular local Trader Joe’s. There was another reference to a bread at Whole Foods Market. There is no Whole Foods Market where we live, but my husband works a few blocks away from one. I called our local health food store, Marlene’s, and they were very interested in such a thing but did not presently have any sort of low-carbohydrate bread.


After finding no low-carbohydrate bread on the shelves of Whole Foods Market, my husband asked the bakery manager about it. She found a bread that has no sugar or gluten or any fillers or starches of any kind except pure grains and seeds. She sliced it thinner than most bread comes sliced. I found a thin slice to be more filling than thicker slices of less substantial bread. We weighed a slice of this new bread and divided by the carbohydrates per ounce on the label, and came up with 6 g of carbohydrate per slice, compared to 18 g per slice of the 12-grain Orowheat bread that caused my spike.


 People who have to manage carbohydrates and glucose get used to doing the math for everything they eat. It’s worth it: I had a slice of the new bread from Whole Foods Market with my normal low-carb chicken and vegetable stirfry dinner. My postprandial blood glucose was 106. The specters of insulin, blindness, amputations, dialysis, and life being a hassle melted away. I retested in the morning after a slice of toast and was 107, still perfect. I’ll keep testing, but if I can continue to eat a slice of this particular bread safely, my husband is to return to Whole Foods Market with the empty bread wrapper, find that bakery manager, thank her, and elicit a promise that she will never, ever run out of this worldly bread of life.

I know I have been greatly neglecting my participation in this blog for some time.  So, I thought I would share with you a quick home remedy that we have come across.

My husband, Ben, has been having some trouble with moderately high blood pressure over about the last two years.  He hasn’t gone to the doctor for it, but has kept tabs on it himself by taking his blood pressure at local drug store machines.  He was having more frequent headaches and sometimes swelling and irritability.  Neither of us is big on pharmacueticals and prefer to use more natural methods of preventing or healing sickness.  But, we couldn’t figure out what was going on.  We try to eat as healthy as possible.  I make most things from scratch.  We try to avoid artificial ingredients.

One day I finally recalled that some years ago, when Ben ended up going to the E.R. for chest pains and difficulty breathing, one of the staff at the E.R. mentioned that his potassium was a little low.  But, since the doctors also sent him in for further cardiac testing, we never really considered the potassium issue very much afterwards.

Also, another time when I was having some trouble with swelling during pregnancy a friend mentioned that I should eat a banana.  There was something about the potassium in the banana that would help you flush excess salt and thus reduce the water retention.  I tried it and it worked.  Since high salt levels can elevate blood pressure, I started to wonder if maybe part of Ben’s problem was that he wasn’t processing his salt properly.

Anyway, to make a long story short, I told Ben about my suspicions and he graciously submitted to my proposed experiment with his health.  :-) I gave him a banana every day to take to work with his lunch.  After about two weeks of a banana every day, I asked him if he would go out and check his blood pressure to see if there had been any change so far.  He did. And when he came back he had good news.  He was safely back in the normal range!

Everyone has heard that an apple a day, keeps the doctor away.  But, what about a banana?

July 2018
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