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Herbs grow lush and abundant almost everywhere. Left to their own devices they will happily run rampant up to the garden fence and beyond. Yet they are allocated the stingiest applications in cooking – a sprig of parsley on the potatoes, a little chopped mint in the peas or a few leaves of basil on the spaghetti. Herbs grow in abundance because they are meant to be used that way. While the usual culinary wisdom is to timidly add them to cooked dishes, the best way to enjoy their fresh flavors and health-giving properties is raw, using them as abundantly as they grow.

Everyday herbs like parsley, chives, mint, cilantro and basil, herbs you know and hopefully love, make stunning salads. Hold the bunches of herbs by the stems and chop the leaves roughly. Toss the chopped leaves into a bowl and mix them all together. The fragrance will be glorious – this not a garnish, it’s the real thing. You can eat it just as it is, or toss a dressing over it and add other salad ingredients. Prepare for a taste shock – this anything but bland lettuce and tomatoes.

For a bigger salad that is more of a meal, add some Lebanese cucumber, cherry tomatoes, snow peas and radish. Cubes of avocado will add a creamy finish so you won’t even need a dressing. Serve it with ceviche, fish ‘cooked’ by sprinkling it with freshly squeezed lime juice.

Another way to serve herb salad is with lobster, mayo and fresh crusty bread rolls. This makes a great summer lunch for a friendly get-together and the fresh herbs add punch to the basic lobster roll. The gentler aromatic herbs like Italian parsley and chives will not overpower the lobster. But don’t just stop at familiar herbs. Explore the many varieties of basil like dark opal and Thai, and the vast range of mints – pineapple, chocolate, apple, lemon and spicy ginger mint. Lemon balm and lemon verbena are not just for tea, these herbs will add sweetness and delicate flavor to your salads.

Green smoothies can also take on a fresh burst of flavor with handfuls of herbs tossed in the blender. A blend of mint, watermelon and a squeeze of lime blitzed with ice cubes will cool you down on the hottest day. Make your favourite herb tea and cool it in the fridge for iced tea or freeze it in ice pop moulds for a refreshing and healthy treat.

The more you use fresh herbs, the more you experiment by mixing them with your favorite fruits and vegetables, the more new taste sensations you will enjoy!

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Bamboo – the Plant That Could Save Our Future

Bamboo is one of the most versatile plants on earth. You can grow it, eat it, wear it, build with it and even make beer with it, as a brewing company in Canada has done. But in China and Korea bamboo has already been used for liquor for centuries. In Korea the leaves are used in Daeipsul, a medicinal folk wine, and in China, Zhuyeing is an ancient wine distilled from bamboo leaves and rice.

Once only associated with China, where half of the world’s crop still grows, bamboo is now known to grow all over the world, from South America to Australia and from the USA to the Himalayas. This elegant plant, a member of the grass family, is stronger than steel and grows up to more than 90 feet tall in some conditions. The great bamboo forests of China, known as the Bamboo Sea, are featured in many Asian movies.

Bamboo fabric is one of the latest entrants to the international fashion scene, and is used for high-end fashion as well as t-shirts, towels, curtains and even underwear. But bamboo cannot simply be spun into yarn like cotton or wool. It is made into rayon by breaking down the tough fibres with chemicals. Yet like those more familiar sources, it can still be processed into the finest fabric.

Bamboo is also the most sustainable material when it comes to tougher applications like construction. UNESCO estimates that just 70 hectares of bamboo can produce 1000 houses, compared to stripping a forest of its timber. In Hong Kong, it is used for scaffolding, which is stronger and cheaper than metal, and in India and China, bamboo is used for making roads and bridges.

Most kitchens have a bamboo cutting board or two, but keen and green cooks can stock their kitchen with sustainable bamboo in many ways including crockery and cutlery. It has many uses in daily life, from padding disposable diapers and producing waste-free paper goods, to making furniture and musical instruments. It could be answer to the unsustainable use of other dwindling resources, especially trees.

There is also a possibility of using cheap, abundant bamboo to produce biofuel. The process is difficult and expensive, but in February 2015 Science Magazine reported that researchers had used a bacterium called Zymomonas mobilis to ferment woody plant matter and create fuel more efficiently. So, bamboo biofuel is certainly on the horizon.

Could bamboo be the major sustainable crop of the future? It certainly ticks all the boxes. It grows like a weed all over the world, and it is the fastest growing plant in the world with one species growing up to a meter a day. Bamboo has virtually no limit to its versatility. It takes decades to produce a forest of trees, but only weeks to replace a depleted forest of bamboo.

In 2016 the bamboo industry was worth $60 billion per year, with U.N. Secretary Ban Ki Moon helping to show off a bamboo bicycle made by Evelyn Ohenewaa of Ghana. Once regarded as a pest in the West because of its rampant growth habits in suburbia, bamboo may be the savior of us all.

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