Taking notice: 5 ways 2 wellbeing

Back to the 5 ways. I love Mid-Spring, it’s a time when here in the UK that as a hobby gardener, I feel everything is rapidly growing. It’s a great time to take more notice. Gardening is very much my therapy. It’s a great way to nurture plants, enjoy the seasons, have all the senses used. Below is a selection of flowers from the past year in my garden.

I particularly took notice just now, as this is the first time I have managed to harvest asparagus. People often are like Marmite with Asparagus, they either love it or hate it. For me, I love it. I love it for several reasons, one being that it is the one veg that I truly only ever eat when it is in season locally. Britains asparagus season is pretty short, usually from mid-April through to late May. Shipped in Asparagus loses its flavour rapidly, hence why I avoid it like the plague.

My favourite way to enjoy asparagus is with eggs. The simplest way, is with a lightly poached egg, with the asparagus gentled steamed or boiled. However, I am not a huge fan of steamed or boiled asparagus. I think the next simplest way is to cook the stems over a hot griddle pan (with or without first oiling the stems). Cook until they start to char. Once they have stripes, take them off the heat. I like them to still have a crunch! I serve with a simple, homemade Hollandaise Sauce.

You might be thinking, “Hey, hold on a minute, are I thought this was a 5 ways to wellbeing?”, but for me, you can eat rich sauces, and still maintain good general health. It’s all about the relationship you have with food. I know there will be some very health conscious people out there, who will say eggs and butter are not healthy (and I know some will come at this from a vegan angle too), but for now, I am still eating the occasional high-fat foods, but in small portions, and only occasionally. I think some fad diets, are much more harmful to a person, than getting the balance right. For anyone who does have difficulty maintaining a healthy weight range, then I can’t recommend enough Judith Beck’s book which is based on her Beck Diet Program (American English!). For most people who struggle with eating too much, it is often not what they are eating, or how much they are eating that is the problem, but more to do with the thoughts and feelings linked to food and their body image. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can help overcome those thoughts and feelings.

For the simple Hollandaise Sauce (serves one or two people)

  1. 1 Egg yolk
  2. 1 splash of cider or white wine vinegar
  3. Around 10g melted butter
  4. 1/4 teaspoon of Dijon Mustard

If you need more of a visual aid than my photos, or you are someone who likes exact measurements when following a recipe, then Google, Jamie Oliver or James Martin for recipe ideas. My method, in a clean wide bowl, add the yolk, mustard and vinegar. Whisk until all the 3 ingredients are blended together. Place the bowl over a pan of boiled water. Keep whisking, and add the melted butter slowly. The whole process of preparing and cooking takes me less than 10 minutes. Which is also plenty of time to cook the stems of the asparagus. It makes a great starter, before the main evening meal.

Gardening is my therapy

I use “therapy” in a very loose way. But particularly at this time of year, I find my garden a place of sanctuary in the evening after I get back home from work, especially in warm and sunny evenings like it has been this past few days. This week, as part of my 5 Ways to Wellbeing, I did take notice, and this coming weekend, depending on the weather, I will be active, and get some weeding and mowing done.

You see, I moved into a new house two years ago (and I mean, ”new”, the house had only finished being built weeks before I moved in with my family), and I was given a blank canvass. The rear garden was laid with a small patio, and turf. Straightaway, I cut some new flower and shrub borders.

I realised when marking out and digging the beds just how physically unfit I was. But the benefits of gardening and green space on the body and mind has been well documented. Richard Thompson has written a very good overview of these benefits (Gardening for health: a regular dose of gardening, Clinical Medicine, London Vol. 18, Issue. 3,  June 2018, 201-205), for the whole academic paper, please click here. In summary in his paper, he refers to several studies that have shown that the physical activity has a positive impact on human health (that isn’t rocket science), but it is cheaper than joining a gym. Some of the other benefits are may be not as obvious, such as increasing Vitamin D, improving social isolation, and nurturing others (be it humans or plants) can improve mood.

Two years later, and already the plants are getting established. All of the five senses are being used, sight and smell, is obvious, particularly now that the roses are starting to bloom. Taste, has been happening for a few weeks now, thanks to the aspargus I have growing. I’m lucky that for the second time in two year, I have a mating pair of Blue Tits nesting, and their little chicks are chirping away, which is a heartlifting sound. Finally, touch, whilst pruning my roses, I did get scratched on the thorns, not the most pleasant of experiences, but “no pain without gain”.

No matter where you live, gardening can be beneficial, even if you are in a tiny flat/apartment. A windowsill is all you need to grow something. May be some culinary herbs in the kitchen? If you enjoy gardening, leave a comment, and let me know what you particularly enjoy.