This article first appeared on Loudoun Now, written by Danielle Nadler. Photos by Douglas Graham / Loudoun Now.
The past month’s soggy conditions are doing more than putting a damper on summer fun. The record-breaking rainfall has farmers reeling, with some even rethinking what crops they plant next year.
“If I would’ve predicted this year’s rain, we would’ve grown rice,” said Jonathan Staples, who launched Black Hops Farm near Lucketts four years ago. “I just don’t remember the last time we had this kind of almost Biblical rain for almost two weeks.”
As of Tuesday, 11.04 inches had fallen at Dulles Airport during the month of July according to the National Weather Service. That easily beats the previous record for July, made last year with 8.08 inches. But it still falls short of the all-time record of 18.19 inches in a month, reached in June 1972 when Hurricane Agnes wreaked devastation all along the East Coast.
As the rain continued to drench Loudoun this week, the small team at Bainum Family Foundation Farm near Middleburg waded through mud and standing water to harvest tomatoes before they were totally lost to fungi.
Tonya Taylor, who runs the farm with her husband Kasey Clark, said the wet weather creates perfect conditions for fungal diseases. The few organic methods they use to keep these conditions at bay—including plant-based fungicide—won’t stay on the leaves in heavy rain.
“So there’s not much we can do to slow it down. We just harvest what we can before the whole plant dies,” Taylor said.
The biggest concern for Staples’ more than 5 acres of hops is mildew. “After it stops raining, it’s hot and humid here so you end up with mildew that can just wreck the crop,” he said. “This weather is really not good right now.”
New Zealand and Washington state’s Yakima Valley are considered two of the best places to grow hops because of their dry conditions and plenty of groundwater for the roots, Staples said. But in Virginia, he just hopes that the storm clouds don’t linger.
“You can’t really plan for something like this. It’s almost like a tornado or hurricane,” he added. “You pray and you wait to see after the rain stops where you’re at.”
The wet weather hasn’t put grape growers on high alert yet, but they’re certainly hoping it lets up soon.
“We’re still not at the critical stage where we don’t want it to rain,” said Mike Caney, owner of Sunset Hills Vineyard near Purcellville. “The rain’s not bad, but we’d like it to rain less. We need half an inch a week until mid-October—half an inch, not half a foot.”
He predicts that the quantity of wine will be less than in years past, and the rain is to blame.
“That’s because of the rain we had when the grapes were flowering. … The rain in late May through mid-June had a bigger impact because it affected the fruit set,” he said. As the grapes begin to ripen, it’s ideal to have some rain but not this much. “Once we start that, we need enough to keep [the grapes] healthy but we don’t want so much to dilute them. The best for us would be to see a mild drought.”
There are a handful of sectors in the local agriculture industries that are weathering the storm better than others—for one, the sheep farmers. Allen Cochran, who farms near Lincoln, thinks the rain may be to thank for one of the best years his flock has had.
“It’s been a super year for me,” he said. “Parasites are my biggest enemy and the rain seems to keep them down.”
Of his nearly 100 sheep, only three have had worms this season. Plus, he added, his pastures have more grass than ever. “Sheep farming is all about getting enough grass. So this has really been great.”
It’s also been a good year for beets, carrots, green beans and watermelon, which the crew at Bainum Family Foundation Farm started harvesting Monday.
But, unfortunately, the weeds also thrive in the rain.
“That’s what’s so tough. When it’s nonstop rain it makes it hard to get out and pull weeds, which is really necessary,” Taylor said, adding that part of the farm’s 5 acres of produce is under 2 inches of standing water.
After a near-record hot summer in 2017 and this summer leaving rain gauges overflowing, farmers may have to rethink what usual weather looks like in Virginia. Taylor said she’s yet to experience what’s supposed to be a “typical” growing season here, and she is seriously considering planting crops—such as rice—that do better in wet conditions.
“If you want to talk about climate change, I think this erratic, unpredictable weather is the effect,” she said. “I don’t know if we’ll ever experience a normal growing season.”
And it’s not over yet. The rain clouds are expected to stick around through the weekend.
This article first appeared on The Kitchn.
Our youngest child grew up at the local farmers market. Our market opened around the time he was born, and we welcomed the opportunity to walk to a local shop and buy food in the parking lot, from local vendors.
The market’s founder even hired our toddler to “help” him, which consisted of playing with said founder’s phone and occasionally giving people change. His help enabled us to take our time at the market, make friends, and carefully consider our purchases.
But that was a luxury, no? Most markets don’t have free nannies. Eventually, we learned to navigate the market without the childcare.
Have a Good Time at the Farmers Market with Kids
It’s possible, I promise. The first thing you need to do is remember that people will like you more if you don’t let your kids mess up their fun. (This is true of every place you take your crew, ever.) I love kids. I have three. But that was my choice, not the guy who’s just at the market to meet his friends for empañadas and a little weekend vegetable shopping.
1. Set up expectations for your kids.
Let your kids know that the market is fun, but you (and other people) are there to shop, and the vendors are there to sell. Talk with your kids ahead of time and let them know what to expect. This can be a great way to shop, supporting local people and even making new friends, but it’s not a playground and people are there to get things done.
2. Know your child’s limits.
A wise woman — my mother, obviously — once said that once you have children, you always have to be willing to leave. Have you ever been at the park with that whiny parent who keeps yelling, “Fauntleroy! Use your words! No hitting! If you do that one more time, Fauntleroy, we will have to leave. I mean it!” But he doesn’t mean it? And he stays on the bench sipping coffee as he says it again and again, each time he watches his kid pummel another innocent toddler. And they never leave? Don’t be that parent.
If your kid is hungry, buy a snack. Tired? See if she’ll sleep in the stroller. Bored? Give him your iPhone. I won’t judge you. But if all else fails and you hit a wall? Leave. Just do it. It’s liberating. Even if you haven’t done all your shopping. You can try again next week.
3. Teach the etiquette of sampling.
The farmers market can seem like one big buffet, even to adults. And a lot of vendors will let you try things even if they don’t have samples sitting out. To a kid? This can seem like a free-for-all. So explain ahead of time that samples are awesome, but there’s only one sample per person. Take it a step further and let them know the vendors take a loss on samples hoping to sell more, and that you shouldn’t take advantage.
4. Let them ask questions, but not too many.
I’ve always believed that the more connected my children felt to the origins of their food, the more likely they were to eat vegetables. The farmers market is a great place for children to learn something new, so as long as they aren’t interrupting or holding up the line, this is the perfect moment for them to find out how many eggs a chicken can lay in a week.
5. Make it special by trying something new.
The farmers market is a treat. Why? Because where else can you find food this fresh? And you never know what you’ll get.
When I was in my 20s, my husband and I were part of a food co-op. For $10 a week we got a bag of fresh, in-season vegetables — no choices, just vegetables. I tried Jerusalem artichokes for the first time because of that co-op. They’re delicious! I also ended up making leek gratin and chard enchiladas, and all kinds of dishes I wouldn’t have made if I didn’t have to use random vegetables every week. The farmers market is an adventure, and it’s a great place to get kids excited about new food.
6. Plan a meal together.
Another way to keep kids occupied at the market is to involve them in meal planning. See if you can make a whole meal using only food you buy that day. Bonus: Do it within a certain budget. That may mean deviating from your original plan. And there you go! Another great teaching moment. Creating a menu based on what’s in season and what you can afford is a skill — one that’s best modeled early.
7. Scope out the snacks.
When you get to the market, look for the treats. Then you have a goal. As soon as you’re finished shopping, everyone gets a … whatever it is everyone wanted. If your children are old enough, and your market is manageable enough, give them some cash and let them go. You may be surprised by what they choose. Fresh fruit is always more enticing with a side of independence.
8. Beware the bulky stroller and the wandering toddler.
Have you seen the sign that some store owners put up? “Unattended children will be given an espresso and a free kitten.” My 10-year-old saw it recently at our favorite farm market. He introduced himself as an unattended child. His ploy did not work. But I digress. Shop owners put those signs up because unattended children are annoying and dangerous. (I don’t believe in sugar-coating, so there it is.)
As for that bulky stroller, it might be a great solution at some markets — a good way to keep track of your child and carry your purchases — but other markets are tight on space and a baby carrier or backpack might work better. Know your market and make sure your children are safe and not underfoot. And for goodness’ sake, do not nip anyone in the ankles with that stroller. That’s flippin’ painful and it should never, ever happen! Ever.
This article first appeared on Chewy.
The farmer’s market is a place filled with colorful sights, striking sounds, and delicious scents—making it the perfect spot for outings with your dog. Whether you’re shopping for yourself or for ingredients to make your pet’s meals, there are certain rules of etiquette and safety that will help make the outing a success.
“The first thing you should do is to make sure your dog is even allowed at the market,” says Elisha Stynchula, a certified dog trainer with “I Said Sit”School for Dogs in Los Angeles, California. “Many of the markets in Los Angeles don’t allow dogs.” Sometimes these are market rules, but sometimes it has to do with local and state health laws that prevent non-service animals from being in places where food is prepared.
If your farmer’s market does allow dogs, make sure you know the rules before heading out.
Is Your Dog Ready for the Farmer’s Market?
Just like people, some dogs do very well in busy, crowded environments and some do not. “The most important thing is to make sure you have a dog that’s comfortable around children, strollers, and crowds,” says Stynchula. “Puppies get overwhelmed easily and you also probably don’t want to take a newly adopted dog on an outing like this.”
Consider keeping your dog at home if he is scared by loud noises. “Some markets offer entertainment and music,” says Merritt Milam, a certified dog trainer at Wags ‘N Whiskers in Homewood, Alabama.
Stynchula says if your dog understands basic training, such as sitting patiently while you talk to vendors or people from the neighborhood, he’s probably a good farmer’s market companion.
Preparing for a Healthy Outing
Dr. Carol Osborne, a veterinarian who specializes in integrative medicine at Chagrin Falls Veterinary Center and Pet Clinic in Chagrin Falls, Ohio says there are certain safety precautions you should consider before taking your dog on an outing.
Check the weather. “If the weather is going to be extremely hot or cold, leave your dog at home. I’ve seen people with their dogs just panting terribly on a hot day while at these events,” says Osborne.
Keep your dog up-to-date on vaccines. Osborne says to make sure your dog is current on all of his vaccines, including Bordetella (kennel cough) and other vaccines that protect against airborne illnesses. “You don’t know what other dogs may be carrying,” says Osborne, “so if a dog is infected, it could infect yours.”
Make sure your dog has identification. Farmer’s markets are busy locations with crowds and lots of commotion. Before heading out for the day, make sure your dog has proper identification on him in the form of an ID tag or microchip. Don’t forget to keep these items up to date with your current address or phone number. It’s also a good idea to carry a current photo of your dog in your purse or wallet in the event that your dog gets lost or goes missing.
Visiting the Farmer’s Market With Your Dog: What to Bring
The most important thing to bring with you to the farmer’s market is a dog leash, which will ensure your dog stays close. Do not use a retractable leash, which can accidentally extend and potentially cause a disaster. “It could get tangled around a table leg. Or worse, your dog could jump up on a table,” says Stynchula. “Take a standard, six foot, flat leash.”
Stynchula says other things to take along in a doggy preparedness bag include:
- Poop bags. Cleaning up is just part of the pet parenting job, and having bags on hand will prevent you from receiving a fine for not picking up your dog’s waste.
- Collapsible bowl and water bottle. Your dog may get thirsty and while some vendors may provide communal bowls, it’s better to be prepared with your own.
- High value treats. Stynchula says your dog will be tempted with all kinds of treats and distractions all day long, so you should have particularly tasty treats on hand. Use these high-value treats to reward good behavior such as walking with you, waiting patiently while you shop, and ignoring food on the ground. “Cheese or pieces of chicken are always typically good high value dog treats for these types of situations,” she says.
Essential Safety Tips for Dogs at the Farmer’s Market
When at the market, Stynchula says to be aware of who is approaching your dog at all times. “Your dog may be very well socialized, but you can create a reactive dog if you allow anyone or any dog to approach and touch your dog,” says Stynchula. “If kids approach your dog, put yourself between them and your dog. Don’t put your dog in a situation that might cause a liability.”
Osborne says it’s also important to keep your dog away from food and hot grills. There are many foods at the farmer’s market that could be toxic to your dog, including grapes, onions, and certain types of plants or flowers, such as azaleas, tulips, or sago palms. Some farmer’s markets allow vendors to cook foods on hot grills, so it’s important to be mindful of your dog at all times to prevent potential injuries or burns.
If at any point during the market your dog seems stressed or too anxious, Milam reminds pet parents that they can always leave. “Watch your dog, make sure he is still calm,” she says. “If your dog seems anxious or uncomfortable, you should remove him from the situation.”
Farmer’s markets are fun events and sharing a stroll through the stalls is a great way to spend some time with your canine companion. But Stynchula says that if you choose to take your dog to the market, your main priority should be his safety and wellbeing. “You are your dog’s advocate for health and happiness,” she says. “Pet parents need to make sure they are keeping that in mind when out in public.”
This article first appeared on Dr. Axe.
What is L-theanine, and what is it used for? L-theanine (also called theanine, or sometimes r-glutamylethylamide) is an amino acid that impacts nerve impulses in the brain and the release of neurotransmitters, including GABA.
It is known as natural ananxiolytic because it can have a calming, sedative effect on the body and mind without making you feel drowsy — which is why it’s often used to reduce anxiety, hyperactivity and sleep-related problems.
Most people don’t acquire a lot of theanine from their diets since it’s not available in many commonly eaten foods. It’s a unique amino acid because it’s not used to form proteins — unlike many other amino acids, such as l-carnitine, leucine, lysine, methionine or tryptophan — and is not used to make enzymes. The greatest sources of L-theanine in our diets are green, black and white teas — but because most people don’t drink very large quantities of tea on a daily basis, L-theanine supplements can be beneficial.
As we’ll cover more below, drinking tea and taking L-theanine supplements can help reduce the effects of stress, protect the brain, support the cardiovascular system and much more.
What Is L-theanine?
L-theanine is considered a nondietary, nonessential amino acid because even though it has certain benefits, we don’t require it from our diets.
What does L-theanine do for you? It is used to help prevent and treat conditions, including:
- Anxiety, depression and other mood-related disorders
- Insomnia and trouble sleeping
- Cognitive loss, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
- High blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Poor attention span
- Substance dependence
- It may help improve the effects of drugs used to treat cancer drugs
L-theanine and the amino acid glutamine are structurally similar but have different effects and benefits. Both can be supportive of overall mental health and energy levels, but theanine is more capable of acting as a natural stress-reliever. Glutamine is one of 20 naturally occurring amino acids in dietary protein and is the most abundant amino acid in the bloodstream, making up 30 percent to 35 percent of the amino acid nitrogen in your blood.
Glutamine is needed to produce the neurotransmitter called glutamate. Glutamate is considered an excitatory neurotransmitter, but L-theanine binds to the same receptors in the brain as glutamate and therefore has opposite, inhibitory effects.
Is L-theanine the same as caffeine? No — the two are different, although they are both found in beverages, including green tea. Because L-theanine tends to promote relaxation, while caffeine promotes alertness, the two have opposite but complementary effects. However, studies suggest that both L-theanine and caffeine can have beneficial effects on cognition and mood when used appropriately.
5 L-theanine Benefits
What are the benefits of L-theanine? Below are five ways it can benefit your sleep, mental health, cognition and more.
1. Can Help Relieve Anxiety and Reduce Effects of Stress
One of the most well-researched L-theanine benefits is its ability to promote relaxation and fight stress. It is said to be “a relaxing agent without causing sedation,” meaning it can help improve your ability to deal with stress without making you feel lethargic or tired.
If you suffer from nervousness, anxiety, depression or other stress-related issues, you can likely benefit from L-theanine’s relaxing effects, although it likely won’t have a strong enough effect to reduce severe anxiety. (3) In one study, L-theanine was shown to reduce scores on a tension-anxiety test compared to placebo. Both L-theanine and caffeine’s effects on mental task performance and physiological activities were investigated. Participants were placed under conditions of physical or psychological stress, in which they orally took either L-theanine + placebo, caffeine + placebo or placebo only. Results after the mental tasks showed that L-theanine significantly inhibited the blood-pressure increase associated with stress, while caffeine tended to have a similar but smaller inhibition of blood pressure.
What does L-theanine do to the brain to help calm you down? L-theanine has anti-stress effects because it inhibits (blocks) cortical neuron excitation. Theanine has been found to cross the blood-brain barrier, especially when given as an injection, and when taken orally it can increase brain concentrations of the compound for up to five hours. Theanine seems to impact two important areas of the brain called the amygdala and hippocampus, which help control fear responses and memory.
Theanine may also increase alpha brain waves (α-waves), which are associated with a state of “wakeful relaxation,” selective attention mechanisms, arousal and mental alertness. One study tested the effects of L-theanine on brain waves 45, 60, 75, 90 and 105 minutes after ingestion of 50 milligrams of L-theanine. The results showed that there was a greater increase in alpha activity across time in the L-theanine condition relative to placebo. According to the authors of the study, “These data indicate that L-theanine, at realistic dietary levels, has a significant effect on the general state of mental alertness or arousal. Furthermore, alpha activity is known to play an important role in critical aspects of attention, and further research is therefore focussed on understanding the effect of L-theanine on attentional processes.”
2. May Help Improve Sleep and Fight Insomnia
Why is L-theanine good for sleep? Mostly because it helps reduce stress and anxiety, which can keep you up at night if you’re constantly worrying, tossing and turning. The effects that theanine has on sleep are mild, so it won’t work for every person to improve sleep quality. While it can have positive effects on sleep quality, it probably won’t be enough to help someone with moderate or severe insomnia to get a good night’s sleep.
Certain studies have found that L-theanine can help to improve sleep quality in people with conditions that cause hyperactivity, including ADHD. (7) Another positive attribute of L-theanine when it comes to sleep is that it can counter the effects of stimulants. This means that if you drink lots of coffee or use other stimulants for medical reasons, L-theanine’s calming effects may help reduce wakefulness, jitters, etc.
Some people choose to take L-theanine and melatonin together to help with sleep. A common dosage is around three grams of melatonin before bed taken with 100–200 milligrams of L-theanine. The two can act together to reduce stress and help with sleep quality, although L-theanine taken in high doses (above 600 milligrams) may have opposite effects.
3. May Help Improve Attention
Some people choose to use L-theanine and caffeine together in order to improve alertness, cognition and attention. The two have a “synergistic” relationship and can lead to improved focus without feeling overly “wired” or jittery. For this purpose, consuming about 200 milligrams each of L-theanine and caffeine tends to lead to the best results. (8)
4. Can Help Protect Memory and Cognition
In one double-blind, placebo-controlled study, patients with mild cognitive impairment were given 360 milligrams of green tea extract along with 60 milligrams of theanine (a combination called LGNC-07) three times daily for 16 weeks. Researchers found that LGNC-07 helped improve recognition skills without having any negative effects on verbal and visuospatial memory. (9)
According to the study’s researchers, “Brain theta waves, an indicator of cognitive alertness, were increased significantly in the temporal, frontal, parietal, and occipital areas after three hours in the eye-open and reading states. Therefore, this study suggests that LGNC-07 has potential as an intervention for cognitive improvement.”
One way in which L-theanine may help to protect the brain is by preventing excessive glutamate stimulation of brain cells (excitotoxicity), which some believe is linked to neurodegenerative disorders, stroke and schizophrenia. By blocking some of glutamate’s effects, L-theanine may be able to offer neuroprotection for the aging brain.
5. May Help Support Cardiovascular Health
Green tea is the top source of L-theanine, and many studies have found evidence that green tea can help reduce inflammation and support heart health. Some experts believe that green tea is protective of cardiovascular health mostly because it provides theanine, rather than due to other active compounds like green tea catechins or theaflavins.
Theanine may help to prevent blood pressure spikes in response to stressful events and help regulate nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a molecule that our bodies produce to help cells communicate, regulate blood pressure by dilating arteries, reduce inflammation, support the immune system, improve sleep quality and more. The endothelium layer of our arteries produce nitric oxide, which helps relax narrowed blood vessels and increases oxygen and blood flow. Adequate production of nitric oxide can help to protect against artery-blocking clots or obstructions, heart attacks, stroke and other cardiovascular problems.
Some studies have also found that administration of L-theanine after a stroke, ideally within 12 hours but potentially up to 24 hours later, may help protect brain cells and reduce damage caused by the stroke. (10)
In studies conducted on roundworms (the species C. elagans), theanine supplementation has even been shown to help slightly increase life span and promote longevity. Roundworms that were exposed to L-theanine at high concentrations experienced an extended life span by an average value of 3.6 percent and up to 4.4 percent. (11) Researchers did not find that more theanine provided more benefits when it came longevity; a dosage on the lower end of the range was actually the most effective.
Is L-theanine natural? Yes, it’s found in certain foods and beverages, including green tea (made from the leaves of the camellia sinensis plant). Along with caffeine and catechins, L-theanine is one of the main active ingredients found in green tea. It’s believed that theanine actually gives green tea its slight umami flavor and helps counteract the bitter taste of green and black tea — and other bitter-tasting foods like cocoa.
How much L-theanine is in green tea? It comprises up to 50 percent of the total amino acids in tea. About at 0.9 percent to 3.1 percent of the dry weight of green tea leaves is theanine. This equates to about 25 to 60 milligrams of theanine per 200 milliliters of tea, or about 6.7 ounces. This amount of tea is typically made from about 2.5 grams of dried tea leaves. Theanine content in green tea varies depending on the specific type of tea. Teas made from younger plants have a higher theanine content than teas made from older plants. Theanine content is also reduced from fermentation (part of the process used to make tea leaves), but it becomes more concentrated when leaves are dried.
What other foods have L-theanine in them? L-theanine can also be found in leaves used to produce black and white teas, although most research has focused on theanine from green tea. Other plants that provide L-theanine include:
- C. japonica and C. sasanqua — These are small shrubs that produce pink and red flowers. They are sometimes used make tea, although not as commonly ascamellia sinensis. (12)
- The mushroom species called Xerocomus badius — Also called bay bolete, this is a brown, edible, pored mushroom found in Europe and North America. (13)