Monday, June 22, 2009

Summer as Medicine

While I am sure it is merely my lack of vitamin D in the winter, I always feel healthier in the summer. I get less sleep (and need less), get outside more, and am just happier to be alive. I also eat a lot of strawberries.

The height of strawberry season was last weekend up here and we took full advantage. Abby took an afternoon off to pick a baker's dozen in pounds of berries and for once, I could eat them (although regardless of how great my digestive system is, there is a limit to the amount of berries I can handle). With our early summer bounty, we froze some and made 12 jars of jam. For those who cannot handle excessive amounts of sugar, here is the secret to making tasty jam.

1) Get a bunch of ripe or overripe strawberries (pick your own is the cheapest unless you grow your own).
2) Start a large pot of boiling water to sterilize the jars. Boil jars 10 minutes.
3) In a separate pot, boil the berries with some pectin. While there may be some debate over using or not using pectin, we find it makes a "jammier" jam.
4) Simmer the berries for 5-7 minutes. Turn off heat and then add a few "swigs" of agave nectar. If you can handle sugar, eat some other form of sugar, but agave nectar has a low glycemic level.
5) Transfer berry mixture into sterilized jars. Put new tops on jars.
6) Boil jars for 5 minutes. Remove and let cool. Ensure the tops are sealed.


  1. Glad you're feeling so well, Matt. I think summer means Vitamin D, more activity, being involved in growing something (as you've mentioned before), and just all the color and beauty--how can one not feel better with all those factors? :-)

    What's your take on the negativity about agave nectar? Every blog I read that uses agave in its recipes has folks coming on left and right slamming it. The most recent comment I read include the Weston Price Foundation's position on it being as dangerous as high fructose corn syrup. Then I've read that the reason your glucose levels don't rise is because it's being "caught" in your liver and that your liver is actually being damaged. I'll be interested in your opinion if you're willing to offer it.


  2. I think there should be negativity on any sugar. Sugar is not natural in liquid quantities and other than honey, no sugar is raw. I looked online and found some articles that complain it is a processed food, which baffles me because so is sugar cane, maple syrup, and well even most honey. I agree that high level of fructose could pose problems since these levels are not available in nature. That and there are people with fructose malabsorpation and intolerance which makes me feel that our bodies may not be prepared to handle large quantities of fructose.

    For whatever it's worth, agave does have a low-glycemic index. At the same time, we're harvesting too many agave plants (and killing off the bugs that eat them. For me, I used very little in my rice cereals since I could still not handle maple syrup or honey. Really, it's best to eat none of these (except maybe raw honey in small quantities), but being an American kid, I still have a sweet tooth. Once I'm better, I'll stay away from agave and try to sweeten everything with berries.

  3. Wow. I haven't heard any of that about agave nectar. I'd stayed away from it because, like stevia, I figured people would eventually find something wrong with it and I wanted to wait and see what the final verdict was. Last week I finally gave in and bought some, although I haven't used it in a recipe yet. I guess I know I should limit my sweets, whatever form they come in (sugar, honey, agave, maple syrup) but I was kind of excited about agave.