Friday, October 24, 2008

Seed Swap

Many of Christchurch’s keen gardeners look forward to the Southern Seed Exchange’s annual spring seed swap. For Seed Exchange members it is the much anticipated day when they can collect their seed orders and fossick around the swap table . It’s hard not to be greedy when there are so many varieties to choose from. For my annual subscription of $20.00 I received several brown and white envelopes carefully packaged by diligent volunteers. Many thanks to the guardian seed savers, and all the people who helped write newsletters, seed lists and fill orders. I can’t wait to start sowing my seeds, as many are new varieties that I’m growing for the first time.

Spring Sunshine at Number 4
This year the seed swap was held at 4 Riccarton Ave. Many Soil and Health members will remember this house fondly as it was once the home of Matt Morris, our current branch president. The day couldn’t have been better, the air was soft and warm, and full of sunshine. People gathered eagerly around the swap table, seeking out interesting plants, cuttings and seeds. I picked up some unusual black and white striped runner beans. These will have to wait until next year however, as I have already sown a variety called ‘Devils Defiance’.

SSE Fieldtrips and Monthly Get-Togethers
In addition to maintaining its seed bank the Southern Seed Exchange has recently started holding fieldtrips and monthly get-togethers . Unfortunately I couldn’t make it to Martin’s fieldtrip on seaweeds (edible seaweeds and seaweeds for the garden). There is a chance he could be running it again in November, so if you’re interested in this event, or would like to get on the mailing list for future events ring Martin on 03 325 1310 or email:

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Blog On

Kia ora and welcome to our new blog, a place where Soil and Health members can share news, information, and ideas. We value contributions and comments from readers. If you would like to write an article, or let us know about an event, please email us at:

August Talk – The Benefits of Eating Flax Seed Oil

Earlier this month, Soil and Health member Christopher Musgrave hosted a talk on the health benefits of flax seed oil, also known as linseed oil. Christopher introduced us to a wide range of nutritious products, and told us the interesting story behind his family farm at Waihi Bush.

The Plant
Flax seed oil comes from the delicate, blue flowered Linum plant, not to be confused with the New Zealand native flax, Phormium sp.

Waihi Bush
Originally inspired to grow flax after the oil was recommended as a cure for his son’s eczema, Christopher’s father David Musgrave, pressed his first lot of oil in 1993. Starting off small, using equipment supplied by a Canadian company, the Musgrave’s business now employs 18 people.

Fifteen years ago New Zealanders would have struggled to find organic flax seed oil on the shelves of their health food store or supermarket. Now thanks to Waihi Bush, there are a number of different flaxseed products to choose from.

Health Benefits
Eating flax seed oil has many benefits, so many in fact, that Mahatma Ghandi once said that "whenever flax seeds are part of the peoples diet, then their health will be improved". While flax seeds have been part of the Indian diet for centuries, many New Zealanders have yet to discover their benefits.

Flax seed contains two kinds of fatty acid, Omega-3 and Omega-6, both of which are essential nutrients. To maintain optimum health the body needs balanced amounts of both fatty acids. Modern diets tend to be high in Omega-6 and low in Omega-3, this is largely because the most common oils, with the exception of olive oil, are high in Omega-6 but contain little or no Omega-3.

The body uses Omega-3 fatty acids to send messages to different parts of the body. One of its most important functions is to switch off the inflammation response. When people do not get enough Omega-3 in their diet they can develop a variety of inflammation related diseases, for example arthritis, eczema and psoriasis. Omega-3 fatty acids also reduce water retention by regulating salt excretion, and help to boost the body’s natural immune system.

Fresh is Best
Both flax seed oil and fish oil contain high levels of Omega-3’s, but fish oil contains secondary Omega-3’s, which a healthy body can make from the primary Omega-3 found in flax seed oil – you need both to be healthy. Because Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids decay rapidly when exposed to light and air, these foods need to be carefully packaged. Fresh, unrefined foods, generally contain higher levels of Omega-3 fatty acids. Before the advent of industrial farming and processed food, people’s diets probably contained more Omega-3’s. For example the meat, milk and eggs from free-range, grass fed animals, tends to have higher levels of these essential nutrients.

Daily Dose
Including flax seed oil in your diet is the easiest way to make sure your body gets the right amount of Omega-3.
Unless you are treating a specific health issue, a tablespoon of oil a day is usually all you need. Eat the oil directly, or mix it in with your food. Including the oil in salad dressings is a great way to make flax seed oil a tasty part of your daily meal.