Barley is one of the oldest domesticated cereal grains still being grown around the world today. It originated in Ethiopia and southeast Asia. It is most often used in bread and malted beverages such as beer (barley beer was likely one of the first alcoholic drinks humans developed). Over the centuries, barley water has been used for various medicinal purposes; it is good for clearing up urinary tract infections and is also said to be a good remedy for kidney stones.



What would our Thanksgiving Day feasts be without cranberries? This staple of our holiday dinner has a long, proud history in the United States. According to the Cranberry Marketing Committee (, Native Americans used cranberries as a food staple as early as 1550. They ate them fresh and mashed them with cornmeal and baked them into bread. They used maple sugar or honey to sweet them. They also mixed cranberries with wild game and melted fat to make pemmican.



My mother loved decorating for the holidays. From the tree in the den to the lights around all the windows and a big Santa decal on the front door, she was all in. She would also hang a sprig of (fake) mistletoe, complete with sharp-edged leaves and white berries, from the lintel of the doorway between the living room and the kitchen. She and my father always shared the first kiss under the mistletoe after she put it up.


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When autumn arrives, the seasonal decorations come out. Among the cornstalks and scarecrows you’ll undoubtedly find see squat orange shapes and you’ll know it’s pumpkin time again.

Pumpkins, a cultivar of the squash plant, are also known as winter squash. They are native to North America, and according to the Illinois Department of Agriculture, the Land of Lincoln grows the highest number of pumpkins in the States – a whopping 95 percent of the U.S. crop intended for processing.

Pumpkins are popular in dishes around the world – ever try pump-kin lasagna or pumpkin ravioli? Commercially canned pumpkin comes from different types of pumpkins than those used for jack o’ lanterns at Halloween. Immigrants from Ireland and Scotland brought the carving tradition to the new land, but pumpkins were larger and easier to carve than the turnips they formerly used.

This favorite filling for Thanksgiving pies can be heart healthy, boasting just 26 calories in 100 grams and no saturated fats or cholesterol. Like many other orange- colored fruit, pumpkin is high in beta-carotene. Pumpkin contains fiber, vitamins A and C and several B-complex vitamins – niacin and thiamin – in addition to potassium and essential minerals such as

copper, calcium and phosphorus. Pumpkin is also an excellent source of natural polyphenolic flavonoid compounds, including cryptoxanthin, lutein and zeaxanthin. Pumpkins have a special class of carbohydrates that have anti- inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Eating pumpkin can regulate cholesterol and insulin. Pumpkin seeds are a good source of magnesium and zinc, which help promote heart health. Oddly enough, people rarely eat the pumpkins they buy this time of year. The majority of pumpkins are used for jack o’ lanterns. And while pumpkins are mainly orange or yellow, white pumpkins started to become increasingly popular in the United States around 2005.

The largest pumpkin ever grown weighed 2,009 pounds. That’s a lot of pie. The largest pumpkin pie ever made was over 5 feet in diameter and weighed over 350 pounds. It used 80 pounds of cooked pumpkin, 36 pounds of sugar and 12 dozen eggs and took six hours to bake.

Native Americans used pumpkin to treat various ailments, such as intestinal worms and urinary tract infections. Other (supposed) medicinal uses for pumpkin include removing freckles and curing snake bites. For an exfoliating facial mask,

mix 1/4 cup of pureed pumpkin with an egg, a tablespoon of honey and a tablespoon of milk. Apply for about 20 minutes and wash off with warm water.

People are not the only ones who enjoy eating pumpkin. Sometimes vets recommend feeding pumpkin to dogs and cats who have digestive problems or need to lose weight. At Health & Wellness magazine, we often encourage walking as a way to optimum health and wellness. Why not pick up the popular seasonal pumpkin latté offered at a certain coffee retailer and take your dog for a walk among the changing autumn leaves? Or how about indulging in one to keep you warm while you wait for the Great Pumpkin on Halloween night?


Tanya Tyler is the Editor of Health & Wellness Magazine

more articles by Tanya Tyler