"The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon." Psalm 92:12
I’ve been considering this verse for the last couple of months. What does it mean to flourish and what’s so special about the palm tree? Strong’s bible dictionary defines flourish as “to bud, sprout, shoot, bloom.” So to put it in people terms that would be like “growing, transforming, standing upright in character, and producing “fruit” (attributes and products of value to give to the world around us). The righteous1 are supposed to do this like the palm tree. Listed below are some features of the palm tree and some verses that we can emulate. At the end, I’ll share some of my new favorite recipes from one of my favorite members of the palm family, the coconut.
The references to the palm tree occur many places in the Bible. The first occurrence is in Exodus 15:27 describing Elim, the oasis with seventy palm trees and twelve springs of water. One palm tree for each of the seventy elders and one spring of water for each tribe of Israel.2 Bishop K. C. Pillai, an acclaimed authority on the Eastern Culture of the Bible, teaches that there are four types of palm trees that grow in the bible regions: the coconut palm, the date palm, the plantain or banana palm, and the palm tree of the scriptures which is described below as having the following attributes.3
- Uprightness. The palm tree stretches itself straight and tall into the air (up to 80 or 90 ft). It is stately, strong, and upright, not crooked. People would come to Deborah, the first female judge of Israel, under the palm tree for righteous judgement. (Psalm 19:13, Psalm 37:37, Psalm 97:11, Psalm 112:2-4, Proverbs 11:6, Proverb 16:17)
- Strength and Power. Palm trees flourish in harsh environments where the choking sand surrounds it and the burning heat scorches it. Their root systems are so secure that they can withstand severe storms, even monsoons without being uprooted. They are flexible and bend, but do not break. Because of this quality, the palm branches were carried as symbolic tokens of victory for celebrations or to honor people of importance. (Acts 1:8, Ephesians 3:17 & 6:13, 1 Corinthians 15:58, 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, Romans 8:36-37)
- Fruitfulness. The palm tree bears fruit that can be used for sustenance through all seasons. Not only is the fruit useful, but all parts of the tree are valuable to meet many needs. A recent study reports 360 uses of the coconut palm, in particular, half of which are for food. The fruit and roots have medicinal virtues. The leaves make a variety of articles for domestic use (baskets, clothes, etc.) The fibers of the boughs are used to manufacture thread, ropes, and rigging. The sap can be used to make sugar, liquor and vinegar. And the trunk is excellent wood for building or fuel. (Galatians 5:22-23, 2 Peter 1:5-8, Titus 3:14)
- Guidance. Palm trees in the desert are a sign of the presence of water (Exodus. 15:27). They are a guide to survival for those in a weary land. (Proverbs 11:3 & 23:19, Isaiah 58:11, John 16:13, Acts 8:31, 1 Timothy 5:14)
- Permanence. Palm trees can survive and produce fruit for many, many years. They are known to commonly live past 100 years. They were used in decoration throughout the temple of God during the Old Testament (a copy of the heavenly design revealed in Ezekiel 40) as an emblem of the beauty and perseverance of the people of God. (Psalm 92:13-14 & 112:5-6, Proverb 10:25, Isaiah 60:21, John 5:24)
Though not the palm tree that was frequently referred to in the bible, the coconut palm has many merits as well. The oldest fossils of coconuts have been found in India, dating back to the 1st century B.C.. So, it could have been an available food at the time through trade, though not specifically mentioned. Those of us today living in the Northern Hemisphere are very fortunate to have access to this amazing food even though it only grows in tropical regions.
There are two food products in particular that are made from the coconut that are credited by many as being instrumental in reversing two of the most disturbing disease conditions in our society that pharmaceuticals haven’t been able to help, Autism and Alzheimer's. You don’t have to have a disease, though, to benefit from the healing power of these foods. The first is coconut water kefir and the second is coconut oil.
Coconut Water Kefir
The clear liquid inside young coconuts is loaded with minerals and is sooo delicious and refreshing. It is so pure and sterile that in World War II both American and Japanese doctors found that in emergencies they could use the coconut water in place of sterile glucose for I.V. solutions. The water contains about 2 T of natural sugars (about 50% glucose, 35 % sucrose and 15% fructose).4 For an average healthy person this is fine to drink occasionally, but for those suffering with illness particularly yeast related, like autism, sugars of any kind can aggravate the condition. When this water is fermented using probiotic cultures, the sugars are consumed and the resulting drink becomes even more healthful. I have attached a video for making this wonderful drink yourself.
You can drink it as it is (tart, refreshing and effervescent) or flavor it with a little juice or stevia. It is the perfect rehydration or sports drink. I know what your thinking...“Isn’t this expensive?” Well, yes, if you’re buying individual coconuts at your local co-op. But, if you have an asian market near by, you can usually get them for at least half the price if not less, especially by the case. And, because the turn over is faster, they are often times fresher. So it’s more expensive that soda, but cheaper than beer. I’m gonna tell you another secret...you don’thave to use the expensive culture powder shown in this video. You can use milk kefir or water kefir grains that are often shared for free among many health food communities. They will continue to replicate and last indefinitely as long as you feed them often enough. Because this drink is so helpful for a number of conditions, a popular brand of coco kefir is now selling in the stores for 5 times the cost of making it yourself at home. Here are just a few of it’s benefits.
- Promotes healthy intestinal flora.
- Reduces sugar cravings.
- Contains important nutrients such as potassium, magnesium, and manganese.
- Cleanses the liver and intestines
- Clears your skin for a healthy complexion
- Increases energy and overall feeling of well-being.
The oil is made from the dried coconut meat and has amazing anti-fungal/viral/bacterial properties in addition to tasting delicious and nourishing your brain and body. Coconut oil is so versatile. I use it in everything - sauteeing meat and veggies, baking, homemade nut butter, chocolate/carob frozen treats, moisturizer for my skin and hair and more. Of all the plant based oils, it is the healthiest to cook with since its saturated fat content keeps it stable at average cooking temperatures preventing the production of free radicals. Here are just some of the benefits touted by popular natural health advocate, Dr. Mercola:
- Promotes your heart health
- Promotes weight loss, when needed
- Supports your immune system health
- Supports a healthy metabolism
- Provides you with an immediate energy source
- Keeps your skin healthy and youthful looking
- Supports the proper functioning of your thyroid gland
For more, check out the rest of his article “This Cooking Oil is a Powerful Virus-Destroyer and Antibiotic…” Also be sure to watch this video of a doctor who recovered her husband from alzheimer's simply by adding coconut oil to his food throughout the day.
Another one of my favorite coconut foods is coconut milk. Now, if you’ve never made fresh coconut milk for yourself, you simply must, at least once. It is the most delicious decadent thing I have ever tasted. But, finding a fresh brown mature coconut is difficult and breaking it open to cut out the meat even more so. The whole process is quite tedious and time consuming. So, for most of us, not realistic to do on a regular basis. However, if your lucky enough to have an asian market close to you, you can sometimes find just plain frozen grated coconut meat with no preservatives. In that case, you can just blend it in a blender with enough water to cover and strain out the fiber. Then you have almost fresh coconut milk for less than the cost of canned and without the BPA and preservatives that are commonly found in canned goods. Just don’t throw the pulp away. If you’ve read my last post, you know how I don’t like to waste anything. Well, if you dehydrate the remaining coconut fiber, you can make coconut flour to be used in baked goods or as a coating for pan-fried fish or chicken. I made fried chicken livers with a seasoned coconut flour coating for breakfast a couple weeks ago, and believe it or not, it is now one of my family’s most requested breakfast items. Here’s a great link for that recipe.
And last, but definitely not least, is the wonderful alternative mineral rich palm sugar that has recently become available in natural food stores. It is made from the sap of the cut palm flowers. I often use a mixture of this delicious sugar and stevia to make yummy sweet, but low glycemic, desserts for my family which they very much appreciate. Here’s a link for more info on palm sugar.
I could go on forever about how great coconuts are, but I promise I’ll only share one more cool tidbit. After all the food products are removed from the coconut, the shells that remain are also very valuable. They are ground and used to make filtering media for some of the most effective water and air purifications systems available. This is just a highlight of a few of the benefits of just one member of the palm family. As you can tell I really like coconut. But, if you don’t, that’s ok, because whether you eat coconut of not, if you’re a follower of Jesus, you can still “flourish like the palm.”
Fish was and still is a common food in the bible lands, one that Jesus ate with his disciples on numerous ocassions, even in his resurrected body. It was the main course of the meal that Jesus miraculously multiplied to feed thousands of people on two occasions. He even refered to it as a “good gift” to give your children when they ask for something to eat. (Matthew 7:10-11)
Sadly, though, it is an unforetunate fact that our waters, particularly lakes and rivers, are becoming more and more polluted and so is our fish supply. I grew up on river fish that my Dad would catch fresh for our family and I remember loving it. We even used to eat the catfish (not in the category of clean fish described in the Bible) which are bottom feeders and scavengers. I remember we stopped that when an article had come out about how drug dealers had dumped their drugs in the Potomac River to avoid being caught and then the drugs started showing up in the catfish...yikes.
The bummer of it all is that fish is such an excellent brain food. It is a great source of easily digestible protien, minerals (notably iron, zinc, magnesium, and phosphorus), vitamins (especially A and D), and omega-3 essential fatty acids (EPA and DHA). Also, fish has been shown to be an important part of the diet of many long-lived peoples around the world. However, because of polluted waters, many fish are contaminated with dangerous levels of mercury, lead, PCBs, BPA and other contaminants. Even before chemical pollution was a problem, God gave His chosen people dietary guidelines about what seafoods were good to eat.
These ye shall eat of all that are in the waters: all that have fins and scales shall ye eat. And whatsoever hath not fins and scales ye may not eat; it is unclean unto you.
Today, scientists have discovered that fish with fins and scales have digestive systems that reduce the absorption of poisons and toxins from their enviornment into their flesh. The safest fish for consumption are wild caught deep sea fish with fins and scales. If you know the water quality of a fresh water source near you is good (by testing), then by all means enjoy fresh caught fish from it. For those who don’t have access to good fishing sites, I have compiled a list of commonly available ocean fish that are biblically specified “clean” and shown to have low or moderate amounts of mercury.
Lowest Levels of Mercury
(Recommended 2-3 servings per week
Moderate Levels of Mercury
(Recommended no more than 6 servings
Bass (Striped, Black)
If you’re land locked like me, finding good quality fish is very difficult. Most fish available in the store is farm raised (like Talapia). Farm raised fish are commonly fed unnatural diets of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and are notoriously contaminated with antibiotics, unnatural hormones and synthetic dyes. There are only two seafood markets in my area that fly in fresh ocean fish. When I went to check out what they sold I had sticker shock! Almost nothing was less that $15.99/lb (most were over $20) and that included the farm raised fish.
So what’s a single income family of five (all boys I might add) to do? Well, we could just not eat fish OR you can eat the scraps:) What? Eat the scraps? Yes. I bought 5 pounds of halibut carcase (fins, bones and head) for only $1.30/lb (some places will just give it to you for free). Then, I put half of it in my large crockpot with onions, wine and herbs and the other in my freezer for another meal. I was able to pick out enough tender peices of fish after simmering the stock overnight to make an entire meal the next day with extra stock reserved in the freezer for future use. Fish stock is amazingly healthful and loaded with minerals (like iodine) in which many people are deficient. Many recommend supplementing with seaweed to get these ocean minerals, but the problem of pollution is the same with seaweed, except that they are more vunerable to contamination because they don’t have detoxification systems like fish.
Just to warn you, your whole house will smell like fish when you make the stock. So maybe wait for a day when you can air the house out if that bothers you. Amazingly, once the stock is boiled down it rarely has a fishy flavor. In fact, it can be used to cook grains like quinoa or rice with almost no discernable impact to its flavor if you use them in a salad or with other herbs. It’s an easy, inexpensive and resourceful way to get minerals like iodine, zinc, magnesium and phosphorus, fat soluable vitamins A and D, and omega 3 fatty acids into your diet.
Look at all the fish I got off of just half a halibut carcase. Then I added lots of veggies and some dressing to make fish salad. My boys enjoyed wrapping thier “tacos” in iceberg lettuce leaves. It was delicious! So many times I have bought frozen fish only to be greatly disappointed by its rubbery texture and strong fishy flavor.
But this fish was mild, buttery and tender, just like I remember fresh fish growing up. Still concerned about mercury? If you read my last post you’ll remember that cilantro is a potent mercury detoxifier and it just so happens that it tastes wonderful with fish. Amazing, huh? Maybe God designed it that way:)
Here’s the Quick and Easy Halibut Salad recipe I used from Healing Naturally by Bee (www.healingnaturallybybee.com/recipes) © Copyright 2004 Susan Vanamburgh-Garth (firstname.lastname@example.org). This recipe is so simple. It takes only 15 minutes to prepare! Serves 2 as a main salad entree, or 4 as an appetizer.
1 pound fresh Alaskan halibut, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 cups tomatoes (a colorful assortment of yellow, red, and orange), diced
1/4 cup sweet red onion, diced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
juice of 2 or 3 limes (about 1/3 cup) (*I only used 1 lime)
1 teaspoon ocean sea salt
cracked black pepper, optional
1 jalapeno pepper, optional
extra virgin olive oil, optional
1 avocado, diced or sliced, optional
butter lettuce leaves, optional
Heat 1 inch of non-chlorinated water in a medium pot with a lid. Add a little sea salt to the water once it is boiling and gently add fish. Turn heat to low and simmer 5 minutes. Remove fish from water with a slotted spoon and transfer it to a plate. Put the plate into the freezer for 5-10 minutes, until fish is slightly chilled. While fish is chilling, put onions, sea salt and lime juice in a non-metal mixing bowl, and let the onions soak in lime juice a few minutes. Gently toss fish pieces into the lime juice mixture. They will fall apart somewhat, but don't worry about that. It will still be beautiful and yummy! Add the tomatoes and cilantro, and gently combine. Arrange butter lettuce leaves on plates, and divide the fish mixture evenly among the plates. Drizzle any remaining juices from the bowl over the salads.
Maybe it's because I'm on a tight budget or maybe I’m just wired this way because it's in my genes, but I can’t bear to throw away food. I can still hear my Grandmother’s voice, in her real southern accent, when working in my kitchen. “Waste not, want not, Mandy.” My mother also was known as the “Queen of Leftovers”, but I think I have her trumped. Little bits of veggies and peels and leftover bones from a roast I throw in the freezer till I can make a pot of stock. Then when the bones are soo soft they disinegrate I even blend them up into soups (hey, it's a cheap mineral supplement...just don’t tell my kids). The ends of bread that nobody wants I grind into crumbs and stick in the freezer for future use. I feel a great sense of accomplishment when I use something that most people would throw away and turn it into something healthy and delicious.
This is one reason I like to make crackers, because I can put things that I wouldn’t eat alone in them and they still taste great. The other reason is that most store-bought crackers are made with high gluten modern wheat, refined sugars and genetically modified oils. The ones that don't contain any of those things taste like cardboard and cost twice as much. So here are a few of my favorite raw cracker recipes that use pulp from juicing and making nut milk. You’ll be surprised how good they are. They are a wonderful healthy high-fiber snack that my kids are as excited about as they are chips. And most of these recipes are good for a variety of nutritional healing programs like the Body Ecology, GAPS, Gluten Free/Dairy Free, Paleo and Candida/Yeast Free diets.
1 cup firmly packed fresh raw almond pulp
2 tablespoons freshly ground golden flaxseed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (or coconut oil or palm oil)
2 T fresh rosemary, finely chopped or 1 T dried
½ teaspoon sea salt (I prefer celtic or pink himalyan)
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Roll dough between 2 sheets of parchment paper until ¼ inch thick. Remove top piece of parchment paper and score with a pizza cutter to make 2 inch sqaure crackers. Transfer by sliding parchment paper with rolled dough onto baking sheet or dehydrator tray. Dry on the living foods setting of a dehydrator (110-115 degrees) or lowest oven setting until crisp (usually about 24 hours). Makes about 20 crackers. Let crackers come to room temperature on baking sheet, then serve or store in an air tight container in the fridge. They will last a couple weeks in there.
Pumpkin Seed Italian Crackers
1 cup pumpkin seeds (soaked overnight and drained)
1 1/2 cups sunflower seeds (soaked overnight and drained)
2 cups vegetable pulp from juicing cucumbers and fennel
1/4 cup flaxseed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 handful of fresh parsley chopped
1 T dried italian seasoning
2 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic
Blend all ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth (a few little chunks left makes for nice texture). Roll and dry according to the same instructions in the above recipe. Makes about 40 crackers.
Sprouted Buckwheat Curry Crackers
6 cups sprouted buckwheat (start with 2 1/2 to 3 cups hulled buckwheat groats and then sprout for three days)
4 cups soaked sunflower seeds (start these the night before you make them on the last day of buckwheat sprouting or else they’ll turn brown)
2 carrots or 1 cup carrot pulp from juicing
1 red pepper
1 1/2 T sea salt
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
3 T onion powder
2 T curry powder
1/4 cup chia seed
1/4 cup coconut oil
Blend the carrot, zuchini, red pepper and spices in a blender till smooth. Then blend in the sprouts and seeds until smooth. (A little chunkiness adds some nice texture if you like.) Roll and dry according to the same instructions in the above recipe. Makes about 100 crackers.
These crackers differ from traditional lavash or unleavened bread (made without yeast) in that they are grain free. For those who are not sensitive to gluten, grain flours can be substituted for nuts in these recipes, but it is recommended that they be cooked in an oven at 350 degrees till crisp. Alternatively, whole grains (wheat, kamut, spelt, barley or rye) can be sprouted, ground to a paste and then dehydrated like Essene bread (the bread made by the sect that many believe is responsible for preserving the Dead Sea Scrolls). For more information about bread in the Bible you can read the chapter on bread in my ebook "Food in the Bible". Here's a good video on making sprouted crackers if you want a little more instruction on soaking and sprouting nuts and grains: Making Sprouted Crackers. I find the parchment paper technique to be the easiest and cleanest method. It is inexpensive and you can get it at most grocery stores next to the plastic wrap. I made a little video to show you how it works.