Friday, June 13, 2014

Spinach, Swans and the Plot

The communist garden plot is coming along nicely. So far I have harvested rhubarb, lettuce and spinach. Sadly, the asparagus crop was a disappointment. The asparagus spears were thin - many of them not any thicker than the double pointed needles I use for knitting socks. I think the bed needs another year to get fully established.


The artistic members of our garden committee, along with some help from their grandchildren, painted these rocks to mark the rows.


This Mr. Potato Head marker is my favourite.


However, this is the one I want to talk about.


Last week I picked some lettuce and spinach, washed it, and put it in a bag in the fridge. I have a fair amount of lettuce from my own garden boxes, so didn't get around to eating this mix until Tuesday night. Within minutes of having dinner I started to feel unwell, and continued to feel horrible for the rest of the night. In fact, I felt exactly the way I do if I eat quinoa. But the thing was, I hadn't eaten any quinoa.

When I got up the next morning I decided to do some Googling. I had remembered a couple months earlier feeling like this after eating a spinach and chicken salad for dinner. At the time I thought it might have been because the spinach had been sprayed with something (it was the tub of organic baby spinach from Costco, but you never know). It put me right off buying spinach at the store, so I haven't eaten much spinach since then.

I was shocked when I read the Wikipedia article saying quinoa is closely related to beetroots, spinach and tumbleweeds. I checked some other sources to confirm this, and yes, it's true. How weird is this? How do allergies suddenly pop up in one's life? I think it's interesting that tumbleweeds are also in that list of things related to quinoa. I had horrible environmental allergies when we lived in Kamloops, and tumbleweeds are a part of the landscape there. Did constant exposure to them set me up for these allergies? All I know is I will now avoid spinach like the plague, which is too bad because I love spinach. Has anyone else had this happen - developing an allergy in adulthood? It has left me feeling rather reluctant to try the other thing listed as related to quinoa - beets. I feel like my world will be just a little bit smaller though without the possibility of a good bowl of borscht.

While I was focused on taking pictures, one of the two resident swans decided to come over and investigate. He/she stood just on the other side of the gate and would not budge. These signs aren't kidding.


When the swan attacked me last winter I had jeans on, so no real damage was done. This time I had on shorts, so there was no way I was going to try to get past it.


It took a full five minutes for that bird to decide to move. It could have at least had the decency to look up so I could get a good picture!


58 comments:

  1. Perhaps not quite the same, but my mom grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin with lots of cats and dogs and playing in dusty barns among hay bales. She had no allergies until she moved to California in her 30s and by her mid 40s she had severe allergies to cat and dog dander, grasses, dust, etc. No cross-over to foods though. Bummer about spinach and quinoa.

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    1. Something similar happened to my dad, Maureen. When he and my mom retired from farming they moved to a nearby city. A year or so after moving when they were back down at the farm my dad was hit by allergies. It was the the same farm he had been born, and it is where he lived his whole life except for the years he was away at school and in the army.

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  2. As a child I didn't have any allergies. I now struggle with Hayfever (especially tree pollen), cats and dust. I hate certain times of Spring as it means a daily struggle just to breathe and a fortune in allergy tablets. It could be worse though, I could be allergic to wine!!!

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    1. Ha! You made me laugh with your wine comment! Sorry to hear about your bad hay fever though. It can be so miserable, and the thing about environmental allergies is you don't have control over them the way you do with a food allergy.

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  3. I hope you're fully recovered. You might be right about the tumbleweeds setting you up for this. That really is an odd collection of things to be related to each other. I thought nature had more logic to it than that.
    I've discovered allergies as an adult, but I think I had them all along. I used to get "chest colds" (why doesn't anyone get those anymore???) all the time. Mold, mildew, cats and dust. I used to go to NY every year to help one of our museums inventory their shop merchandise. And every year I'd be sick in my hotel room that night--from counting dusty prints and postcards.

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    1. I was fine by the next morning, Rick. Well, except for this blasted cold that I have yet to conquer, but that would be another complaint for another post. :-)

      Sorry to hear about your allergies. Dust would be a hard thing to avoid, as would mold and mildew. You must have dreaded doing that job in New York. My brother and his family used to live in a 100 year old house in Chicago. It was a really neat heritage home, but they eventually decided to move. Their oldest daughter had asthma the whole time they lived there, and after they moved she never really had a problem with it again. They suspect the damp basement, no doubt complete with all kinds of mold and mildew, was the cause.

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  4. Not a food allergy, but I became severely allergic to angora fiber as an adult. As teen/young adult knitter, I knit an entire sweater out of 100% angora and wore it for many years. I also knit a fair bit of angora blends. I think I skipped about 15 years without any angora contact. In the last year, I tried to spin an angora wool blend and had an allergic reaction. I wasn't sure of the cause at the time, so I tried again, and no way -- I can feel my throat closing in minutes. I have given away all my angora fiber and handspun. And if I find any angora blend yarn in my stash, I will get someone else to handle it until I can give it away. Scary stuff.

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    1. How sad to develop an allergy to a fibre that you loved working with. :-( It's interesting that you stopped working with it, then when you went back to it had trouble. It's a little bit like what I sad about my dad in my reply to MaureenTakoma, and in some ways a bit like her mom. It's a mystery, and hopefully some day we will have the answer.

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  5. Oh that is too bad about the spinach. I got deathly sick once eating it, food poisoning, it was horrible, it took many many years to try it again. I developed an allergy to Advil/Motrin. My face swell up something horrible. The first time it happened I thought I got bit by a spider, the second time I finally figured it out.

    Hope you are feeling better. Enjoy your family tomorrow.
    Meredith

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    1. Food poisoning is awful, Meredith. It can put you off a food for life. It is the reason I am totally paranoid about chicken. That's weird about the Advil allergy. It does seem to take a couple of times before figuring out the source of an allergy, especially if it is to something that isn't a common allergen. Do you wear a medic alert bracelet? It might not be a bad idea.

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  6. How rotten to be deprived of spinach!
    Thinking of the asparagus...we used to wait three years after planting a bed before cutting any. Then we would cut only two stems per plant in the next year and the year after that we could be gluttonous...though we only cut for three weeks to allow the plants to recover and increase.
    But the wait was worth it!

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    1. This is the bed's third year, so I think my expectations were too high. That's good advice about cutting two stems per plant the next year. As for the spinach, I'm telling myself there could be much worse things to be allergic to. Like chocolate. Or wool. :-)

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  7. How fascinating and what a detective you were to solve that so quickly. Don't feel that your culinary world is getting smaller!! Just add something new that you wouldn't have tried otherwise to make up for it.
    Your swan made me laugh. Geese are just as bad. Guard Geese. My sister had a goose that would rush up and beat you black and blue with its wings. It even attacked the washing flapping innocently on the clothes line and left dirty beak marks on it.

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    1. I think I was able to figure it out so quickly because the way it made me feel was exactly like when I eat quinoa. It's a very unique (and bad!) feeling. If it had been a more generic feeling of unwellness I'm not sure I would have ever made the connection. And you are so right - there are many new things to try. :-)

      Oh yes, geese can be every bit as nasty as swans. I had friends that lived in SE Asia for awhile, and their neighbours had geese to keep down the population of poisonous snakes. That's hilarious about your sister's goose attacking the laundry!

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  8. Oh yes, advanced age allergies are hitting me all the time. Just returned from my Lympheodema clinic; I have turned allergic to the compression sleeve, and to the elastoplast used to drain my back. :( Also have gone allergic to bacon since having breast cancer. I know, depressing. I love spinach too, what a disappointment, and completely weird that it is related to quinoa. Is it the modern world?

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    1. That's too bad you have developed those allergies, Patricia. Do the compression sleeve and elastoplast have latex in them? I know many people have latex allergies. That's strange about the bacon. Have you tried eating locally made bacon, the kind with no additives or preservatives? It might well be the modern world. Allergies overall are on the rise, and the scientific community still doesn't know why.

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  9. In my 50s I developed a severe allergy to tomatoes. Went to the ER in the morning for anaphylactic shock, doctor announced that of my breakfast of tomato juice, almonds and tea, the only possible safe thing was the tomatoes. Had fresh tomatoes for dinner that night. Back to the ER that night.

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    1. I'm sorry to hear about your tomato allergy. It sounds similar to mine - developing in our fifties, and caused by things that aren't supposed to be highly allergenic. Two trips to the ER in a day though is awful! And I think it would be very hard to be allergic to tomatoes. They are in so many different foods. I hope you have been able to work around it without too much trouble.

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    2. Just like anything else, you learn to live with it. Read all ingredients when purchasing something, carry Epipens and do your best. I seldom eat out.

      Then last year I developed celiac disease. Thanks, body!

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  10. As a child I suffered with Hay fever quite badly but not any more. However I am affected by various fragrances......which means I don't wear perfume very often, washing powder and conditioners, pine cones by the fireplace in winter, air fresheners and sprays, and flowers.....all make me sneeze and give me a runny nose. I recently had a sinus infection and lost my sense of smell for a few weeks......but did this diminish my allergy? No. My GP suggested putting Vaseline under my nostrils, but who wants to walk around like that! Hope you feel better soon.
    Patricia x

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    1. It sounds like you traded one allergy for another, Patricia. An allergy to scents would be a very difficult one. So many people wear perfume, deodorant, etc. that has a strong smell. And it's not always possible to avoid them, especially if you are next to them on a plane or bus or in some other enclosed space. Sinus infections are absolutely miserable. It must have been horrible to lose your sense of smell. The Vaseline idea was a crazy one. What was that even supposed to do? I hope you are fully recovered now!

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  11. Yup, I have changed my diet pretty radically in the last five years and am feeling a good deal better for it. Have cut out most dairy and have fasting days. Got way more energy now. I've also cut back on fruit and have to be careful with some veggies too- so have learnt that not all 'healthy' branded food is necessary suited to everyone's digestion :-)

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    1. I'm sorry you have had to change your diet, but glad you've found some answers that help you feel better. Having more energy hopefully makes up for not being able to have the dairy and other fruits and veggies you have had to cut out. You are exactly right about not all "healthy" food being suited to everyone's digestion. Quinoa is a perfect example of that. In terms of nutrition it is extremely healthy, but that doesn't make it the right food for me.

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  12. Oh dear, I'm sorry to hear of your allergy. I love spinach and would be really disappointed if I had to stop eating it. I have had to watch out for salads away from home because I've had food poisoning from the lettuce, probably. I know it could happen at home too but at least I can feel more sure about my own washing process. The communist garden is looking pretty good so far, I'm glad it's working out okay. Hopefully next year things will be more established. I hope you're feeling all better soon.

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    1. Jennifer, I am totally with you about the restaurant salads! My youngest daughter works as a chef at a restaurant. It's a nice restaurant too, not one that has low standards and cuts corners. Still, some of the stories she tells me are rather scary. It's sort of put me off eating out at all. Yes, the produce we buy at the store can also be contaminated, but at least we cut out the extra potential source of poisoning by being careful with how we prepare it once we get it home. I'm afraid the restaurant industry isn't as picky as we are.

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  13. That is not an allergy that I had ever heard of, but very sad for you not to be able to enjoy these foods. I also had no idea that quinoa and spinach were related, shows what you can learn and how much you don't know doesn't it. It is however great to see the communist garden coming along well and that attention is being paid to it. The stone markers are lovely aren't they and how great that the children got involved. I hope that you are now over the allergic reaction and that you don't have any other issues. xx

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    1. I had no idea they were related either, and couldn't believe it when I started doing some research. If I develop another allergy in the future I will know to check and see what other foods are related to the one that bothers me.

      The garden is doing quite well. I noticed when I was down there the weeds are getting pretty bad. This is another one of the weak points of communist style gardening. There are a number of people who harvest, but so far nobody who weeds. Ha!

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  14. My daughter has developed a serious allergy to onions. I actually knew about the spinach. An elderly Norwegian neighbour of ours told me about it a few years back. He said the variety he grew had higher levels of a certain chemical and some people can't eat it. He said that Rhubarb and potatoes also contain this chemical!

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    1. That's interesting information about the spinach, Karen. Thanks for sharing that! Sorry to hear your daughter has developed an allergy to onions. That would be another difficult one because they are in so many things. I hope she has been able to successfully avoid them.

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  15. I was diagnosed with peanut allergy in my 40's, serious enough to be prescribed an Epipen (though I've never had to use it). The tricky thing with food allergies is that they can be unpredictable and tend to worsen with repeated exposure to the offending substance, so I've learned to recognize the warning signs. On the bright side, my hayfever has improved tremendously since my younger days! It's always surprising to learn what plants are related to one another, isn't it? -- Ruth in Ontario

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    1. Sorry to hear about the peanut allergy. That's a tough one to have. I'm glad you haven't had to resort to using the Epipen. When my mom and I flew to Las Vegas in February I was shocked to see they were still serving peanuts as a snack on the flight. I wonder how that works if the person sitting next to you has a bad allergy. ??

      With your hayfever, do you live in a different setting that you did as a child? Interesting that it would improve, but another allergy would appear.

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    2. I still have mild hayfever - and it has definitely been worse in some places than others. (We've moved around a lot!) Some people can apparently react even to the smell of peanuts close to them, but fortunately I'm not that sensitive. As an aside, I love the stone garden markers and really wanted to say "the Plot thickens" (ha!ha!) and am childishly glad nobody beat me to it.

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    3. That might just be the title of a future blog post - The Plot Thickens. :-)

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  16. Hi Kristie! I have never even heard of this before, I didn't realise you could have an allergy to Spinach. I am sorry to hear that. I know the feeling because I have never had any allergies in my life and just the past couple of years, I have developed hay fever. It's strange. I did a bit of research and discovered that it is very common these days for new allergies to appear later in life. Not fair! On a different note, I am excited about your veggie patches. I just have one small one containing lettuces and carrots which are coming along nicely. Have a great weekend!

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    1. Hi Sarah,

      Yes, allergies are becoming much more common than they used to be and nobody knows why. There are multiple theories, but none have been proven. I'm sorry to hear you have developed hay fever. It's such a nasty thing to have, as you have no control about the things that cause it. They are just out there. At least with a food allergy the allergen can be avoided.

      The veggie patches are doing well, and there will be lots to harvest as the summer progresses. And my two garden boxes at my cottage are also looking good, so I'm very happy about that. Enjoy your lettuces and carrots!

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  17. Love the garden markers!! I have no allergies, just foods I have to avoid due to my bladder disease.

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    1. You can't have tea, Kate, and I think spinach and quinoa are nothing compared to having to give up a daily cuppa.

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  18. I'm allergic to one type of fish - skate, it brings my neck up in a horrendous blotchy rash.
    Had hay fever since I was very little and have taken many different medicines for it , prescribed and herbal. In the end I stopped taking it as it wasn't helping and over the years it's gradually improved and now it only troubles me occasionally.

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    1. Isn't that odd it is just the one kind of fish? Fish allergies can be bad ones. My youngest daughter can't even be near raw fish. Glad to hear your hay fever has improved over the years!

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  19. I used to have severe ragweed allergy in early Fall after moving to the East Coast (US) when I was 18. By the time I turned 50 I've only occasionally had a reaction during "allergy season." I don't know if I was desensitized due to exposure or my age (and hormonal changes) made the difference. I love those rocks! Wonderful idea to put in my grandmama "bag of ideas."

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    1. That's nice that your allergy has improved as you have gotten older. It's nice there are at least a few perks about aging! And the rocks are in my bag of grandma ideas to do with Lucy when she gets older, too!

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  20. The painted stones are a really cute idea! We have started a garden at our house this year. I'm really excited to see if/how it produces. It's our first growing season with green space and I'm thrilled!

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    1. That's exciting that you have started a garden! It's fun to see what works and what doesn't. My advice (not that you asked for it!) would be to make a sketch and write down what you have planted this year. It will help you next year when you go to plant. :-)

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  21. I love those painted stone markers, so much better than the usual types which blow away or somehow disappear. The veg garden looks wonderful. And how odd about the allergy and the connection between the spinach, quinoa and beetroot, I had no idea.

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  22. What a shame that you have discovered that you are allergic to spinach. Isn't it strange how allergies can suddenly appear. I loved the pebble idea! Maybe the swan was feeling shameful about how it's relations had treated you! Sarah x

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    1. I think the swans and geese have a conspiracy going. :-)

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  23. Quinoa is very interesting. No I had no idea it was connected to beets and spinach.
    My boss developed both legume (soy, peanuts) and dairy sensitivities in his early 40s. He couldn't replace the cow milk with soy milk as many do ... Makes it very hard for him to travel in much of the world who depend on peanuts, soy etc At least one can take a pill to digest dairy in a pinch.

    I ate some bad mussels in my mid 20s and became very ill. It seems I had to stop eating bivalves and most crustaceans. I was really disappointed to come to this realization.

    At least we don't need epipens - these are not anaphalactic shock situations.
    sigh who wants these issues!
    LisaRR

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    1. That's awful about the mussels. To be honest I've always been afraid of mussels and oysters for this very reason. As for you boss, yes, it would be tough to be allergic to both soy and dairy. Soy is in so many things.

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  24. Sorry to hear that there's now another favourite food you can't eat, Kristie, especially one that's usually thought of as so good for us. I don't have any food allergies, but have always been allergic to animal dander and house-dust, both of which make my asthma worse. I had a series of de-sensitising injection as a child which helped a lot, but I know always to wash my hands after petting an animal before putting them anywhere near my airway.

    One of the causes of the the huge rise in allergies is thought to be our over-clean houses and the efforts we all put in to trying to stop our children getting ill. Many scientists now believe that if we do this a child's immune system isn't activated properly in early infancy and is liable to to be activated later by allergens rather than the normal infectious diseases. Makes sense to me.

    As for the huge rise in wheat intolerance, I bought a fascinating book about bread and bread-making which puts a lot of the blame on modern industrial bread-making techniques which turn out a finished load in less than an hour! This means that the gluten isn't properly processed by the traditional long rising-time, leaving it much more likely to trigger an allergic reaction. The book is Bread Matters, by Andrew Whitely.

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    1. A house dust allergy would be dreadful, Perpetua. There is no way to have a house completely free of dust. Animal dander is a tough one, too. Thanks so much for the book recommendation. I will head over to Amazon to check it out.

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    2. Thankfully I'm only troubled nowadays when a lot of dust is raised. Thank goodness for modern vacuum lceaners which get rid of so much dust.

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  25. What a nuisance those swans are!

    I have developed a number of food sensitivities in my middle years too ... not true allergies, I don't swell up or develop a rash, but I do feel awful and take a good day to recover. Luckily I'm still okay with beets, spinach or quinoa though, all of which I love. How annoying for you that something you enjoyed is off the menu.

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    1. Sorry Annie, my reply to you is below. I'm visiting Lucy so am using my iPad and things don't always work the way I intend for them to! :-)

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  26. Yes, the swans and the geese make it very challenging to go down to the garden plot. I usually take my walking stick but forgot when I went down to get the pictures.

    Sorry to hear you have problems with some foods now too, Annie. My trouble with quinoa and spinach could actually be an intolerance rather than a true allergy, too. I think the only way to know would be to get tested, and it doesn't seem worth the trouble. Whichever thing it is, it's nasty, and I won't be eating those foods again any time soon.

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  27. oh no to the reaction to spinach, I love it too - but feeling well is definitely worth missing it, we have silverbeet here (I think its the same as your kale) which would work well as a substitute when cooked? I am not a fan of birds, and swans freak the living daylights out of me, good plan to wait for it!! :D

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    1. Kale would make a great substitute, Sarah. I have lots of it growing in my garden too, so that works out well. I usually take my walking stick when I go down to the garden, but hadn't that day. I will have to remember to take it every time until the swans get past this aggressive stage (they are in mating season, so are worse than usual).

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  28. I don't know how I missed this post, it didn't show on my blog roll. How strange. What a shame that you can't eat spinach, it is such a versatile green. I had no idea that spinach and quinoa are related. I have luckily not got any allergies but eating gorgonzola, my favourite cheese ever, makes me feel really ill. This has been a recent development. Hope your food intolerance list doesn't grow. Cx

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  29. I had very few allergies until I hit 40. Then I seemed to develop them left and right. Hay fever bad enough to induce allergy-related asthma, lots of cleansers, certain soaps, makeup, and of all things, cinnamon! Hope your list doesn't get any longer!

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