Friday, April 23, 2010

Finding Gardening Space

Cross-posted from my blog

Want to garden but have no space of your own? Want to move beyond just the pots or hanging plants on your balcony or sneaking your kale into the landscaping around your apartment complex (yes, I know someone who does that!)? Here's a new free match-making website to help you find that special space where you can garden on someone-else's land!

SharedEarth connects land owners with gardeners and farmers.

Austin – SharedEarth ( launches as the world celebrates Earth Day. is a free match-making website that connects land owners with gardeners and farmers.   Land owners share their land with someone they trust and get free fruits, vegetables and flowers.  Gardeners and farmers get free access to land and the opportunity to grow what they love.  The produce is shared between the two parties as they see fit.  The result is a more efficient use of land and a greener planet.

“Community gardens exist in every major city in the United States, yet virtually all have waiting lists.  With over 25 million square feet of shared space on the system, has created an alternative with the largest community of private land owners and gardeners on the planet.  We are making more efficient use of land and a greener planet, one garden at a time,” said Chairman and Founder, Adam Dell.

Much like online dating sites, users create their own profile and find matches based on criteria such as location, years of gardening experience and the type of produce to be grown.  Gardeners and farmers find the service useful because they are able to gain free access to land.  Land owners find the service useful because they often lack the time, experience or commitment needed to cultivate a productive garden on their property.

Malcolm Gladwell, the author of the best-selling books The Tipping Point, Blink and Outliers, had this to say about Shared Earth: “Whoa! What a grand idea.”

Shared Earth was born out of Dell’s own experience looking for help growing a garden on his property.  He turned to the Internet to find a qualified match.  And now he reaps the rewards of this partnership through the fruits and vegetables he eats every day. was established as a not for profit sustainable corporation to help facilitate this process for others. 

Please visit for more information and to register for FREE today.


Gosh, what an opportunity! Good luck and have fun finding gardening space for your own special kale garden and for everything else, too!

Where kale is more than decoration on my plate!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Sunday, April 18, 2010

What is a Superfood?

I don't really know - at least I don't think there is an agreed upon definition for this commonly used term in the media. But how about a super group of foods? Looking at the newly developed food rating score that Whole Foods Market has begun using (called the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index of ANDI), it is apparent that Brassica vegetables are a group that is collectively the top-dog for providing a wide variety of health-producing nutrients and additional molecules like the wide variety of phytochemicals. In fact, 8 of the top 10 foods in this new index are Brassicas:
  1. Kale (whoo - hoo! I do not know what variety was used, but use it as a collective spot for this vegetable on this index!), 
  2. Collards,
  3. Bok choy
  4. Spinach (not a Brassica)
  5. Brussels sprouts
  6. Arugula
  7. Cabbage
  8. Romaine (not a Brassica)
  9. Broccoli
  10. Cauliflower
Please don't use this whole index as a means of completely avoiding any of the whole foods listed on it that have low scores (like olive oil). In fact, I am not sure that the list itself is very useful if you are sticking to whole foods as the main source of foods consumed (and enjoyed) in your diet versus processed foods or food-like substances. For instance, this list does not show you how a box of just-add-water bean burgers will actually stack up to compare with a soft drink. 

I hope the day actually comes when WFM finally removes (or greatly reduces) the abundant junk food available to purchase in their stores. I agree with other bloggers who have commented that even organic junk food is still junk food (and designed to "hook you" so you can't eat just one, whatever it is). And I also agree with Michael Pollan who recommends that (paraphrasing here I am sure) you consume only junk food that you have made yourself. I think the example he used was french fries.

Well, I am veering off topic. :-) Let's use this post to celebrate kale and all other Brassica vegetables. I still intentionally enjoy eat a serving a day of kale or other Brassicas, yes, that would qualify as "365 Days of Kale", I believe!

Where kale is more than decoration on my plate, 365 days of the year!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Cooking Methods - again

Or - what's left after cooking by various methods? I'm always disappointed by various research studies that don't really simulate real cooking methods. Remember the broccoli and microwave study a few years ago in which the sound bites in the news never bothered to tell you that the study used a quart of water to microwave the broccoli? I actually wonder why that study was funded, let alone published.

However, this study actually tried to simulate various types of institutional cooking methods, whether food is being prepared to serve to large numbers of hospital patients at one time or to be held on a buffet table for a large crowd. Vegetables chosen were cut green beans or the brassica vegetable called swede rods or rutabaga (this study was conducted in Norway where rutabaga is a more commonly consumed vegetable). 

 (Photo: Rutabagas, photo from Wikipedia)

In the present study, vegetables were industrially blanched/frozen and then cooked in water or by pouch technology (boil-in-bag) with comparisons of their ability to retain vitamin C, total phenolics and antioxidative activity (DPPH and FRAP).

RESULTS: After conventional cooking, 50.4% total ascorbic acid, 76.7% total phenolics, 55.7% DPPH and 59.0% FRAP were recovered in the drained beans. After boil-in-bag cooking, significantly (P < 0.05) higher recoveries were obtained, i.e. 80.5% total ascorbic acid, 89.2% total phenolics, 94.8% DPPH and 92.9% FRAP.  By conventional cooking, 13.5-42.8% of the nutrients leaked into the cooking water; while no leakage occurred by boil-in-bag cooking. Warm-holding beans after cooking reduced recoveries in all components. Recoveries in swede rods were comparable but overall slightly lower.

CONCLUSION: Industrially blanched/frozen vegetables should preferably be cooked by pouch technology, rather than conventional cooking in water. Including cooking water or exuded liquid into the final dish will increase the level of nutrients in a meal. Warm-holding of vegetables after cooking should be avoided.

Take home points: 
(1) If you purchase frozen vegetables (or freeze at home), look for bags that let you simply "boil in the bag" to prepare for serving.
(2) Use any liquid from cooking vegetables (in soup broth, cooking rice, add to your simmering pasta sauce, or just drink it like my mother has always done!)
(3) Serve vegetables hot, right away. Be at the front of the line at a buffet table or wait at a cafeteria line for a freshly prepared pan of vegetables. Ask if they were prepared in a pouch or water.
(4) I save all left-over liquid from preparing vegetables (even a few tablespoons) by placing into a container I keep in the freezer. When full, I have a quart of delicious vegetable soup stock filled with nutrients ready to thaw and use.

My husband would actually say that rutabagas are his favorite vegetable.  He got an urgent phone call 30 years ago from my older son's daycare where they did not know what my son had brought as his contribution for that day's activity, making "stone soup"; yes, it was a rutabaga. My husband is also picky about pasties; only those that contain rutabagas and enough of them to actually taste "cut the mustard" for him. You can enjoy his delicious recipe (yes!) for Glazed Rutabagas right on this blog. 

Where kale (and other Brassicas, like rutabaga) are more than decoration on my plate!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Thursday, April 15, 2010

I'll be watching Dirt: The Movie

Calling all kale and other vegetable lovers! I'm cross-posting this blog posting from my dianadyer blog - my first time to do so - to make sure that all my blog readers know about the upcoming showing of the documentary Dirt: The Movie on PBS stations next week.


If you haven't picked up on this yet, my blog has a pretty wide range of topics, all related to my far-reaching range of interests. I am putting the date and time on my calendar for watching the following show: Dirt: The Movie, airing next week on PBS TV channels. I honestly cannot remember the last time I did that for something on TV (oops yes I can - I do love to watch the Wimbledon tennis women's finals so I always make sure I know when that is being broadcast), so I highly recommend that you do the same.

Here is the link to the movie info. You will also see a link on that page to find the day/time of showing according to where you live.

The movie is about how we care for (or don't) our soil, the very foundation of our food production and thus life on this planet. The word 'dirt' is just a catchier word. In fact, I have heard that the author of the book Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations took flak from his professional colleagues (other geologists and soil scientists) for the title of his book, but that is what big publishing houses do to try to catch the public's attention in order to increase sales (most authors lose control over such details as the title and the cover image when their book is published by one of the main book publishing companies, just one reason I have turned down offers from two big publishing companies to take over publishing my book).

Two images I have kept in mind after reading Dirt are the following:

Modern agricultural practices are "soil mining", 
meaning we are rapidly outstripping the Earth's natural rate of restoring topsoil.

The world loses 83 billion tons of soil each year.

I actually feel that reading Dirt a few years ago was nearly as life-changing, i.e., expanding for my view of the world, as when I read Diet for a Small Planet in the early 1970's. Both books permanently shaped my opinions as a nutrition professional by understanding that our choices of food to eat have social consequences to economic consequences. I find it terribly disheartening that I learned none of this during my professional nutrition education. The next book on the top of my "to read pile" (very large) is The Soil and Health: A Study of Organic Agriculture by Sir Albert Howard, originally published in 1947, re-published in 2006 with a new introduction by the farmer-poet-activist Wendell Berry. I am only musing at this point, but when reading it, I will pondering if this book should be the first book read by all nutrition professionals in training.

This movie is being shown in celebration of next week's 40th anniversary of Earth Day, but make no mistake, if we don't change our agriculture systems to focus on practices that preserve and rebuild the health of our soils around the world, it is not the earth that will be the loser, but humanity itself (i.e., no soil, no food). I would hope that the movie makes this point clearly.

Ending with another of my favorite quotations about the soil, here is one that is especially apropos:

The farther we get away from the land, the greater our insecurity.
  ~~ Henry Ford
Where kale (which needs healthy soil to grow) is more than decoration on my plate!
Diana Dyer, MS, RD