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Fargo, ND: Family Healthcare Center organic garden

  • Subject: [cg] Fargo, ND: Family Healthcare Center organic garden
  • From: Adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Wed, 29 Sep 2004 09:19:37 EDT

Land to mouth: Patients find organic gardening, food improve health
By Mila Koumpilova,The Forum
Published Wednesday, September 29, 2004
· advertisement ·
Fargo dietitian Abby Gold has been giving unusual doctor's orders to some of her patients lately.

They go something like this: "You go pick the beans. You go cut the broccoli."

"I am sort of the captain," Gold says.

That's not exactly how the soft-spoken dietitian normally sees herself in her office at the non-profit Family HealthCare Center, where she entreats patients with diabetes, obesity and hypertension to stock up on beans, broccoli and the like.

Until one day this past spring, she and Jody Patton, the diabetes educator at the center, thought of a compelling way to get that message across.

 
After a four-month battle with weeds, bugs and the elements, the two energetic women and a sprinkling of patients tend an organic garden just outside Moorhead every Wednesday.

Gold, the most experienced in the group, supervises the venture. And the novice gardeners are developing a new appreciation for beans and broccoli.

The project started when Gold and Patton realized their endorsements of fresh produce might not always take root. Some patients couldn't afford it. Others were too wrapped up in their fast-food ways.

"Most people know what to do," Gold says. "I wanted to help them figure out how to do it."

Gold received a $300 grant from the North Dakota Nutritional Council to buy seeds and supplies. She took over one of the 20-by-30-foot plots at the newly unveiled Probstfield Organic Community Gardens off County Road 3.

Gold insisted on organic not only because she doesn't believe in fertilizer and pesticides. Organic means more work, and more work means more healthy exercise.

Exercise they got. They kicked off the project on a rainy May day, which set the stage for a summer of lousy gardening weather. Then, the plucky gardeners engaged the weeds and wrestled with them for more than two months.

These days, the gardeners have the upper hand, and weekly sessions mostly consist of collecting the bounty.

On a rescheduled meeting one Friday in October, Gold and her patient Bill Taylor are doing just that. "We've had tremendous success with the broccoli and cauliflower," says Taylor, a regular at the garden who was diagnosed with diabetes last November. "The tomatoes are really going wild and crazy right now." He picks oversized cucumbers and stows them away in a plastic bag as Gold triumphantly lifts a 2-pound tomato from one of the neat rows of vegetables.

Adjacent plots bristle with waste-height weeds, which hide the hunched gardeners from the highway.

"Some of the would-be gardeners were overwhelmed by all the weeds and the rain," says Gretchen Harvey of Probstfield.

Harvey recently e-mailed Gold to congratulate the group on their persistence. The team was one of the few, out of 29 plots, that stuck out the weed war.

"It's just a model of the kind of garden I'd like to see," Harvey says. "I think it was an inspiration for some of the others who lost control."

No other gardening venture probably boasted an extended team of about 15 rotating gardeners, among them a few regulars and a number of noncommittal drop-ins.

With the help of a master gardener, the team applied an organic gardening technique proven to keep pests at bay in the absence of chemicals: companion planting, where plants are strategically paired, generally on the basis of what vegetables taste good together. Think tomato and basil, or cucumber and dill.

Another powerful tool in the fight against bugs was Nuvindu, the 4-year-old son of two other regulars, Dilhan and Suresha Fernando, a Sri Lankan couple who found out about the project when they took in their 15-month-old daughter for immunizations at the center.

With the zeal of a future etymologist, the youngster hunted down all insects and stowed them away in a jar. "My son has a bug collection at home," Dilhan says.

Even though most patients don't have a bug collection to show off, they still reaped benefits. For many, the gardening crew became something of a support group. They walked away not only with their share of the day's yield but also with a sense they were not alone in battling their health conditions.

Many had epiphanies about, well, vegetables. One patient was so hung up on a diet of burgers and fries that he had trouble figuring out what the green beans and cauliflower were.

Gold and Patton advocate steaming vegetables over boiling them to keep nutrients in. Even better, they suggest trying them raw, which came as a surprise to some who were not aware they could get away with not cooking broccoli and cauliflower. "So we'd stop and chew on things out in the garden," Patton says.

But even the instigators of the project had something to learn about cauliflower. After the rest of the gardeners wondered for a while why the Fernandos took the cauliflower leaves home, the family enlightened them those actually made for great vegetable dishes.

As the project progressed, the instigators saw their patients increasingly substituting cauliflower for cookies and squash for sweets. At least one patient with obesity has made significant progress toward reaching his weight loss goal over the summer.

Signing onto the gardening project inspired Taylor, a former fan of pizza and barbecue sauce, to create his signature giant salad. It takes a half-hour to prepare ("I am a little bit of a gourmet cook," admits Taylor), and, "I really put everything but the kitchen sink in it."

Since he overhauled his diet, Taylor has seen his glucose drop to a much healthier level. "I feel better, sleep better, have more energy," he says.

But one of the most rewarding episodes of the venture was one the two masterminds were not there to witness. Before the one Wednesday neither was able to attend, gardeners swapped phone numbers and met up on their own initiative. "They didn't need us," says Patton gleefully.


m


From easy to exotic, recipes by Family Healthcare Center organic gardeners

Parmesan eggplant

3 eggplants

1 egg

1 cup milk

Bread crumbs

Grated parmesan cheese


Cut the eggplant in 4-inch slices. Leave the skin on to keep slices whole when frying. Mix the egg and milk, and dip the eggplant slices in the mixture. Then, dip in the bread crumbs. Fry at 320 degrees for about four minutes on each side. When ready, sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Recipe courtesy of Bill Taylor of Moorhead


Kola Mallum (cauliflower leaves with grated coconut)

3 or 4 medium grown cauliflower leaves

1 cup grated coconut (many Asian stores, such as Tochi, carry frozen packages)

1 cup chopped onion

2 green Thai peppers, chopped or minced (optional)

1 tablespoon lime juice

½ tablespoon turmeric powder

1 tablespoon black mustard seeds

2 tablespoons oil

Salt to taste


Wash cauliflower leaves, and remove the stems and the hard "mid-rib." Chop the leaves into small pieces.

Heat oil in a pan. Sauté onion, green peppers, mustard seeds and turmeric powder until onion is tender. Add cauliflower leaves and salt. Cook the leaves on medium heat while stirring for about 6-7 minutes or until leaves become tender. Add grated coconut and mix well while the heat is on. Cook for another 3 minutes. Add lime juice when the mixture cools down a little.

Serves about 3-4 people. Same recipe can be done with collard, green cabbage and beet-root leaves.

Traditional Sri Lankan recipe courtesy of Dilhan and Suresha Fernando

Forum readers can reach reporter Mila Koumpilova at (701) 241-5529.


For more information

If you would like to take part in the Family Healthcare Center organic garden next year as a clinic volunteer, contact Abby Gold at (701) 271-6375 in April
Land to mouth: Patients find organic gardening, food improve health
By Mila Koumpilova,The Forum
Published Wednesday, September 29, 2004
· advertisement ·
Fargo dietitian Abby Gold has been giving unusual doctor's orders to some of her patients lately.

They go something like this: "You go pick the beans. You go cut the broccoli."

"I am sort of the captain," Gold says.

That's not exactly how the soft-spoken dietitian normally sees herself in her office at the non-profit Family HealthCare Center, where she entreats patients with diabetes, obesity and hypertension to stock up on beans, broccoli and the like.

Until one day this past spring, she and Jody Patton, the diabetes educator at the center, thought of a compelling way to get that message across.

 
After a four-month battle with weeds, bugs and the elements, the two energetic women and a sprinkling of patients tend an organic garden just outside Moorhead every Wednesday.

Gold, the most experienced in the group, supervises the venture. And the novice gardeners are developing a new appreciation for beans and broccoli.

The project started when Gold and Patton realized their endorsements of fresh produce might not always take root. Some patients couldn't afford it. Others were too wrapped up in their fast-food ways.

"Most people know what to do," Gold says. "I wanted to help them figure out how to do it."

Gold received a $300 grant from the North Dakota Nutritional Council to buy seeds and supplies. She took over one of the 20-by-30-foot plots at the newly unveiled Probstfield Organic Community Gardens off County Road 3.

Gold insisted on organic not only because she doesn't believe in fertilizer and pesticides. Organic means more work, and more work means more healthy exercise.

Exercise they got. They kicked off the project on a rainy May day, which set the stage for a summer of lousy gardening weather. Then, the plucky gardeners engaged the weeds and wrestled with them for more than two months.

These days, the gardeners have the upper hand, and weekly sessions mostly consist of collecting the bounty.

On a rescheduled meeting one Friday in October, Gold and her patient Bill Taylor are doing just that. "We've had tremendous success with the broccoli and cauliflower," says Taylor, a regular at the garden who was diagnosed with diabetes last November. "The tomatoes are really going wild and crazy right now." He picks oversized cucumbers and stows them away in a plastic bag as Gold triumphantly lifts a 2-pound tomato from one of the neat rows of vegetables.

Adjacent plots bristle with waste-height weeds, which hide the hunched gardeners from the highway.

"Some of the would-be gardeners were overwhelmed by all the weeds and the rain," says Gretchen Harvey of Probstfield.

Harvey recently e-mailed Gold to congratulate the group on their persistence. The team was one of the few, out of 29 plots, that stuck out the weed war.

"It's just a model of the kind of garden I'd like to see," Harvey says. "I think it was an inspiration for some of the others who lost control."

No other gardening venture probably boasted an extended team of about 15 rotating gardeners, among them a few regulars and a number of noncommittal drop-ins.

With the help of a master gardener, the team applied an organic gardening technique proven to keep pests at bay in the absence of chemicals: companion planting, where plants are strategically paired, generally on the basis of what vegetables taste good together. Think tomato and basil, or cucumber and dill.

Another powerful tool in the fight against bugs was Nuvindu, the 4-year-old son of two other regulars, Dilhan and Suresha Fernando, a Sri Lankan couple who found out about the project when they took in their 15-month-old daughter for immunizations at the center.

With the zeal of a future etymologist, the youngster hunted down all insects and stowed them away in a jar. "My son has a bug collection at home," Dilhan says.

Even though most patients don't have a bug collection to show off, they still reaped benefits. For many, the gardening crew became something of a support group. They walked away not only with their share of the day's yield but also with a sense they were not alone in battling their health conditions.

Many had epiphanies about, well, vegetables. One patient was so hung up on a diet of burgers and fries that he had trouble figuring out what the green beans and cauliflower were.

Gold and Patton advocate steaming vegetables over boiling them to keep nutrients in. Even better, they suggest trying them raw, which came as a surprise to some who were not aware they could get away with not cooking broccoli and cauliflower. "So we'd stop and chew on things out in the garden," Patton says.

But even the instigators of the project had something to learn about cauliflower. After the rest of the gardeners wondered for a while why the Fernandos took the cauliflower leaves home, the family enlightened them those actually made for great vegetable dishes.

As the project progressed, the instigators saw their patients increasingly substituting cauliflower for cookies and squash for sweets. At least one patient with obesity has made significant progress toward reaching his weight loss goal over the summer.

Signing onto the gardening project inspired Taylor, a former fan of pizza and barbecue sauce, to create his signature giant salad. It takes a half-hour to prepare ("I am a little bit of a gourmet cook," admits Taylor), and, "I really put everything but the kitchen sink in it."

Since he overhauled his diet, Taylor has seen his glucose drop to a much healthier level. "I feel better, sleep better, have more energy," he says.

But one of the most rewarding episodes of the venture was one the two masterminds were not there to witness. Before the one Wednesday neither was able to attend, gardeners swapped phone numbers and met up on their own initiative. "They didn't need us," says Patton gleefully.


m


From easy to exotic, recipes by Family Healthcare Center organic gardeners

Parmesan eggplant

3 eggplants

1 egg

1 cup milk

Bread crumbs

Grated parmesan cheese


Cut the eggplant in 4-inch slices. Leave the skin on to keep slices whole when frying. Mix the egg and milk, and dip the eggplant slices in the mixture. Then, dip in the bread crumbs. Fry at 320 degrees for about four minutes on each side. When ready, sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Recipe courtesy of Bill Taylor of Moorhead


Kola Mallum (cauliflower leaves with grated coconut)

3 or 4 medium grown cauliflower leaves

1 cup grated coconut (many Asian stores, such as Tochi, carry frozen packages)

1 cup chopped onion

2 green Thai peppers, chopped or minced (optional)

1 tablespoon lime juice

½ tablespoon turmeric powder

1 tablespoon black mustard seeds

2 tablespoons oil

Salt to taste


Wash cauliflower leaves, and remove the stems and the hard "mid-rib." Chop the leaves into small pieces.

Heat oil in a pan. Sauté onion, green peppers, mustard seeds and turmeric powder until onion is tender. Add cauliflower leaves and salt. Cook the leaves on medium heat while stirring for about 6-7 minutes or until leaves become tender. Add grated coconut and mix well while the heat is on. Cook for another 3 minutes. Add lime juice when the mixture cools down a little.

Serves about 3-4 people. Same recipe can be done with collard, green cabbage and beet-root leaves.

Traditional Sri Lankan recipe courtesy of Dilhan and Suresha Fernando

Forum readers can reach reporter Mila Koumpilova at (701) 241-5529.


For more information

If you would like to take part in the Family Healthcare Center organic garden next year as a clinic volunteer, contact Abby Gold at (701) 271-6375 in April




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