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Food House Projectâ„¢

The Food Growing, Cooking, Preserving & Healing Self-Sufficiency Adventure

Welcome to the Food House Project

Food House Project Adventures from Our Farmhouse

The idea for the Food House Project™ grew out of our efforts to become increasing self-sufficient in our food growing and food independence. Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook is an international bestselling and twenty-time published book author and blogger for DrMichelleCook.com as well as the highly popular health and environmental site Care2.com and Curtis Cook is a long-time business consultant who increasingly became involved in food security and local food movements. We both share a passion for great food and healthy living.

We’ve watched the food supply become increasingly degraded through pesticides, additives, genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), poor agricultural practices, and industrial processing. We decided to take action by growing more and more of our own food. Starting with indoor sprouts over two decades ago, to more recently when we dug up most of our suburban lawn to turn it into fruits and vegetables, to now: buying an old farmhouse on an acreage and breathing new life into the home and land. We have big plans, a tight budget, and a steep learning curve, but we want to share the whole adventure with you. Welcome to the Food House Project™!

 

Let the Adventure Begin

13 Reasons to Start Drinking Cherry Juice Today

There are numerous benefits of eating cherries and drinking real cherry juiceWe just added a couple of young cherry trees to our property and are already dreaming of the day we harvest our very own cherries. The amazing taste and health benefits make the picking worth every minute. There are so many health benefits to eating cherries or drinking real cherry juice that you’ll want to read on to learn more.

Antioxidant Powerhouse: According to the University of Michigan, one cup of freeze-dried tart cherries has an ORAC value greater than 10,000, making it extremely high on the list of antioxidant-rich foods. The researchers found that tart cherries have a wide diversity and a unique combination of phytochemicals that boost their antioxidant function.

Arthritis Alleviator: In an analysis of studies on cherries, researchers found that 5 out of 5 studies of the fruit on arthritis demonstrated benefits to arthritis study participants.

Blood Pressure Reduction: A new study published in the medical journal Nutrients found that drinking around one half of a quart of tart cherry juice daily reduced high blood pressure in the study participants.

Cholesterol Reducer: The same study found a reduction in cholesterol levels among those drinking the juice.

Exercise Recovery: Research published in the European Journal of Sport Science found that tart cherry accelerated the healing of exercise-induced muscle damage.

Gout Healer: Tart cherry juice and tart cherries are well-known for their ability to alleviate the pain and inflammation of gout—a form of arthritis that primarily affects the big toe.

Heart Healer: In a series of 3 studies published by the University of Michigan, researchers found that tart cherries reduced cardiovascular disease risk and heart-damaging inflammation.

Inflammation Suppression: The study in Nutrients also found that drinking tart cherry juice resulted in a 25% reduction in C-reactive protein (CRP)—a marker for inflammation and frequently a precursor to heart disease, as well as a reduction in inflammation.

Nutrition Booster: Cherries are nutritional powerhouses that contain a wide variety of phytochemicals, which literally means plant chemicals, including: anthocyanins, flavonoids (such as quercetin), chlorogenic acid,

Osteoporosis Aid: Another study published in the journal Nutrients found that tart cherry juice significantly prevented bone loss and may therefore be helpful in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. What’s more: a study published in the European Journal of Nutrition found that tart cherry actually increased bone mineral density.

Prebiotic Gut Benefits: According to research published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, tart cherries and tart cherry juice act as prebiotics in the gut, meaning they provide food for beneficial bacteria to ensure their growth and ability to multiply.

Sleep Inducer: In a study published in the American Journal of Therapeutics, researchers found that drinking 8 ounces of tart cherry juice in the morning and again 1 to 2 hours before promoted sleep among those suffering from insomnia. The juice was so effective that the insomniacs slept an average of one hour and 24 minutes more, on average, each night while incorporating the beverage into their daily regimes.

Weight Loss Booster: Because tart cherry juice reduces inflammation, it may come as no surprise that it reduces inflammation linked to obesity, suggesting the fruit and the beverage made from it may be a helpful addition in weight loss programs.

While most of the studies were conducted on tart cherries, sweet cherries also offer many health benefits. It’s easy to get more cherries into your diet. There are fresh, frozen, freeze-dried powders, juice, and dried cherries to choose from. Add fresh, frozen, or dried powders into your smoothies. Drink the juice, preferably diluted with equal parts of water, and snack on the dried cherries or add them to leafy green or quinoa salads.

Michelle

Food Fix The Most Powerful Healing Foods and How to Use Them to Overcome Disease by Dr. CookDr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM, RNCP, ROHP, is an international best-selling & 21-time published book author, and a celebrity nutritionist. Check out her latest e-book: FOOD FIX: The Most Powerful Healing Foods and How to Use Them to Overcome Disease, available now for immediate download. Her work has been featured in Woman's World, First for Women, Huffington Post, Reader's Digest, WebMD, Reviews.com, and Thrive Global. Learn more about her work at DrMichelleCook.com.    

 

21 "Need To Know" Facts About Water

Here are some important facts about water that you need to knowWe had an unusually wet spring this year but we also know that our area had a serious drought through the summer last year. The weather seems to be increasingly unpredictable around the world and water often factors into that uncertainty. At the same time, industry is consuming more fresh water than ever to make an excess of products we don't really need. Whether your part of the world is experiencing flooding or drought (or both) or excessive water consumption, one thing remains true: we cannot live without fresh, clean water. While some corporations claim that access to clean water should not be a human right, it absolutely is and needs to remain that way because our lives depend on it. Water is essential yet few people know much about it. Here are some important facts about water that you need to know:

The average adult human body is made up of 50 to 65 percent water.

The human brain is 75% water and depends on water to ensure the electrical communications in the brain work correctly.

A person can live about a month without food but only about a week without water.

68.7% of the world’s fresh water is found in glaciers.

A whopping 97% of the world’s water is salt water and is therefore not drinkable.

Whatever we pour into the ground or flush down the toilet or add to our washing machine ends up in water supply.

Whatever spews out into the air finds its way into our water.

According to the journal Environmental Science and Technology, the artificial sweetener sucralose, which is also known under the brand name Splenda, is now a widespread contaminant in surface water, ground water, and waste water. Most likely, it finds its way into our water supply by those who use it and urinate it out or through the manufacture of this artificial sweetener. Scientists determined that sucralose is a recalcitrant compound, which means that it resists break-down during chemical processes or treatment. Once it finds its way into the water supply it is likely to find its way into your drinking water.

According to research cited by the national coalition Moms Across America and Sustainable Pulse, 70 percent of household drinking water contains glyphosate. They also found that the amount of the toxic pesticide, glyphosate, (also known as Monsanto’s Roundup) allowed in American drinking water is much higher than the limit should be. The current limit in the United States is  0.4 parts per billion, which might not sound like much but research shows that even with only one-fourth of that amount which is the limit in the European Union (EU), glyphosate can damage 4000 genes and can cause many serious health problems. 

Unsafe water kills 200 children every hour.

In just one year the average American household uses over 100,000 gallons of water (indoor and outdoor use).

Water helps to regulate the earth’s temperature.

Water performs many functions in the human body, from temperature regulation, carrying nutrients and oxygen to cells, cushions joints, protects tissues and organs, and removes wastes, to name a few.

Growing animals for consumption uses more than 50% of the fresh water. Simply reducing our animal foods consumption, we would reduce our water use by at least half.

One pound of beef requires between 2000 and 8000 gallons of water to produce—for either grass-fed or grain-fed cows. Pound-for-pound and gallon-for-gallon, animal foods use many times the water of plant-based foods and produce vast amounts more carbon than plant-based foods. According to UCLA, ounce-for-ounce, plant sources like legumes, seeds, and grains yield similar amounts of protein as meat yet also provide fiber, sterols, stanols, vitamins and minerals.

One gallon of cow’s milk requires 1950 gallons of water to create.

Compare the amount of water to yield animal products to the amount of water needed to produce plant-based foods: one pound of oats requires 290 gallons of water; one pound of tofu requires 302 gallons of water to produce.

To compare the environmental effects of animal-rich diets to plant-based ones: it costs 20 to 80 gallons of water to yield one gram of protein from beef compared to 3.8 gallons of water to yield one gram of protein from oats.

It takes 20 gallons of water to produce one pint of beer.

A cucumber is 95% water, making it an excellent source of water when you need it.

While water may seem endless because it flows from the skies, we only have the amount of water that we have. As a result, we need to show water greater respect, conserve it and keep water pure.

Michelle

A Celebration of Celery and Celery Seeds

Celery is one of the most overlooked superfoodsCelery is probably one of the most overlooked superfoods. While some people add chopped celery to their soup or chili, or eat them as raw snacks, their healing powers are tremendously overlooked. I want to change that by showcasing celery’s true healing powers. Here are some of the best health and healing benefits of eating celery, and celery seeds, on a regular basis:

Brain and Memory Superfood: Celery might just be the most overlooked brain health superfood.  Perhaps it is because affordable, readily-available celery is just too commonplace to be a considered a superfood but when it comes to your brain you’ll want to give celery a second thought. Over 900 years ago Hildegard von Bingen, a writer, scientist, musician, and nun wrote about celery’s anti-inflammatory properties.  But it was only much more recently that scientists have proven what she knew almost a millennia ago. James Duke, PhD, author of The Green Pharmacy and world-renowned botanist, discovered that both celery and celery seeds contain over twenty natural anti-inflammatory compounds including an extremely potent one known as apigenin. These anti-inflammatories help reduce brain inflammation that can occur as we age and make us more vulnerable to memory lapses and brain decline.

Pain and Inflammation: Celery and celery seeds are a great addition to your diet, particularly if you suffer from any inflammation or pain. In addition to Dr. Duke’s research citing these foods as among the best for brain inflammation, they can also quell inflammation elsewhere in the body. In a study published in Progress in Drug Research scientists found that an extract of celery seeds was at least as effective as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen in the treatment of arthritis.

Arthritis and Gout Remedies: Celery and celery seeds are proven arthritis remedies.  They are particularly great against the arthritic condition gout, which is primarily felt in pain in the big toe. 

Diabetes Preventer and Treatment: Celery contains compounds known as flavonols which research in the Journal of Nutrition shows can decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 26%. Additionally, these nutrients can help those already suffering from the disease. Unlike many fruits that are also high in flavonols but are also high in natural sugars that may not be suitable for all diabetics, celery is low in sugar and an excellent choice for anyone.

Gut Protector: Due to its potent anti-inflammatory properties, including its unique apiuman content, celery and celery seeds offer protection against inflammation of the digestive tract.

Antiaging Antioxidants: A growing body of research shows that celery and celery seeds can help prevent the effects of aging thanks to its many free-radical-fighting compounds. Some of the unique antioxidants found in celery include compounds known as lunularin, bergapten, and psoralen. But, you don’t need to remember their complex names to benefit from their antioxidant protection for your cells, blood vessels, and organs.

Healthy Blood Clotting: Due to its high vitamin K content, celery can help ensure healthy blood flow and blood clotting. Just one cup of diced celery contains one-third of your body’s daily vitamin K requirements. Of course, if you take warfarin or another blood thinner, or have a blood clotting disorder, it is wise to keep your vitamin K intake consistent on a daily basis to avoid any issues with your medication or condition.

Heart and Blood Vessel Health: Due to celery’s many antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds, it has been found to protect the blood vessels and heart from damage, making it an excellent food to ensure your cardiovascular health.

May Help Reduce High Blood Pressure: Thanks to celery’s compounds known as phthalides which act as natural diuretics and thereby help to lower pressure inside blood vessels, eating celery on a daily basis may help to normalize high blood pressure.

Bone Health: Due to its high vitamin K content which helps build strong and healthy bones, eating celery on a regular basis may help strengthen your bones.

Anti-Cancer Properties: While the research on celery’s potential anti-cancer properties is still in its infancy, there are animal studies showcasing celery’s anti-cancer effects. Other research in the Journal of Cancer Prevention found that apigenin, which is found in celery and celery seeds, demonstrates anti-cancer activity by preventing free radical damage to cells and DNA, suppressing inflammation, slowing cancer cell growth, and causing cancer cells to commit suicide through a process known as apoptosis.

How to Benefit

Celery is one of the most versatile foods, making it simple to add to your daily diet. You can juice celery in a juicer or blender.  If using a blender you’ll want to add a bit of water and drink immediately as the fiber causes the drink to quickly thicken. Add chopped celery or celery seeds to soups or stews.  My sister blends pieces of celery into her excellent Caesar salad dressing to thicken it and give it a hint of celery taste and all of the health benefits celery offers. 

Enjoy raw celery crudités with almond butter, hummus, or your favorite dip or spread. Add chopped, raw celery to salads.

Use celery seeds or as a salt substitute in many recipes. One of my favorite foods as an appetizer instead of garlic bread is celery bread. It’s made the same as garlic bread but uses celery seeds in place of the garlic. Better yet, use the garlic along with the celery seed for a delicious appetizer or snack.  Simply brush olive oil on whole grain gluten-free bread and sprinkle with celery seeds, bake in a 325-degree oven until golden-brown and serve immediately.

Michelle

Food Fix The Most Powerful Healing Foods and How to Use Them to Overcome Disease by Dr. CookDr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM, RNCP, ROHP, is an international best-selling & 21-time published book author, and a celebrity nutritionist. Check out her latest e-book: FOOD FIX: The Most Powerful Healing Foods and How to Use Them to Overcome Disease, available now for immediate download. Her work has been featured in Woman's World, First for Women, Huffington Post, Reader's Digest, WebMD, Reviews.com, and Thrive Global. Learn more about her work at DrMichelleCook.com.    

 

Eat Your Greens! Here Are 10 Reasons Why

There are many great reasons for eating more leafy greensIn our house we love leafy greens so much that we grow microgreens year-round in our kitchen, as well as many types of leafy greens in our outdoor gardens in the summer. They are delicious additions to sandwiches, salads noodle bowls and all kinds of meals. We all know we should eat more greens but perhaps the following information and research will provide the incentive needed to actually eat more. Here are some great benefits - beyond the fact they taste great - of eating more greens:

Male Sexual Health: Many leafy greens, and beet greens in particular, are good sources of the mineral zinc. According to a study published in the Journal of Human Reproductive Sciences researchers found that moderate doses of zinc enhanced male sexual health, including a reduced likelihood of premature ejaculation, increased ability to maintain sexual activity for longer periods of time, and improved testosterone levels.

May Help to Alleviate Heart Palpitations: Leafy greens are among the best food sources of the mineral potassium. Potassium is an essential mineral that helps to regulate heartbeat and nerve signals. Sadly, due to the high amount of sodium in most peoples’ diets and the fact that sodium displaces potassium, it is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in America, with some estimates around 98% of the population being deficient. Addressing this deficiency may help to reduce heart palpitations.

May Help with Eye Health: Leafy greens are powerhouses of lutein, with beet greens being among the best source, containing over 275 micrograms of lutein, which is a critical nutrient to maintain eye health and vision, and in the prevention of eye conditions. When it comes to eye health few foods can compare to leafy greens like collards, kale, and spinach. That’s because they contain a wide variety of eye-protecting and eye-healing nutrients, some of which include: alpha-carotene, alpha lipoic acid, beta-carotene, lutein, lutein, and zeaxanthin.  

Help Protect Against Heart Disease: If you’re suffering from heart disease you’ll want to load up on your favorite greens, including: kale, lettuce, parsley, and spinach. That’s because research in the journal Atherosclerosis found that some vegetables are better than others in preventing condition. Vegetables with a high lutein content, like leafy greens, were particularly beneficial in reducing heart disease and in treating the condition after it has formed. Leafy greens are high in many nutrients, including the B-complex vitamins, including vitamin B6, B12, and folate—all of which are essential for normal homocysteine levels.  Homocysteine is a type of protein that is produced by the body and found in the blood, ideally in low levels. High homocysteine levels is a factor for heart disease so it’s wise to keep them low by eating more leafy greens. Additionally, leafy greens are high in the nutrient lutein. Research in the journal Atherosclerosis found vegetables high in lutein were particularly beneficial in reducing heart disease but even treating the condition after it has formed.

Osteoporosis Protection: Veggies like kale and spinach contain high amounts of alkaline minerals like calcium and magnesium.  Both minerals help balance body chemistry to alleviate inflammation and boost bone health.

Cancer Fighters: Leafy greens have many anti-cancer compounds, some of which include: alpha-carotene, alpha lipoic acid, beta-carotene, lutein, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Dandelion greens, in particular are potent cancer fighters. While not unusual in traditional Italian diets, few people in North America eat dandelion greens. But, for those fighting cancer you might want to reconsider in light of the research published in Nature Chemistry which found that dandelion greens offer hope in the treatment of this dreaded illness. The researchers identified a substance called JPC11 which appears to interfere with cancer cells' ability to divide rapidly--a process necessary to the survival of cancer in the body.

Diabetes Aid: Ground-breaking published in Endocrine Journal found that a vitamin A deficiency may actually be at the root of diabetes. The scientists found that vitamin A is essential for the proper functioning of the beta cells of the pancreas. The beta cells are responsible for producing insulin, which in turn helps to regulate blood sugar levels. Leafy greens contain beta carotene, the precursors of vitamin A.

Liver Healers: Leafy greens are nutritional powerhouses that are good for almost everything so it will probably come as no surprise that they are also good for liver health. According to a study published in the medical journal Lipids in Health and Disease, eating more leafy greens has been found to improve the liver’s fatty acid profile, which not only offers liver health benefits and may reduce the risk of a fatty liver, but may also reduce the risk of heart disease.

Lymphatic System Cleansers: Leafy greens like arugula, spinach, and kale are good for almost everything so it will probably come as no surprise that they are also excellent lymphatic system cleansers. They contain many vital vitamins and minerals that boost your lymphatic system’s ability to keep your tissues clean and healthy. Be sure to eat a couple of cups of fresh greens daily.

Weight Loss Booster: If weight loss had a color, surely it would be green. That’s because leafy greens are power-packed with nutrients that help maintain a healthy metabolism. Whether you add spring mix, spinach, kale, mustard greens, or another type of leafy vegetable to your diet, they are all excellent sources of vitamins and antioxidants that alleviate inflammation, which has been linked to weight gain and obesity.  And, if you eat them in microgreen form, you will boost up your nutrient consumption even more.

Michelle

Food Fix The Most Powerful Healing Foods and How to Use Them to Overcome DiseaseDr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM, RNCP, ROHP, is an international best-selling & 21-time published book author, and a celebrity nutritionist. Check out her latest e-book: FOOD FIX: The Most Powerful Healing Foods and How to Use Them to Overcome Disease, available now for immediate download. Her work has been featured in Woman's World, First for Women, Huffington Post, Reader's Digest, WebMD, Reviews.com, and Thrive Global. Learn more about her work at DrMichelleCook.com.    

 

Strawberry Fields Forever: 10 Great Reasons to Eat This Early Season Berry

There are so many great reasons to eat strawberriesEvery June when strawberries burst into gardens and markets near my home, I am reminded of my strawberry-picking expeditions as a child with my dad and sister.  My mom agreed to make dozens of pies or fresh jam if we’d pick the strawberries needed.  Well, that was all the incentive I needed to spend some serious time in the massive strawberry patches in the countryside near where I lived.  Nowadays, I try to eat fresh strawberries to benefit from their many healing properties…and, let’s be honest, for their intensely delicious flavor. Here are some of the best reasons to eat more strawberries:

1) They’re antioxidant powerhouses.  Actually, as fruits go, strawberries have the fourth highest level of antioxidants of foods recently tested.  Antioxidants protect your body from free radicals linked to aging and disease.

2) They’re excellent sources of vitamin C which helps boost the strength of arteries, prevent bruising, and strengthen your body’s stress glands—the adrenals—which require the highest levels of vitamin C of all organs or glands in your body.  Eight strawberries have more vitamin C than an orange.

3)  Strawberries have been shown in studies to regulate blood sugar levels.  Eating one cup of fresh strawberries caused a significant reduction in blood sugar spikes.  Blood sugar spikes are linked with weight gain, mood swings, diabetes, and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).  That’s because the spikes are followed by plummeting blood sugar levels soon afterward.

4)  Strawberries have anti-inflammatory and anti-pain properties.  In a study published in the medical journal Nutrients, researchers found that eating strawberries regularly helped alleviate the pain and inflammation of osteoarthritis in the knees. Of course, strawberries can help reverse inflammation and pain in other places in the body, but the study only explored the knees.

5)  Strawberries are high in many nutrients that help protect us from heart disease. According to the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, there are many compounds found in strawberries that help to protect us against heart disease. Some of the main heart-protecting compounds include: flavonols, anthocyanins, elligitannins, and others. More and more research continues to pile up about the heart-healing and other benefits of these nutrients.

6)  Strawberries contain anthocyanins which stimulate the burning of stored fat in the body to use as fuel, making strawberries a great choice for anyone looking to lose weight.

7)  They have anti-cancer properties.  Their flavonoid content causes the body to interfere with the stages of development of cancer cells, preventing their ability to multiply.

8)  Strawberries’ phenolic acids demonstrate anti-allergenic properties, meaning they help reduce the biochemical processes that are linked to allergic reactions.  Of course, as with any food, some people are allergic to strawberries so if you suspect an allergy you should avoid them.

9)  Research in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry found that strawberries help to protect our genetic material from damage from ultraviolet rays, specifically UV-A rays from the sun.

10)  They’re delicious and versatile.  Add fresh or frozen strawberries to smoothies, shakes, or blender “juices”.  Top whole grain waffles or pancakes with fresh strawberries, blend them with avocado to create a delicious pudding, or just enjoy them on their own.

Michelle

Window Sill Greenhouse: Six Week Update

Window sill greenhouse with mature potatoes and peasAt the end of March, we wrote about re-purposing an old storage bin and using it for a windowsill greenhouse inside our home. As we begin planting outside, it is amazing to see how our plants fared in the window over the last six weeks.

We ended up with seven strong and healthy potato plants out of the nine potato scraps we planted.  We later added peas from sprouted peas that fell in the bin while draining water from them.  We also added some sprouting organic garlic cloves we bought at the store. You can see the peas climbing over the edge and reaching for more sunlight.  The garlic is a bit slower and has not reached the lip of the container.

About two weeks ago we added some beet scraps and the greens are starting to grow as well.  The challenge is ensuring that the potatoes don't block out all the light.  We keep rotating the bin but the potatoes keep leaning toward the light.  It might be time to bring the windowsill greenhouse outside. 

Considering the food in this bin was grown primarily from scraps that would have gone in the compost heap, we are thrilled with the results. And unless we had a heated greenhouse outside, there would not be any way we would have potatoes this far along in our northern climate.

I can't wait to try our windowsill harvest!

Curtis

 

6 Delicious Weeds that You Can Eat

Delicious edible weeds can be found in your yardThe availability of nutritionally-dense food that is free from the clutches of corporate agriculture companies like Bayer AG and Monsanto is a growing concern to many people. And, while food security is indeed something to take seriously, few people are aware of their own already-available food growing in their yards. I encourage you to start growing your own food, either sprouts, microgreens, container-tomatoes, or full-blown gardens. I also hope you’ll take a look at the food that’s already around you, in the form of wild edibles, or weeds, as most people call them. Here are some of my favorite weeds that offer delicious and nutritious, as well as free food:

Daisies: Hard to miss, these pretty flowers often pop up in our lawns if we let the grass grow a bit. While they can be a bit bitter, both the leaves and the flowers are edible and can be eaten raw or cooked.

Dandelion Greens, Flowers, and Roots: Even if you’re not familiar with foraging, finding dandelion greens should not be a problem. They’re almost everywhere. Choose the small leaves as more mature leaves tend to become bitter. The immature leaves can be added to salads, soups, or sautéed like spinach, along with a little garlic, olive oil, squeeze of lemon juice, and a bit of sea salt for a delicious side dish. The flowers can be added to salads and eaten raw. The roots are absolutely delicious when roasted, ground, and added to smoothies or steeped as you would tea. They have a slightly chocolate-coffee flavor, which is why blending them with a handful of cashews, a dash of stevia, some almond milk, and a little ice makes my favorite smoothie. Dandelion helps to boost the kidneys and liver.

Lamb’s Quarters: Not just for grazing sheep, lamb’s quarters are found in plentiful quantities in most people’s lawns and make a delicious alternative to spinach. Add them raw to salads or saute them in a little olive oil and sea salt for a tasty plate of wild greens.

Nettles: You won’t miss these herbs, particularly if you try to pick them without gloves. That’s because the fine hairs along the stems of the plant will give your skin a bit of a sting when you touch them. However, when they are cooked, they lose their stinging sensation. You’re left with one of the most nutritional greens you can eat, which are great in soups and stews. They boost your overall nutrition but also help fight off seasonal allergies, which are a nuisance for many people this time of year.

Plantain Leaves: Found in most lawns, you’ve probably stepped on these plants hundreds of time without consideration for them. Yet, they are an excellent addition to your diet. Chop and add to salads, soups, or saute them as you would spinach.

Red Clover Leaves and Flowers: Easy to spot when in flower thanks to their purplish-pink flowerheads, red clover leaves make an excellent addition to salads, soups, or can be sautéed for a delicious plate of wild greens. The flowers can be added to salads or infused in boiled water to make tea.

If you’re not 100% certain you’ve identified the correct plant, it is best not to eat them. If you’re unsure, you might find an herb walk or foraging course helpful. Of course, stay clear of lawns near highways or any that have been sprayed with pesticides.

Michelle

How Far Does Your Food Travel to Reach You?

Fruits and vegetables lose nutrition when they are shippedWhen we consider ways of contributing to the health of planet Earth, we usually consider things like recycling, reducing the amount we drive, eating more organic foods, or using less plastic. While all of these ideas are certainly worthy of our effort, few people consider the massive footprint of eating meals that have traveled around the globe to reach us.

According to the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture, the food in an average meal travels about 1500 miles to get to dinner plates. Of course, that amount varies heavily depending on what is in the meal: whether it contains seasonal food, locally-grown or industrially-produced foods, and whether it contains exotic superfoods or regional favorites.

Research conducted by Worldwatch Institute, found that the average meal traveled between 1500 and 2500 miles from farm to table, as much as 25 percent farther than food only two decades ago. If we go back farther than that to the 1800s or even the 1900ss, we’d find that food traveled only short distances to reach dinner plates. At that time, there were no large grocery stores for people to purchase their food. Instead, most fruits and vegetables eaten were grown on peoples’ own farmsteads.

While a return to that lifestyle may hold little appeal for many people, the reality is that if every person grew even a small amount of his or her own food, we’d transform the health of the planet. Growing even modest amounts of our own food could green up the planet by reducing greenhouse emissions linked to extensive transportation and distribution systems.

Additionally, doing so would reduce our dependency on Big Agricultural companies that have proven time and time again that they don’t have our best interests at heart (consider the more than 11,000 lawsuits against corporate seed and pesticide giant, Monsanto, for allegedly causing cancer in countless people). In essence, growing our own food is the ultimate revolutionary act: it involves taking the control of our food supply out of the hands of corporate giants and putting it back into our own hands.

These are just some of the reasons why my husband, Curtis, and I launched FoodHouseProject.com, where we are converting our century old farmhouse into the ultimate food house: a home where we showcase the best in many forms of food growing to demonstrate how easy it is and how realistic it actually is for everyone to grow at least a portion of their own food. To that end, we’re diving head-first into old school gardening like container-growing and plots of land for growing fruits and vegetables as well as cutting-edge vertical growing, indoor microgreen growing, and much more.

We’re combining Curtis’ extensive food security background with my nutrition knowledge and aversion for corporate agriculture giants, with our combined love of gardening and food, transforming our neglected old farmhouse into a modern-day show home of food-growing possibilities to inspire everyone to start growing their own food. And, we’re issuing the FoodHouseProject Challenge to everyone to start growing one or more of their own foods. Take the plunge even if you have never grown food before. It’s easier, and far more rewarding, than you think.

Even if you’d rather not get your hands dirty, you can choose to grow beansprouts which involve no dirt at all and only a tiny spot on your kitchen counter or a small patch of microgreens grown in hemp or coconut fiber. Or, if technology is more your speed, then consider an indoor vertical garden which takes almost no effort, only a few square feet of indoor floor space and quickly becomes a lush, beautiful and inspirational market stand of sorts for picking your own food in only a matter of weeks.

And, if you’ve never tried container gardening, you’d be shocked at how much food you can grow even on an urban balcony. Or perhaps, you can start a community garden in your area and get your neighbors out to contribute to greening up the neighborhood while also boosting the sense of community. If you’re fortunate enough to have even a small plot of land then cover up that lawn until the grass has died back and begin to plant a fruit and vegetable garden.

Growing your own food is not just good for the earth, it’s better for your body too. That’s because a huge amount of nutrients are lost in the first few days after picking fruits and vegetables. In one study published in The Journal of Food Science, researchers at Penn State found that much of the nutritional quality of spinach was gone by the time it reached dinner plates.

Typically, spinach is considered high in nutrients like folate which helps to prevent birth defects in the first months of pregnancy, and carotenoids that support healthy vision and help to protect the eyes from UV and free radical damage. In the study, researchers found that spinach lost 53% of its folate content after only 8 days of storage at 39 degrees Fahrenheit, or the typical temperature inside most refrigerators. As storage temperatures increased so did the amount of folate that was lost. And, the same is true for all foods: most of the nutrients are lost even before the food reaches your refrigerator, during transportation or while sitting on grocery store shelves.

Celebrate this great planet by recycling, reducing the amount you drive, eating more organic foods, using less plastic, and growing some of your own food. Mother Earth and your body will thank you for it.

Michelle

7 Ways to Make Your Garden More Earth-Friendly

There are many ways to make your garden earth-friendlySpring has sprung and across the land, people are pulling out their rakes and spades, filling wheelbarrows with soil and preparing for another season of gardening. In some parts of the country, gardens are well underway but I can’t wait to get my hands dirty planting a wide variety of vegetables, herbs, mushrooms, and berries as part of this exciting new venture, FoodHouseProject.com, in which my husband Curtis and I transform our century-old home into the ultimate in food self-sufficiency and share our adventures with the world. While gardening is one of the most natural and fulfilling activities available to us, it can easily become a drain on the environment. Here are seven ways to keep your gardening earth-friendly.

1)  Get fossil fuels out of the garden: Most suburban dwellers know that nothing disrupts a quiet summer day like the roaring of three or four gas-powered lawn mowers maintaining the grass monoculture. The smelly exhaust of those gas engines is equally disruptive and far more damaging to our health. If you simply must have a lawn, consider the powerful yet quiet electric mowers now on the market. Many of the big-name garden equipment manufacturers are offering rechargeable, battery operated push mowers (and even riding mowers) with all the bells and whistles of the gas models. The modest hum of the electric motor doesn’t block out every sound of nature and all you will smell is freshly cut grass.

2) Build your garden with repurposed or local materials: You may not be building the gardens of Chateau Versailles but the creation of raised beds, fencing, and pathways requires building materials. Before you head out to the local big box store for lumber or weed mats, check out what you can repurpose at home or get for free. Cardboard and old cotton sheets can provide excellent weed suppression under growing soil or on paths between growing beds. Heat treated pallets, not chemical treated ones, can be repurposed into fences, raised beds, compost bins and a multitude of other garden structures and they can frequently be obtained for free. If you do need to buy some lumber, for example, check for suppliers selling reclaimed wood (or someone giving it away!) or look for a local, independent sawmill that can fill your needs with locally-sourced wood. From my experience, lumber from a small mill can be much more affordable.

3)  Buy chemical-free plants and seedlings: If you must shop at plant nurseries, ask about the plants you are buying to find out if they are free of pesticides and herbicides. If you are lucky, you may live near a chemical-free nursery or have access to a farmer’s market where vendors are selling spray-free seedlings and plants. By avoiding dangerous chemicals like neonicotinoids, you will spare bees and other beneficial pollinating insects that not only help your garden thrive, but are essential to the global food supply. That may sound heavy, but the importance of pollinators cannot be overstated.

4) Repurpose and reuse garden supplies: Once you have those new additions to your garden planted, don’t throw out those plastic pots. Don’t even recycle them yet. Reuse them. Try your hand at growing more plants from seeds or cuttings. Keep using those pots until they are falling apart and then recycle them. Growing from seeds is very rewarding and you can use so many everyday items as starter pots. I know people who save their take-out coffee cups to start seedlings. I wish they invested in a reusable mug but they are repurposing that paper cup and using it again and again. I have used cardboard toilet paper rolls to make seedling pots, as well as food grade plastic containers (think yogurt containers).

5) Grow from organic or heirloom seeds: Speaking of seedlings, look for organic and heirloom brands if you are buying them from retailers like big box stores. I would encourage you to look for credible online, or better still, local seed exchanges where you can buy and trade seeds with other local growers who recognize the importance of maintaining a food supply free from big corporations. Local seed exchanges are often combined with workshops and seminars that provide practical knowledge from local experts you have been growing plants in your neck of the woods for years. There is no better way to learn that from someone who has been doing it successfully and is willing to share his or her knowledge.

6) Grow local: Try to grow species that are indigenous to the region in which you live. This is the best way to prevent invasive plant species from spreading and crowding out native plants that are important to the existing ecosystem. If you want to grow ornamental plants in your garden, look for wild flowers that occur naturally in your area. If you are growing fruits, vegetables and herbs outdoors, chances are you are limited to plants that either occur naturally in your area or can tolerate the growing conditions. If you harvest the food and/or cut back the plant (perennials like raspberries, asparagus, tree fruits, rhubarb or most herbs, for example) or compost it entirely (annuals like tomatoes, squashes, peppers or cucumbers, for instance) after the harvest, it is unlikely that your food plants will run wild among the other native species.

7) Grow low-water and drought-resistant plants: Unless you live in a high rainfall area, chances are good that your garden will need additionally watering courtesy of your municipal water supply or well. By growing species that naturally occur in your area, you know that they are able to survive with the usual amount of water Mother Nature provides. If you want to add other species, consider plants that require less water to grow. If you simply must have thirsty plant species in your garden, look at rainwater collection and drip irrigation solutions to minimize your water use.

Michelle

Great Foods For Spring Detox

Living in a northern climate often means a long chilly break from fresh produce. By December, produce in the grocery store is looking questionable. By February, fruits and vegetables are low on flavor and even lower in nutrients.

That’s why I love the spring season.  Fresh produce is making its return, and it won’t be long before I can get delicious food straight out of the garden or fresh from a farmers’ market. Depending on your location and climate, there are great garden and farm foods available as soon as the frost lifts, many of which give a boost to your body after a long sluggish winter.

When it comes to cleansing your body of harmful toxins, food really is the best medicine. Many of your favorite foods also cleanse the liver, kidneys, skin, intestines, and other detoxification systems. Add more of these nutritious and delicious springtime foods to your diet to help ward off the harmful effects of bad food choices, pollution, food additives, second-hand smoke, among other toxins. Here are my top six picks for seasonal spring detox foods:

Artichokes – Artichokes are a highly underrated vegetable.  They are high in vitamin C and fiber and help to increase bile production in the body, which helps the intestines eliminate toxins from the body. Artichokes also contain a substance that helps the liver break down fatty acids.  This is good news because the average diet and lifestyle creates tremendous strain on the liver’s ability to filter out toxins.

Asparagus – It is hard to beat asparagus when it is coated in olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt and lightly grilled on the barbecue.  This flowering perennial is an excellent source of vitamin K and folate, the latter of which is particularly necessary for pregnant women. Asparagus also contains vitamins A, C, B1, B2, B6, niacin, manganese, potassium, magnesium and selenium.

Garlic – Forget worrying about your breath and enjoy the potent healing properties of fresh garlic. Where I live, garlic is usually planted in the fall and the ready for harvest in late spring.  Garlic is a relative of onion and shares many of its same health benefits.  It can destroy harmful bacteria, intestinal parasites, and viruses in the body, helps cleanse buildup from the arteries and lowers blood pressure. Garlic is well known for its anti-cancer and antioxidant properties and also helps cleanse the respiratory tract by expelling mucous buildup in the lungs and sinuses. Keep in mind that store-bought garlic powder offers none of these benefits found in fresh, easy-to-grow garlic. Don’t be afraid to give fresh garlic a starring role in your cooking.

Onions – Onions are as versatile as they are health promoting.  Research on these members of the allium family has uncovered powerful antioxidant and anti-cancer capabilities. Onions also thin and cleanse the blood and lower LDL cholesterol without lessening HDL cholesterol. Rich in biotin (which aids sugar and fat metabolism) and phytonutrients like polyphenols, onions also help detoxify the respiratory tract and fight asthma, bronchitis, hay fever, and diabetes. Onions, like garlic, help cleanse the body of viruses and the intestines of harmful bacteria.

Strawberries – Still not a fan of vegetables?  Late spring is the season of nutrient- and enzyme-rich strawberries.  Eating eight strawberries (who can stop at eight?) will give you more vitamin C than an orange. Like most delicious berries, they are among the highest foods measured for antioxidant capacity. Fresh or frozen, on a salad or in a smoothie, strawberries offer a delicious treat and protect you from heart disease, arthritis, memory loss, cancer and a host of other health problems.  Detox never tasted so good!

Watercress – Not the most common leafy green used in salads but certainly one of the healthiest, this aquatic plant increases detoxification enzymes in the body and contains phytonutrients that have successfully inhibited carcinogens. In a studyat the Norwich Food Research Centre in the United Kingdom, smokers who were given 170 grams of watercress per day eliminated higher than average amounts of carcinogens in their urine, thereby reducing their numbers in their body.  Watercress has a mild, peppery flavor that enhances salads, soups and sandwiches.

Michelle

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About Us

Curtis and Michelle - The Food House Project People

 

Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook is a best-selling & 20-time book author and popular blogger for DrMichelleCook.com and the world's largest health and environmental site Care2.com. Her books include: Be Your Own Herbalist, The Cultured Cook, and Cancer-Proof.

Curtis Cook is a former international business consultant who now focuses on his passion for local food movements and resilient communities. 

They share a love of great food, gardening, nature, and each other.

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