Tuesday, November 23, 2010

How to eat your herb garden!

Months and months ago now I saw a newspaper article written about a Registered Dietitian sharing information about healthful culinary herbs along with easy recipes that included these tasty fresh herbs. I wrote to ask if I could share her information on this blog because her tips fit so perfectly with the "cancer victory garden" developed by another Registered Dietitian for her cancer center in New Jersey that I have written about on this blog.

Although winter is now setting in with earnest in many parts of this country, fresh herbs can still be grown inside in pots set in sunny windows. So yes, I am late posting this helpful info, but not too late!

Many thanks to Denise Boozell RD, LD  -  Indianola Hy-Vee Dietitian, Indianola, Iowa.

Tips for using Fresh Herbs in Cooking:
Add the more delicate fresh herbs – basil, chives, cilantro, dill leaves, parsley, marjoram and mint – a minute or two before the end of cooking or sprinkle them on the food before it is served. 

The less delicate fresh herbs, such as dill seeds, oregano, rosemary, tarragon and thyme, can be added about the last 20 minutes of cooking.

May add fresh herbs to breads or batters at the beginning of the cooking process.

Uncooked foods – add fresh herbs & spices several hours before serving to allow flavors to blend.

A good rule of thumb when using fresh herbs in place of dried is to use two or four times more fresh herbs. For example, 1 tablespoon finely cut fresh herbs = ¼ to ½ teaspoon ground dried herbs.

Health Benefits of Fresh Herbs
Herbs are a rich source of antioxidants, similar to fruits and vegetables, when compared on a weight-for-weight basis.

Adding herbs when cooking is also a great way to add flavor, yet cut back on fat or sodium, making recipes healthier. 

Some herbs help reduce bacteria levels in foods, acting as a natural preservative.

Basil: Most commonly used in Mediterranean and Asian cuisine.  Add to salads, linguine and other pasta dishes. Take the leaves and crush them in your hand or snip with kitchen scissors to release their sweet aroma and taste. Basil grows easily in Midwest gardens, is rich in antioxidants and acts as an anti-inflammatory.
Oregano: Known as the “pizza herb”, oregano, along with basil, gives food an Italian flavor. Oregano adds a wonderful flavor to pizza, pasta, egg and cheese dishes. Try sprinkling a dash of oregano on fried eggs instead of salt, or sautĂ© fresh vegetables in olive oil with garlic and oregano. Has antioxidant and anti-microbial benefits.

Chiles:  Woodsy and warm flavors will penetrate even the most humble dish with a snip or two of chili peppers.  Big chiles tend to be milder, while small chiles are the hottest. All chiles grow well in home garden plots. In the fall, hang the plants upside down to dry. Chili peppers contain capsaicin, responsible for the “heat,” which is a powerful antioxidant that may help lower bad cholesterol and rev up metabolism, and also help with stomach health.

Parsley:  Eating parsley will freshen your breath and perk up the flavor of many dishes. Sprinkle chopped parsley on spuds, toss into marinades and dressings and add as a seasoning to almost any type of pasta salad. Has concentrated chlorophyll levels, which is thought to help “filter” and maintain health of the stomach, small and large intestine. It is filled with nutrients such as vitamins A, C and K.  Parsley grows well in gardens. 

Cilantro:  Often used in Mexican, Asian and Middle Eastern cooking.  It tastes like a sweet mix of parsley and citrus.  Cilantro should be crushed or torn into tiny pieces before adding to recipes.  It goes very well in salsa and bean dip.  Is an antioxidant and aids digestion.

Dill:  Used in cuisine with seafood, dipping sauces, potato salads and dishes, vegetables and pasta dishes.  Has anti-microbial and antioxidant health benefits.


Mango Salsa
All you need:
1 mango, peeled, seed, and chopped (about 1 1/2 cups), I use frozen
1 medium sweet pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup peeled and chopped cucumber (about half of a medium cucumber)
1/2 cup corn (fresh, frozen or canned)
1/2 to 1 cup chopped tomato
1 chopped chile pepper, optional
1/4 cup sliced green onions
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro or Italian/flat-leaf parsley
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon shredded fresh lime peel
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
All you do:
In a medium bowl combine all the ingredients.
Taste, add more salt and black pepper if needed.
Store in refrigerator up to 24 hours.
Let set out of refrigerator for about 30 minutes before serving. This allows olive oil to come to room temperature.
Serve with tortilla chips. Also great served with tacos, fish, chicken or pork.
Note: truly best if you can obtain locally-grown tomatoes, cucumbers, corn and other vegetables.

Basil Pesto
Makes 1 cup.
All you need:
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
Salt and ground pepper
All you do:
1. In a food processor or blender, combine basil, pine nuts and garlic. With food processor running slowly add the oil, then the cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Spread on toast or crackers
Tips – Add basil pesto to cooked pasta, a topping for baked potatoes, instead of tomato sauce on pizza, sandwich spread, even added to chopped hard-cooked eggs for a tasty egg salad. May use as a salad dressing by simply adding lemon juice to thin basil pesto.
Freeze in small jars or line ice cube trays with plastic wrap and fill with pesto. When frozen, remove cubes of pesto from trays and freeze in plastic bags.

Italian Bruschetta                Developed by the Hy-Vee Test Kitchen.
All you need:
Take & Bake French bread, baked & sliced - whole wheat or multi-grain if available
Fresh tomatoes, sliced thin
Fresh Mozzarella cheese, sliced
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Salt & Pepper
Fresh basil leaves
All you do:
Toast bread slices in oven. 
On each slice, put a tomato slice and a cheese slice. 
Drizzle with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar. 
Salt and pepper to taste and top with fresh basil.

Asparagus Mushroom Primavera

Source:  Heart-Healthy Living   Makes:  4 servings, 1-1/2 cups each 
Prep Time:  15 min.  Cook Time:  10 min
All you need:
1 pound fresh asparagus spears (or use frozen if locally-grown fresh not available)
8 oz dried multigrain linguine
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 8-ounce package fresh button mushrooms, halved
¼ cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon butter
¼ cup shredded fresh basil
¼ cup crushed red pepper, optional
All you do:
Snap off and discard woody bases of fresh asparagus.  Rinse.  Bias-slice asparagus into 1-1/2 inch pieces; set aside.
Cook pasta according to package directions.  Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic and black pepper; cook and stir for 30 seconds. 
Add asparagus (wait a few minutes to add if using frozen), mushrooms, wine and ¼ teaspoon salt to the skillet.  Bring to boiling; reduce heat.  Cook, uncovered, for 4 minutes or until asparagus is crisp-tender, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat; stir in butter. 
Drain pasta; add pasta to vegetables in skillet.  Toss gently to combine.  Garnish with basil and crushed red pepper if desired.
Tip:  You can also use reduced sodium chicken or vegetable broth for the liquid instead of wine.

Fresh Mint Melon Ball Salad   (Serves 7) - a perfect late summer recipe when all melons are available locally and at their peak of flavors
Developed by the Hy-Vee Test Kitchen
All you need:
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
1/3 cup Hy-Vee orange juice
2 tbsp Hy-Vee honey
3 cups watermelon balls, about half a watermelon
2 cups cantaloupe balls, about half a cantaloupe
2 cups honeydew balls, about half a honeydew
All you do:
In a medium bowl, combine mint, orange juice and honey.  Blend until smooth.
In a large bowl, combine watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew.  Pour orange juice mixture over fruit and gently toss. 

Rosemary Focaccia

Source:  Hy-Vee Seasons Healthy Living Recipes   Makes: 15 squares
All you need:
3 cups bread flour
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 cup Hy-Vee skim milk, heated to 115 degrees F.
1 package Grand Selections active dry yeast
1 tablespoon Hy-Vee granulated sugar
1 teaspoon dried rosemary (or use 1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
All you do:
Generously spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.
In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine 3 cups flour and 1 teaspoon of the salt.  Process until combined, about 5 seconds.
In a 2-cup measure, stir together milk, yeast, sugar and dried rosemary.  Whisk in 3 tablespoons olive oil.  With food processor running, slowly pour milk mixture in a stream through feed tube.
On a lightly floured surface, knead dough by hand until smooth and elastic.  Spray a large bowl with nonstick cooking spray; place dough in bowl and turn to coat.  Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place for 20 minutes.
Heat oven to 400 degrees F.  Punch down dough and stretch into a ¼-inch thick rectangle.  Place on prepared baking sheet.  Evenly prick surface with a fork and make small indentations with your fingers.  Brush on remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Sprinkle the remaining ½ teaspoon kosher salt.
Bake for 20 minutes or until light golden brown.  Cool briefly on a wire rack.  Serve warm.
Nutrition Tip:  Substitute whole grain flour for half of the bread flour for more fiber and a heartier flavor.

Thanks again Denise for helping us all eat our herb gardens! May we all be nourished by cultivating our sunny window winter "cancer victory garden" enjoying both great taste and great health. :-)

Cultivating health through a garden's nourishment of both body and soul,
Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Sunday, November 14, 2010

What's New? The 2011 Cancer Victory Garden™ Calendar

I am member of the The Oncology Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group of The American Dietetic Association, which has created a gorgeous 2011 calendar inspired by my blog at www.cancervictorygardens.com called the Cancer Victory Garden calendar. These calendars will make delightful holiday gifts for almost everyone you know, including cancer survivors, gardeners, friends, family members, teachers, day care providers, and professional colleagues.

Each month features a beautiful picture of a different cancer fighting vegetable or fruit, along with text that discusses its health benefits and strategies for growing the produce in a home garden.

One or more calendars can be shipped to your home or work address.

Each calendar costs $10.00, plus a flat rate shipping charge of $5.00 (for 1 or more calendars).

To order calendars, make your check out to: ON DPG #20
(Check total = no. of calendars x $10/each + $5.00 shipping)

Mail the check to:
Maureen Leser
56 Boston Drive
Berlin, MD, 21811

Calendars will be mailed to the address on your check, or to another address as requested.

Funds from the sale of these calendars will be used to defray member costs of educational programs. In addition, ON DPG is making a donation to the Diana Dyer Cancer Survivors’ Nutrition Research Endowment at the American Institute of Cancer Research, which has provided research funds from proceeds of the sale of my book A Dietitian's Cancer Story (also a great gift!) since 2001 for AICR funded research projects that focus on defining nutritional strategies for cancer survivors to optimize the odds of long-term survival and increased quality of life.

If you have questions about the calendars, please contact my friend Maureen Leser, MS, RD, CSO, LD, at mgoreleser (at) gmail.com or call her at 240-994-0533.

If you are a member of the ON DPG you can preview the calendar at the ON DPG website: http://www.oncologynutrition.org/

If you are not a member of the ON DPG but are interested in previewing the calendar, please contact Maureen at mgoreleser (at) gmail.com. She will email a pdf that previews the calendar.

I have already seen these calendars, was given several complimentary copies, and also purchased several additional copies to give away. I hope you consider purchasing one or more - you will love them!

I'll end with how the calendar begins!

"Life begins the day you plant a garden"

~~ Chinese Proverb

Truer and more beautiful words could not be spoken!

Cultivating health through a garden's nourishment of both body and soul,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Friday, September 10, 2010

Diabetes Victory Gardens, Too!

No, the news piece on WGN-Chicago did not call these gardens exactly that, but the idea is exactly the same as Cancer Victory Gardens™.  The Be Well Lake County(IL) Diabetes Program is encouraging people with diabetes to grow a "diabetes garden" to increase their intake of vegetables, i.e. by taking charge of one's own health through vegetable gardening. In addition to helping lose weight and eliminate some medication for diabetes control, the statement that really caught my attention was the gardener who stated "This is my first and only garden. Once we started, I found out it was really exciting. I love it and we're going to do it again". Those are just different words that convey exactly what I hope the tag line for my blog inspires:  "Cultivating health through a garden's nourishment of both body and soul". 

To make this news piece even more exciting for me is that Cheryl Bell, the registered dietitian heading up the program is a friend of mine. I have no doubt that Cheryl's love of great-tasting food (and nothing beats locally-grown food for great taste!) plus her passion for using food to help improve the health of her community will lead to many more of Lake County's 50,000+ citizens who have a diagnosis of diabetes (without counting the thousands and thousands who also have pre-diabetes, many not yet diagnosed) becoming involved and excited about growning their own diabetes garden in the future. 

Cancer, diabetes, what is next? There are no limits to the benefits of gardening! I would love to hear how you have started to use vegetable gardening to improve your personal health or the health of your patients, clients, and/or community, and please remember that gardening is also good for the soul, equally as important as no longer needing diabetes medication. :-)

"Cultivating health through a garden's nourishment of both body and soul"

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Cancer Victory Garden near the Pacific Coast

I just love opening up my Gmail email account. I don't have time to do it everyday, but I do make sure I look at it every couple of days. Normally it is filled with my Google "news alerts", meaning that is the email address where I have a daily summary sent of what I "track on the web". I don't live a very exciting life as I am not tracking any celebrity per se but everything that is published about kale and other Brassica vegetables, which is very interesting to me. :-)

It is also the email address that my blog at www.cancervictorygardens.com directs people to use if they would like to send me a photo and a short description of their own cancer story and how gardening has been important to their cancer recovery. So every time I open that account, I confess that I am always a tiny bit excited and hopeful!

Today I received an email and photo from a newly diagnosed cancer survivor named Anne who gave me permission to share her story on this blog in the hopes that other people will also be inspired to both look to and work toward their future through gardening. Her email and one photo made my day in a way that brought a tear to my eye, a smile to my face, and joy and compassion in my heart, all at the same time.

Here is Anne's story.

Dear Diana,
Little did I know that I too have a Cancer Victory Garden.

I've been planting in this former bookcase for many years. (Using a bookcase was

a quick way to get a raised bed). On June 2, after getting my cancer diagnosis,
I did two things. The first was to drive to the beach and dip my toes in the
Pacific. The second, as a deliberate act of looking to the future, was to get
some veggies and herbs to plant. Plum tomatoes, pickling cucumber, thai basil,
tarragon, and dill and nasturtium seeds. They are all coming along nicely. Saw
the first nasturtium bloom yesterday and am about to harvest the first cucumber.


Anne M Bray http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/annembray


I can see the nasturtium blooming, which is beautiful, in fact, at first glance, it seems too beautiful to eat (even though it is an edible flower!). However, I can also see how its full healing potential could be utilized and appreciated by including it as both a decorative and healthful component in a salad. 

Gardens can heal our bodies and our spirits, by giving us a means to look both forward and inward, as Anne has expressed. The blooming edible flower is a perfect example of how to capture and take delight in all of the ways that a garden can bring joy and healing to us. 

Thank you, Anne, for sharing your cancer victory garden story. I hope you will send me period updates.

I send you all my best wishes first as you undergo your cancer therapy and then beyond to your cancer recovery journey. May you have decades and decades of health, healing, and hope along with enjoying your bookcase gardening!

Cultivating health through a garden's nourishment of both body and soul,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Monday, June 14, 2010

Diana's Cancer Victory Garden is at the Farmers' Market

I am cross-posting from my dianadyer.com blog (below the photo), so you can see what my husband and I are up to these days. To bring you all up to date, in a nutshell, just over a year ago my husband and I bought some foreclosed property (with a home that needed serious repairs) to start a small organic farm, focusing initially on garlic. We spent all of last summer deciding how to get started with the growing of our garlic, got 40 varieties planted last fall, then started getting nature out of the house (plants and animal) plus the repairs and remodeling of the house all winter and spring of this year, began harvesting in early May with "green garlic",  have just started harvesting garlic scapes (the 'stem' that hard-neck varieties of garlic sent up after their leaves are all up - which should be cut off to encourage larger bulbs underground), and will be harvesting the bulbs beginning in July.

Since we sold all the May green garlic to Zingerman's Deli, The Grange Kitchen & Bar, and Pastabilities, all in Ann Arbor, MI, we never got to the farmers' markets with our first crop! We decided to start with the farmers' markets when our garlic scapes came in and then sell to the chefs second, because we want the fun and pleasure of being part of the local foods community at the markets, which had been our initial goal.

So here we are with the results of our own Cancer Victory Garden™ - the experience and feelings were pure joy. Dick and I were both too busy to take our own photo or shed a few tears of happiness and gratefulness. That sums up a year (and many many more before that) in the smallest nutshell possible. :-)


My husband and I grinning like little kids on Christmas morning on our debut day as vendors selling our garlic scapes (7 varieties this week - 15 varieties will be ready for week #2) at the Ypsilanti Downtown Farmers' Market June 8, 2010 - photo taken by Cara Rosaen, Marketing Director for the brand new website RealTimeFarms.com.  

Please check out the RealTimeFarms.com website - it is designed to connect people to fresh, local sources of food by providing "real time" information (including beautiful photographs) about the location of farmers' markets around the country along with what is available to purchase today, right now, , i.e. "real time". It is an interactive site that you (yes, you!) can also use to load up information about what you see available at farmers' markets where you live.

Help promote locally grown food by your local farmers! Your local farmers (like us!) thank you from the bottom of their hearts. :-)

Unlike grinning kids who have the pleasure of having gifts just appear on Christmas morning, my husband and I fully appreciate every aspect of both the years of hard work leading up to this moment and our extreme good fortune to have arrived at this moment. I just turned down a cancer survivorship speaking invitation because I am too busy farming, but that does not mean I have forgotten "where I have come from" to get here. I am a very grateful cancer survivor every single day, hoping that I can still help others plant and cultivate their own seeds leading to a successful survivorship journey, too.

Cultivating health through a garden's nourishment of both body and soul

Diana Dyer, MS, RD 

Monday, May 24, 2010

Grow your own - don't wait for the US food supply!

Here are a few of last week's headlines from news outlets in the US and UK and blogs around the world:

"Not enough fruits and veggies"
"Fighting US Cancer: Diet, scant exercise problems"
"Insufficient Fruit and Vegetables to Make American Diet Healthy"
"US doesn't grow, import enough fruit, veggies" 

Pure and simple, in spite of the abundance of produce you see at grocery stores and farmers' markets, the US does not grow enough fruit or vegetables to provide the recommended "5-a-day" amount to  every person living in the US. In fact, the US grows only about half of the fruit and vegetables needed for this recommendation to optimize overall health. In addition, the scientist who is quoted in this study (Susan Krebs-Smith, PhD of the National Cancer Institute) also noted that people tend to overestimate the amount of exercise they really do, which of course also is a contributor to overall good health. 

How to take those two observations and turn them into a better reality right now (rather than waiting for the USDA to get its agricultural policies in line with the US Dietary Guidelines) - why, plant a garden, of course! I'll bet you knew I was going to say that. :-) 

Here is another little known fact. 

The USDA reports that ~13 million additional acres are needed to grow the produce required in order for the nation to consume the amount of domestically produced fruits and vegetables as recommended by the US Dietary Guidelines.
Does that seem like an enormous amount of land? Where to obtain those acres?

In the U.S. alone, it is estimated that there are more than 31 million acres of grass, an area equal to the size of the New England states., and over 80% of this grass is found in residential lawns.
(The Lawn Institute, Rolling Meadows, IL)           

This is not difficult math! :-) We have plenty of space in this country to make up this difference and more. Get down, get dirty, get gardening, get healthy!

With cancer centers not only wanting to treat a person's cancer but get them on the way to overall good health, it makes perfect sense to me that combining healthy food and exercise by gardening is a no-brainer so to speak. :-) 

One of the biggest trends is increasing interest in vegetable gardening with 35% of US households participating in food gardening in 2009. (National Gardening Association) I encourage all cancer centers to begin leading by example by planting their own version of a Cancer Victory Garden™ in whatever space they have (using current landscaping space, container gardening, roof-top gardens, digging up some of their lawns, even digging up pavement - Cleveland Clinic did this!, etc, etc).

I repeat -
Get down, get dirty, get gardening, get healthy! It's time to take all avenues to health into our own hands, literally! :-)

Cultivating health through a garden's nourishment of both body and soul

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Monday, May 10, 2010

Cancer Victory Garden in Scotland

Some time before the holidays last year, I began communicating with another long-term childhood cancer survivor from the UK. Many of our similarities are uncanny, in fact they seem like serendipity, i.e., the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for! Here is her "cancer victory garden" story.

As a fellow neuroblastoma survivor, but from Scotland, I am amazed to see how Diana and I have traveled very different roads but hold very similar views on food and gardening. I also had neuroblastoma at a very young age, at 18months-in the late 1950's, and was given a series of terminal diagnoses, but recovered after very extensive surgery and radiotherapy.

As a child I was brought up eating a lot of vegetables that my father grew himself, which always included kale, seen as an essential ingredient in my mother's delicious home made soup. As a teenager I became vegetarian, for ethical reasons at the time, and read a lot on nutrition, dipping into naturopathic books.

At age 20, I was doing voluntary work at a holiday home for disabled people in England when I was given a copy of 'The Vegan' magazine, and in it found an advert which stated a free organic gardening course was being set up at a major naturopathic clinic near London, food and accommodation would be provided. I had never heard of 'organic' gardening, nor had anyone I asked, but the course sounded interesting so I wrote off and was invited to join up.

As it turned out, I was the only student enlisted, and the course never actually started (!), but I worked in a lovely walled garden, from which vegetables were provided for the clinic. I also enjoyed meeting many of the fascinating professionals working at the clinic. To top it off, all meals were provided, and they were delicious vegetarian gourmet food to me. I did get a lot of experience working in the garden. There were some gardeners there who did teach me some organic practices, and I remember I even spent my 21st birthday planting out rows of young plants. I had not told anybody there it was my birthday, and family and friends were far away, and I really had no money at all at the time. I even remember picking bags of nettles after work to cook up myself to keep me going until meal time.

There were vegans and many vegetarians amongst the staff, and knowing nothing of my past medical history, they took me under their wing as their youngest staff member and instilled in me the importance of fruit and vegetables, whole foods and the confirmation that meat was not necessary in my diet.  After a few months in this garden, I heard about a young couple in the South of Ireland who had set up an organic smallholding and needed help. I was offerred a lift part of the way, so I worked there for a few months, learning more from them.

I settled down to a more conventional life after this, going to university, getting a nursing degree, becoming a midwife and district nurse.  I always ate differently from others though as I ate a lot of seeds, grains, loads of raw vegetables, and a very high percentage of my diet as fruit and veg. When I did marry and get a garden, one of the first things we did was to make a vegetable patch and grow kale and rhubarb. My children helped plant seeds and weed, and we tried a variety of fruit and vegetables each year. Our biggest success was a 10 year old packet of tomato seeds, which I thought I might as well try rather than just throw away. My daughter sowed them with a new packet, but it was the old variety that produced a huge number of plants, enough to give away to neighbours, and then such a big harvest of outdoor tomatoes that we were still eating them 6 months later.

My father kept a 1 acre vegetable garden himself until he was 92, so I have had a lot of good family examples plus a lot to live up to!

I am convinced my diet and exercise has played a large part in the health I have today. Saying this, I did discover a lump in my breast at age 50 which turned out to be breast cancer, but the radiotherapy I had to that side of the chest as a very young child put me at very very high risk of this. I feel sure my diet gave me extra decades before this happened, and luckily I caught it at an early stage. Despite having had radiotherapy to the left side of the chest as a very young child, I am still very fit and have an active job as a nurse, and have two beautiful strong healthy daughters.

Since learning about the increased risk of late effects such as breast cancer for female childhood cancer survivors who received radiation to the chest as part of the childhood cancer treatment, I have been trying to work in this country to raise awareness of these issues along with the importance of diet and exercise for reducing the risk of cancer and even late effects such as heart disease. I was immensely impressed when I came across Diana's blogs and website and saw all she had set up on these topics already.

I was honoured when she asked me to share my story of my gardening and the many ways I have both enjoyed it and likely benefited from it. Thanks Diana!

Caroline McManus
Edinburgh, Scotland

(Photo: Caroline and her daughter - age 3, taken in 1997 in front of her father's vegetable garden in Scotland)

Thank you, thank you for sharing your own "Cancer Victory Garden" from Scotland. Your journey is so inspirational that it brings tears of happiness and joy to my eyes. Not only do you have quite a lot of years to "live up to" as you stated in regards to your father's garden, but you have decades of gardening ahead of you to enjoy.

I have no doubts that your ultra-healthy diet not only gave you a long span of time between the radiation treatment for your neuroblastoma, it also likely gave you a better prognosis after the diagnosis. Please keep spreading the word in the UK and Europe as you advocate for healthy lifestyles for both cancer prevention and cancer survivorship. We all want to live as well as possible as long as possible. With your dedication to these ideas, and using gardening as one activity to promote these healthy lifestyles, you will make a difference in the lives of many, many people. 

I'm going to end with one of my favorite quotations. It just reminds me of you Caroline!

Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons.  
It is to grow in the open air, 
and to eat and sleep with the earth.

~~ Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

You are the embodiment of the "tag line" of this blog. Now I know I just need to get back to visit Scotland again. :-) Until then, I'm sending you a cyberhug!

Cultivating health through a garden's nourishment of both body and soul,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Update #3 - Cancer Victory Garden in New Jersey

Here is the final update from the 2010 Cancer Victory Garden at the Trinitas Cancer Center in Elizabeth, NJ!
Diana -

Regretfully, we got word that we can't use the courtyard at Trinitas for gardening--at least for this year.  However, the good news is that I'll be doing another indoor garden next year, and the complementary medicine RN will work on starting a healing garden at that time.  At least this got the ball rolling!

I did distribute the plants as I was getting so many requests for the plants (mostly the cilantro).  I wound up putting them in the plastic cups primarily to save the cost of individual planters. Each plant had a label on its cup stating what the plant was, along with strict instructions to re-pot into a container with drainage.  I even sent an email out to the staff the next day to remind them to re-pot the plants.  I also included info about how some of the herbs can be used plus a recipe for taboulleh to use the parsley).  Even employees that I didn't know very well were stopping by and asking for a plant.  It was quite a social event for the patients as well.

Thanks for all your blog postings.   I'm home today from work and plan to read the recent issue of our Oncology Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group newsletter ("Connections") about all the cancer victory gardens.  Sometimes, I feel so overwhelmed with things to do, but then I see you writing blogs, writing articles, giving presentations, farming, cooking, having your sons wedding soon, etc, and it truly reminds me how much we can all do.  Thanks for the inspiration that you share with your colleagues and cancer patients everywhere.  :) 

Here's my final pictures to you of our 2010 Cancer Victory Garden.  Good luck on all your exciting endeavors.     
My best,       

Latha requested the first cilantro plant 

Tray of gorgeous, fragrant oregano ready to be distributed to patients and staff

One nurse asked to help pot the herbs.  (too bad she didn't tell the doctor, who was searching for her and found her with dirt on her gloves!)

All those plants going to a new home with love. Thanks for sharing your love for good food and nutrition with your cancer community, showing everyone that it all starts with "nutrition from the ground up".
I'm going to end with a short poem by one of my favorite writers, a farmer-poet-philosopher, Wendell Berry.  His words speak to and reinforce Cheryl's efforts to cultivate her community within her own cancer center, which is so important for both the people coming there for care and hope and also for the people providing that hope through their professional care and caring.  

“Because a community is, by definition, placed,
its success cannot be divided from the success of its place....
its soil, forests, grasslands, plants and animals, water, light, and air.
The two economies, the natural and the human, support each other;
each is the other's hope of a durable and livable life."

~~Wendell Berry
Please keep us informed next year when your indoor gardens begin again and your cancer center's courtyard gets an update and new life added to it! How fortunate the Trinitas Cancer Center is to have this new annual tradition to look forward to and participate in!

Cultivating health through a garden's nourishment of both body and soul,
Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Friday, April 23, 2010

Update #2 - Cancer Victory Garden in New Jersey

Here is the second update from the Cancer Victory Garden at the Trinitas Cancer Center in Elizabeth, NJ!
Hi Diana- Just to keep you posted about the herb garden at Trinitas Cancer Center in Elizabeth, NJ.

We have lots of herbs!! 
When I put out the signal that I was looking for someone to take over the garden, our Complementary Medicine Nurse contacted me.  She would love to start a healing garden in the courtyard with these plants.   What could be better???  Hospital administration still needs to give her the okay, but she's coming upon some roadblocks.  She has a lot of plans and it warmed my heart to know someone else wants to go forward with this project. 

Here are some recent photos.

(Photo: Dill)

(Photo: Cilantro)

(Photo: Oregano)

(Photo: Curly Parsley)

(Photo: Everything growing in the tray - looks like a complete success!)


It won't be long before the baby plants will be transplanted to go home with patients and hopefully also into a new herb garden in the courtyard of the cancer center. 

How lucky your patients are to have you on the medical team contributing to their comprehensive care at your cancer center.  Please keep us updated!

Cultivating health through a garden's nourishment of body and soul,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Finding Gardening Space

Want to garden but have no space of your own? Want to move beyond just the pots or handing plants on your balcony? 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 (www.sharedearth.com) launches as the world celebrates Earth Day.

SharedEarth.com 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, SharedEarth.com 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 SharedEarth.com Chairman and Founder, Adam Dell.

Much like online dating sites, SharedEarth.com 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.  SharedEarth.com was established as a not for profit sustainable corporation to help facilitate this process for others. 

Please visit www.sharedearth.com 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 Cancer Victory Garden!

Cultivating health through a garden's nourishment of both body and soul,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Friday, April 16, 2010

Michelle Obama visits San Diego community farm and finds a Cancer Victory Garden™

No, the article or person interviewed didn't call her community garden plot a Cancer Victory Garden™, but indeed that is what she is describing. Quoting from the article in today's news:
Tsitsi Mutseta, who moved to San Diego from Zimbabwe eight years ago, said the garden helped ease her mind as she adjusted to her new life in the United States, far from her family.
In addition, Mutseta is fighting cancer and said she told Obama the garden has given her a reason to live.
"I told her I come to the garden to relieve my pain. I get food from the garden that is organic and it connects me with my family because I grew up on a small farm in Zimbabwe," said Mutseta, a tall woman who hugged Obama and gave her leaves from her kale crop. "She said she would pray for me and she loved what I did in the garden."
And how apropos that this woman gave Michelle Obama leaves from her kale plants. Maybe I will cross post this article on my kale blog, too. :-)

In all seriousness, what this woman has experienced and is expressing in this article is exactly what I had in mind and can relate to myself as she describes how gardening is helpful during her cancer journey.  The relief from pain, whether physical or emotional pain or both, through the active connection to the earth by gardening is healing for both the body and spirit. There is no stress of needing to understand or use a new language (whether a recent immigrant learning English or a new cancer patient learning suddenly thrust into the situation of needing to learn "medicalese"). Indeed, I don't believe there is any pill, vitamin, or cancer therapy that can do all of that, especially one that can produce so many benefits at such a low cost and without any side effects.

A book that Michelle Obama and others might wish to read is The Earth Knows My Name by Patricia Klindienst, which lets immigrants to the US tell the stories of how their gardening efforts have helped them to retain their cultural heritage. I confess that I picked up this book, thinking I would "breeze through it". Not only did I not breeze through it, I read it three times.

The first reading actually produced many tears, tears from seeing beauty but also tears that come with sadness and loss, feeling deep compassion for all that these immigrants had left behind along with the many difficulties that came with adjusting to a new life in the US (again, a path that cancer survivors often experience, as life is never the same again, even living in the very same place). The second time I read it, I read it slowly, very slowly, and let myself draw pictures in my mind as I imagined each garden and each gardener. The third time I read the book I actually read it aloud to my husband, just for the pleasure of hearing these stories, and imagining the voices of each immigrant as they expressed their hopes. I can honestly say that, even without any pictures in this book, it is one of the most beautiful and most emotionally-engaging book I have ever read.

In fact, I have recommended this book to every professor I have met who teaches a course in Community Nutrition or Community-based Food Systems. In addition, it was reading this book that led to my deeper understanding of how gardening is potentially beneficial for cancer patients and actually may be the most under-appreciated "complementary medicine" (CAM) therapy available. Hopefully through this blog, and efforts of others, a recommendation that cancer patients consider gardening as an option for potentially beneficial "self-help" complementary medicine therapies will become common enough that gardening as a CAM therapy may be an example of "everything old is new again".  :-)

What this remarkable woman Tsitsi Mutseta has done, through her small garden in San Diego, is to do her very best to emulate the motto of this blog, i.e., to cultivate her own health through a garden's nourishment of both body and soul.

I send her (and all others on a cancer journey) my heart-felt wishes for good gardening, health, healing, and hope!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Thursday, April 15, 2010

I'll be watching Dirt: The Movie

This post is a cross-posting from my dianadyer blog (my first time to do so) to make sure that all my blog readers have an opportunity to watch the upcoming documentary next week, as important to all cancer survivors as it is to the rest of the television watching audience.


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 and health 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

Cultivating health (by caring for our soils) through a garden's nourishment of both body and soul
Diana Dyer, MS, RD 

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Update #1 - Cancer Victory Garden in New Jersey

This is great - read on and enjoy the smells! Thanks, Cheryl. :-)

Hi again Diana- Just wanted to keep you posted on our little herb garden at the Trinitas Cancer Center in Elizabeth, NJ...

We have sufficient oregano that there is a noticeable scent. It doesn’t quite smell like I’m cooking pizza in my office, but there is nice fragrance when you get near the little oregano sprouts. This has grown so quickly and full that it had to be thinned out.

The dill had to be thinned out too as it was growing too wildly for our little peat pods. The tops of a few of the sprouts are unmistakably dill, with their feathery blooms.
The cilantro has only one or two tiny sprouts that pushed through. And one little leaf looks just like cilantro should. I assume this herb takes a while to grow.
Parsley has pushed past the surface too and seems to be growing nicely.
So we have a little garden! I’m quite excited to prove that growing herbs indoors is simple. Experience is not required. (And I'm glad to avoid the embarrassment of failure). I've sent out a couple of emails to the staff to update them on the herbs. A few people stop by to look. Our IT guy, Francis (he was in the first batch of pix I sent you), bought the same set of 72 peat pods and a bunch of different seeds. He, his wife and their 2 young sons have been having a ball planting and watching the seeds grow at home.
Next, I'll probably be making individual plants for the patients and staff to take home. The man at Home Depot suggested I just use paper cups to re-pot the plants for travel, so I"ll try that. I already bought the potting soil, but the plants aren't ready yet. I'll make sure the plant is labeled on the cup, and I was thinking of providing a recipe along with the plant. My supervisor would love to see this become a full "Cancer Victory Garden" in our courtyard, but I'm not sure about that yet. I'll definitely need some help with that!! I'm planning to take the CSO exam in September and I've started an online study group, so that will be taking up a bunch of my time. But, we'll see what happens.
Cheryl Wachtel, RD

Here are some updated pix:

(Photo Below: Our thinned out herb garden: parsley, cilantro, dill and oregano)

(Photo Below: dill and oregano)

(Photo Below: parsley (first 3 rows), then 3 rows of cilantro. You have to look closely for the cilantro.)

I repeat - this is GREAT! I'll just bet that the staff and patients at your cancer center will jump at the chance to help develop and maintain a Cancer Victory Garden in your courtyard. It is no longer a surprise to me to find there is interest, talent, skill, and love just waiting in the wings to be involved with such a worth-while effort. :-)

Keep us all updated periodically!

Cultivating health through a garden's nourishment of body and soul,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD