By Dave Schreck:
Vestal, NY, October 1963
She’d had enough when I asked again, “What’s for dinner?”
Then she said, “Young man, if you’re so concerned with what’s for dinner, I’d suggest you start preparing our meals. The shopping list is right over there.” I took my mother’s challenge and years later still enjoy cooking because I appreciate healthy and delicious food.
Both my parents worked, my father at IBM and my mother at Endicott Johnson to put my brother through dental school. I was home from high school watching American Bandstand, and the moment she’d walk through the door, I would ask the question. Her response set me on a path to learn more. Long before certified organics, CAFOs, (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations), irradiated and microwaved foods, hormone injections and GMOs, I realized that if I was to consume nutritious food, I’d have to prepare it myself.
In the ’70s I followed Francis Moore Lappe’s writings in “Diet for a Small Planet.” It featured rules for a healthy diet with high-protein meatless meals that used a method of protein combining. Various plant foods (up to 80% of grains and legumes) combined amino acid profiles matched that of animal foods. With today’s research related to the glycemic index (a scale of how food affects blood sugars), this type of diet can elevate blood sugars and insulin levels and may not be a healthy diet for everyone, but it sure made sense 40 years ago.
Back Bay, Boston, June 1983
Years later I was walking down Commonwealth Avenue in Boston and noticed a sign, “Hippocrates Health Institute.” I was intrigued and walked into the lobby. This is where I led a double life — manager of a well-known steak house by night, volunteer at a vegan raw-foods health institute by day. I wanted to learn more so I volunteered working in the kitchen, the grow room (wheat grass, sunflower greens) and taught a class on relaxation and positive mental imagery to improve one’s health. No animal protein, all raw, (the kitchen did not have a stove). People from around the world enrolled to heal from serious diseases by learning a diet for cleansing and rejuvenation. Perhaps a little drastic for me, but I learned a valuable technique that I’m going to show you if you’re interested in growing your own organic greens.
In the mid ’80s I studied Macrobiotics at the Kushi Institute in Brookline, Mass. They recommended avoiding processed and refined foods (that’s good), small amounts of fish and seafood (that’s good), eating grains, 40-60%, especially brown rice, (for some, not so good) and locally grown vegetables in season. This is where your local farmers’ markets are essential in providing fresh local wholesome fruits, vegetables, baked goods (I stare at the large blueberry muffins with coffee in hand), meats, cheese, and dried herbs. There are vendors with flowers, arts and crafts, a knife sharpener and even a fiddler who transports me to the Vermont countryside.
In 1995 I began working for Dr. Sears learning the benefits of a low-glycemic, anti-inflammatory diet, a small amount of lean protein, colorful, non-starchy vegetables, few starches (potatoes, pasta, rice and grains) and omega-3 supplementation.
By 2000 I had gleaned the positive aspects of four decades of diet experimentation. Lappe’s book, “Diet for a Small Planet,” offered many well-seasoned vegetarian recipes that with slight adjustments are Zone friendly. Traditional vegetarian/vegan diets, including raw foods (Hippocrates), may be appropriate for some. Unfortunately, for most they rely heavily on grains and starches that contain too much carbohydrate with relatively little high-quality protein. These diets can be hormonally unbalanced based solely on carbohydrates, causing insulin levels to soar, resulting in weight gain and an increase in cellular inflammation, the underlying factor of all chronic disease.
From Hippocrates I learned how easy it was to grow your own organic foods in your home. Macrobiotics made me aware of the power of food affecting our health and well being, and the Zone helped me put the pieces of my dietary journey together, creating a varied and balanced Zone program.
If you’re interested in saving money and growing organic greens, check out this procedure for sunflower greens. You may purchase sunflower greens at Whole Foods: 2.5oz. for $4.99, enough for one small salad or with a little time and effort grow your own for pennies a day. A whole tray weighs about 1½ pounds and would cost you more than $50 at a store or market. I calculate that if you grow one tray, it will cost you less than $4.99.
How to Grow Sunflower Greens Ingredients
1 tray – I use a flat cafeteria tray (12 by 16)
1 bag potting soil (organic, if possible)
1 bag of sunflower seeds (sproutman.com)
1 watering can
A few sheets of newspaper or plain packing paper
- Determine how many seeds to soak overnight. On your clean, dry tray spread out a single thick layer of sunflower seeds from corner to corner, end to end.
- Place the seeds into a container; rinse and soak seeds in water for 24 hours.
- Prepare tray with one inch of soil and water to dampen, no puddles.
- Drain sunflower seeds, spread evenly over the tray with dirt and gently tamp down.
- Cover with a few layers of paper that have been thoroughly dampened top and bottom.
- Place in a dry, dark place.
- Next day, dampen paper on both sides. You may notice a few seeds beginning to sprout. If the soil is dry, water. Next day, dampen paper on both sides and water tray (soil and seeds) gently, no puddles. Place paper on top and return to a cool dark place.
- Once all the seeds have sprouted to about 1½ to 2 inches, remove paper and place in a room with indirect sun.
- Water daily until the greens begins to sprout their second set of leaves. Look closely.
- Harvest the greens by cutting off at the top of the soil with a long, sharp, serrated knife. Bag and refrigerate.
As the sunflower seeds grow, most of the hulls will fall off. To assist the remaining hulls still on the greens, gently run your hand back and forth over the top. There will be a few stubborn ones that will have to be handpicked.
These greens are nutrient dense and a great addition to your salads and green drinks.