As Spring waxed each year around mid March, we made several trips in the old Nash "Rumbler" station wagon over to Galen Carr's rabbit farm to pick up piles of organic manure. A strong tea of the manure mixed with well water served as Spring tonic for the vegetable garden. We learned from locals that it was the most potent source of nitrogen around the Eastern Townships.
If the ground was workable we'd turn the soil, then let it rest until planting time in May. We planted marigolds, scattered garlic cloves in between the vegetables and positioned saucers of beer at the ends of each row, all natural pesticides. This was my first lesson in organic farming and gardening. It was the early 70's and "organic living" was the lifestyle. On our bucolic Canadian farm, the gardening resulted in the sweetest tasting carrots, greenest pole beans and most peppery radishes I had ever tasted.
Little did I realize how brilliant my diabetes management was then, since it was still the "dark ages" of diabetes care. Eating pure foods, exercising through vigorous farm work, drinking untainted well water and breathing fresh air, painted the perfect picture of a healthy life style. I got started walking at that time also. Due to the lingering stink in the Rumbler, I chose to walk the 6 miles to town and back everyday to Madame Vien's General Store and Post Office. Those walks were a well taken pathway in prime diabetes care.
Race the clock ahead to 2004, and the word "organic" is very much in our awareness as we seek solutions to toxic chemicals in our earth, air and food from additives, toxic sprays, growth hormones and pollutants. For a comprehensive list of probable food toxins, as well as interesting information on sugar in the diet, refer to Healthy Life Kitchen by Marilu Henner. One definition of organic is: "derived from living organisms". Obviously, the first choice for organic produce is to grow foods yourself, starting with the soil.
Grow Your Own
If you've got a little patch of land, or if your community has a town garden for residents to grow their own, start a compost pile in the corner with leaves, grass clippings, vegetable scrapings and fruit peels. This natural matter decomposes over time into rich earth to use for planting an organic garden. When you plant, use seeds indigenous to your area. They will flourish in their natural habitat. The natural defenses of fruits and vegetables not native to a site can compromise and weaken development, and the plants will often struggle and need boosting.
To Market To Market
You don't have time to grow your own? The good news is that organic produce has become much more available in markets. Not only farm stands and health food stores, but also big supermarkets now carry sections of organic produce and meats, due to an ever-increasing awareness and demand. They have a way to go yet. Prices are still quite high and sometimes a bunch of organic broccoli at $4.00 looks pale and wilted next to the big bushy green one for .99 cents.
Slowly but surely though, things are changing for the better and prices are beginning to inch down. Many meat departments sell grass fed, natural beef and organic, free-range poultry. These are excellent choices. It means the animals live their natural lives in a pasture, are slaughtered humanely and are not fed remains, such as spinal cord and brains of diseased animals, nor injected with carcinogenic growth hormones.
Look for the Certified Organic label. These foods have been produced according to the federal government's new national organic standards. They have been certified by the USDA inspection agency's strict requirements. To learn more about organic food labels, visit the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture web site, www.usda.gov.
An organization called OMRI, Organic Materials Review Institute is certifying strict regulations to classify gardening materials as organic. Look for their stamp of approval on gardening and household products. In addition, several magazines with much useful information on organic living are on the market. Organic Gardening is a good one. You can visit the web site and receive a free trial issue, www.organcigardening.com. Organic Style (www.organicstyle.com), and Veggie Life (www.veggielife.com) are excellent also.
Living In Harmony
There is yet another, more elusive side to organic living. It is a certain vitality and respect for the preparation and serving of meals. According to the ancient Chinese theory of the Five Elements, living in harmony with each season promotes good health. It points the way to strengthen the flow of life to organs that control health and well being. As Winter completes its cycle and Spring gracefully dances towards center stage, it is time to put away the heavy stew pot, get outdoors for long walks that help get rid of winter fat and fill us with plenty of oxygen. Organic living can be a great friend to diabetes. Consider making gradual changes in this direction. A good beginning is to incorporate organic foods into your cooking by starting with some recipes from Cyber Kitchen.
"The earth does not belong to us. We belong to the earth"
Chief Seattle of the Suqwamish
Cyber Kitchen Recipes
The following recipes are a way to start integrating organic foods into your diet. Here is an adaptation from The Healthy Kitchen by Dr. Andrew Weil and Rosie Daley for broccoli pancakes. Try to use organic vegetables if possible.