Gardening for heart and health

February 3, 2009 by  

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February resource post on Slow Food and the Delicious Revolution

A key to cardiovascular health is eating the right diet. As I try to raise my children (and seem to be succeeding) to be nutritious eaters, I ponder whether I can still do more to make their current eating habits long-term and sustainable. Because once they go out into the world when they start school this year, they will be bombarded by many factors that may influence their food taste, from the adverts they see on the way to school, to the snacks they will be bound to share with peers.

Every year, I prepare a “to do list” in lieu of the traditional New Year’s Resolution list. I simply write the things I want to do for the year and then put them in the following categories: must do’s ASAP, must do but not urgent, and would be nice to do.

One of the “must do’s” is to plant some vegetables in out backyard come spring. Now, in this little country of Switzerland where space is limited, people would call it a garden. However, this postage stamp-sized piece of green lawn behind our row house would hardly qualify as a garden in big countries like the US and Canada. This means we don’t have much space for a vegetable patch is this little space used as an ultra-mini football field and laundry drying area. I’ve always wanted to start my own vegetable garden but somehow career, parenthood, and lack of space got in the way. Now that my twins are almost 6 years old, and I am a work-at-home-mom (WAHM), I’ve run out of excuses.

I guess I got my inspiration from two people, namely:

  • My father, who was the eternal gardener. I, myself, grew up in a farm where I helped sow and harvest crops ranging from rice, corn, sweet potatoes, peanuts and different kinds of fruit and vegetables.
  • Alice Walters, cookbook author and gardening advocate, who started the Edible School Yard program at the Martin Luther King Junior Middle School in Berkeley, California.

As I said we don’t have much space so we will start small. I’m going to buy an extra big flower pot and sow tomatoes and bell pepper seeds, vegetables which do not need much space but can deliver some delicious and nutritious vegetables that my kids love to eat.

Perhaps you’d ask, why bother?

  • I want to do it because I want to show my kids that food grows on the ground and not on the supermarket shelves.
  • Gardening will inspire me and my kids to go outside and breathe some fresh air, and get some vitamin D from the sun.
  • Gardening is a light physical activity that is good for the heart, body and soul.
  • Gardening can be fun yet relaxing.

In this day and age where obesity is becoming an epidemic among the fast food generation, Alice Walters advocates the “Slow Food, Slow School” philosophy. Alice writes:

Forty years ago, a presidential commission in America told us our children were physically unfit and that we had to launch a national physical fitness program. The country responded by building gymnasiums, buying equipment and training new physical education teachers, and by making physical education a required part of the curriculum in every school. Today we are worried anew over the health of our children. Child obesity is shocking, and at the present rate of increase, one out of every three children can be expected to develop diabetes, and for African American children, the statistic is one out of every two. We must respond by bringing real food, nutritious food, back into the schools and into the curriculum. We must create new incentives for educators to integrate real food into the lives of their students. Perhaps the best and most radical way to do this is to give credit for school lunch, just as credit is given for physical education or for math or science. This would add a new dimension of integrity to the lunchroom, placing it on a par with the classroom, and breathing new life and dignity into learning how to eat.

Kitchen Gardeners International, a not-for-profit network of international gardeners, has started the “Eat the View” campaign which urges the newly settled First Family Obama to set a good example to the world and resurrect the organic Victory garden on the White House grounds “with the produce going to the White House kitchen and to local food pantries”.

I cannot create what Alice has created in her schoolyard. I do not have acres and acres at my disposal like the White House residents have.

However, I can try to do a small token in our little backyard and share the beauty of growing and eating healthy food with my children – truly a “Delicious Revolution” as Alice Walters call it.

Interested in more takes on gardening and good nutrition? Check these links out:


Photo credit:stock.xchng

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