Traditional recipes

Garden Variety for a Healthier Nation

Garden Variety for a Healthier Nation

An agricultural economist has proven just how much more fruits and vegetables can help make America healthier

An agricultural economist has proven just how much more fruits and vegetables can help make America healthier.

We've all pretty much accepted the advice that eating more fruit and vegetables will make us healthier. But few of us have succeeded at piling half our plates with plant matter at every meal, as recommended by the government health police.

Well, here's some news that might give you the incentive you need to make that change: Agricultural economist Jeffrey O'Hara at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has calculated that if Americans ate the recommended 4 1/2 cups of fruit and vegetables every day, there would be 127,000 fewer deaths from heart disease and stroke and we'd save $17 billion in medical costs.

The UCS, a nonprofit science organization, researches and recommends solutions to environmental and health issues. Their August report, "The $11 Trillion Reward," advocates more government support for fruit and vegetable growers as well as grants and loans for grocery stores, food hubs, and farmers' markets that would make produce more available. See below for their report on a healthier and wealthier nation, and click here for an enlarged version.

From Punch (

  • 1 1/2 ounces Lustau Vermut Blanco
  • 1/2 ounce Novo Fogo Silver Cachaça
  • 2 strawberries, sliced
  • 2 lime wheels
  • 1 6.8-ounce bottle Fever-Tree Refreshingly Light Cucumber Tonic Water

Garnish: half-wheel slice of grapefruit

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a wine glass filled with ice.
  2. Lightly stir and garnish with a half-wheel slice of grapefruit.

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Steps to Health is North Carolina State University’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education (SNAP-Ed) Program. We empower youth, adults, and communities through evidence-based nutrition programs to promote healthy eating behaviors and food resource management strategies. We collaborate with partner organizations to expand and build healthy food and physical activity access in local and regional communities. The SNAP-Ed goal is to improve the likelihood that persons eligible for SNAP will make healthy food choices within a limited budget and choose physically active lifestyles consistent with the current Dietary Guideline for Americans and the USDA food guidance.

The Steps to Health program is delivered by county-based NC State Extension staff across North Carolina. Partners include NC Department of Social Services NC State Extension Eat Smart, Move More, North Carolina NC State University’s More In My Basket program NC Division of Aging and Adult Services local health departments Head Start Programs schools and congregate nutrition sites.

Rose Skincare Infusions

You can create lovely floral infusions steeping rose petals and rose blend tea in water. Floral water can be spritzed on your skin after washing or it can be used to replace distilled water in skincare recipes and soap.

Frontier Natural Products, Red Rose Petals

Rose petals are easily accessible and inexpensive (or free if you grow them in your garden!). You can use them to infuse oils with their scent or make a rose hydrosol which can be added to recipes or used as a toner on its own. Rose petals have anti-inflammatory properties that help to tighten skin and reduce redness and other discoloration.

Hampstead Tea, Rosehip & Hibiscus, Organic Herbal Infusion

Add this infusion to beauty recipes to add a pleasant fruity, slightly tart fragrance. Hibiscus is full of antioxidants and Vitamin C which nourish the skin and prevent the look of aging. Rosehips are also a source of Vitamin C and antioxidants, so these two ingredients together are wonderful to tighten and repair skin.

Pukka Herbs, Love, Organic Rose, Chamomile, & Lavender Tea

Brew this tea and add it to facial skincare recipes for a light floral scent. Lavender, chamomile, and rose all have soothing properties that can help calm both your skin and your mind. Chamomile also has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties which can help speed up the healing process of minor cuts, scrapes, and scars.

A garden-variety feast

There's a classic "Simpsons" episode that a friend reminded me of recently as we were talking about plans to grill over the weekend.

Lisa Simpson decides to become a vegetarian, and of course Homer and Bart do everything in their power to convince her otherwise. Homer stoops to the barbecue example:

"If I went to a barbecue and there was no meat, I would say, 'Yo, Goober! Where's the meat?' " says Homer.

He concludes with this stunningly brilliant phrase: "You don't win friends with salad."

It's grilling season, and despite the fact that markets are overflowing with vegetables, vegetarians often get shafted at weekend barbecues, relegated to a still-frozen hockey puck labeled "veggie burger."

And that droopy salad that's sitting in the sun? That's certainly not winning any friends.

The most delicious part of the season -- the produce -- is most often ignored, except for onions and peppers threaded onto kebabs, or the grilled squash afterthought.

But it's easy to make a feast of grilled vegetables, even if they aren't the centerpiece of the meal. Because many grilled vegetables are great at room temperature, they can be prepared in advance before the meat goes on the grill, or before guests arrive.

For weeknight dinners, vegetables cook up quickly, and if the grill is already on, might as well throw on enough to last through a couple more meals. Grilled vegetables make excellent pizza toppers or mix-ins for pastas.

A variety of vegetables can go on the grill, and there are just a few basic rules to get started.

First, make sure the grill is clean. Fire it up, get it nice and hot, and use a grill brush to scrape off all the leftover bits. Wash the vegetables well and cut similar vegetables into similar shapes so they cook evenly.

Most vegetables can go right onto the grill, but if the pieces are small, consider skewering them, or wrapping them in heavy foil.

There are two basic ways to flavor the vegetables. For heartier vegetables, including fennel, onions and thick squashes, a good marinade (30 minutes to overnight) will add depth. For lighter vegetables, like green onions, asparagus, tomatoes and peppers, a thin veil of oil and a healthy sprinkling of salt and pepper may be all that's needed, followed by a sprinkling of fresh herbs or a bit of vinaigrette or sauce.

Some grillers recommend soaking vegetables in water to ensure that they don't dry out and cook evenly, but I found that it didn't make a noticeable difference.

For my feast, I took inspiration from the Greek food that I grew up eating in Baltimore, which has many Greek restaurants.

To mix it up a bit, I added a couple of grilled cheese ideas -- grilled halloumi and grape leaf-wrapped goat cheese -- for a bit of richness. The halloumi goes right on the grill and takes about two minutes, so make sure it's the last thing. It's best eaten hot and slightly oozing, with a good drizzle of chile oil.

The goat cheese packets were originally intended to go with asparagus, as a sort of dipping sauce on the side, but the grape leaves got so nice and crisp on the grill that they were best eaten alone.

Fennel, radicchio, onions, squash and carrots are treated to the robust fragrant Greek flavors of oregano, lemon and garlic. Try to use fresh oregano, which is much better than dried. This marinade can be used all summer, on eggplants, peppers and other summer crops, or simply as a salad dressing or table sauce.

In another dish, asparagus is grilled until the stalks just start to blister and brown in parts, bringing out a soft, nutty flavor. After it comes off the grill, the asparagus is sprinkled with dill and feta, another nod to a Greek dish I've eaten, and it goes beautifully with the other dishes.

As a cool side dish, tzatziki gets a stronger flavor by using goat's milk yogurt. If it's not available, regular plain yogurt will do just fine.

Between the prep and cooking, this meal can be done within an hour, and it's hearty enough to stand on its own. The recipes double and triple easily for a crowd. Make sure to get some ouzo, the Greek anise-flavored spirit, to toast. While you may not win friends with salad, you'll definitely get them with this feast.


8 grape leaves packed in brine, drained and rinsed

4 tablespoons soft goat cheese

4 teaspoons pine nuts, toasted

Freshly ground pepper, to taste


Instructions: Heat the grill or a grill pan to medium-high. Dry each grape leaf well. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons goat cheese to the upper center of each leaf. Top each with 1/2 teaspoon nuts, 1/2 teaspoon thyme, a pinch of zest and a pinch of pepper.

Fold in the sides of the grape leaf, then tightly fold the leaf cigar-style -- the bundles can be made ahead to this point and then wrapped and refrigerated overnight. Brush the outside of each bundle with oil, then place on the grill. Grill each side for 1 to 2 minutes, until the grape leaf is slightly crisp and the inside soft. Serve with grilled vegetables.

Per serving: 125 calories, 4 g protein, 2 g carbohydrate, 12 g fat (3 g saturated), 7 mg cholesterol, 285 mg sodium, 0 fiber.


1 pint plain goat's milk yogurt

1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped

3/4 to 1 tablespoon kosher salt, to taste

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 teaspoons minced fresh mint or dill


Instructions: If the yogurt looks too watery, place a cheesecloth-lined strainer over a bowl, fill with yogurt and allow to drain for 30 minutes. Put the cucumber in a sieve, salt with 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt and let drain for 30 minutes.

In a bowl, mix yogurt, cucumber, 1/4 teaspoon salt, lemon juice, oil, garlic, mint or dill, and cayenne. Allow to sit a few hours or overnight so flavors can mingle. Serve chilled with grilled vegetables.

Note: If you use less yogurt, this could be a very nice cold cucumber salad.

Per 1/4 cup: 40 calories, 2 g protein, 4 g carbohydrate, 2 g fat (1 g saturated), 2 mg cholesterol, 163 mg sodium, 0 fiber.

The grilled halloumi is pretty salty, so there's no need to add more salt. The chile oil should be served alongside to cater to individual taste.



Instructions: Heat the grill, or a grill pan, to medium-high heat.

Cut the halloumi into slices 1/2-inch thick. Using a pastry brush, brush the halloumi with the olive oil and place on the grill. Grill each side for about 2 minutes, until grill marks appear, and the cheese is slightly yielding in the center. Serve with chile oil for drizzling and lemon wedges for squeezing.

Per serving: 220 calories, 10 g protein, 2 g carbohydrate, 19 g fat (10 g saturated), 51 mg cholesterol, 628 mg sodium, 0 fiber.

Time this right by grilling the vegetables from densest to lightest so they're finished at the same time. They are especially good at room temperature, so it is OK to let them rest after grilling.

34 Healthy Dips to Bring to the Party (That Aren’t Guac or Hummus)

Dips are the stars of a party. We gather around them. They’re a communal affair. And while we enjoy hummus and guacamole, we’ve eaten gallons of them, and we like to change it up.

The next time there’s a party (and we’re even talking solo dance parties), try one of these recipes for healthy chip and veggie partners made with a variety of ingredients.

Most of these are vegetarian, and many are vegan. Some of the flavors are classic, others creative. They’re so good you and your guests will be tempted to skip the apple slices and celery sticks and go in with a spoon.

When you present these dips to the buffet table, there’s no chance of duplication. When you bring one to the party, it’s really something.

You might like

1. Simple mint pea dip

With its bright green color, this dip sings “Spring!” Fresh peas are at their sweetest in early spring, but even frozen peas will feel the love of blending with lemon zest, fresh mint, and a little tahini to make it creamy.

2. Moroccan-spiced roasted carrot dip

Instead of dipping a carrot, turn the carrot into a dip. That’s thinking outside the carrot!

Roasting carrots brings out a mellow sweetness, and blending them with harissa adds North African spicy flair. Who knew humble carrots could be so exciting?

3. Nutty Swiss chard and roasted garlic dip

Mild Swiss chard offers an easy way to get a dose of leafy greens. With loads of vitamins A and K, Swiss chard packs in the nutrition too.

Here, the wilted greens are pulsed into a blend of roasted cashews, sweet roasted garlic, and a bit of oil. Keep some texture to the greens — don’t purée them.

4. Roasted vegetable dip with tahini

Roast eggplants, red onion, and red bell pepper in a hot oven until tender. Then blend them up with some tahini and you’ve made a dip you can be proud to bring to the party.

5. Roast beetroot and walnut dip

Roasted beets bring an earthy sweetness to this scarlet dip. Tahini and omega-3-rich walnuts add creamy, nutty flavor. This is one of those “You gotta try it!” recipes.

6. Roasted red pepper dip

Roasted red peppers are easy to find in the grocery store, but they’re also easy to make at home — and they’ll taste fresher. Loaded with vitamin C, this naturally sweet dip will tempt you to eat it with a spoon.

7. Roasted garlic Parmesan white bean dip

Roasting garlic turns the cloves sweet and mellow. Here, they flavor canned cannellini beans, which are simple to blend up.

8. 5-minute black bean dip

We’ve all been there: Some friends decide to have a last-minute get-together and ask you to bring an appetizer. Who wants to run out to the store? Not us.

Instead, we grab a can of black beans from the pantry and dump it into the food processor. Add salsa, cumin, cilantro, and lots of fresh garlic and ta-da! You’re bringing something to the party.

9. Split yellow pea dip

This vegan dip, inspired by Greek fava beans, starts with a pot of split yellow peas simmering with scallions, thyme, and garlic.

When the peas are tender, mash them with a wooden spoon — no food processor or blender required. Full of protein and fiber, this dip can be served warm or at room temp.

10. Edamame hummus

Everyone’s favorite sushi starter gets a new look in a creamy dip. Keep a bag of frozen edamame in your freezer so you can purée this perfect crudité partner in minutes.

The vibrant green color is Instagram-worthy when paired with farmers market carrots in hues ranging from yellow to red.

11. Lemony white bean dip

Ever notice that homemade hummus isn’t as creamy as the stuff from the store? Well, this homemade dip is super creamy because it uses canned cannellini beans instead of chickpeas.

They whirl into an exceptionally smooth purée with olive oil, lemon, garlic, and a sprinkling of chili flakes.

12. Vegan Mexican layer dip

Seven-layer dip shouts out “We’re having a party, y’all!” It has to be one of the most delicious and festive dips on the planet. But sometimes we find all that cheese and sour cream hard to digest.

In this vegan version, a creamy “queso” crafted from potatoes and nutritional yeast covers a layer of refried black beans. Top with a traditional guacamole and garnish with salsa.

13. Creamy veggie lentil dip

Dip into Indian cuisine by cooking onions, tomato paste, and curry powder in olive oil (if you want to be more traditional, use ghee).

This brings out the sweetness in the onions, takes away the raw taste of tomato paste, and allows the curry powder to bloom, leading to deeper flavors in the lentil purée.

Toasted whole-wheat naan keeps the theme going. And colorful veggies are always welcome.

14. White bean and artichoke dip

Who doesn’t love artichoke dip? But most versions are loaded with mayo. A smart swap of white beans keeps things healthier. Fresh rosemary and a little pecorino Romano cheese contribute Italian flavors.

Even better, the jarred artichokes called for here are an easy way to add this fiber-rich vegetable to your diet.

Share All sharing options for: The Navajo Nation Is Reclaiming Its Native Food Culture

Photo courtesy of Felicia Cocotzin Ruiz

This article was originally published on Civil Eats.

In the middle of the Arizona desert, within the 27,000-square-mile Navajo Nation, sits a half-acre garden oasis, bustling with fresh-grown veggies and flowers. Planted in 2016 as part of Coffee Pot Farms in partnership with the local Teesto Chapter, the garden now sprouts a plethora of greens as well as broccoli, peppers, tomatoes, and amaranth. The bushy rows of chilies, potatoes, corn, and garlic stand defiant in the dry desert landscape.

At Coffee Pot Farms, master gardener Artie Yazzie and others host gardening classes and tastings in an effort to teach locals about the varieties of fruits and vegetables that grow in the desert and how they can use them in the kitchen. It’s a response to the lack of cooking skills within the Navajo Nation, a result of the hardships Navajo people have long faced, including forced assimilation and poverty.

Native chefs and farmers all across the country have been working for years to take control of traditional and contemporary foodways in order to alleviate the ongoing problem of food insecurity in their communities. But growing food isn’t enough if people on the reservation don’t have the time or experience needed to prepare it.

“It was sad, here were some people trying to make a difference by growing the food,” says Felicia Cocotzin Ruiz, a chef and holistic healer who has spent time at Coffee Pot Farms. “But [broccoli] was literally going to waste because no one knew how to cook it.”

Ruiz is part of a multitude of Native-led attempts to address the health, nutrition, and access to healthy food in the Navajo Nation. She leads cooking lessons in rural, Native Southwest communities out of a food truck known as “the mutton” or the Mobile Unit for Training and Nutrition (MUTN). In addition to the more traditional gardening-and-cooking programs, video bloggers and Instagram celebrities are spearheading digital-first efforts to bring Native foodways — including culture and traditions associated with indigenous foods — to Native people by way of their smartphones and tablets.

Changes like these are urgently needed in the Navajo Nation — and many other poor Native communities. The Navajo Nation is the biggest and most populous reservation in the country, and is largely considered a food desert. There are just 10 grocery stores serving the 150,000 Navajo people living there — one grocery store for every 15,000 people. There are many more convenience stores that stock cheap foods high in calories and fat, such as shelf-stable pastries, chips, soda, bread, and sweets and plenty of places to get fried, fatty foods like frybread and Spam-and-potato breakfast burritos.

This lack of access to fresh, whole foods has predictable consequences: Native Americans have the highest rate of diabetes in the country, according to the Indian Health Services and National Health Interview Survey. To try to address these crises, funds from the Navajo “junk food tax” are distributed to 110 chapters on the reservation for health initiatives, nutrition classes, and community gardens.

At the STAR School near Flagstaff, Navajo students learn about growing food and cooking as part of their curriculum. The Navajo involved in the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program are prescribed fresh produce as part of the Community Outreach and Patient Empowerment (COPE) program. And at the political level, a Diné Food Policy, currently under consideration by the Nation’s president and vice president, focuses on food sovereignty—or taking control of food in the Nation to promote health, economics, and self-sufficiency. With a food policy in place, the Nation would have more control over the foods that make their way into grocery stores and make it easier for local farmers to sell their crops.

Not only is Ruiz part of this effort to eat healthier, she’s helping Navajo people reconnect with indigenous foods that grow in the desert—such as wild parsnips, cholla buds, wild spinach, and more.

For some, eating these foods has been an eye-opening experience. “So many people didn’t think about food access as [involving] the food available on the landscape,” Ruiz says.

‘Survival’ Foods

In her classes, Ruiz focuses on what the community already has, and doesn’t have. So in addition to using wild, native ingredients, she also incorporates ingredients that are affordable and available in Navajo grocery stores, such as broccoli and sweet potatoes. She says what she doesn’t do is come into a Native community and start teaching people how to make complicated sauces using expensive ingredients. In fact, Ruiz doesn’t even usually describe herself as a chef she calls herself a cook when she’s out and about in the MUTN.

On the Navajo Nation, lack of access to kitchen equipment and resources can also make cooking difficult. Appliances like food processors and mixers can cost hundreds of dollars, money that is simply not available to the 43 percent of Navajo people who live in poverty.

Ruiz says that some students in her classes had never before used a large knife or had any sort of cooking lessons, like those offered in some public high-school home economics classes. And that, along with the lack of access to fresh food, speaks to the larger challenge ahead of Ruiz and others: Navajo food culture has coalesced around “poor man’s foods” or “survival foods.”

DIY signs advertising frybread, Navajo tacos, Navajo burgers, tortilla burgers, and Spam-and-potato breakfast burritos take up more space than street signs in small Navajo towns. On the reservation, these foods are a favorite. The 11,000 members of the “Navajo and Pueblo Cooking” Facebook group post a steady photostream of potatoes, tortillas, and frybread.

And Bluebird Flour, a brand of bleached white flour sold in a white cotton sack, has become nearly symbolic of Navajo culture. The bluebird logo is made into aprons, earrings, entire two-piece dresses, and incorporated into all facets of contemporary Navajo culture.

“Everything we eat today is processed food, and that’s what is killing us,” says Lena Guerito, nutritionist with the Navajo Nation Special Diabetes Project, a program that includes lessons on food nutrition for Navajos with diabetes. The main foods on a lot of Navajo people’s plates are potatoes and bread, she said. And that’s hard to change.

The “survival foods” so common in the Navajo Nation were born in a time of need. In the late 1800s, the Navajo were forced by the U.S. government from their homelands in New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah to a prison camp in Fort Sumner, New Mexico.

“People returned [to Navajo lands] to find themselves with new foods that were provided by the U.S. government,” including flour, coffee, and lard, says Denisa Livingston, community advocate and community organizer for Diné Community Advocacy Alliance. “We have become accustomed to thinking that’s what food is.”

In her work as an advocate for food sovereignty—Livingston is the first woman to be elected as the Slow Food International Indigenous councilor of the Global North—she spearheaded the Navajo Nation’s junk food tax initiative. She also started focusing on where cooking habits are formed: mom’s cooking.

“When we look back at what our moms cooked and what our grandmas cooked, I think we have the opportunity to question if [what we’re eating now] really is authentic mom’s cooking or if it’s survival food and also question if we’re ready to change,” says Livingston.

To her, changing the definition of mom’s cooking is part of the larger, Indigenous movement for food sovereignty. On a small scale, this work can take place at kitchen tables, where people teach their children to cook and value food, she says.

“Increasing the biodiversity on our palate,” is key to spicing things up, Livingston says. “When we experience new foods, new tastes, and new food adventures, it lifts up our spirit and it makes our hearts and minds full. I really believe that our people deserve those kinds of opportunities.”

‘The Fancy Navajo’

Experiencing diverse flavors, ingredients, and restaurants also contributes to personal culinary education. But those things can be added to a long list of things many Navajo people don’t have access to, Livingston says.

And that doesn’t mean the passion for food and adventure is not growing on the reservation. For Alana Yazzie (no relation to Artie Yazzie), culinary adventure meant leaving her parent’s kitchen and setting up one of her own.

“When I got to college and I was exposed to more people, I was out there running with it and learning and trying as much as I could,” Yazzie said of her food adventures. For so long “I was on this restricted diet, and then I was no longer under parental control. I had the power and resources to buy things on my own.”

While in college at Marquette University in Wisconsin, Yazzie broadened her food horizons: Not only did she try colorful, sugared cereals like Lucky Charms for the first time, she also learned about other cultures’ cuisines from her new Indonesian and Filipino friends. She found a love and appreciation for fresh vegetables, backyard gardening, and cooking.

Today, Yazzie is a lifestyle and food blogger in Phoenix who goes by the online name, “The Fancy Navajo,” and has 5,700 followers on Instagram. She has posts recipes such as blue corn quiche, blue corn muffins and pumpkin pancakes, and Navajo boba almond milk tea.

She didn’t always eat this way, though. Yazzie grew up on survival foods, including Hamburger Helper and other foods that came with powdered just-add-water sauces, she says. Her family made ends meet and, as a result, there wasn’t much extra money for eating out, so a lot of cooking happened in her house. From her mother, she learned how to cook dinner, and from her older brother, she learned how to bake.

“[Since] a young age, I’ve always been fascinated with cooking,” Yazzie says. “I’ve always thought of cooking as a family, community-type gathering.”

This summer, Yazzie harvested more kale than she needed from her backyard garden and ran out of ideas for how to use it. She asked her followers and fans on social media for suggestions and they responded with dozens of healthy recipes, she says. It surprised her, a little bit, to see so many suggestions coming from the reservation.

“People are eating kale there,” she says. “It made me happy. Whatever is happening, it needs to continue.”

This paradigm shift is about more than just shared knowledge, says Ruiz. Learning to feed yourself well is also about self worth. “People need to feel like they’re in power, which is hard from a colonized view. We’ve been taught that we’re not important,” she says.

That’s why Ruiz has positioned herself in a role that allows her to speak to other Native people in a way that shows them she understands where they’re coming from. They’re not being talked at by an outsider who’s telling them to stop eating everything familiar to them. That, she notes, obviously hasn’t worked in the past. Instead, Ruiz believes that Native-led programs that meet people where they are and use a mix of traditional foodways and 21st-century tools can help chart a new course for food and health in Navajo Nation and beyond.

This article was produced by Civil Eats in partnership with Dame Magazine as part of their new podcast, The Fifty One, which explores what national issues look like for women at the local level, starting with a first season focused on food access in their communities. Read more about The Fifty One in Dame Magazine, and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

Garden salad is a a type of tossed green salad made with lettuce (usually a blend including mostly iceberg lettuce.) As the name implies it also has garden fresh veggies including carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers and onions. Often garden salads include croutons and cheese.

In my mind Garden Salad pulls up a very specific salad from my memory. One that is served in a wooden salad bowl with a slightly sweet dressing (or perhaps blue cheese or ranch dressing.)

I wasn&rsquot sure if I was the only one with this idea so a few weeks ago I polled folks on instagram about what ingredients were included in a &ldquoGarden Salad&rdquo in their households and I got a variety of answers. [Including mention of Bac-o&rsquos, which I hadn&rsquot thought of in more than a decade!] But there were a lot of similarities to what I think of! So I have pulled together the best of the most commonly mentioned ingredients, and came up with this recipe to share with you today.


Among the recent horticultural arrivals from Russia and central Asia is the seaberry, also known as sea buckthorn. There, it is prized for both its ornamental value and its edible berries. This hardy, carefree deciduous shrub makes excellent hedges and wildlife habitats, and its bright yellow-orange to red berries are particularly high in vitamin C. Although the fruit, with its tart astringency, may not be ideal for snacking, it is delicious in juices and jams. Like our native cranberry, the exotic seaberry requires a bit of work to render it sweet, but its refreshing taste and health benefits are worth the effort.

We first grew seaberry (Hippophae rhamnoides) a few years ago, when we planted 'Hergo', a female variety, and an unnamed male seedling, then pretty much forgot about them. One fall day a few years later, we noticed that the female, about 3 feet tall, was loaded with bright orange berries. After sampling the fruits, we decided that although the plants were attractive, the fruits seemed far too acidic to have much culinary potential.

The shrubs, which reach 6 to 18 feet when mature, would be worth planting solely for their shiny, narrow, green-gray leaves. Seaberries are also excellent conservation plants, providing shelter for small animals and birds, fixing nitrogen in the soil, and preventing erosion with their strong root systems which spread by suckers. The shrubs have few pests and are suited to USDA Hardiness Zones 2 through 9.

There are other species of Hippophae, but H. rhamnoides is the only one commercially available at this time. Wild seedlings of Hippophae are very thorny, but German and Russian varieties of H. rhamnoides such as 'Byantes', 'Frugana', 'Hergo', 'Leikora', and 'Russian Orange' are less thorny and yield larger, better quality fruits.

Not Just a Pretty Shrub

The berries ripen in late summer forming large, tight clusters along the branches they last into the winter and are lovely in floral arrangements.

Although we had dismissed any culinary possibilities for the fruits, our German neighbor became very excited when she spotted the plants. She explained that the berries are healthful and their flavor is easily enhanced by juicing and sweetening them. Then she immediately ordered some plants for her garden.

After some research, we found that the seaberry is indeed a healthful fruit, containing seven times the vitamin C of lemons. Its use as a general health restorative dates back to the time of Alexander the Great, when his soldiers added seaberry leaves and fruit to horse fodder to maintain the animals' health and add luster to their coats. Hence, the botanical name originates from the Greek words for horse (hippo) and to shine (phaos).

Russians have realized that seaberries are also tasty and versatile. Sauce, jam, juice, wine, tea, candy, and even ice cream are made from the berries--which they call "Siberian pineapple"--although the flavor is more citruslike.

The Chinese add the leaves, bark, and berries to more than 200 food and medicinal products used to treat ailments such as ulcers and eye and heart problems.

We've found the best use for the berries is to make a refreshing juice (see recipe at end of article).

Grow Them by Land or by Sea

Seaberries are easy to grow and require little space. Because male and female flowers grow on separate plants, you need at least one of each sex to produce fruit. Flowers are pollinated mostly by wind, so space plants closely: 6 to 8 feet apart in rows, or 3 feet apart as a hedge. One male (distinguished by its larger flower buds) can pollinate five or six females.

Plant seaberries in spring in full sun. They grow in most soils, even sand or gravel, tolerate both seashore and road salt, and withstand drought well. They seem to do best in a well-drained soil (pH between 5.5 and 7.5). A thick organic mulch, renewed each spring with compost or manure, should supply all the other nutrients they need and protect the shallow roots. Seaberries grow quickly and usually bear their first fruits two to three years after planting. Some varieties produce 30 to 50 pounds of fruit per shrub annually, but it may take several years to reach maximum production.

Seaberries need little pruning, unless you want to train them into bushy shrubs or shapely small trees. From time to time, cut out damaged or unproductive branches. Prune in fall after harvesting the berries in late summer. The plants resist most diseases and insects, so spraying is seldom necessary.

Harvest berries when they are fully colored but still firm. Although birds like to nest in the shrubs, they aren't keen on ripe berries, so netting isn't usually necessary. Pick the berries by hand, or if the bushes are large, cut some of the branches and shake off the berries. This technique keeps the plant small and berries within reach for easy harvesting.

Wash the fruits, then puree them (or crush them with a potato masher). Strain the juice, discarding the seeds and pulp. Measure the juice (2-1/2 pounds of berries yield about 1 quart of juice) into a large pot, and heat to 120° F. Mix 1 part sugar or honey to 6 parts liquid, and continue heating until the sugar dissolves. Pour into sterilized bottles, and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, or freeze for up to six months. For a light, refreshing drink, mix the seaberry juice with other fruit juices, such as apple, orange, or raspberry, and soda water to taste.

Popular authors Lewis and Nancy Hill are the proprietors of Berry Hill Farm in Northern Vermont.

Plant-Based Vegan Starter Kits $27

Click the photo above to see Starter Kit options and content. Choose which book comes in your kit. $27 plus tax and shipping in the US.

10 Simple Jeff Novick Recipes