This time the “BASICS OF LIVING FOODS” section covers how to set up your indoor greens. After the splendid summer celebration of Raw and Living Foods lifestyles at the Fresh Festival in Wales, now is the time to make sure we have the fresh, enzyme and chlorophyll-rich plants available throughout the autumn and winter. These are grown in our own kitchens (or conservatory, porch, or balcony), in gravel trays, and only take about ten days, from soaking, through germination and sowing, to harvesting for salads or raw energy soups.
THIS ISSUE’S HEALTH TOPIC is what to do about vitamin B12, a subject recently aired by Dr Gabriel Cousens*, and this is timely as we are hearing a lot of people complain of persistent tiredness. B12 deficiency is one of the possible causes of this. (Candida and yeast overgrowth are other causes, which will be discussed next time)
IN THE KITCHEN it is time to find an alkinalising winter alternative to the summer’s watermelons.
WHAT TO DO ABOUT B12?
Unfortunately, this is not a simple matter, and it is not possible to state flatly that there is, or should be, enough B12 in a green and raw diet, to supply everyone’s needs for a lifetime. Nor is such a view helpful to those who may be deficient in this crucial vitamin. Some points to bear in mind; there seems to be a tendency for B12 deficiency to run in families, so if a parent or grandparent was diagnosed with pernicious anaemia, the old fashioned but technical name for it, pay special attention to getting yourself assessed. They were most likely offered periodic injections, and would be able to tell you how much better and energetic they felt after an injection, becoming increasingly tired again, until it was time for the next one.
The deficiency is not confined to people eating largely raw food, nor even to vegans or vegetarians. In fact it is common throughout the whole population, with increasing incidence amongst older age groups. This may reflect the fact that it is also associated with digestive insufficiency, which in general increases with age.
When we consider also the imbalance in flora throughout the general intestinal tract in many people, because of the use of antibiotics, or because of the longterm effects of the eating habits which lead to fermentation and gradual impairment of the small intestine’s ability to assimilate nutrients, it is apparent that there are several factors to consider. Untreated pernicious anaemia is a very serious condition, beginning with pallor, red tongue, progressing to tingling in the fingers and toes and eventually to spinal degeneration. In the 1920s however it was found that eating liver could alleviate these symptoms. It was then discovered that some people could not consume enough liver to achieve the desired effect, and thence that where there is a low level of stomach hydrochloric acid, even this approach was not enough. In the early 1930s a yeast extract was successfully used to treat anemia in pregnancy. Later, in 1945, a purer form of this, folic acid, was extracted from spinach and found to be totally effective for anaemia of pregnancy, though not effective in preventing the nervous degeneration of pernicious anemia. Folic acid is still regarded warily, and sold in tiny doses, as it can apparently improve the blood, but mask the symptoms of the underlying pernicious anemia.
It is from these general findings that Living Foodies take comfort as they reason that their huge intake of leafy greens, green juices and therapeutic doses of chlorophyll rich wheatgrass is enough to keep them safe. However taking lots of organically grown greens is not a complete answer, as the effects of insufficient B12 may be masked by the intake of folic acid. For practical purposes I believe it is wise to assume that most of us do not have the balanced gut flora to manufacture enough vitamin B12, and further, that many of us lead very pressured, if not stressed lives, which may be a contributory factor. This leads us to the next thing to consider which is that deficiency of either folic acid or B12, (which may be from low hydrochloric acid, poor diet, or prolonged use of birth control pills, alcohol or smoking) is also associated with depression, indifference and withdrawal, and has been well documented in many elderly psychiatric patients.
The complexity of the symptom picture is now becoming apparent, as are the measures we need to take to ensure against these problems. First there is diet, but the suggestion to eat meat, or even therapeutic doses of dairy produce, is a very difficult proposition for people committed to a vegetarian or vegan diet. Second there is supplementation, with a good B-complex, and perhaps an added enzyme to assist absorption. There is a further question mark over supplementation with green superfoods such as spirulina, as it is not certain whether they may help or hinder in the net absorption of the tiny, but essential amounts of B12. It is my personal view that vitamin supplementation from a good specialist company could be considered as a short term measure, to break a cycle of unbearable tiredness and or depression, provided that we are sure the problem has been correctly identified. After that, we need to address the underlying problem of why we are not absorbing what we need from our carefully chosen foods and juices.
The answer will not be the same for everyone, so the last factor to consider is that individuals may need vastly different quantities of B12 for optimum health, and will have to get it one way or another. It is worth noting that sugar, smoking and alcohol will use up whatever B12 we have, so conquer those cravings, if you still have any!
The first step is to have yourself checked. My chosen method would be to consult an experienced vega tester or a good kinesiologist, but initially, you could dowse for yourself. You can also obtain samples of different supplements from good companies and dowse or muscle test to see if you seem to need any of these, and if so in what combination. However please do not self prescribe. Confirm your suspicions with an expert, and get them to ascertain the right short term dosage to get you out of trouble. Just an average dosage from somebody’s nutrition manual is not good enough; you need and deserve exactly the right treatment for your individual needs. Thereafter work with your chosen expert to sort out the underlying malabsorption. Please remember that the danger of imbalancing the B vitamins is a real one, and as we discussed above, you could make matters far worse.
IN THE KITCHEN
Potassium Broth This was used frequently by Dr Bernard Jensen and still is by many herbalists and naturopaths to counteract acidity in their patients. Remember toxicity and disease do not occur unless the system is acid, which is why the Living Foods Programme places much emphasis on choosing the daily foods to balance the acid forming and alkalinising foods.
It is also known as potato peeling broth. You can make it two or three times a week throughout the autumn winter and spring.
Peel a lot of organic potatoes, making the peels very thick. Throw away the centre of the potatoes, the worms in the compost bin will use them. Scrub and chop roughly two or three large organic carrots. Wash several stalks of celery, the greener the better. Chop a couple of onions if you wish and also add as many garlic cloves as you like. A big strip of kombu seaweed adds to the mineral content. When you can get it add a large bunch of parsley. Place in a very large pan and cover with about four times the volume of water. Simmer very gently until the vegetables are tender. You can eat a few of these if you wish, but discard most of them, (the worms again) as the important part is the broth. Have some warm while it is fresh, keep some warm for a few hours in a flask, then bottle the rest in glass jars and keep it in the fridge. It will keep for two, even three days. Do not reheat it.
You can use it from the fridge by putting a portion to reach room temperature and then serving it from a preheated bowl. In the colder months we are more likely to revert to a transitional diet for a while, and find it harder to maintain the correct acid/alkaline balance. As well as tasting delicious, this will help.
PLANTING AND CARING FOR YOUR INDOOR GREENS
If at all possible obtain organic seed, or at the least, seed which has not been dressed with fungicide, and buy in sufficient quantity to be economical, but not so much that it loses its germination power before you get around to sowing it.
To establish a steady supply of baby sunflower greens and buckwheat ”lettuce”, put a jar of each to soak every two or three days, at the same time as soaking one jar of seeds to be eaten when sprouted, such as alfalfa, mung, aduki, fenugreek, lentils, clover, chickpeas etc)
2 cupsful of dry seed per standard gravel tray gives the right density.
This ensures a flow of sprouted seeds and indoor greens, and avoids “hungry gaps”. Your seeds should have a good germination rate, and produce robust, fast growing baby plants. If not, check your plant care, and if they still fail to thrive, discuss it with your supplier. Small health and whole food shops aren’t always the best source. Try a wholesaler or use a reputable mail order firm such as ***Organic Gardening Catalogue.
Plant a gravel tray (no drainage holes) of greens daily, alternately with sunflower and buckwheat seed.
Soak the seed for a few hours. It is not critical, overnight soaking is fine.
Drain for 24 or 48 hours, depending on room temperature, until the shoots appear.
Spread seeds in a single closely spaced layer on top of the chosen planting medium (the best quality earth or compost mix you can find, free of lumps and pebbles).
Fill the tray at least two inches deep and shake the tray until the surface is level, but don’t firm the surface, to give the emerging root shoots an easy route into the soil. Dampen if necessary. Use a spare tray upside down as a lid to exclude light until the fourth day. This also forms a micro climate in which the emerging plants transpire, and the moisture will collect on the lid to keep the seeds and their soil at just the right humidity. In four days the young plants will be trying to push the lid off, so remove it and give them their first good watering. For extra mineral-rich greens you can add a handful of kelp powder to your watering can for this first watering, then grow the trays on in daylight. Water daily (no more kelp is needed) for another few days and harvest when perfect (seven to ten days after planting, depending on temperature and humidity). They will be a rich glowing green, while the buckwheat stems will be a pretty red. Cut both kinds of greens close to the soil, just before you want to eat them. You may like to cut a handful at a time, and hold the stems under the tap, to wash off any earth. Alternatively, do as Ann Wigmore sometimes did, that is pull the entire seedling up, roots and all, wash the stems and roots thoroughly and eat the whole plant. This way you get all the minerals which are en route from the soil up to the leaves.
You can place the trays anywhere you can find a corner for them. A simple window rack is ideal, as long as the window does not get long hours of hot sun. Have a look at my **website to see what they look like. The most common problem is when mould appears in the trays. This can happen either because the soil was too dry or too wet when first planting. It should be slightly damp, not moist. If you over –water them during their daily care, the soil will quickly become waterlogged, and apart from smelling sour, the plants will be severely checked, and may grow weak and spindly. Apart from those few points to look out for, they are really very easy to grow, and will thrive in a warm kitchen or a cool basement, which is where mine grow, or in a glass porch or even a cold frame or leanto, though if outdoors during the winter they may need more time to grow and will need covering from the rain.
First published in GET FRESH the world’s leading raw and living foods journal