After a long wait, I am happy to announce that our two signature powders -- Ashitaba and Perennial Greens -- are now available. We consider them signature because they reflect our core mission to make available to people hard-to-find perennial and wild vegetables, which are usually more nutritious and ecologically supportive than annual vegetables.
I wrote about ashitaba in my book “How (& Why) to Eat more Vegetables” and its remarkable nutritional quality. A member of the angelica family, ashitaba is native to the islands of Japan and the Philippines. Partial to rich, volcanic soils near cooling ocean breezes, ashitaba is more nutrient dense than other commonly eaten garden vegetables (see chart at right) and contains a remarkable phytonutrient called chalcones in the stems, which is being studied for its powerful anti-cancer effects.
Like many other plants, ashitaba has a common name – “Tomorrow Leaf” – which suggests one of its primary attributes: the ability to grow a new leaf in the spot where another leaf was harvested. Perhaps it is this tremendous vitality that explains the traditional wisdom that consuming powdered ashitaba daily will make the user look younger and younger the longer they take it.
As far as I know, all of the ashitaba powder on the market today is grown in Asia. In fact, Asher, our CEO and my son, was at the largest conference of food producers recently and was told by a company that sells ashitaba powder that growing ashitaba in the U.S. would be practically impossible. We sampled their ashitaba powder, and, although it tests high in nutrients, it has no smell and no taste and therefore does not qualify as a food we can carry. I was determined to see whether we could grow ashitaba in Napa, and if we could, make a potent powder that retains its smell and taste. Our current Ashitaba Powder is the first results of this effort. All of the ashitaba in our powders was either grown in our Napa garden or by our friend John in a nearby biodynamic garden, making it, as far as we know, the only commercially available, U.S.-grown, organic ashitaba available. It is dehydrated with low heat, packed in Miron jars and is the only ashitaba I have seen that smells and tastes like fresh ashitaba stem and leaves. Please enjoy this special product (see our favorite way to eat it below) and wish us and our gardener friends good luck in getting another robust harvest very soon.
Perennial Greens Powder is our other signature product. As with ashitaba, we can find no commercially grown perennial greens in Northern California, so all of the greens in our Perennial Greens blend -- with the exception of a small amount of the valuable moringa leaf powder -- are grown in our garden. The Perennial Greens blend is a mixture of the leaves of the long-lived brassica tree collard (top photo), known for its high sulforaphane and calcium content; Gynura procumbens, otherwise known as longevity spinach, a plant known for its anti-diabetic properties; moringa leaves, one of the most nutritious and protein-rich greens on the planet; and Malabar spinach, a perennial green known for its rich chlorophyll content and high nutrient content. We blanch the greens, grind them together into a powder and put them into Miron jars. The perennial greens blend is best sprinkled on any savory dish or added to your morning smoothie.
Supplies are very limited, so once again, we ask your understanding and patience as we actively look for ways to increase production while maintaining our quality standards. That is our challenge, and that is our commitment. We’ll keep you posted.
For many of us, our relationship to food is a never ending journey. Sometimes to move forward one finds themselves looking back. For bread and specifically the grains used to make it I find that the best results are indeed found in reflection. It is sometimes true that modern ingenuity has value for us, but that is usually only when paired with ancient wisdom. For grains, that wisdom is in the ancient varieties that have been grown for thousands of years.
During this time of relative uncertainty, we have decided to renew our commitment to gardening. Dr. Cowan’s Garden was originally a place, located in Napa Valley on a plot of land generously donated by a friend. It embodied our ideals and was a sanctuary for growth and learning.
The garden was our muse for new product offerings and for improving existing ones. The garden kept our ambitions grounded to certain fundamentals, as the practice of gardening can be challenging.