By Tom Cowan, M.D.
My friend Mike Benziger likes to tell the story of our first meeting when he came to see me as a patient. He says that after about three to five minutes of his telling me about his health, I started asking him gardening questions, and the rest of the hour we talked about gardening. Mike is incorrect — I am sure we spent at least seven minutes talking about his health — before I veered off into gardening.
The reason I was so interested in talking to Mike about gardening is that he and the Benziger family are among the most experienced practitioners of biodynamic agriculture in the U.S. The Benziger family started the first BD winery in California, and more than a decade ago when my daughter and a friend were visiting San Francisco, we toured their beautiful vineyard. Mike eventually sold the winery and turned his attention toward his real love, which is growing the highest quality medicinal foods. In this short video, you can get a glimpse of the passion, love, and knowledge Mike brings to all things related to gardening. I had good reason to want to pick his gardening mind as much as possible during our encounter.
Sometime after that visit, I managed to convince Mike to grow for Dr. Cowan’s Garden. Having seen first hand the skill he brings to his garden, I knew we needed to offer Benziger-grown plants to our customers. Mike is particularly interested in growing for nutrient and phytochemical levels. As an example, if you give your plant too much water, it gets lazy and doesn’t bother to protect itself as much as a similar plant that undergoes a little water stress. Too much water stress and the plant just dies. Mike knows how to use testing and his intuition to find the sweet spot for healthy growth. It’s the same with sun exposure. If the ashitaba plants are exposed to too much sun, they flower prematurely, brown quickly, and the valuable chalcone levels in the stem and leaves go down. Mike creates shade barriers when needed to expose his plants to the correct amount of sunlight for their optimal health. When we eat plants in robust health, we are on the path to robust health ourselves. It was quickly apparent to me that while I grow healthy plants (well, sometimes), Mike grows plants that have optimal health. That is why he grows for Dr. Cowan’s Garden.
Today we are re-introducing Dandelion Powder exclusively grown for us by Mike Benziger. He starts from a seed, grows the plants in his biodynamically prepared soil, gives them the right amount of water and sunlight, and shade dries the harvested leaves, stems, and roots himself. The final dried material is shipped to us to be ground into powder at low temperatures.
Dandelion is a Jupiter plant, meaning it has a special relationship with the human liver. It is used to support optimal blood sugar regulation, help with many detoxification processes, and help regulate excessive cell growth. When you eat Dandelion Powder regularly, you are increasing your ability to thrive in spite of living in a world full of toxins. Dandelion Powder is a foundational product for us, one that is grown with skill and care, processed carefully to retain its nutrients and will add a touch of green and slight bitterness to your food. Dandelion Powder, biodynamically grown, should be in everyone’s kitchen “pharmacy.”
Happy Spring, everyone! As I type this on an early Sunday morning, we are having a beautiful early spring here in the Northeast. Our new garden fence is up, the garden beds are slowly being made, the greenhouse is nearly finished, and seedlings are in the greenhouse planter boxes. For me, spring represents many things, but on a completely practical level it means the transition from “exercise” to doing actual work with my body. Shoveling, pushing a wheel barrow through mud, pitch forking hay — these are my favorite ways to work up a sweat and start the day.