What is Dr. Cowan's Garden?
Dr. Cowan's Garden is a line of nutritionally powerful vegetable powders: perennial greens, kale, Swiss chard, leek, squash, blends and salts. The powders' nutritional power derives from how they're grown, processed and stored. Dr. Cowan's Garden is a family-run business; his wife and three children all have significant roles within the company.
How do you use the powders?
In soups and stews; sprinkled on eggs, roasted vegetables, salads, baked potatoes, popcorn; blended in smoothies; folded into rice, pasta, baked goods or casseroles -- really, added to anything you like to eat. They're great for parents of picky vegetable eaters, people who travel or don't have much time to cook, and creative cooks who want to experiment with different flavor profiles.
From Dr. Cowan: As an example of how we use the powders, just this morning to make my morning soup with broth, I had only a small bunch of greens and a pepper from the garden. I also didn't feel like cutting up and sautéing a carrot and zucchini, so, instead, I added a teaspoon of Dr. Cowan's Garden Threefold Blend Powder (carrots, beets, kale, Swiss chard, winter squash and zucchini). Voila! A soup with now six vegetables instead of two. Similarly, when I make pancakes, instead of using all flour (spelt or emmer wheat), I replace a quarter of the flour with pumpkin powder. The taste is delicious, and I am diversifying my diet and adding more nutrients and healing phytochemicals to each bite.
Where is Dr. Cowan's garden?
It's on the eastern side of Napa Valley in an area largely protected from the intense heat and hubbub of the rest of the valley; it's fed by well water from the site. The vegetables are grown in hand-dug beds, and no chemical fertilizers have ever been used within the perimeter of the garden. Its location places it within one of the world's most productive growing regions because of its generally warm and dry climate and its cool winds and fog that sweep up the valley from the San Pablo Bay to the south. We also source vegetables from some of the top organic growers in the Bay Area, including Terra Firma Farm in Winters, Capay Organic Farms in Orland, Coke Farms in San Juan Bautista, and Tomatero Organic Farm in Watsonville. We also source some of our perennial vegetables from a small biodynamic farm near Watsonville, and another in Napa.
What is unique about how the vegetable powders are processed and stored?
The vegetables are harvested at peak flavor and quality and dehydrated on low heat, around 120 degrees. Low-heat dehydration retains most of the vitamin and mineral content of the vegetables. The greens are blanched before drying to release anti-nutrients, and the beets, pumpkins and winter squash are cooked to maximize flavor and digestibility. Once dried, the vegetables are ground into powders and transferred to Miron violet-glass jars as soon as possible.
The unique properties of the Miron jars don't allow any visible light to pass through; only the invisible parts of light -- UV-A and infrared -- are allowed in. This is significant because the sensitive substances within are protected against the aging processes that are released by visible light, thus enhancing both their potency and durability. Stored in Miron jars, the vegetable powders will be nutritionally potent for months.
Are the powders as good as vegetables you pick and prepare yourself?
A little nutrition is lost, but not much. (Mostly, vitamin C is lost in cooking and dehydration, which can easily be replaced by other foods.) According to the USDA, most of the nutrients (like B vitamins) are at least 95 percent levels in dehydrated vegetables. The only exceptions are vitamin C, which is at 60 percent, folic acid at 65 percent and thiamine at 85 percent. Let the taste and smell of the powders be your guide. These powders are very fresh foods!
Why not just take a vitamin pill or nutritional supplement?
From Dr. Cowan: On the first day of medical school, I heard one of my professors make a statement that has informed my approach to medicine ever since: "Always remember, the dumbest kidney is smarter than the smartest nephrologist." In other words, we have a lot to learn about the human body, and its inherent wisdom is the ultimate teacher.
I apply that same thinking to food: "The dumbest plant is smarter than the smartest chemist." In other words, the nutrients in, for example, kale, work together in a way too complex for us to isolate and put into a pill. If we want the phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals from kale -- and other nutritious vegetables -- we should eat kale that has been grown without chemicals and picked when its color and flavor are at their peak.
Some supplement companies do use whole foods in their supplements, and they can be excellent adjuncts when dealing with a health challenge, but even the most conscientious whole-food supplement manufacturers use such additives as maltodextrin, soy flour, calcium stearate and other stabilizers, which many people seek to avoid. I maintain that our bodies want to be nourished by whole foods, not synthetics, and that means a diet of good fats and proteins and a large variety of vegetables.
To quote the Radiant Life catalog: "Synthetic or isolated forms of vitamins are poorly assimilated and stress cells, often unbalancing the body's enzyme substrates."
Why Miron jars?
From Dr. Cowan: I heard about Miron (or purple jars) years ago but never tried them, mostly because they are very expensive. More recently, I revisited the issue as a way to properly store many of the common foods I use (oils, water, crispy nuts) and found that there are some interesting things about these jars. Normal sunlight consists of three "types" of light, which scientists call UV-A, UV-B and UV-C. UV-B and UV-C stimulate plants to grow, but they also cause decomposition of the plants after they die. UV-A does not provoke the same decomposition, or, at least, it affects decomposition to a much lesser extent. Early research also suggests that UV-A and far-infrared wavelengths have an energizing or preservative effect on whatever it encounters, although this is a very complicated subject. The color and thickness of the Miron jars are intended to screen out as much of the UV-B and UV-C wavelengths as possible, while admitting as much of the UV-A and far-infrared wavelengths as possible. These properties allow for prolonged storage and, possibly, an "energetic" enhancement of the contents of the jar.
How long will the powders last in the Miron jars?
The powders can last years, but we encourage you to use them within three to five months to consume them at their utmost vitality. It's best to check your powders from time to time and perhaps even give them a stir. But we stand behind our powders, so if any powder goes bad in less than three months from when you purchased it, we will send you a new powder of your choice (same size) at no charge.
What's the best way to store them at home? Should they be refrigerated?
Keep your Miron jars of powders on your kitchen counter or in a cupboard. They should not be refrigerated, as that could draw moisture to them. Also, keep them away from direct heat or strong sunglight, such as a stove burner or windowsill.
How long will the powders last for an average user?
Each jar contains approximately 50 teaspoons of powder, and one teaspoon is the equivalent of an average portion of freshly cooked vegetables, such as kale or Swiss chard. Because we recommend using several powders at once to add as much vegetable diversity as possible to your meal, you could easily use just a half-teaspoon each of, say, three powders, which would make each jar last a couple of months at least.
Can you refill your jars, or do you have to order the powders in jars each time?
We offer refills of our powders in pouches as much as possible; we encourage you to immediately transfer your powders to your Miron jars as soon as possible.
Are the vegetables organic?
They are not only organic (although our Napa garden is small, and at this point there is no practical way for us to get certified), they are also grown in hand-dug and hand-weeded beds, and the vegetables are picked at optimal ripeness, usually very early in the morning, when they are most potent. As far as we know, no fossil fuels or machinery have been used inside the garden fence for years. How do I know? Because it has been my wife, Lynda, my children, me and various friends and community members who have tended the garden. I have started many of the seedlings myself, I use only non-GMO seeds, mostly from the Baker Creek Heirloom seed catalogue. The "fertilizer" I use are things like organic bone meal, alfalfa, azomite and magnetic rock dust, all certified organic soil amendments. We also source vegetables from the best organic farms in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Are there any additives or preservatives in the powders?
If the label says "kale powder," only dehydrated (at low heat), blanched kale is inside. There is NOTHING else in the jar but vegetables. The only exception is our salts, in which we grind the vegetable powders with fine Celtic sea salt. Nothing else!!!
Are the vegetables raw before dehydration?
Some yes, some no. The principle that guides us is, "how would we most like to eat the vegetable, and when does it look and taste the best?" For example, tomatoes are often eaten raw, so we slice and dehydrate them without any cooking. In contrast, kale has various anti-nutrients that are best "cooked out." In addition, it tastes best lightly cooked, looks the most green then and is probably the most nutritious when briefly cooked, so this is how we prepare kale (and most greens) before dehydrating. Leeks are raw, pumpkins and squash are baked, carrots are blanched, etc. -- just as most of you would prepare these vegetables at home.
Do you ship internationally?
As of now, we don't. We hope to reinstate this option when we have the capacity to do so.