Gardening Articles: Health :: Health

21st Century Greens

by Susan Littlefield


As the world population soars toward a predicted peak of around 9 billion by the middle of this century, the global food system falls short both in providing adequate nutritional support to many and in ecological sustainability. Billions in the developing world suffer from hunger or a deficiency of vital nutrients in their diets, while millions more in the developed world suffer from "industrial food malnutrition" in an epidemic of obesity and chronic diseases as a result of eating too many refined, calorie-dense but nutritionally lacking foods. Rising energy costs, climate change, depletion of soil and water resources, and increasing urbanization all contribute to the challenges of feeding the world's inhabitants without destroying the environmental systems that food production is dependent on.

These are all things that David Kennedy hopes to change with the information in his book 21st Century Greens: Leaf Vegetables in Nutrition and Sustainable Agriculture, (Leaf for Life, 2011, $24). Kennedy is the founder and director of Leaf for Life, a Kentucky-based non-profit organization that helps people improve their health by showing them ways to make better use of vegetables, especially leaf crops, in their diets. Since 1986, Leaf for Life has trained people in ways to combat malnutrition with leaf crops in the U.S., South and Central America, Africa, and India.

The book explores the potential role of under-utilized leaf crops in ending malnutrition and building a more durable global food system. Leaf crops are high in nutrients such as Vitamin A and iron that are deficient in many diets dependent on staples such as rice, corn, and cassava, and they can provide their nutritional bounty at a very low cost. While they are nutrient-dense, leaf crops are low in calorie density, making them also an excellent complement to modern industrialized diets that lack fiber and antioxidants.

The 260 page book explains how to grow, prepare, and preserve over 100 different leaf crops that are suitable for cultivation in a wide variety of climates. In addition, there is information on making leaf concentrate, a food that contains as much protein and several times more iron, calcium, and Vitamin A, as beef, eggs or pinto beans; raising edible cover crops; and building your own solar food dryer. Also included are 36 original recipes using leaf vegetables.

To top it off, all proceeds from the sale of the book go to support the excellent work of Leaf for Life. The book is available from the organization or at amazon.com.

To find out more about Leaf for Life or to purchase the book 21st Century Greens, go to: Leaf for Life.

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