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The Organic Consumer

The Organic and Clean Label Food Shopper, 2nd Edition

Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook
The Organic Consumer
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Do you feel food labels are transparent enough? Can you distinguish clean, natural and organic foods by their labels when you shop? Next time you go shopping read the labels on your food and share with us what you discovered? Share your comments with the community by positing them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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How is the Garden?


We always get the question: how is the garden doing? Well we are happy to report that while some pest issues still remain: namely the ants and flies, the pests have either disappeared (vole) are been reduced. The ants remain our most persistent and clandestine pest. As with most things worth doing persistence is key when it comes to addressing these pests. Check back in with us to see how things are going.

100% Pure & Organic Neem Oil

Which brings us to Neem Oil, an Organic and Natural pesticide, fungicide and miticide. Because the Neem Oil Solution we found had 1% Neem oil and 99% of unknown ingredients, we decided to make our own solution. One it is cheaper and Two we will know what is in the product. We were able to source 100% pure unrefined organic Neem Oil from a small women business owner and at about the same cost as the (excluding shipping) the Neem Oil Solution we initially purchased. Because we will be mixing it with water (and possible a detergent to enhance application), the bang for our buck will increase even further. So, thus far we are pretty pleased with this find and purchase. It should help us significantly with our pest problem and is inline with our Organic pursuits and sourcing of Organic Remedies.

We are still using the remainder of the initial Neem Oil Solution we purchased and still need to try out our new Neem Oil. Stay tuned for how this works out including the mixing ratio and whether or not we decided to add detergent as well as the comparative benefits of the Neem Oil Solution we purchased and the one we will be making ourselves.


Now that our pest problems have begun to come under control, we have started putting our transplants out in the garden. Yesterday we put out 6 – 7 plants and thus far we are happy to report they are all doing just fine. We also hope to be sending some kitchen plants home from our “nursery” from those who have requested plants. Right now these potential kitchen or patio/porch plants are out near MiMi’s flower on the lawn table taking full advantage of the sun which has been sweltering for some of our plants. Our Marketmore Cucumber plantling just did not make it through the transplant process as the sun was just too much for it.

Green Beans

We are happy to report that the Green Bean plant sported its beautiful purple flowers, which is a sign of pollination, and soon after sprouted 2 green bean pods, thus far! We can not help but lick our lips and wait for the others to sprout. They should be good in a salad or as a side dish.

What are your questions about the garden? What are your questions about gardening? If you could start your own garden, would it be in or outdoors? What would you grow and why? What keeps you from getting started? Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep growing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

Green Beans
Green Bean Pods
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

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Oh Baby!

This journey has been a long one. It began far before these articles blossomed. Along my journey I met Chef Ponder who was able to provide me, along with other community members, with valuable information regarding food and how what we consume affects our health. During one of his presentations a speaker shared her story about child bearing with us.

While eagerly awaiting her baby to arrive, she (like some other women) had a miscarriage. After much searching to understand why she had her miscarriage she met with a doctor who committed to helping her find the answer to this questions. And as you might have guessed, her doctor had her change her diet. After working with the doctor she took her body from not being able to support another life to being a happy mother of 3 children, if my memory serves me correctly.

Anemia is another one of those illnesses that requires you to make diet changes in order to address the underlying issues causing the illness. As you might imagine Chef Ponder warned that many health issues can be address with proper diet The following foods are great foods that help combat anemia (we went over to health line for some answers):

1. Leafy greens

Leafy greens, especially dark ones, are among the best sources of nonheme iron. They include:

  • spinach
  • kale
  • collard greens
  • dandelion greens
  • Swiss chard

Some leafy greens such as Swiss chard and collard greens also contain folate. A diet low in folate may cause folate-deficiency anemia. Citrus fruits, beans, and whole grains are good sources of folate.

When eating dark, leafy greens for iron, there’s a catch. Some greens high in iron, such as spinach and kale, are also high in oxalates. Oxalates are compounds that prevent the absorption of nonheme iron. So, while it’s beneficial to eat your greens as part of an overall anemia diet, don’t depend on them solely to treat the condition.

Vitamin C helps your stomach absorb iron. Eating leafy greens with foods that contain vitamin C such as oranges, red peppers, and strawberries, may increase iron absorption. Some greens are good sources of both iron and vitamin C, such as collard greens and Swiss chard.

2. Meat and poultry

All meat and poultry contain heme iron. Red meat, lamb, and venison are the best sources. Poultry and chicken have lower amounts. Eating meat or poultry with nonheme iron foods, such as leafy greens, can increase iron absorption.

3. Liver

Many people shy away from organ meats, but they’re a great source of iron. Liver is arguably the most popular organ meat. It’s rich in iron and folate. Some other iron-rich organ meats are heart, kidney, and beef tongue.

4. Seafood

Some seafood provides heme iron. Shellfish such as oysters, clams, and shrimp are good sources. Most fish contain iron. Fish high in iron include:

  • sardines, canned in oil
  • canned or fresh tuna
  • fresh salmon
  • fresh halibut
  • fresh perch
  • fresh haddock

Although both fresh and canned salmon are good sources of iron, canned salmon is high in calcium. Calcium binds with iron and reduces its absorption. Foods high in calcium shouldn’t be eaten at the same time as iron-rich foods. Other examples of calcium-rich foods include:

  • raw milk
  • yogurt
  • kefir
  • cheese
  • sardines
  • broccoli
  • tofu

5. Fortified foods

Many foods are fortified with iron. Add these foods to your diet if you’re a vegetarian or struggle to eat other sources of iron:

  • fortified orange juice
  • fortified, ready-to-eat cereals
  • foods made from fortified refined flour such as white bread
  • fortified pasta
  • foods made from fortified cornmeal
  • fortified white rice

6. Beans

Beans are good sources of iron for vegetarians and meat eaters alike. They’re also inexpensive and versatile. Some iron-rich options are:

  • kidney beans
  • chickpeas
  • soybeans
  • black-eyed peas
  • pinto beans
  • black beans
  • peas
  • lima beans

7. Nuts and seeds

Many types of nuts and seeds are good sources of iron. They taste great on their own or sprinkled on salads or yogurt. When choosing nuts and seeds, choose raw varieties whenever possible. Some nuts and seeds that contain iron are:

  • pumpkin seeds
  • cashews
  • pistachios
  • hemp seeds
  • pine nuts
  • sunflower seeds

Along with you, we are on our own journey to a stronger and more sustainable healthy self. These tips are to help give you resourceful information to help guide you along your own journey. However, we are not professionals. We recommend teaming up with professionals such as dietitians and doctors to help you along your journey. Read our article “The Industry” to help better understand the medical and pharmaceutical industries so that you can make informed decisions about your health as a consumer.

How do you manage your health? Are you managing your health or are medicines being managed as a part of the things you consume? How do you select your health professionals? Are you satisfied with your health and the plan that is in place to ensure your health? Do you have a voice in your health plan? Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Stay healthy.

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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Certified Organic

Organic Sound and Sensible Project - What Does "Organic" Mean

Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook
USDA – what does Organic mean

As we continue our organic journey perhaps what is most important is to understand what does organic mean. The USDA National Organic Program – Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Marketing Service 7CPR Part 205 National Organic Program Final Rule defines Organic Production as a system that is managed to respond to site specific conditions by integrating cultural, biological and mechanical process that fosters cycling of resources that promotes ecological balance and conserves biodiversity. The Oxford Dictionary defines Organic as “(of food or farming methods) produced or involving production without the use of chemical fertilizer, pesticides or other artificial agents.  

Now that we have a better understanding of what Organic really is, how does one become certified organic? First and foremost the USDA is the go to source in the U.S. for organic certifications and perhaps even organic standards. They have a plethora of information and resources for becoming certified and organic resources in general. So we went to the USDA website for more information and clarity about the topic.

There are essentially 2 types of organic producers: the one that must be certified in order to make organic claims and the producer that is exempt from having to be certified in order to make certification claims. Both must follow regulations and standards in order to make claims of being organic and both can be fined for not following the standards and regulations set forth by the USDA. The distinction between the 2 organic producers is that those producers grossing over $5,000 in annual sales from organic products are required to be certified and once certified can use the USDA certification seal. On the other hand, those producers grossing less than $5,000 in annual sales from organic products are exempt from being certified and may not use the USDA certification seal. However, they may elect to become certified if they choose. Exempt companies can make organic claims but should detail in the ingredients which ingredients are organic and which are not.

How to Become Certified Organic

Certifiers are responsible for making sure that USDA organic products meet all organic standards. There are five basic steps to organic certification:

  1. The farm or business adopts organic practices, selects a USDA-accredited certifying agent, and submits an application and fees to the certifying agent.
  2. The certifying agent reviews the application to verify that practices comply with USDA organic regulations.
  3. An inspector conducts an on-site inspection of the applicant’s operation.
  4. The certifying agent reviews the application and the inspector’s report to determine if the applicant complies with the USDA organic regulations.
  5. The certifying agent issues organic certificate.

To maintain organic certification, your certified organic farm or business will go through an annual review and inspection process.

Is There a Transition Period?

Yes. Any land used to produce raw organic commodities must not have had prohibited substances applied to it for the past three years. Until the full 36-month transition period is met, you may not:

  • Sell, label, or represent the product as “organic”
  • Use the USDA organic or certifying agent’s seal

USDA provides technical and financial assistance during the transition period through its Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Or, access a variety of funding options, conservation programs, and other programs and services for the organic sector on the USDA Organic Portal.

Again the USDA website is rich with resources and information about Organic Production. Here are a few resources that stood out to us if you are interested in becoming certified organic or interested in how your food is certified and labeled Organic:

  1. The Road to Organic Certification
  2. What is Organic Certification
  3. Organic System Plan
  4. Organic System Plan Template

What did you learn about your food labels? How does this change what you know about Organic products? How does this change how you consume products? What does this information mean to your health and the health of your family? What are 3 things you can begin to do this week to change your diet and consequently improve your health? How will this change your relationship with your doctors and the medicine you consume? How are we connected to nature at large? Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Stay healthy!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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Raw vs. Cooked

cooked vegetables shidonna raven garden and cook

While the plants grow in the garden, most of us are simply wondering when we can eat the fruits of all this labor, which brings us right to the point of eating, preparing and cooking. Some people claim that eating food raw is more beneficial to one’s health. The facts simply do not bear this out. What the facts do support is that both raw and cooked foods are both beneficial to one’s diet. In my journey I have discovered other foods more beneficial than others to my body’s particular needs. Our guess is that you might find the same is true for you: one size or food does not fit all. So, we went to for some more details.

Cooking May Destroy Enzymes in Food

When you consume a food, digestive enzymes in your body help break it down into molecules that can be absorbed. Enzymes are heat sensitive and deactivate easily when exposed to high temperatures. In fact, nearly all enzymes are deactivated at temperatures over 117°F. However, the human body produces the enzymes necessary to digest food. And the body absorbs and re-secretes some enzymes, making it unlikely that digesting food will lead to an enzyme deficiency.

Some Water-Soluble Vitamins Are Lost in the Cooking Process

Some nutrients are easily deactivated or can leach out of food during the cooking process. Water-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin C and the B vitamins, are particularly susceptible to being lost during cooking.

In fact, boiling vegetables may reduce the content of water-soluble vitamins by as much as 50–60% . Boiling results in the greatest loss of nutrients, while other cooking methods more effectively preserve the nutrient content of food. Steaming, roasting and stir-frying are some of the best methods of cooking vegetables when it comes to retaining nutrients. Also, the length of time that a food is exposed to heat affects its nutrient content. The longer a food is cooked, the greater the loss of nutrients.

Cooked Food May Be Easier to Chew and Digest

Chewing is an important first step in the digestive process. The act of chewing breaks down large pieces of food into small particles that can be digested. It requires significantly more energy and effort to properly chew raw foods than cooked ones.

The process of cooking food breaks down some of its fibers and plant cell walls, making it easier for the body to digest and absorb the nutrients. Properly cooking grains and legumes not only improves their digestibility, but it also reduces the number of anti-nutrients they contain. Anti-nutrients are compounds that inhibit the body’s ability to absorb nutrients in plant foods. The digestibility of a food is important because your body can only receive a food’s health benefits if it’s able to absorb the nutrients.

Cooking Increases the Antioxidant Capacity of Some Vegetables

Studies have shown that cooking vegetables increases the availability of antioxidants like beta-carotene and lutein. Antioxidants are important because they protect the body from harmful molecules called free radicals. A diet rich in antioxidants is associated with a lower risk of chronic disease.

Cooking Kills off Harmful Bacteria and Microorganisms

It’s better to eat certain foods cooked, as raw versions may contain harmful bacteria. Cooking food (at temperatures over 140°F, for most foods) effectively kills bacteria that may cause food-borne illness. On the contrary, fruits and vegetables are generally safe to consume raw, as long as they have not been contaminated. Spinach, lettuce, tomatoes and raw sprouts are some of the fruits and vegetables most frequently contaminated by bacteria. Raw meat, fish, eggs and dairy often contain bacteria that can make you sick.

Foods That Are Healthier Raw

  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Onions
  • Garlic

Foods That Are Healthier Cooked

  • Asparagus
  • Mushrooms
  • Spinach
  • Tomatoes
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Legumes
  • Meat, fish and poultry

We found that our research dispelled many myths we held. What did you learn? Are you a cook or a chef, what’s your opinion? Did you discover anything new or surprising in this article? How can what you learned improve the way you cook and prepare food and consequently your health? Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing.

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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When will Corona End?

In just the last few months the United States was hit hard and fast with a mired of COVID 19 challenges. It seemed to bring the world to a stop. There are still several questions as to how we will emerge from this pandemic. One thing almost everyone can agree on is that business will not be business as usual. We are sure to see several changes come out of this. 

Perhaps the most striking thing I have learned about the corona virus is that it has been around for sometime. We have heard several reports of corona virus cases in the poultry industry and the SBA has refocused some of its support to cover the agricultural industry as a part of the CARES Act. Corona viruses are not new to livestock nor poultry producers either, reports a Texas A&M AgriLife veterinary epidemiologist. Organic or not diseased food is an important and vital concern for the consumer.

In fact the CDC noted that corona viruses common to humans typically cause mild to moderate upper respiratory tract illness similar to the common cold. Most people are likely to have had one or more of these viruses during their life time. What is different about COVID 19 is that it is a new strand or novel corona virus. As we all know this strand of corona virus (COVID 19) was first detected in Wuhan City of Hubei Providence of China.

The interesting fact about China and corona viruses is that wild life have been known to carry strands of the corona virus that can mutate, adapt and spill over into other species like human begins. Bats along with other wild life have been known to carry strands of the corona virus and are sold in live markets in China. While much is still under investigation and to be known about corona viruses, what we currently know is that domestic animals and live stock are not known to carry strands of the corona virus that spill over into human beings. Wild animals, however, do have such strands that can spill over to human beings. In fact wild civets are the sources of the corona virus that causes SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome). Civets are commonly found in southeast Asia. SARS, as you remember, was first reported around 2002 – 2003.

One notable difference in domestic animals is the camel. Domedary camels have been known to pass corona virus (MERS-COV) to humans. However, neither domestic animals nor livestock are known to pass corona viruses to humans. The respiratory and gastrointestinal systems of animals are typically affected by corona viruses as reported by Feedstuffs. So, we have been dealing with corona viruses for a long time. Should you have any questions regarding animals and livestock consult your veterinary. 

Naturally, we are just as concerned as you are regarding Corona. While the medical community may know a lot about corona viruses this virus is a new strand and it took the whole world by storm. We are waiting by cautiously, as are most, for more and up to date information. Our leaders feel confident enough that we have slowed the spread of COVID 19 to begin opening back up. However, this deadly virus is remains in our midst. We encourage you to err on the side of caution and to make informed decisions regarding your food consumption. There is, admittedly, a lot for the medical community to learn about COVID 19 as well as the community at large. What concerns do you have about COVID 19? What information can you share with the community? How has COVID 19 changed things for you? Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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Take your Vitamins

When it come to health before I consider taking a medication or doing a procedure, my first question to my doctor is how can we do this naturally. God has provided all that we need so I know there is likely a way. The Cooper Institute reports that an estimated 40% of adults have a vitamin D deficiency. The number is nearly double (76%) for African American Adults. My doctor put me on vitamin D pills years ago because I am one of those adults with a vitamin D deficiency along with iron. The Cooper Institute goes on to explain that our body naturally produces vitamin D in response to the skin’s exposure to sun light. For people who have melanin in their skin (people of color) can reduce the skin’s ability to produce vitamin D. This also comes from wearing sunscreen; not getting enough sun (so, when do we get to the food?) and not eating enough fatty fish and dairy products.

This journey is an organic one. It is also about good health and how we achieve it through good diet. Organic foods are typically a strong source of healthy foods. The dish above is a simple dish. Because we are all about gardening and cooking around here with good health being paramount, we wanted to share this simple dish with you that can help you get the vitamin D so many of us are lacking in our diet.

  • French or Italian Bread. Or we recommend grabbing a baguette shaped bread from Panera, which is committed to providing whole and clean foods.
  • sliced olives
  • *A fatty fish like salmon sliced thin. *This is your source of Vitamin D.
  • *Mozzarella cheese sliced thin. *This is your source of Vitamin D.
  • Slivered Almonds optional
  • Olive Oil
  • Kosher Salt to taste

Slice the bread thin. Sprinkle with water for toasting. Toast in oven (about 350 degrees). Brush with olive oil fresh out of the oven. Sprinkle with salt to taste. Layer with mozzarella return to oven to complete toasting and lightly melt cheese. Remove from the oven and top with thin layer of salmon. Then sprinkle with sliced olives and slivered almonds. And enjoy.

For those of you who are budget conscious, Chef Ponder is always reminding us that we will pay for an improper diet that is doing our health no good one way or another. We will either pay in the grocery store or at the doctor’s office. We prefer to forgo the medications and procedures and opt for a diet that lends itself to good health in the first place. What health concerns do you have? How can you improve your diet to address these health concerns? How much do you spend on medical related bills? Which foods do you eat for which vitamins? Which vitamins are important to your personal diet? What vitamins support your health? Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

Vitamin D Pills
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook