Interview - Steve Meyerowitz
Interviewed by James Gormley, Editorial Director, Organic Products Retailer and Vitamin Retailer magazines.
Sproutman, You began teaching indoor gardening high above the streets of New York City. You called your teachings a no-cooking school since so much of your cuisine included vegetables from your own kitchen gardening. What years was this and were people really into it?
My first workshop was in 1977. I held regular classes right through 1986. The living foods and sprouting movement was indeed alive and well in the 1970s and beyond. At least in the cultural capitals of our nation ---Boston, L.A. New York, S.F.---sprouting, vegetarianism, soy foods, meditation, yoga, even yogurt, were part of the new wave of lifestyle and self-improvement.
Sproutman, You became interested in natural foods after spending 20 years trying to correct chronic allergies and asthma with conventional medicine. You say that within two months of eating a strict "living foods," vegetarian diet, your lifelong symptoms vanished. Do you still follow a 100% raw foods diet---nothing cooked, packaged, canned, frozen, or processed?
firmly believe that no one diet lasts forever. After all, with each
passing decade, our bodies change, our lifestyles change, and different
needs call for different diets. Diet is a very personal matter. None of
us have the same face, and similarly, none of us have the same stomach.
There are a multiplicity of factors that go into customizing our diet and
the overreaching principle should be devotion to our body's needs rather
than devotion to some dogmatic regimen.
Yes, my personal diet is still very conscientious and very strict. But it is not the same diet I ate forty years ago. I am still 100% vegetarian, mostly Vegan, with an emphasis on raw and organic. But more importantly, I strive to make the best choices wherever I go. Sometimes that means I do not to eat at all, because it's too late or there's a bad selection. I believe that knowing when not to eat is an important part of everyone's diet. And while we are on the subject, water---both quality and quantity---is arguably more crucial than food. So a good diet is a kind of balancing act of many factors. We all do the best we can. The time we spend reading articles like this, attending lectures, and educating ourselves, helps us improve our art in the juggling act that is diet and health.
Sproutman, You have authored some of the most popular books on sprouts, including Sprouts, the Miracle Food, Sproutman's Kitchen Garden Cookbook, and Wheatgrass, Nature's Finest Medicine. When you were one QVC in the 1990s, 953 people ordered your cookbook and Kitchen Garden Salad Grower in just three minutes! Are people now sprouting again after the bacteria scares of the late 1990s?
The salmonella scares of the late 1990s put sprouts on the FDA radar screen for the first time. FDA didn't even consider sprouts before this because the industry was so small. Commercial sprout growers (sprout farmers) took a double hit because the news angle of a "health food turning unhealthy" made an irresistible headline. Subsequently, we've found that no food is immune to salmonella and e-coli contamination. On the contrary, the tiny Sprout Industry has managed to clean up its act and in recent years has held a better track record than spinach and fresh-cut lettuce.
I'm promoting this kind of kitchen gardening as an alternative to conventional agriculture. As both the general population increases, and the cost of delivering fresh food increases, and the acreage of farmable land decreases, the price, quality, and availability of fresh food is increasingly at risk. But if we can all learn some simple kitchen gardening skills, we can sustain ourselves with our own high quality, affordable self-sufficient food supply. The kind of soil-free gardening I'm describing is not bean sprouts, but ten inch tall micro-greens such as baby sunflowers, buckwheat lettuce, pea shoots, Daikon radish, broccoli, garlic chives, to name a few. And you can make your own flourless bread from sprouted grains. So whether you live in Atlanta or Alaska, in January or July, you can maintain a level of food independence, and if you like, dine like a gourmet. And you don't need a green thumb to succeed.
Sproutman, What about food supplements---do you take them? If so, which ones, and are they not processed?
In general, I prefer whole food nutrition. That is, I choose to eat concentrated whole foods than take concentrations of extracts from foods (vitamins). An example of a concentrated whole food is wheatgrass, spirulina, blue green algae, brewers yeast, bee pollen, etc. That's where I go to get vitamins. On the other hand, if I have an ailment that I need to treat, I will choose specific herbs and nutrients in concentrated form (pills) as an alternative to pharmaceutical medicines. So echinacea if a cold is coming on, licorice for respiratory congestion, bromelain to reduce inflammation, glutamine to help heal and prevent ulcers, CoQ10 to protect the heart, etc.
Sproutman Steve Meyerowitz, circa 1995 with his vegan pizza recipe made from sprouted wheat. No flour, no dairy, but plenty of flavor.
Sproutman and sunflower sprouts (c.) with raw foodist authors Jeremy Safron(l.) and Paul Nisson (r.) in 2002.
Sproutman showing his buckwheat lettuce sprouts to Dr. Ann Wigmore, circa 1980. Dr. Ann was responsible for popularizing buckwheat sprouts in the 1970s.
Sproutman Steve Meyerowitz (c.) with Raw Foods Guru David Wolfe author of Naked Chocolate holding a cacao shell showing the white cacao beans that produce chocolate after they are fermented. Also with Peter Caizer "The Wheatgrass Messiah."(r.) in 2005.
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