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There’s a growing interest in incorporating more plants into our diets. It is downright easy these days to find excellent plant-based cookbooks and restaurant menus, which is nice for variety even if you don’t follow the lifestyle all the time. There has also been a growing interest these past few years in growing our own vegetables. Having even a small garden can be good for the soul, our palates, and it’s a great way to show our children where food really comes from.

To that end, I started a small backyard vegetable garden several years ago and really enjoy growing basic veggies like lettuce, green beans, cucumbers, green peppers, kale, Swiss chard, and all kinds of herbs. My garden doesn’t get a lot of sun, so I have learned to stick with vegetables that can tolerate some shade and still thrive. 

Through trial and error, I have learned the following:

·      Lettuce is a cool weather crop and easy to grow. Once the heat of summer comes on, however, these plants are done. 

·      Tomatoes can only thrive in full sun. Only attempt to grow tomatoes if you have full sun for most, if not the entire day.

·      While zucchini will grow without full sun, it is prone to mildew, so more sun is definitely better than less. Once mildew strikes, the plant usually dies.

·      Eggplant is relatively easy to grow without full sun, but the growing season is longer than what I have here in the Northeastern United States. 

·      Broccoli and cauliflower can grow without full sun, but can be victims of very destructive pests late summer. You wait and wait, and then the bugs eat your crop! I don’t want to use chemical pesticides, so I choose to simply buy the vegetables we eat, but I can’t successfully grow in my current garden. 

·      Garlic is a fun crop as you plant the cloves just before the ground freezes in the fall and then harvest and dry them the following spring.    

·      Buy small plants from a garden store rather than trying to grow vegetables from seed under a grow light. The plants will bear fruit earlier and fewer plants succumb to the elements. 

·      It is unlikely you will save money by tending your own garden, unless it is large and something you can devote a lot of time to. For me, it’s all about the satisfaction of seeing a plant grow, mature, and bear fruit. It’s the process, rather than the product, that gives me joy. 

Bringing more plants into your life can provide wonderful benefits. Eating them fuels your body with clean and bountiful energy. Growing them reminds us of the beauty and miracle of nature while nourishing our souls and bodies. Any time is a great time to turn your attention to putting more plants in your life. And it doesn’t have to be a big change. In fact, small steps will likely be far more satisfying and lasting.  

My 20-year-old daughter recently had a blood test and her doctor was stunned by her high protein, vitamin C, and calcium levels. She’s a college student taking 19 credit hours, working a job, and preparing her own meals. And all she eats are—PLANTS! That’s right, she’s vegan. 

I too am vegan, but I grew up eating the standard American diet. The shift was gradual. First I gave up red meat while in college. Poultry followed 15 years later, then fish and seafood, and finally, eggs and dairy.  

To help those of you tempted to take the first step to add more plants in your diet, here is an easy and healthy Snobby Joes recipe for your family to enjoy, and below are some of my favorite cookbooks. Happy digging and bon appetite!  

The BEST Vegan Cookbooks:

Isa Does It, by Chandra Moskowitz

Chloe’s Kitchen, by Chloe Coscarelli

Veganomicon, by Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romano

The Joy of Vegan Baking, by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau 

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 Celeste currently lives in southwestern Connecticut. She grew up in Maine and has lived in several places over the years including Sydney, Australia and London, England. Cooking and baking are two of her interests in addition to gardening, painting, and reading a good book. Celeste works full time as a marketing and communication consultant after many years in the insurance industry. She works with our sponsor, Military Benefit Association. Celeste been married for nearly 30 years and has two daughters in college. 


 We’re pleased to have Military Benefit Association (MBA), our title sponsor for this year’s Wellness Summit, back again as a sponsor this month. MBA is a nonprofit who has worked for over 60 years to safeguard and promote the economic welfare of current and former service members, federal employees, and their families. MBA recognizes that a military family is a powerful unit that depends fully on the spouse. They’re here to help spouses complete their family’s “circle of financial protection” with life insurance, financial education resources, and other services to support the many demands on a military family. MBA has over 15,000 spouse-members who have taken important steps with MBA. Learn more at militarybenefit.org.