Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein author of The Dirt Cure: Growing Healthy Kids with Food Straight from Soil.
Board certified in adult and child neurology as well as pediatrics, Dr. Maya has a medical degree from Albert Einstein College of Medicine. She completed the University of Arizona’s Fellowship in Integrative Medicine, and now serves on their faculty. She lectures on children’s health, education and the importance of time in nature, botanical medicine, biodiversity, and the relationship between health and the natural world. Dr. Maya has testified on topics including fracking, safe products for children, and the impact of chemical exposures on children’s health. She also founded the Terrain Institute, where she teaches and mentors parents, educators, healers and health care providers about Terrain Medicine™. Dr. Shetreat-Klein practices, teaches and lives with her family in New York City, where she grows organic fruit and vegetables and keeps 8 chickens on her urban farm.
Are you in NYC? I grew up on Long Island.
I’m in NYC but in a greener part.
I’m excited to introduce my guest Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein who wrote a book called The Dirt Cure: Growing Healthy Kids with Food Straight from Soil.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am an intergrative pediatric neurologist in NYC. I treat both adults and kids who have chronic health issues. A lot of the time it means treating them for physical and looking at emotional and spiritual things too. That brought me on a journey to plants and nature can be are really important part of our health and our healing.
- That brought me to
- growing food
- learning about soil
- healthy soil
- how the earth’s healthy biome is connected
amazing connection to make
really very transformative for our patients.
I think I was telling you in the prechat, I am reading it over my summer vacation. It is so full of information. I am really interested in how much our kids sit and the lack of movement and then also I guess there’s this new movement for a program called breakfast after the bell so the kids are eating breakfast, my kids ate in my classroom in this year. Got me to introduce composting, we tried a worm bin, and I also ran the garden club this year with another teacher. So many things I’m pre-chat about and I love the way it’s full of real science an a lot of my guests talk about needing real science to back it up! And you’re such an amazing doctor I look at your credentials etc and feel totally humbled!
Tell me about your first gardening experience?
My first experience in my life, was when I was a child. I didn’t like tomatoes. My mother wanted me to like tomatoes. She thought if we together grew a garden and our own tomatoes, I couldn’t help but love fresh tomatoes.
Very traditional, very conventional. We tilled part of the backyard, planted the tomatoes and put the fertilizer in and planted other things too.
I was about 6-7 year old, maybe somewhere around there. We did the whole garden thing, we got the tomatoes and my mother cut them up and served them to me.
I said, “I like tomatoes, just not today!”
I did love everything from the garden. It took me until I spent a summer in Italy eating the tomatoes in the mediterranean till I loved tomatoes
But I loved passionate with the gardening experience
connected to the plants
most years until I was in high school
very productive gardens.
When I was a kid, I loved anything with cooked tomatoes but I wouldn’t eat a raw tomato for anything.
- They’re mushy
- The texture
I like the smell of them
There’s nothing like the smell of a fresh tomato
smell a tomato plant
as a kid I was so sensitive to the texture, that soft mushy texture. I was having these particular beefsteak heirloom There’s and I realized they could be firm and not mushy and gushy. Then I could enjoy them.
I talk a lot in the dirt cure. I always tell people it can take up to 30 tries with a new food for a kid to start to like it.
Most people give up after one, 2, 3, five tries, up to 30 tries
just because they might
keep trying in different ways of the same ways
Just sort of getting used to it and feeling more comfortable whatever the taste texture might be.
I went to a workshop at a training after school got out. It was geared towards to pre-k but most teachers were older. They talked a lot about exposure doesn’t mean tasting it and they were sensitive about wasting food but they talked about different things. As an educator we talk about reading some kids have to hear something 700 times so 30 doesn’t sound like much at all!
- this is sort of a way
- that I talk about connecting with plant
- the only way you can have healing is to consume them
- getting the nutrition
Some examples giving flowers to people
- when someone’s happy
- they’re celebrating
- sad lost someone they love
might gives flowers to them and that really transforms how they feel!
We know when we give flowers these are very accessible ways we change how we feel through plants. Lots of ways kids can do that
- growing things
- enjoying them with art
- climbing a tree
These are all ways we are gaining benefit from plants natural world! Doesn’t have to be consuming the plant to have the benefit.
- that is a way
- important way
- starting with step one everything else will follow!
I LOVE THAT!
How did you learn how to garden organically?
Actually I started to learn once I was a Dr. and a mother. I started to learn about the issues around pesticides. Both from a scientific and as an intuitive standpoint as a mother I didn’t want to eat food that had potentially toxic chemicals sprayed around it. And I didn’t like what we were doing to insects etc.
community of organisms that live in both our bodies
bacteria that we share and other organisms
live in the soil and around the plants
I didn’t want to impact that.
Grow my own food
I decided I wanted to grow my own food and in NYC that was a challenge in whatever way I could
- try a lot of different methods including inside my apartment
- big aphid attack
tried to grow tomato plants inside
started to grow
green space behind my office
I had to convert into a healthy gardening space
- soil was dust
- not taken care of in any way
- huge vines growing
- unearth lack of care
- lack of a nice community in that space in a long time
- building the soil
- permaculture methods
- growing thing
in the beginnings it was so interesting
there were plants growing there
I remember specifically there were these beautiful vines growing every where
- so verdant
I started to see them wilt and it turned out I had squash bores which was very distressing and of course the first thing I wanted to do is kill off those bores because they were killing my plants but when I looked online everything talked about injecting things into the plant.
My instinct is yes I’m killing those off they’re ruining my plants!
the whole point was to be healthier!
I said what can I do?
- more research
- go in cut the stem
- fish out the bore
- it’s blocking the stem
- went near the roots
- yanked out the little squash bores
- covered the area with soil so it could heal and reroot
Ultimately I saved most of those plants without using any pesticides!
It was such a good lesson because initially we’re at war, I don’t want anything to kill off my plants!
Have to remember we’re all in relationship together.
yeah I don’t want those bores to kill my squash plants but I’m not gonna take this slash and burn approach
That just cemented my commitment to working in natural ways to the plants to have them be as healthy as possible.
sometimes I lose plants because I’m not gonna use chemicals.
I’ve had a few guests talk about sacrificing one plant, if all the aphids are on one plant. I LOVE THAT ADVICE!
Do you want to talk more about diet and healthy food in your book? One of the big things I picked up and other people have suggested to me, and other people have mentioned, was if your craving sweets, making herbal tea. Allergies and diet…
When it comes to sweets there’s a lot of ways to transform. We’re in a sugar obsessed food culture right now.
think about things like candy or sweets
- look at something like yogurt
- some yogurts have as much sugar as a can of soda
- there’s a lot of hidden places
- when you look at the grams of sugar…
Lots of places we’re getting hidden sugar like
- tomato sauce
corporations looking at
scans of the brain
what areas light up our pleasure centers
the most active
that means a lot of sugar and salt
a lot of processed foods are filled with sugar
a whole sort of a need, because sugar is very inflammatory in the body.
- auto immune
those things will potentially worsen with a lot of sweet and sugar
migraines away from sugar can help with
- chronic pain
- autoimmune conditions
- clear thinking
recommend in terms of cutting
getting rid of processed sugar
if I am having something sweet I always make sure it’s nutrient dense
- maybe syrup
- date sugar
- blackstrap molasses
these foods are nutrient dense and have antioxidant properties.
giving back at the same time
recommend when it comes to sweets
- cinnammon with it
- stableizes blood sugar levels
lots of sweet thing include cinnamon in the recipe becasue they taste good together but it so happens cinnamon is very good for keeping blood sugar levels more stable.
people think wow, I would hate that
coffee is actually a bitter tonic
a lot of people don’t want to have sweet desert without coffee…
it balances the flavors
bitter tonics like coffee
- hot chocolate
- that’s a really good dark chocolate that’s not overly sweetened
- orange peel or lemon peel
- stabilize blood sugar
- insulin levels
stabolize always be thinking about the quality of the sweet
- eating it in moderation
- making sure it’s from a good natural source
- pairing it with something bitter or like cinnamon or orange peel to stablize blood levels.
I saw a nutritionist and she suggested putting molasses in my coffee. My husband makes these oatmeal cookies and in a lot of ways they’re more nutritious then processed cereal. Another one I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around is putting butter on my food, healthy fats because I am that generation that I haven’t put butter on my food since I was a teen and it’s hard to change that but I talked to Sally Fallon from the Weston A Price foundation and she said that it actually helps get the minerals out of the vegetables.
Fat is one of the most important
eating good nutrient dense healthy fats
not processed fats
helps with satitety
people think if you eat fat you’ll get fat but it will make you less hungry
ultimately eat less
- stabilize your blood sugar levels
- stabilize your appetite
- really important for the brain
our brain is made up of 70% of fat
the cell membrane of each neuron
important of keeping your brain healthy
there are as many as 200 different fatty acids
a lot of different diverse fats
always want to have them be as nutrient dense
if the animal was raised outdoors on pasture there’s natural vitamin D
you get vitamin d in your milk
- meat if your
- egg yolks
- fat soluble vitamin
- natural d
- either eggs or milk or so on
- healthy fats
- omega 3s
- the essential fatty acids
cholestoral oils very helathy
ultimately processed food if it says low fat it probably means there’s more sugar
our brains don’t like that big burst of sugar becasue it causes inflamation
what our brains and our bodies do like is healthy fats
- grass fed butter
- pasture eggs
If people drink whole milk they can tolerate it
cream lined milk
fats can be delicate
cream lined more likely to be fat in the best and healthiest way for us
pasteurized I talk about that in my book
a little bit processed
way better then the one %
all of these different fats
- coconut oil
- really important for our brains and bodies
Ultimately wE end up healthier not the other way around.
Since I have my podcast. The kids drink 2% milk every day. I think is this the healthiest thing for kids in schools. Do you work with kids in schools?
I don’t work directly with them but part of the reason I wrote the book is because a lot of people are having a hard time finding the science. What I did with my book was I wanted it to be really accessible so any person could read it!
10-11 year olds who are my patients who have emailed me this is their favorite book
which is so sweet!
Little kids listened to the book on tape with their moms. That’s great and really adorable
at the same time I included well over the seven hundred scientific references in the back of the book and almost in the form of links to scientific abstract.
If they wanted to give it to their doctor or school board
or questioning mother-in-law or spouse!
There’s a tremendous amount of science
frustrating as a physician
It’s not a fad
nutrient dense food from the soil
creatures involved in the process of us getting our food
organic just a fad
anything along those lines
not a fad
Nutrient Dense Food
eating nutrient dense food from healthy soil and not putting chemicals
living creatures and organisms
process of us getting our food
- sacrifice our crops
- some of my crop is gonna go to my bugs
- they’re not our enemies
I really do think so
we’re learning that about bacteria
- believed all bacteria was bad
- sterile was good
- turns out
germs or bacteria now calling microbes
beneficial to us
things we thought were bad we actually need
Look at weeds
people poisoned dandelions to get rid of red clover
nutrient dense medicinal foods – dandelions
I harvest these foods!
I have dandelions growing everywhere and I’m so happy about it!
I want my lawn to look like a meadow!
I use those things
and making herbal tonics from those things
Awesome! And you’re doing this in NYC! It shows listeners you can do this in an urban area! Maybe at least contribute to a community garden.
People say all the time “I’m in the city,”
Grow your own herbs
Find a sunny window and grow your own herbs
Grow a pot of something!
grow a plant indoors
finding a community garden
family garden people can have their own little plot
get your hands dirty there
lots of different ways
- connect with the earth
- volunteering for a park!
Or support your farmer’s markets! I wanted to ask you about you were digging in the backyard and get the bugs out without killing the plant.
I didn’t dig the roots up.
I found in the stem, slit the stem, found where the bore was, fished the bore out with my knife
splitting the stem didn’t that kill the plant
no you cover it with soil and it basically heals that way.
I thought that was so fascinating.
I read it and other people had done it. It didn’t work for every plant but for many of them
Now we’re gonna take a break and hear from our sponsors before we get to the root of things!
Let’s Get to the Root of Things
Which activity is your least favorite activity to do in the garden?
My garden right now, we have a lot of porcelain berry vine which is kind of invasive… I think there’s a reason that an invasive comes to a particular area
deficiency in the soil
it’s also a really aggressive vine that chokes out the plants. I do have to kind of pull it again and again. If I go away, I tend to have to travel a lot for work!
if I’m gone, I’ll come back and it will choke off the plants but it’s also meditative to be protective and be pulling that vine back where I’m growing but it does feel incredibly meditative… even if it’s not my favorite thing to do.
What is your favorite activity to do in the garden.
I idk if I’d say it’s an activity
that gives me the most joy when perennials come back
it’s such a miracle!
Everything’s sort of dead
- early spring
nothing looks like it’s gonna come back again and all of a sudden
- ferns are coming back
- strawberries are coming back!
It’s sort of how to describe but it’s like seeing a friend I haven’t seen in a long time and it’s like they’re showing up again!
And a lot of times they multiply. I LOVE THAT Too! Herbs are my favorite things to plant and they’re also the first things that come up alike the chives in the spring! I’m so curious how you have chickens in this urban neighborhood?
NYC first of all
I wanted to have my own eggs from chickens raised in the best way possible! I wanted it to be me to make it happen!
I built it
raising the chicks in my apartment was very comical in its way!
I checked out the laws in NYC
it turns out you can have as many hens as you want
as long as you have no roosters
but we had a rooster mishap
one of the chicks turned out to be a rooster
we found out when it started crowing!
honeysuckle turned out to be a rooster and it was not so easy to home Honeysuckle
but I promised my daughter none would be eaten so we did find him a home eventually!
I want to hear about your chicks because we got 4 chicks and NONE of them made it. I was like why don’t we put them out in the chicken house, and when mike finlally put them out I want to know what was so successful.
- had a heat lamp
- we handled them a lot
- so they got used to human touch
- it was gross
- when they were adolescent chicks it wasn’t pleasant
coop wasn’t done yet
- brought them out there
- warmish weather
8 chicks so they could keep each other warm
chicks twice now
so far so far so good
I don’t think it’s that hard but they do take a lot of attention in the beginning
- as chickens they are pretty self sufficient
- have to make sure they have food and water
- We do deep composting
- put down wood chips every week
- once a year twice a year we shovel it all out and compost it.
chickens are fine with that
One of the biggest challenges is of course
- hawk got one of our chickens
most of the time like the chickens are pretty self-sufficient
Weve been able to go away for a week and have someone come and let them out
get out and walk around for a couple of hours
and of course we get fresh eggs
We have one hen, rooster and one duck. We’ve had up to a dozen or so at times, but we got those baby chicks and IDK what happened they didn’t make it. I was curious and especially going in the city.
What is the best gardening advice you have ever received?
There’s a lot of things about gardening that are not so apparent
One of the things I end up doing often is if I buy seedlings end up leaving them for longer then I intend too because obviously I’m also seeing patients
being a mom and doing other things.
What I learned was to
- very gently untangle the roots
- once you take the seedlings out
- so they don’t all knot up together
- basic advice
I didn’t always know that way back when I was new it made a big difference in putting in my seedlings
A favorite tool that you like to use? If you had to move and could only take one tool with you what would it be?
I love my little trowel
I like to have my hands in the garden! I come in coated in dirt
my hands, face, clothes, I come in and I am like breaded
the trowel is right there with me, right up in the soil
I like being close tot he dirt I like having a tool that allows me to maneuver well.
A favorite recipe you like to cook from the garden?
I would say, I love growing greens, I love eating greens, leafy greens. Eating
- swiss chard
- brussel sprouts
- any combo
leaves from broccoli or cauliflower plants, those taste good. I hated to just get one head of broccoli from a whole season but it turned out I could eat the leaves and they tasted so good.
cut them up and salute them with olive oil
Umeboshi plum vinegar
everyone loves that…
including my kids
A favorite internet resource?
There’s an APP I found recently!
to identify plants that I didn’t know
I love to forage
I love to look for plants that might be edible or I could use for different things.
app you can actually take a picture there’s an expert on the otherside…
A favorite reading material-book, mag, blog/website etc you can recommend?
Rodale has an amazing book on organic gardening
books about beekeeping
having someone experienced coach you through
support our bee population
knowing what bees love
growing flowers that are good for bees
Elliot Coleman’s 4 season Harvest
I love Eliot Coleman with a permaculture approach.
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There’s a woman who came out with a book she’s like one of the biggest in the organic flower movement and she said her beginning was like what you said from giving someone a gift of flowers. How much that touched that person’s life, even if people feel like food is too hard, vegetables have a definite learning curve flowers are awesome!
Do u have an inspiration tip or quote to help motivate our listeners to reach into that dirt and start their own garden?
I think the biggest thing I would say, is knowing all the different ways that gardening feeds us. It doesn’t just feed us with food
- connected to nature something that has been looked at in science
makes people feel happier and calmer
emotionally feel better being around plants
appreciating their beauty and scents
all of that…
being exposed to organisms bacteria
actually connecting to the earth helps our bodies and brains in alot of different ways, I go into it in a lot of depth in the dirt cure.
Want to tell listeners how do we connect with you? Do you do online consulting?
I do advise patients from all over the world
The best way to get in touch with me is to go to my website
get on my newsletter
- newsletter updates
- connect with me if you want to be a patient
- Is there a project that you’re gonna take on?
- Is there something you want to know?
- What kind of guests have you enjoyed the most? Who would you like to hear more of?
- Is there a topic you want to learn more about, like raising honey bees, or planting perennials, or what kind of annual seeds to look for, or planting vegetables or herbs?
- If you have any questions?
- What guests have you liked and what would you like to hear more of?
- If there is anything I can find out?
This weekend I went to the most amazing Podcasting Workshop and was so encouraged and kind of realized I have a lot more imposter syndrome going on then I thought and so I am ready to go full on with my Organic Gardener Podcast Facebook group so please join me and other listeners. You can post pictures, ask questions, share your gardening journey with us and I am committed to posting more of our journey as well! So PLEASE come find me on Facebook at the Organic Gardener Podcast Facebook Group! Joe the Mason! Is already there one of the Gardening Cross-fit Hall of Famers! I have to get that post done and we’d love to chat with you there as well! If you haven’t listened to his episode it’s #73 and he has tons of great fresh knowledge to share!
Thank you for listening!!!
I just can’t tell you how much I appreciate you listening! It’s been so wonderful to share all these great stories and all of these amazing guests and expand all of our knowledge. I know I have learned a ton and am very inspired.
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