191. The Dirt Cure: Growing Healthy Kids with Food Straight from Soil | Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein

The Dirt Cure: Growing Healthy Kids with Food Straight from Soil | Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein

Maya Shetreat-Klein, MD

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.

The Dirt Cure: Growing Healthy Kids with Food Straight from SoilI’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

the leaves

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. 

20 tries for a child to taste

Most people give up after one, 2, 3,  five tries, up to 30 tries

always remember

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.

MBI garden workshop garden plot sandwichMBI garden workshopMBI garden plot sandwiches

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

Maya Shetreat-KleinBuyingPlants

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
  • composting
  • 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!


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.

micro biome

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 Soil

  • 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

  • gorgeous
  • 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

  • bread
  • 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
  • adhd
  • migraines

those things will potentially worsen with a lot of sweet and sugar

migraines away from sugar can help with

  • energy
  • 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

could be

  • fruit
  • honey
  • 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.

including bitters

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

Code Words for MSG

  • 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. 

Healthy Fats

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

getting sunshine

you get vitamin d in your milk

  • butter
  • 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

unprocessed cholestoral

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
  • eggs
  • pasture eggs
  • milk

If people drink whole milk they can tolerate it

whole milk

cream lined milk

fats can be delicate


cream lined more likely to be fat in the best and healthiest way for us

whole milk

pasteurized I talk about that in my book


a little bit processed

way better then the one %

all of these different fats

  • coconut oil
  • avacado
  • 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?

The Dirt Cure: Growing Healthy Kids with Food Straight from Soil

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.

Documented Science

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

science based

@DrMayaSK dircure.com

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

Dr Maya Violet harvest

I’m harvesting

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

  • basil
  • rosemary
  • mint

very resilient!

Grow a pot of something!

grow a plant indoors

finding a community garden

botanical 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!

simply josepine (1)

Geranium Red Clay Soap Simply Josephine LavenderOatmeal LemonEucalyptos LemonGrassCornmeal

Audio Book from Audible.com



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

invader coming

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.

It’s funny

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

  • winter
  • early spring

nothing looks like it’s gonna come back again and all of a sudden

  • ferns are coming back
  • chamomile
  • echinacea
  • 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?

Urban chickens

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

female chicks

rooster mishap

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


that’s actually

  • hawk got one of our chickens
  • dog

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

enclosed run

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
  • obvious

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
  • kale
  • coollards
  • 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

fresh garlic

Umeboshi plum vinegar


everyone loves that…

including my kids

A favorite internet resource?

do love

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.

Plantifier App


app you can actually take a picture there’s an expert on the otherside…


You might be interested there’s a Facebook group that has an Insect Identifyer!

A favorite reading material-book, mag, blog/website etc you can recommend?

The Dirt Cure: Growing Healthy Kids with Food Straight from Soil

The Dirt Cure: Growing Healthy Kids with Food Straight from Soil.

Rodale's Ultimate Encyclopedia Organic Gardening Book

Rodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening

Rodale has an amazing book on organic gardening



The Song of Increase by Jacqueline Freeman

books about beekeeping

having someone experienced coach you through

support our bee population

knowing what bees love

growing flowers that are good for bees



The New Organic Gardener by Eliot Coleman

4SeasonHarvest Elliot Coleman’s 4 season Harvest

I love Eliot Coleman with a permaculture approach.


The Organic Gardener Podcast is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com

Audio Book from Audible.com


Cut Flower Garden

Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden: Grow, Harvest, and Arrange Stunning Seasonal Blooms

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

  • emotionally
  • 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


  • resources
  • newsletter updates
  • connect with me if you want to be a patient

The Dirt Cure: Growing Healthy Kids with Food Straight from Soil

The Dirt Cure: Growing Healthy Kids with Food Straight from Soil.

Sunrise in the Organic Mini-Farm Garden
Jackie Marie Beyer  I would also like to invite you to come join my Facebook Group!  And speaking of that, I am just wondering what you’re up to this spring!
 Questions about Pollinator Plants


  • 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?

Organic Gardener Podcast Facebook Group

Organic Gardener Podcast Facebook Group!

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.

Just looking forward to a great spring and speaking of Spring!



Come join the Facebook Group or  you can always contact me at our our website!
So I am just super excited to hear from you, If there is anything you would like to learn or we can help you with or just say hi!
Here’s the Link to the listener survey if you want to fill it in I’d sure appreciate it!
Have a great day and


The Dirt Cure: Growing Healthy Kids with Food Straight from SoilThe Dirt Cure: Growing Healthy Kids with Food Straight from Soil.

Don’t forget to leave a review for Dr. Maya’s amazing book and get one for your local library or school board!

The Organic Gardener Podcast is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com

If you like what you heard on the Organic Gardener Podcast we’d love it if you’d give us review and hopefully a 5 star rating on iTunes so other gardeners can find us and listen to. Just click on the link here.

About the author, Jackie Marie

I'm an artist and educator. I live at the "Organic Oasis" with my husband Mike where we practice earth friendly techniques in our garden nestled in the mountains of Montana.

Leave a Comment