Shereen grew up in the suburbs of Johannesburg, where raw green leaves were never on the menu.
“Luckily there were Portuguese Greengrocers in the area, so we ate lots of fruit and fresh veg – but everything was well cooked.” Nowadays, she cannot imagine life without plenty of green food, “I wouldn’t survive!” she laughs.
Shereen, and her husband Paul, are the owners of Dovehouse Farm Organics and have inspired dozens of Midlands residents to view food as medicine (or poison, depending on what you are eating). Mornings in their household start with a smoothie that makes the most of freshly picked greens and seasonal fruit. “Taur drinks his in the car on the way to school, Keira sips one litre all through the day and I take a jar with me to the shop or when I am doing deliveries in town.” Shereen shudders at the thought of having to buy some awful processed snack if she got hungry. A vast improvement from the box cereals she consumed for breakfast as a kid.
In her early 20’s, Shereen escaped the toxic urban environment, headed to KZN, became vegetarian and started to learn about permaculture. “I met such amazing people who introduced me to a whole new way of thinking about what we eat. The more I learned the more I wanted to know.” She studied natural healing and nutrition and from Paul absorbed a passion for healthy soil and seasonal food. Together they took over Dovehouse Farm in Karkloof in 2000 and opened the shop in 2004. When their children were born, she was determined that they would not need doctors and hospitals as she had – to deal with adenoids, tonsillitis, appendix, allergies and depression. “My kids understand why we eat this way, although they would be very happy with box cereal!”
Shereen adores working in the shop, interacting with customers and helping them find the right food medicine for their ailments. Many health issues these days are related to inflammation and an over acidic system. “Some people are apprehensive, but I do believe that if you changed just one meal a day to a nutrient-dense, enzyme and chlorophyll rich salad or smoothie, it would be life changing. If you get enough wholesome ingredients, you won’t get hungry and have cravings during the day.” Raw food provides the enzymes needed to break down cooked food, so that your body does not have to put effort into making them. Starting a meal with a salad or adding raw greens to your cooked meal, means digestion is improved and you get the most out of your food.
“Nutrient dense food has a high vitamin and mineral content, with relatively low calories. Choosing nutrient dense foods help you pack the most nutrition into your diet while not overdoing the calories. Vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds are nutrient dense foods.”
While Shereen is a treasure trove of nutritional knowledge, she believes that it is simple things that improve lives. “Get some sunshine and walk barefoot every day”, she urges.
Leafy greens, including lettuce and frost hardy favourites – spinach, cabbages and kale – are at their peak in winter. Make the most of them – in substantial salads, fresh smoothies and soothing soups. Pop into the shop for a bag of mixed greens and try out her favourite recipe – it could change your life.
Shereen’s Seasonal Smoothie
Basic ratio: 1 cup organic fruit, 1 cup chopped greens, 1 cup filtered water
Chop up organic pineapple and bananas. Add chopped green leaves in season. Right now these are: kale, Swiss chard, Chinese cabbage, rocket, chickweed, ribwort, New Zealand spinach, parsley, radish tops, sow thistle, dandelion, red and green cabbage. 1 tablespoon of organic coconut oil (or other cold pressed oil). Add water and blitz. A stick blender does the job just fine. Add super foods of your choice – hemp powder, maca powder or chia seeds
Decant into a jar with a screw top lid and you have power food ready to go anywhere! The oil is added as it is necessary to help your body absorb the fat-soluble vitamins in the greens. Avocado does this perfectly when they are in season. Once your body becomes less acidic, you will be able to eat more greens easily and you can increase the ratio of greens to fruit.
Eat More Weeds
You probably noticed that some of the greens in Shereen’s Smoothie are considered weeds. Have a look around your garden, you probably have free food in abundance. Weeds are jam packed with nutrients, often far surpassing that of more commonly eaten leafy greens like Swiss Chard and cabbage. Naturally, if you pick and pop into your smoothie or salad within minutes, weeds are even better for you. Learn more about some local edible weeds here: https://plantabundance.wordpress.com/2015/09/10/wild-greens/
If you currently prefer your greens cooked, then try this hearty recipe that makes the most of greens available now – celery, herbs and garlic– and new season dried beans.
Wild Green Soup
500g organic dried beans – soaked and cooked.
2 red or white onions – chopped
1 head of celery – chopped – leaves reserved
1 head garlic – sliced
1 bunch Swiss chard – stalks and leaves chopped
1 bunch each mint, marjoram, flat leaf parsley
2 tins of tomatoes (use fresh in summer, obviously)
Olive oil, salt, pepper
1 bag mixed greens and extra weeds from your garden.
1 fresh chilli
Heat oil, fry onion and celery stalks gently until softened and brown. Add garlic, chard stalks, chilli and continue to cook until garlic becomes golden, then add half the mint, marjoram and parsley and celery leaves. Gently fry to combine herbs, then add chopped tomatoes. Season and simmer for 5 minutes so the tomatoes reduce with the vegetables. Then add the rest of the leaves and the beans. Cook to combine – not very long so as to retain some of the vibrant green colour. Consistency should be very thick. Add more water to thin if you like. Drizzle with olive oil.
Serve with good artisan bread to mop up the juices.