Mother Earth Living

Garden Hard, Eat Hearty: Burn Calories While Gardening

Your herb garden is a veritable health club where you can burn calories and have something tangible to show for it.
By Katherine Kane and Janet Dob
June/July 1995
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Mint Shrimp is as pert and pretty as a summer dinner gets. Pair it with dressed-up green beans.
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Healthful Recipes:

• Potato and Garlic Vichyssoise 
• White Cheddar and Sage Popovers 
• White Bean, Tomato, and Herb Salad 
• Summer Mint Shrimp 
• Island Chicken 
• Grapefruit and Basil Sorbet 

Like many people, we find it hard to eat sparingly. When we reached thirty-five, we couldn’t help but put on pounds—and forty was worse. With our love of cooking and all the exciting developments in the culinary world in the past decade or so, we had no desire to diet. We wanted to be able to eat chèvre soufflés with garlic and sun-dried tomatoes, curries with coconut milk and Thai basil, gingerroot cheesecake, and chocolate. We found that running three to four miles (thirty minutes) every day enables us to eat what we like and still stay fit; an hour of serious gardening every day can have the same effect.

Preparing a new bed, turning a compost pile, hoeing, weeding, and harvesting are active and aerobic ways to burn calories. This is no news to gardeners—you know you’re getting a workout—but when you combine the benefits of exercise with the pleasure of gardening and the joys of harvest, you can celebrate without guilt.

The recipes that follow are indulgences for doers: dishes for people who love food, who don’t deny themselves, but who don’t fool themselves into thinking they can eat all they want without paying a price. If you spend two hours digging a new bed, which can consume7 1/2 to 9 1/2 calories per minute, you’ve earned a serving of Island Chicken over white rice, with a beer on the side. Spend another hour weeding the herb bed, at 3 1/2 to 5 1/2 calories per minute, and choose either a White Cheddar and Sage Popover or a serving of White Bean, Tomato, and Herb Salad. Hoeing can burn up 5 to 7 calories per minute, roughly the equivalent of aerobics, so after an hour’s worth, cool off with Grapefruit and Basil Sorbet, pop a chocolate, and call it even. Dig a wheelbarrow load of compost into the herb bed, then sit down to dinner with a clear conscience.


Katherine Kane is a writer and poet who lives on a farm in central Virginia with her husband and two sons. Janet Dob is the president of Agnes’ Very Very, a gourmet bagel business in Loveland, Colorado. Katherine and Janet are working together on a cookbook, from which these recipes were drawn.








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