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Specialty Crops to Grow for Profit

Interview with Dr. Thomas Cowan’s Garden

We could spend days talking with Dr. Thomas Cowan! He has a tremendous wealth and breadth of information—not only in medical knowledge—but also in the nature, nutrition and life of plants. In this interview, Dr. Cowan elaborates on the silent language and secret life of plants.

Dr. Cowan blends the best of traditional and holistic medicine in his medical practice in San Francisco, and is the kind of doctor we’d love to find locally. Meanwhile, hoping he can start taking on virtual patients.

Several qualities distinguish Dr. Cowan apart from many traditional practitioners. Among these are that he is steeped in nutritional knowledge of plants. Most doctors—for some inexplicable reason—receive less than six months training in nutrition. This makes absolutely no sense when you consider that the vast majority of human disease can be traced to poor nutrition.

Diet is the number one contributor to premature death.

Statistic from The Center for Science in the Public Interest,

Beyond the nutritional make up of what’s for dinner, Dr. Cowan has deeply studied the research of our Paleolithic ancestors as well as the healthiest tribes, clans and ethnic groups people around the world. Exposure to the world’s best research on diet and nutrition combined with the study of our ancestral diets and habits before industrial modernization of mass production and package foods, reveals what we were meant to eat and how.

Dr. Cowan’s discoveries led to what many gardeners are already aware of.

The produce in most grocery stores is only a fraction of what’s available for us to eat from nature.

Dr. Cowan’s journey to remedy this in his own diet has led him from growing all kinds of specialty crops and “exotic vegetables”, to creating his own vegetable powders in order to get enough nutrition every day. In this interview, he talks about how and what our bodies were designed to eat for optimal health and how to get closer to what nature intended even in our busy lives, where we don’t have all day to hunt, wildcraft and food foraging.

We thoroughly enjoyed this interview and hope you will as well.

And… there’s a bonus for the GardensAll audience at the end where you can get Dr. Cowan’s info packed book, How (& Why) to Eat More Vegetables, for free!

If Plants Could Talk…

In this interview you will learn about:

  • Dr. Cowan’s modern Paleolithic journey
  • The silent language and symbology of plants, including:
    • How echinacea tells us what part to use and for what purpose
    • What broccoli is about and for
    • To take cabbage in moderation
  • The three spheres of plants
  • The three spheres of humans
  • How plants are like upside humans
  • What the healthiest people in the world have in common
  • How our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate over 100 different vegetables per year / 15 different per day
  • Why Dr. Cowan created vegetable powders
  • How some modern vegetables have been bred to be almost toxic to humans
  • The most healthy vegetables are perennials, which you can’t find at most grocers
  • Some of the highly nutritious specialty perennial plants to grow, and some of the diseases they prevent are heal are:
    • Ashitaba – angelica keiskei /Tomorrow Leaf – Angelica Family: celery-like in taste,twice as much manganese, magnesium, B6, etc., than kale.
    • Okinawan Spinach – gynura bicolor2)
    • Longevity Spinach – gynura Procumben
    • Tree Collards – brassica oleracea
    • Chinese Yam – dioscorea polystachea (These have become invasive in areas of Appalachia)
    • Sea Kale – crambe Maritima
    • Egyptian walking onion – allium proliferum
    • Miner’s Lettuce – Claytonia perfoliata
    • Wild Ramps – Allium tricoccum
    • Fiddleheads – Various varieties are edible3)
    • Black cumin seed powder

You’ll also learn:

  • Some of the well researched proven health benefits of some of these amazing wild perennial vegetables
  • Why Dr. Cowan doesn’t eat kale raw
  • Some of the beneficial specialty Native American plants to grow, such as:
    • Dandelion
    • Cholla berries from cactus
    • Wild mustard
    • Chaga mushrooms
    • Moringa Leaves
  • Dr. Cowan’s Fourfold path to healing

Facts are out there. These plants prevent and heal disease, and we need more of them in our diets. In fact, 15 different veggies per day… far more than the 3 minimum as outlined by the RDA.

“Perennial vegetables are the vitamin pills of disease prevention.”
Dr. Thomas Cowan

Wild vegetables are lower in carbs and sugars and higher in phytonutrients, that prevent disease.

Dr. Cowan is looking for growers who can supply these plants for the powders they’re making. If you’re already growing any of these, and are interested in selling them, contact to begin the conversation.

If you’re seriously interested in growing one or more of these specialty crops for profit, we further expand on that in the next section.

“You don’t need lots… you need diversity.”
Dr. Thomas Cowan

allium proliferum-Walking-Garlic-amazon
Perennial Egyptian Walking Onion – allium proliferum. Image and plant or bulbs available from Amazon.

“Better than any vitamin pill you could take, these plants are nature’s pharmacy.”
Dr. Thomas Cowan

Growing Specialty Cash Crops for Profit

Many in the GardensAll audience are interested in growing food for profit. For those, we’re including information on growing cash crops of specialty foods.

Dr. Cowan says it’s really hard to find wild, foraged, or grown perennial vegetables, and even more so, to find these already processed into nutrient dense powders.

“There’s a market out there for somebody to grow them.”
Dr. Thomas Cowan

How much can be made on these specialty crops is a bit up in the air because it’s such a new market. But this interesting and innovative company that’s one of Dr. Cowan’s Gardens suppliers might give us an idea.

The name of the company is Mikuni Wild Harvest.4) To give you an idea of how there’s more demand than supply…? It’s not unusual currently, for half of Dr. Cowan’s Garden products to be out of stock, and it’s not unusual for them to sell out an entire inventory the first day back in their store.

As a young company on the leading edge of doing powder supplements as they’re doing it, there are inevitable production issues to resolve as well, but the out-of-stocks will be greatly reduced when there are more growers to supply the demand.

You’ll see a similar issue with some of Mikuni’s supply, and also MarxFoods. As for prices, here’s an example of Mikuni’s prices for wild foraged foods…

Specialty Food Prices

  • Wild Fiddle Heads – $15.95 per pound5)
  • Wild Ramps – $19.95 per pound6)
  • Wild Morel Mushrooms – $44.95 per pound7)
  • Wild Chicken of the Woods Mushrooms – $19.95 per pound8)
  • Stinging Nettles – $67 per 2 pounds9)
  • Miner’s Lettuce – $67 per 2 pounds10),Leafy-Vegetables,Mushrooms,Root-Vegetables,Truffles
  • Wild Onions – $59 / 2 pounds11),Leafy-Vegetables,Mushrooms,Root-Vegetables,Truffles
  • Black Perigold Truffles – $189 / 2 ounces12)
  • Edible Flower sampler – $88 per 200 flowers13)


The USDA Market News report puts the price even higher:
NOTE: always check for current prices.

We’ll be researching these markets more deeply, so stay tuned. If  you’re already selling in any of these markets, feel free to leave comments or send us an email.

Meanwhile, bottom line is that there’s lots of opportunities here for growers to explore and start growing some of these amazing medicinal foods. Many are interested in growing herbs and that’s great, but this is a virtually untapped market as yet, and you may want to be one of the early birds in growing some of these amazing plants for food and medicine.

The Cowan Difference

Several things set Dr. Cowan’s Garden powders and supplements apart from the rest

  1. How they’re grown and dried
  2. How they’re packaged and stored for the maximum longevity without nutrient loss


To find more on Dr. Thomas Cowan’s work, here are his website links:

Podcasts featuring Dr. Cowan:
Ben Greenfield Fitness – How to Eat More Vegetables
Ben Greenfield Fitness – Why Your Heart is Not a Pump
Urban Monk with Pedram Shojai – The Health Bridge – Human Heart, Cosmic Heart

Other Books Mentioned:
Goethe’s Un Die Urpflanze 
Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions

Other Resources Mentioned:
The Weston-Price Foundation – Dr. Cowan serves on this board
Miron jars by VioletteGlas, for preserving foods, herbs, spices and supplements

Now… for your GIFT from Dr. Cowan:  get his super informative eBook here for free:
How (& Why) to Eat More Vegetables,” by Dr. Tom Cowan

And… Dr. Cowan’s fourfold path to healing?

  1. Movement
  2. Food
  3. Medicine
  4. Thinking

This is something we can all apply toward healing and protecting ourselves. In particular, when we start with the premise that our food is our medicine.

Many thanks to Dr. Cowan for taking the time to visit and share his knowledge and expertise. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

If you’re interested in—or already—growing for profit, you’re invited to join a growing community at the Planting for Retirement Facebook group.

And, you can see more articles on growing for profit here.

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