Nutritional Values of Hmong Plants and Herbs

Project Overview

FNC07-694
Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2007: $6,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:

Annual Reports

Commodities

  • Vegetables: greens (leafy)
  • Additional Plants: herbs

Practices

  • Production Systems: organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: general soil management
  • Sustainable Communities: community planning, public participation, community services, social networks

    Summary:

    PROJECT BACKGROUND
    • Number of Acres: For the research we reserved a quarter acre of the five acres of certified organic land. First the cuttings of the herbs were raised inside a greenhouse then transplanted in summer. The herbs were grown in the greenhouse and then after the season ended we transported them back inside the greenhouse, since these herbs survive in tropical weather. Unfortunately with early frost our last year most of the herbs were burnt outside and we were only able to save 10 varieties. With Minnesota weather it is hard to maintain these cuttings. They do not typically form seed (even in tropical climates) and it is not very often that it would start seeding in Minnesota.

    • What Crops: We focused on growing Hmong Herb varieties -- over 20 varieties of herbs used for women for their post-partum diet. We were also interested in transitioning these plant cuttings into organic land and keeping the heirloom varieties handed down from Grandma Pa Lor. We also collected herbs from other elderly people in the Hmong community, documenting and taking notes of what they are used for to compile Plant markers for Hmong herbs in preparation for medicinal usage. In the long run we hope to run antioxidant levels and nutritional values working with Professor Craig Hassel at the University of Minnesota.

    • Types of Cropping system: This was a normal row planting. In Laos, each woman after giving birth would have a small 10 foot by 10 foot plot where they would maintain their traditional herbs plot aside from the vegetable farm. This herb garden was maintained by individual women and it had over twenty varieties each for the chicken herb diet. This was a year round hobby garden for all women. Now in the United States women grow it inside their homes, or with the abundance provided by plants grown in California with their milder weather, buying the plants in a Hmong grocery store makes for easier access. Minnesota weather does not allow us to grow year round herbs.

    • Family Operation: This operation was part of Mhonpaj’s Garden family operation and maintaining family heirloom Hmong vegetables and herbs. We eventually would like to allow volunteers to come out to the farm and volunteer and expand to involve local community members who are interested.

    • Before this grant we were certified organic farmers and we used sustainable practices, for example crop rotation, cover crops, drip irrigation, soil fertility and pest management. We have practiced organic methods for three years and farming for ten plus years.

    PROJECT DESCRIPTION AND RESULTS
    GOALS:
    1. To identify Hmong Post-partum herbs and collect from Hmong elderly, the healing information including symptoms, how to prepare and how to grow each herb.
    2. To educate not only the Hmong community but hospitals, the non-Hmong population, and local community about Hmong postpartum diet and medicinal usage.
    3. To certify organic Hmong herb cuttings in organic soil and greenhouse.
    4. Create Plant markers identifying usage of Hmong herbs and to propose future research for nutritional and antioxidant levels.

    PROCESS
    Collection of Herbs
    We initially started collecting home herbs passed down from Grandma Pa Lor and dry pressed these herbs. The Hmong postpartum diet is a diet that the majority of Hmong women would eat for a month after giving birth, and it would include these twenty varieties of Hmong herbs. We wanted to first preserve the Herb cuttings from Grandma Pa Lor by transitioning the cuttings into organic land and using sustainable methods to keep these varieties certified organic, and by providing a greenhouse for season extension. Unfortunately with Minnesota frost, we were unable to save ten Hmong herb varieties.

    We also collected information from Hmong elderly in the community documenting herbs they grew and what they used them for. This was to understand how to grow and plant these herbs and find out what temperatures these herbs would work best in. Most of these herbs do not have Latin or scientific names so we are also interested in finding these herb varieties. We worked with Barb Delaney a botanist in Minnesota who is well known for identifying flowers and Minnesota herbs. She was able to identify one out of the twenty herbs we presented to her. This was a Chinese tea plant, the difficulty was that these herbs needed to flower for her to really identify which plant family they were from. Therefore after a year, we dry pressed the herbs in a book and she returned the book stating that when the next growing season comes she has to see the actual plant flower to really classify. Unfortunately after the year of planting none of the herbs flowered. In the Hmong culture it is known that none of the herbs have flowers nor do they have seeds. Therefore it is passed down from generation to generation using plant cuttings.

    Identification of Herbs
    At this point we do know that these herbs are from Laos and require a more tropical climate meaning that during the winter season most of these herbs will wither away if inside and not given enough sun and humidity. We test trialed some inside the home with moderate temperatures and inside the greenhouse. Unfortunately we were unable to sustain the greenhouse because it got very expensive to heat in the winter season, so most of the herbs died this last year. The ones that were kept inside the home were able to survive for a time but eventually but withered and the plants were unable to be sustained.

    We have done a great job interviewing a woman I considered a Hmong Master Herbalist. She wanted me to keep her name anonymous and felt very hesistant to share with me. She was only able to let me release the data collected but not her name. She was able to add information on over 20 more herb varieties in addition to the Hmong Post partum diet. These were for treating illnesses. To finish the project in March 2010, she was able to keep some of my varieties of herbs in her greenhouse which was heated, therefore I will be taking photos and making plant markers from her herb greenhouse.

    Professor Craig Hassle who studies traditional Chinese medicine and nutrient testing at the University of Minnesota, recommended that I just collect the herbs and identify them for this initial grant. Testing nutritional values and antioxidant levels can come at a later time. Recommendations are for future testing of antioxidant levels which will look at potential healing from these traditional herbs. But he estimated up to $5000/plant to do a full evaluation. Intitially my intentions were to measure the nutritional value and the antioxidant levels of these herbs. But considering that my budget was only $5,000 for this research, this covered the expense of renting the greenhouse, land rental, heating the greenhouse, publication of materials for workshops in the community, labor to plant, grow, and water and maintain plants along with educational materials and cooking workshops in the community. Therefore our budget was used mainly on maintaining plant growth , transitioning, collecting herbs, making plant markers and educational materials for community members on what the Hmong post partum diet is and also hosting cooking shows in the community for non-Hmong populations including hospitals, Roseville arboretum, Mill City Museum and local events.

    Planting process
    • First we dry pressed the herbs that we had.
    • We then took the cuttings and grew them in the greenhouse.
    • The plants grew in the greenhouse March-May.
    • We then transplanted the plants into organic soil on the quarter acre.
    • Towards the end of the season we took more cuttings and transplanted back into the greenhouse for season extension.

    PEOPLE
    • May Lee was the main farmer who maintained the greenhouse, transplanted and was the expert for maintaining the temperature in greenhouse.

    • Mhonpaj Lee- Involved with educational workshops, developing materials, and compiling data and networking. She compiled plant markers, and gave workshops at a variety of locations including the hospital, museum and community centers. Mhonpaj assisted her mother and family in the process of growing and educating the community about Hmong herbs, foods, cooking and the idea of building community through food. She is now in her second year of running Mhonpaj’s Garden, a CSA farm with the Minnesota Food Association. This year’s major accomplishments for her have included the set up of two greenhouses, receiving a NCR-SARE grant to document Hmong Herbs and their nutritional value, being a part of the Mill City Museum Hmong Culture Day and a cooking sessions she taught at the Roseville Arboretum. Mhonpaj believes, “We are here to teach and learn from each other in the network of farming and non farming communities”.

    • University of Minnesota Extension service- Soil testing on garden plot to look at ground fertility for organic certification.

    • Minnesota Food Association Jena/Aroan-Trained us on pest management, soil fertility, and sustainable methods of growing along with helping with land rental and assisting with maintaining the greenhouse.

    • Dave Washburn- Greenhouse rental and propane rental from Ferrall Gas.

    • Craig Hassel- Ph.D., Associate Professor & Extension Nutritionist Department of Food Science and Nutrition

    • Barb Delaney- Botanist

    • Hmong Master Herbalist/ Farmer- Wants to be anonymous.

    • Hennepin County Medical Center- Lisa Nadeau Registered Dietician for Inpatient and hospital food service

    • Women’s Environmental Institute-Jacquline Zita Organic School Workshop

    RESULTS
    The plant collection was what we achieved. Initially we only thought we would collect twenty herbs; at the end we had about 100 herbs actually collected and documented forty with pictures and herbal remedies.

    For the first year we planted ten of each herb into the quarter acre and used about ten cuttings from each herb. The plants yielded very successfully. So the first year we planted two of each of the herbs into the transplanting ground. Then we returned to taking the rooted plant cuttings and at the end of the season put them inside the greenhouse and inside a home.

    Unfortunately our last year frost came early and because it happened over night we were unable to get to the plants in time so we lost most of our cuttings and were unable to continue cuttings for the following year.

    Our initial intention was also increasing awareness in hospitals and in other populations about what the Hmong post partum diet is. This was the most successful part of the project -- the educational component of our research.

    The first event we hosted was with the Mill City Museum during their Hmong Day. We did a cooking demonstration and we had over 100 people attend the farmers market and attend the cooking show. Along with testing and tasting the herbs, we introduced herbal remedies to the community.

    The second event we held was at a raised-bed community garden at Roseville Arboretum. The site sits on a forty-acre landscaping spot. We had over ten volunteers come in and learn how to transplant and then trellis the steep vine. At the end of the season the volunteers were able to watch the plant grow over time and we created a brochure for the attendees. At the end of the season our small herb garden was grown onsite and then we hosted another cooking show. We had about twenty community members attend the cooking demonstration and opened up conversation for starting community herbal gardens.

    The third event was hosted at Hennepin County Medical Center, they were interested in making a more culturally sensitive environment for Hmong women who become patients -- they wanted to provide the Hmong post partum chicken diet. This was a successful event, and we were able to involve Mayor Rybek to open the herb garden and also provided the hospital with the herb garden. I then went to train the chefs on how to cook the herb diet and now they have it as part of the patient menu. This was a very successful event also.

    We are in the process of taking photos and making professional plant markers to indicate the medicinal usage and the Hmong names and care needed to take care of each herb. So if other people are interested they are able to make these small herb gardens in their backyards.

    DISCUSSION
    I have learn so much about the process of Hmong women going through the diet that is recommended and how to prepare these herbs that are very important to the culture. For example two types of herbs are used to help with morning sickness and are prepared with egg soup.

    These herbs have three main medicinal usages and that is to increase energy, appetite and iron levels. Most of the herbs also were used to treat bruising and also for pain and a mortar and pestal are used to grind up the herbs for these uses. We also learned that these herbs need humid and tropical weather to really be maintained. Minnesota weather when the frost season comes will burn out these plants. In order to maintain the plants in a greenhouse, the temperature should be above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Even inside a house, the plants will wither. Places like California are able to maintain these plants throughout the year. It is costly to buy enough propane gas in a rented greenhouse to try to preserve these plants. The advantage is we are able to have greenhouses but the disadvantage is the cost. Maybe future research can have places in California to maintain and preserve these varieties. I would like other farmers and ranchers in warmer climates to try to transition these cuttings into organic heirloom plantings and take this research to another level with learning the nutritional values and measure antioxidant levels. This will cost more to research in the future. Another area for research opportunities is herbal education and creating more culturally sensitive hospitals and workplace for those who like to educate and bring awareness to others about Hmong herbal remedies.

    PROJECT IMPACTS
    This has impacted the environment by creating more organic matter in the soil and maintaining plants and herbs.

    Also within the community that is unaware of Hmong cultural remedies, we raised awareness for doctors, providers, community members and community centers about what the Hmong postpartum diet consists of.

    We are also identifying varieties that some botanists cannot identify with Latin names and this within itself is a project.

    OUTREACH
    • I have attached all of the outreach activities. We plan on hosting more workshops.
    • We had outreach to the Hmong community to learn and collect herb varieties.
    • We had three events in the community as mentioned above.
    • Below are articles of all the outreach and many more articles.

    [Editor's Note: To see the articles with photos, please see the attached version of the report.]

    The First Certified Organic Hmong Owned CSA Garden

    By Amy Doeun

    Mhonpaj’s mother, May, with relatives and other young gardening friends. (Amy Doeun / HMONG TIMES)

    Mhonpaj of Mhonpaj's Garden has been a farmer for most of her whole life. As Mhonpaj shared with HMONG TIMES she tried to escape it, looking for a more glamorous and air-conditioned job, only to find, "It all comes back to food." Two years ago she and her family launched Mhonpaj's Garden with the help of the Minnesota Food Association. Now she is offering the first certified organic Hmong owned and operated CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).

    Community Supported Agriculture is a model of direct sales that is good for consumers and farmers alike. Farmers get the assurance of customers throughout the growing season, often before they even plant crops. Consumers have more say in the types and varieties of food they consume as well as having access to the freshest and healthiest food possible. Mhonpaj's Garden goes a step further offering her customers certified organic produce.

    Mhonpaj was quick to explain that certified organic is more then just no pesticides, it is about continuously improving the soil through crop rotation and soil inputs like compost. As the fertility of soil increases (without the addition of harsh chemical fertilizers) the nutrition level of the food increases. "I really want to educate them [her customers] on organic foods. I am not a scientist and I don't have research that says there are more pesticides on greens from California." It is very important, however, to know where your food is coming from. As an added service to her customers the farm is available for tours and customers may even choose to work the fields with the family.

    For about $30 a week families who join Mhonpaj's Garden CSA will get a box of fresh, certified organic produce. The family also sells at White Bear Lake Farmers Market. They accept WIC, "Bring food vouchers and get organic vegetables."

    Mhonpaj shared that they have received some negativity from the Hmong community. Mhonpaj says, "Most farmers grow mostly western vegetables and then just a small plot for them. There is very little profit with such high competition. Alternatively we want to focus on education, it's mostly about community building and education model, not profit driven."

    The slogan of Mhonpaj's Garden is "Food, Fitness and Fashion." The food part is a given, but Mhonpaj and her family also feel it is important to look and feel good not only through the highest quality food but also through fitness and drinking water. "Fashion deals with self esteem, and motivation." Mhonpaj's sister is working on this end. "It's an holistic approach, you can't just say you're eating greens so you are OK. We want people to understand that we can be a resource in the Hmong community, learn how to be organic. It starts with a community. There's negativity when a person feels unhealthy. When you look good and feel good you are motivated."

    "There is a balance and a lot of communities forget about it-Exercise. When we have gatherings what do we have? Deep fried foods and pork. We think we are healthy because we eat mostly greens but we need to exercise."

    Slowing down and embracing a slower pace of life is also important. Mhonpaj shared, "Anyone can get started with agriculture. I went to the Moses (Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service) conference last year and met a 14 year old that was running a cattle business."

    If living on a farm is not the answer for you - at least consider supporting a farmer. "I really believe agriculture and CSAs are the answer to our world poverty and hunger." Mhonpaj is taking orders for the 2009 growing season. Customers purchase a "share" of the farm for the year and receive produce from the farm through the growing season. Each family receives enough food to feed their family for the week. Prices for shares vary. For more information contact Mhonpaj at mhonpaj@gmail.com or check out the website at www.mhonpajgarden.biz.

    A way of life: farm family of the year
    By Rick Moore

    Photo by Patrick O'LearyMay Lee's daughter Mhonpaj shows off some of the fresh veggies from her family's farm operation at the Minnesota Food Association.
    At the small parcel of land that they rent near Marine on the St. Croix, May Lee and her family provide food for themselves and the greater community. For the Lee family, it's a way of life. May Lee began farming at the age of 8 in Laos, and continued when her family moved to St. Paul from a Thai refugee camp in 1981.

    The Lee family may not be the first that comes to mind when you picture a typical Minnesota farm family, especially in generations past, and that's symbolic of how the face of agriculture has changed over the years.

    But one thing hasn't changed. In this state, agriculture is still a family affair. "In the state of Minnesota, our agricultural land and our agricultural production system are owned and operated by farm families," says Bev Durgan, dean of University of Minnesota Extension. "I think that's something to get the word out on and also something to be very proud of."

    Durgan and the University are doing just that. Since 1980, the U has annually been naming "Farm Families of the Year" from counties in all corners of the state, and May Lee and her family have been chosen as the 2009 Farm Family of the Year for Ramsey County.
    Durgan says the program looks for farm families rooted in production agriculture and also active in their community. Beyond those common denominators, the family histories are as diverse as Minnesota's landscape. The Bruce and Lynette Wellendorf family, Farm Family of the Year for Big Stone County, tends 2,800 acres of corn and soybeans on a farm that was established in 1912. The Schaper family, the winner from Hennepin County, operates Minnetonka Orchards, a 13-acre spread that has some 3,800 trees including about 825 SweeTango(r) trees-a new apple variety developed by the University of Minnesota.

    And going back three years, Kay and Annette Fernholz were named the Farm Family of the Year for Lac Qui Parle County. Annette and Kay are biological sisters as well as members of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, and theirs is a growing ministry.

    Promoting health and carrying on traditions
    Because access to farmland has been a challenge, May Lee has rented land whenever the opportunity has presented itself. At the Minnesota Food Association, where she has farmed since 2007, she grows a variety of vegetables including tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, peas, and onions. The Lees are the first Hmong farmers to be certified organic in Minnesota.

    May works with her daughter, Mhonpaj, and other children in their family of 10. In addition to their land at the Minnesota Food Association, May also grows traditional herbs at a greenhouse in Mahtomedi. She sells her products at area farmers' markets, through her Mhonpaj's CSA (community-supported agriculture), and through the Minnesota Food Association.

    According to Mhonpaj, winning the Farm Family of the Year award for Ramsey County is nice, but the family's satisfaction comes from successfully running a farm operation each day and from serving their community.

    "It's a way of life. This is how we grew up, and we didn't think our lifestyle should get recognition," she says. "Our recognition that we're still waiting for is to buy land. To buy land that has a house so that we can sustain our lifestyle."

    It's a lifestyle that Mhonpaj, 25, became accustomed to while growing up and even throughout her college years at Gustavus Adolphus in St. Peter. She was a triple major in health education, health fitness, and political science, and also worked a number of jobs to get through school.

    Even now, she finds time to work outside the farm. Mhonpaj is a medical interpreter at Hennepin County Medical Center, acting as a cultural liaison between doctors and Hmong patients. She's also been approved as a Ramsey County master gardener. And she's well aware of the resources available to farmers and others through University of Minnesota Extension. "I stay very well connected to the University of Minnesota," she says.

    Mhonpaj isn't the only one in her family who functions as a cultural liaison. May helps plan cooking shows each year that demonstrate how to prepare the traditional Hmong post-partum diet. And as part of the Mill City Museum's Hmong cultural celebration, May and family show others how to cook Hmong greens.

    As Durgan points out, it's family farms like the Lees that help define the state. "We're very broad and very diverse," she says, "and I think that's what has helped to make Minnesota agriculture strong."

    Mill City Museum Article: http://www.millcityfarmersmarket.org/features/mhonpaj-lee

    Mhonpaj has been farming since her childhood. When her parents arrived in the United States farming was all they knew so they immediately looked for a farming opportunity, becoming pickle farmers and selling their product to a local company. Farming was a family event and everyone pitched in to help. Soon the family also started a small garden farm, growing many traditional Hmong foods for family consumption plus a little extra for area Farmers Markets.
    Mhonpaj believes farming makes you appreciate things. Farming is a form of mediation and a great stress reliever. It is also a time for the entire family to pitch in and work on a project together. But farming isn't without challenges, the biggest of which include insects and weather. In Laos, insects weren't nearly as much of a problem. Mhonpaj's parents have told her that because there was such abundant food for insects in Laos, they didn't need to attack newly planted crops. Weather has also been a challenge, especially when it comes to adapting to the ever-changing climate in the Midwest.

    Mhonpaj has been connected with the Minnesota Food Association for several years. When she learned about the opportunity to begin production farming this year she thought it would be perfect for her and her family. Through the New Immigrant Agriculture Program, Mhonpaj and her family have access to land and a Hmong-speaking Southeast Asian Coordinator who can help them find resources and answer questions. Together they have already worked to resolve a number of issues related to drip irrigation setup, product liability insurance, budgeting information, and more.
    Mhonpaj's Garden, is 1.5 acres on which she is growing grape tomatoes, slicer tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, and green peppers. In addition to selling CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) shares, Mhonpaj and her family are vendors at the North St. Paul Farmers Market and Marketfest in Downtown White Bear. Mhonpaj and her family also sell their produce to Cub Foods, Byerly's and Chipotle through the Big River Foods distribution program. Their next goal is to create a specialty CSA where they can sell Hmong vegetables throughout the summer.
    Besides growing authentic Hmong herbs and vegetables Mhonpaj and her family share their knowledge and culinary heritage through cooking demonstrations and classes. Mhonpaj and her mother May have been featured on the Channel 2 show Almanac showcasing simple tips and recipes for grilling with authentic Hmong herbs and peppers and on Minnesota Public Radio. In the future Mhonpaj hopes to expand Mhonpaj's Garden including creating a recipe book for traditional Hmong Foods and teaching how organic food promotes a healthy lifestyle.
    http://www.hmongtimes.com/main.asp?SectionID=31&SubSectionID=190&ArticleID=1370&TM=63720.39

    Mhonpaj Lee Educates on Hmong Postpartum Herbs

    By Amy Doeun

    Attendees taking samples of traditional Hmong papaya salad.

    Mhonpaj Lee never wanted to be a farmer, though she grew up raising crops with her family. She recalls telling her mother she just wanted to work in an air-conditioned facility. However as she grew and learned more about health and its relationship with food, she decided that this is where her main work should be.

    On Tuesday, August 12th, about 30 people gathered at the Roseville Arboretum for a lecture and cooking demonstration offered by Mhonpaj and her mother May. The two shared a history of Hmong Postpartum herbs and offered a brochure with the Hmong names of the herbs. Mhonpaj said that she hoped to "expose you to a little taste of what we are."

    The herbs had been grown on site in a small garden behind the maintenance building. Mhonpaj and May started the evening gathering herbs and preparing the broth for the chicken herb soup. "Hmong women take a month long chicken diet postpartum," Lee stated adding that they prefer whole chickens, free range chickens. One reason Lee gave was that standard grocery store chickens have a higher fat content and don't allow the women to loose weight as fast.

    The two boiled a broth added chicken and herbs like Pav dev (basil), Nkaj Liab, Ko taw os liab, Eai Xaws, Tshais qau and Pawj Qaib. Lee is hoping to find the scientific names for these herbs. "The U of M only has one text on South East Asian herbs," Lee explained. May added that these herbs should only be picked at certain times.

    After adding the herbs to the broth, the two also prepared a stir-fry of chicken, long beans and watercress. May added, "I will show you how to use a wok." First they marinated the oil with salt and garlic. Mhonpaj added that you could cook with just water or the traditional Hmong way of cooking with pork fat. "We don't use a lot of seasoning with our cooking." Mhonpaj added that there are no really traditional home-style Hmong restaurants in the area, though FoodSmart comes closest. "It seems very easy but yet it is not done."

    Mhonpaj has a hobby farm in Taylor's Falls out of which she operates her business, "Mhonpaj's Garden." She said that their focus is "food, fashion and fitness" and that she hopes to incorporate all these aspects to the whole person. "In the summer we don't buy groceries" but instead eat the produce from their garden.

    She shared concerns about the food supply at her day job at HCMC in Minneapolis. "The shelf life of tomatoes [there] is 2 weeks. My tomatoes are 3-4 days." This shows the massive amounts of preservatives in the food most of us eat.

    After the demonstration, which included pepper sauce, the people gathered were invited to eat and share their impressions and experiences with the food. A garden tour followed where attendees were able to see the herbs in their original form. May shared that none of these herbs seed, they are all transplants and sometimes hard to take care of.

    Mhonpaj hopes to start a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) venture next year focused on Hmong herbs and vegetables. Currently she has 20 groups interested in shares but hopes to get up to 100. For a fee the community would purchase a share of her harvest (which is certified organic) that would be delivered at various sites throughout the cities. Part of the share would include recipe shares. For more information, email mhonpaj@gmail.com.

    News Release
    http://www.hcmc.org/newsroom/pr2.asp?nrID=196
    Contact: Christine Hill: 612-873-5719 07/09/09
    Herbs, peppers grown in Hennepin County Medical Center’s rooftop garden

    A garden may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Hennepin County Medical Center, but the busy downtown Level One Trauma Center is now home for a rooftop organic garden where fresh, locally and organically grown herb and peppers are grown to use in recipes for patients, visitors and staff.
    In 2009 the medical center received funds from the City of Minneapolis Climate Change Grant to create its rooftop organic garden.

    According to Lisa Nadeau, Food Service Operations Manager, “The main purpose was to provide the freshest ingredients possible for our recipes. We also hope to set an example and encourage HCMC staff and even visitors to consider planting similar gardens at home.”

    In March, HCMC signed the Healthy Food in Health Care Pledge, showing the commitment to sustainable food purchasing and practices.

    “Our garden reduces a small amount of rainwater runoff, but we hope to install a rain barrel water system next year to further support our sustainability initiatives,” says Nadeau.

    Hennepin is growing a variety of culinary herbs including cilantro, Thai and Genovese basil, thyme, oregano, chives, curly and flat leaf parsley and others. An exciting addition to the garden is traditional Hmong herbs used in the traditional Hmong post partum meal.

    “In traditional Hmong belief, in the month following giving birth, a mother is supposed to eat steamed white rice and chicken soup with special herbs added to help the body regain its strength and produce ample supply of breast milk for the newborn baby,” explains Lor Lee, Diversity Consultant at Hennepin. “Many medical facilities across the Twin Cities try to accommodate this need by providing white rice, chicken breast, and chicken broth. Though it is seen as a nice gesture by many Hmong people, it is far from the actual post partum meal that is consumed by many Hmong women,” Lee continues. “At Hennepin we hope to be able to provide this type of meal to Hmong women to meet their cultural needs.”

    The traditional Hmong herbs were purchased from Mhonpaj’s Garden, a local Hmong Community supported agriculture center, and were planted as part of the herb garden onsite. The Hmong herbs that are part of the herb garden include, “Suv Ntsim,” a thin, long green herb, “Kaws taw os liab,” an herb with leaves that resemble duck feet, “Nkaj Lia,” an herb red in color, “Ntiv,” an herb with sharp corner leaves, basil, lemon Thai basil, red cinnamon basil, and mint.

    “It’s important to us to be sensitive to the cultural practices of our patients, and to provide them with as much comfort as possible during their hospital stay,” says Nadeau. “And we’re excited about being able to use these fresh ingredients for our recipes. The health of our patients, staff and visitors is why we’re here, and being able to serve the healthiest choices possible fits right in with our mission.”

    Celebrating its 20th year of being Minnesota’s first Level 1 Trauma Center, Hennepin County Medical Center is a comprehensive academic medical center and public teaching hospital with the largest emergency department in the state. In addition to the 469-bed acute care hospital and primary care and specialty clinics located in downtown Minneapolis, Hennepin offers four primary care clinics in Minneapolis and suburban Hennepin County. Hennepin County Medical Center is repeatedly recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of “America’s Best Hospitals.”

    PROGRAM EVALUATION
    I would have liked to have a consultant to help set realistic goals. It was so complicated to find rental space in a greenhouse and then to collect data and create informational resources. For example I did not know how to professionally press the Hmong herbs in the telephone book and it would have been nice to have resources to do data collection. I am very strong in the outreach and educational part of the project and very passionate. But it was hard to set realistic goals for research. When we wanted to control temperature, and record dates to maturity, we needed some kind of template to follow. I had to create a chart but have never done scientific study so it was hard to record data.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.