The John Kohler interview by Rita Robinson

You may recognize John Kohler from somewhere in cyberspace. He hosts a ?popular internet show about his front yard in the suburbs of Northern California. “What’s so exciting about a front yard?” you may ask. Well, John’s is edible and his show is called Growing Your Greens. He converted the one-tenth-acre into a lush vegetable garden, complete with raised planter beds and elaborate trellises. He shares his bountiful gardening knowledge in the videos he posts online, throwing in his personal insights on nutrition and wellness gained from 15 years as a raw foodist. In addition to maintaining his gardening website as well as three others, John offers lively lectures on greens and nutrition. We caught up with him ?to talk about his nutritional philosophy?—?and to get some pointers on planting our own edible front-yard.

John Kohler isn’t about being 100% raw, he’s about being 100% healthy. Personally, he says he’s 99.999% raw (you never know if the processed food you buy?—?even those things labeled “raw” in bottles, bags and boxes?—?are 100% what they claim to be). It’s processed, after all, like maple syrup and certain raw soy sauce substitutes, even spirulina powder, John points out. “They are absolutely, no way raw,” he says.

But being 100% healthy doesn’t mean doing “whatever” you rationalize as being healthy, either, he adds. Most people think they’re healthy, and their medical doctors often tell them so, until a crisis occurs, sometimes death-defying as in John’s case (as you’ll find out). Then panic sets in and emergency tactics are irreparably taken.

But crises are really the logical extension of unhealthy habits that have been setting off a fleet of red flags for years?—?signs and symptoms that could be changed well in advance of any tragedy. As John sees it, 100% health means keeping your balance on your way to becoming as close to 99.999% raw as possible.

“The average person tries eating raw for awhile,” he explains, “but can’t do it 100% so most people just cave in. If they can’t keep it at 100%, they ‘fall off the wagon’ and feel like a total failure.” There’s an easier, gentler approach to becoming 100% healthy?—?simply by maintaining a certain percentage of living, uncooked fruits and vegetables and building from there.

John suggests adding more fresh, organic, ripe and, if possible, locally grown fruits and vegetables to your meals. He also recommends growing your own. According to John, it’s the only way to grow…healthier.

Growing your own, says John, is the nirvana of being a raw foodie, the ultimate lifestyle, to which he is a full-on subscriber. Just last year, John covered his average-size front yard in Santa Rosa, Calif., with raised garden beds. Some days, he can even eat 99% raw right out of the dirt. His neighbors don’t seem to mind that he’s out picking his breakfast, lunch and dinner almost everyday; some have even asked for advice.

“When you grow your own food, there’s transference of energy that changes the quality of the food,” John explains. Raw, uncooked fruits and vegetables are high in health-enhancing and energy-producing enzymes, which become impotent when exposed to heat, such as in cooking. Eating sprouts, he adds, like alfalfa, pea, broccoli, radish, sunflower, among a batch of others, provides even more enzymes. Because all of the plant’s energy is directed to the new growth, sprouts are even more power-packed to help digest food and heal unhealthy conditions.

Besides trying to stay 100% raw, another pitfall people run into while improving the quality of their food is the idea of “transitioning,” a term John’s pulled like an irascible weed (the tasty and nutritious dandelion, malva and lambsquarters excluded) out of his vocabulary. “What makes a successful transition is not a transition, it’s a lifestyle change,” he said. “People who are transitioning means they’re always going to be transitioning. It’s better just to do it. Otherwise, you’re setting yourself up for failure.”

John says “just doing it” doesn’t mean denying yourself or taking on more than you can chew, so to speak. “People who are changing to a raw lifestyle need to build on small successes instead of shaming themselves because they can’t get to or keep 100%. Then they say all that guilt-ridden talk, which is detrimental to the psyche and to going raw

To help you with those small successes, John unabashedly wants people to “do what I do” as much as they can. If anybody can get you excited about eating out of your yard, it’s John Kohler. He’s the king of raw food websites, numbering four so far:—?A clearing house of hundreds of recipes (you’ll never leave not hungry here), health articles, books and appliances. The best tidbit on this website is John’s personal coaching sessions, which run $60 for a half-hour packed with practical pointers. Sometimes he even offers a free 15-minute session to get your juices flowing.—

John’s seemingly endless knowledge about gardening and food-prepping on YouTube, from planting a tomato field in his (willing) neighbors’ side-yard to growing edible weeds like lambsquarters (wild spinach) and harvesting radishes the size of cucumbers to make radish pickles.—?An under-construction blog that directs you to a YouTube video blog where John reduces a two-hour presentation here at Hippocrates Health Institute (HHI) into three 10-minute video clips, a cut-and-sliced culmination of 15 years as a raw foodist.—?Everything you need to know about buying the right appliances for your raw foods kitchen.

But John’s not pushing people to “do what I do.” As he says, “I’m not here to try to convince anyone,” adding that that’s a lot more work than maintaining a methodical perfectionist’s view of a vegetable garden. “I’m a nonargumentative type of guy. I preach a more moderate approach than I used to.”

John became shockingly conscious of the importance of health in 1995, way before it was rad to be raw. A few years earlier, he was in the emergency room with such an intense headache that he was seeing blue light and was close to blacking out. The doctors told him he was suffering from meningitis, an inflammation of the brain and spine protective membranes, and that he might not leave the hospital alive. Along with his diagnosis, he was told there was no medicine to “fix it,” even if he had all the money in the world. “I thought, ‘Wow, what good is money when I might not even make it out of the hospital?’”

He realized that putting your health first was the only way to enjoy anything else, especially your body. He also realized that putting health first is the last thing most Westerners do.

“People don’t take the truism ‘Health is our wealth’ to heart,” he says. “People put convenience in front of their health everyday.”

John decided to search out the most optimum way to live and started looking at the quality of food he was eating. “I prefer to put my money in preventive care,” he says now, standing in the middle of his suburban vegetable oasis.

His favorite edible is tree kale or tree collards ( The plant is perennial, never flowers or goes to seed and produces sweet, tender leaves all year round. “Lawns are dumb,” states John. “They’re resource hogs, high maintenance, full of contamination from pesticides and fertilizers and most people have them only because they feel pressure to be like their neighbors.” Growing a wide spectrum that includes greens, beans, marigolds and cherry bomb peppers is much better, he says. “Freshest is bestest.”

Getting the Gardening Bug with John Kohler

Here John’s Top 10 Tips on getting started as a back- or front-yard gardener.

For growing greens info and then some, go to

After watching John’s videos, you’ll be a self-taught expert ready to hoe.

1. Start today. And plant as much as you possibly can. Abundance, says Kohler, is key. “I like to have a lot of food available rather than eating just one leaf off the only plant growing.” Abundance, of course, depends on space. “Start with a pot. You’ll feel accomplished and it will taste better than anything in a grocery store.” Then add on.

2. Build raised garden beds and irrigate with a drip system. You can control the quality of your soil, extend the growing season, spare your back from bending over and save water and time with the drip system. (YouTube search: Spring 2010?— Putting Together A Raised Bed Kit)

3. Half-wine barrels make great compact gardens. Plant them chock full with seasonal veggies. And, they look good in a driveway. Use organic compost and rock dust (for the importance of rock dust, go to Add a trellis on each side and grow tomatoes, peas or cucumbers vertically; saves space and promotes abundance.

4. Match your climate to what grows indigenously and seasonally. Go to a good local garden shop (not a big box store that imports from other climates) or your farmers’ market to buy local plants and get questions answered.

5. Add copper patches to your planter boxes. Cut copper roof flashing (inexpensive) into squares and staple along the top edge of planter. Repels slugs and snails. (YouTube search: Home Garden with John Kohler 032710)

6. Plant variety and have lots of choices. Good for the taste buds and the terrain.

7. Grow as much leafy greens as possible. Kohler’s favorite: dinosaur kale; 50 plants for a family of four in half a raised bed; the other half, lettuce varieties. Pick a little from each plant to sustain the plant’s growing season.

8. Plant easy-to-grow veggies like arugula, radish greens, turnip greens, kale, collards, mint.

9. If a vegetable is cheap to buy, like carrots, buy them rather than grow them. Grow what’s most expensive to buy in the stores, like kale and collards, and heirloom varieties of carrots and tomatoes. Save $$?—?natural or organic seeds are inexpensive; store-bought organic veggies are not.

10. Grow rare plants that are highly nutritious. To learn about these varieties, go to

Just Because it’s Raw Doesn’t Mean it’s Healthy

In his two-hour talk at HHI, John asked his audience to come up with criteria that a food needs to be truly healthy. In addition to being vegan, void of any animal product, they agreed that to pass the test a food must be: • Not heated above 118 degrees (if unsure, pass on it) • Whole and unrefined • Not genetically modified • Fresh and highly vibrant Chemical- and pesticide-free • Enzymatically active, alive • Health-building as opposed to health-compromising • Occuring in nature John suggests coming up with three top criteria of your own and checking them to see if the food you purchase passes the test of being beneficial to your body, inside and out. Watch John’s three 10-minute segments of his HHI talk on YouTube. (Search: Not all Raw Food is Healthy)

Vol 30 Issue 3 Page 18


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