Beverly Grant knows everyone is really busy, so she's all about fast food.
"I can show people how, in 30 seconds, they make a smoothie or a quick saute or a detox salad," she said. "I just show them that fast food isn't what you think — it can be fresh fruit."
An evangelist for healthy eating and a mom with three children ages 15 to 26, Grant started the first farmers market in the historic Five Points neighborhood, called the Mo' Betta Green MarketPlace.
Her mission is built into the name itself.
"The slang part, mo' betta, is about self- improvement, something that's easy and that you can do one step, one bite at a time," she said. "Green is about the lifestyle, sustainability and regeneration."
Since then, she's been asked to bring her farmers market into three other neighborhoods — Park Hill, Highland, and now Stapleton, where Mo' Betta Green MarketPlace started this week.
She partners only with people who share her goals: food literacy, environmental stewardship and social responsibility.
A pioneer in the urban food movement, especially in the neighborhoods called food deserts — places without grocery stores — she educates people about food as medicine and gets involved with local food policy. Her KGNU radio show "On the H.E.A.L. Tip" covers healthy eating and active living.
"Her name was one of the first that came up, someone we needed to talk to about food deserts," said Darcie Ezell, outreach coordinator for the Mental Health Center of Denver, which is building a family wellness center in Dahlia Square in Northeast Park Hill, including an urban farm.
Ezell is now a frequent customer at the Mo' Betta Green farmers markets, where the organic produce comes from places like GrowHaus, the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union and the High Plains Food Co-op. Ezcell also regularly checks the Mo' Betta Greens Facebook page , where Grant posts articles about food and health.
"It's all about food as medicine, and what food does for you," said Ezell. "There's a huge epidemic in this country, especially in her neighborhood , and she's sick of it. She's seeing what it's doing to her friends, family and the community. She's the embodiment of all things good, and I find her amazing."
As a child growing up in North Park Hill, Grant spent a lot of time in the Whittier neighborhood with her maternal grandmother, who had moved there from Oklahoma in the 1950s.
"She turned the whole backyard into a garden for growing food," said Grant. "She provided for a family of ten and had a backyard urban farm before it became the style."
Years later, as a young wife and mother, Grant started learning about vegan diets after the birth of her first child.
"Having my daughter changed my life," she said. "She had a lot food allergies, including dairy and eggs. She couldn't eat any animal products whatsoever. So I had to start reading food labels."
It was 1990, long before stores like Whole Foods came to town.
She started shopping at early versions of health food stores, like FBC in Capitol Hill where a collective of bakers specialized in vegan products — which meant she could finally buy her daughter a birthday cake.
Over the years, she took classes in nutrition, gardening and permaculture. But nearly two decades would pass before she embraced healthy food as her mission, galvanized by the 2008 documentary "Food, Inc." that examined farming and agribusiness.
"That was such a game-changer for me," she said. "I came unglued."
Every time she went to the grocery store, she realized she didn't know the source of most of the food, and so she began building relationships with local farmers to start Mo' Betta Green MarketPlace.
In 2011, she launched the project.
"She's at the forefront of the green movement, and she's doing a lot in the community around healthy eating," said community activist Jeff Fard. "But for her to bring a farmers market into Five Points is really visionary, because many people in our community — if they even approach vegetables — would go to a grocery store."
Eventually, she began selling out of fresh produce, and the farmers market went from bimonthly to weekly, and then spread to other neighborhoods.
Her cooking demonstrations and free tastings are particularly popular.
"She's always giving us something new to try, saying, 'Taste this,' or 'Drink this, it's good for you,' " said Fard.
It's the secret to her success.
"I try to inspire people through tasting," Grant said. "Once they've tasted something and it meets their approval, you achieve that moment when they're ready to listen, especially when they realize it's easy to make and has incredible health benefits."
She gives talks on everything from juicing to how to be a savvy food consumer at places like the Denver Public Library and to the Denver Botanic Gardens.
Recently, she was a big hit with fifth-graders at Hallett Fundamental Academy in Park Hill. She brought each student a lunch sack, explaining that they were healthy snacks — chips, dip and a pickle.
The chips were carrots cut like rippled potato chips, the dip was hummus and the pickle was a cucumber, which she told them was "a raw pickle."
Then she whipped up three different juices, which they loved: pineapple, Brussels sprouts and ginger; orange, ginger and mint; and apple, beet and ginger.
It's no accident that she put ginger in all the juices.
"I try to introduce ginger every chance I get," she said. "It's a natural energy booster, great for immunity, supports digestive health and is a natural antibiotic. It's ridiculous how much benefit it has for us."
Colleen O'Connor: 303-954-1083, [email protected] or twitter.com/coconnordp
Chef: Beverly Grant is a Denver food educator who started Mo' Betta Greens MarketPlace in 2011.
Market: This summer, you'll find Grant on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Charles Cousins Plaza in Sonny Lawson Park, 2401 Welton St. in Five Points; Mondays from 6 to 10 p.m.at Little Man Ice Cream Plaza, 2620 16th St. in Highland; Wednesdays from 5 to 9 p.m. at The Garden, 3435 Albion St. in Park Hill; and Thursdays from 5 to 8 p.m. at Stapleton Conservatory Green in Northfield shopping center (near Macy's).
The Morning KO (Kale-Orange) Juice
This is one of Beverly Grant's favorite juices, rich in nutrients, with a spicy kick of ginger.
4 fresh kale leaves, any variety
3 or 4 oranges
½ inch fresh ginger root
Wash kale leaves and peel oranges, leaving as much pith on oranges as possible. Juice the kale leaves first, followed by fresh ginger root and oranges.
Blue Mango Kale Shake
This easy treat has lots of vitamin C and calcium.
½ cup fresh blueberries
½ cup frozen mango, cubed
4 fresh kale leaves, any variety
1 tablespoon seeds, either hemp, chia or flax
10 ounces almond milk
Wash blueberries and kale leaves. Place all ingredients in a blender and purée at high speed.
Summer Harvest Skillet
Quick sautés make for fast, easy and healthy meals.
3 tablespoons coconut oil, divided
1 cup chopped onion
3 small cloves of garlic
1 cup mushrooms
Red and yellow sweet peppers, ½ cup each
1 cup cooked rice or quinoa
1 bunch of kale, cut into ribbons
2 chicken breasts, cut into cubes
Salt and pepper to taste
Put 2 tablespoons coconut oil in skillet. Add onion, garlic, mushrooms and sweet peppers; sauté for 3 to 5 minutes. Add grain, combine thoroughly. Sauté for another 2 minutes.
Add kale ribbons last. Continue to sauté until greens have wilted, about 2 minutes.
Put mixture in a bowl and keep warm. In separate skillet, heat remaining 1 tablespoon of coconut oil, add cubed chicken, salt and pepper and sauté until done, about 12 minutes.
Combine both sautés into one bowl and serve.
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