Thursday, April 12, 2012

Superfoods You Can Easily Grow at Home By The Green Man


Superfoods You Can Easily Grow at Home

By The Green Man
The Vancouver Sun,  Vancouver, Canada

We are all looking for that dietary edge, foods that are intensely nutritious and life-extending.

Print and electronic media are absolutely awash with superfoods lists (and The Vancouver Sun is no exception). What I notice perusing those endless lists is that superfoods cost a fortune and most are imported. [Image]

That’s fine if you are Gwyneth Paltrow and you have time to develop your Mediterranean-style menus with your pal Mario Batali. They’re rich, I’m not.

So in defence of your health and your wallet, here is my list of superfoods that literally grow from the ground should you take the time to plant a few seeds. These are veggies that are dead easy to grow and thrive in our climate, so much so that many will provide you with food year-round.

You won’t need expensive nursery seedlings or special training, just seeds. These plants are virtually foolproof.

When you looking for the healthiest vegetables, look for vibrant colours that are indicators of the greatest nutritional content. Deep greens, reds and oranges scream nutrients.

Parsley — A source of vitamin C, iodine, iron and phytochemicals, parsley grown as a vegetable is great as a principal ingredient in salads such as tabbouleh, to make the superfood sauces such as salsa verde and chimichurri, and sprinkled on virtually everything you eat. Italian flat leaf parsley will grow 12 months of the year if you are close to the ocean, maybe nine months of the year inland. To use parsley as a vegetable, you will need a lot. Sow about 30 seeds and then at least 10 more each month. Be patient; parsley takes about a month to sprout.

Swiss Chard — Vitamins A, C and K along with a dollop of fibre and minerals are all along for the ride when chard is on the menu. I like the so-called Rainbow variety that comes up yellow, white, green and magenta. Planted in spring, chard will produce colourful stalks and green leaves for 12 months. Chard requires little to no care aside from watering.

Tomatoes — These brightly coloured fruits contain vitamin C, potassium, phytosterols, beta-carotene and lycopene. Garden tomatoes are challenging to grow so I suggest that you cheat. Grab a $4 cherry tomato plant from the nursery, throw it in a pot and put it someplace sheltered and warm. Throw a handful on your salad every day.

Spinach — Dark green, leafy spinach will grow quite happily through the rainiest summer and produce right through to December. Spinach has every mineral you can name plus a few you can’t. It’s also rich in iron and calcium, so if you don’t eat a lot of dairy and red meat, make sure you eat spinach. A bucket full of spinach leaves cooks down to about two cups, so don’t be shy with the seeds. A row of three to six metres (10 to 20 feet) wouldn’t be too much.

Collard — If you haven’t eaten collards, you are missing out. This is our family favourite vegetable (simmered with onion and cayenne or a pork hock) and it produces prodigiously through the summer and fall, then just hangs out all winter waiting for the first warmth of spring to produce some more. Pick the larger leaves from the bottom and the plant will just keep on going. Collard is much easier to grow and attracts fewer bugs and slugs than its cousin the cabbage, but it delivers the same nutritional punch.

Beets — Following the bright-colours-equal-nutrient-impact rule, beets are a friend indeed. Phytonutrients, carotenoids and antioxidant pigments such as betanin abound in beets. Baby beet tops are great in salad, while mature leaves are good pot greens. The roots are sweet and earthy, boiled, baked and pickled. Beets grow in any soil under all conditions. Sow about 10 seeds a month from May 1 to Aug. 1 and you’ll have either tops or bottoms for at least seven months of the year.

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