Growing your own produce in a garden, allotment or window box is the best way to ensure that the fruits and veggies you eat are fresh, organic and pesticide-free. It may sound like a lot of work but it can be easier than you think and your efforts will certainly be rewarded when you harvest your first home-grown crop.
Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five top vegetables and herbs to grow now ready for autumn.
Variable weather means that crops generally need to dig deeper to protect themselves and to grow effectively which is why root vegetables are a great choice. One of the top root veggies from a nutrient perspective is the superfood beetroot.
If it’s energy you’re looking for then having some more beetroot in your diet can really help. Beetroot juice is very popular with athletes and recreational exercisers because it helps the body better sustain endurance activity. Plus, it’s rich in energy-giving iron and folic acid. If you start to sow beetroot seeds now, they should be ready for eating in about 90 days’ time.
ROSEMARY AND THYME
The perfect herb combination, no vegetable garden is complete without some herbs to complement your dishes, and these two can be grown in a pot together.
Rosemary is a delight in both lamb and chicken dishes and is very popular throughout Mediterranean countries: this may be partly due to it being a powerful antioxidant which can protect the body from strong sunlight. Rosemary may also act as a stimulant in both the nervous and circulatory systems and can help to soothe the digestive system, relieving indigestion and flatulence.
Thyme has an amazing aromatic flavour so is widely used in cooking. It’s been traditionally used as a decongestant to soothe coughs and catarrh – a great go-to herb if you’re plagued by autumn infections.
Not quite as deep-rooted as some other vegetables but certainly able to sustain slightly cooler climates, broccoli is another superfood, packed with nutrients. It needs to be sewn pretty soon though so that it doesn’t get damaged by frost slightly later in the year. Other than that, it’s fairly easy to cultivate in your home garden.
Broccoli is rich in vitamin C with a portion providing just over half of the recommended daily amount. However, boiling broccoli does reduce vitamin C quite significantly so it is best steamed or stir-fried. One of the great things about growing your own broccoli is that you can ensure its freshness. The stalks should be crisp and easy to snap; this make them ideal for dipping into some hummus as a tasty snack. Their beautiful dark green colour indicates plenty of beta-carotene, which is converted into immune-boosting vitamin A as the body needs it.
No self-respecting vegetable garden is complete without potatoes! They’re probably one of the easiest vegetables to grow. The only point to be aware of is not leaving them in the ground for too long. Whist it’s tempting to leave them until Christmas time, they’re best harvested in about 11 weeks’ time. And one should certainly not eat potatoes that are green or sprouted as these are poisonous in large amounts but can also cause migraines or tiredness, even in small quantities.
Potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C but this starts to drop as soon as they are lifted from the ground, hence another great reason for eating them straight from the garden. Potatoes can sometimes get a bad press as they’re high in carbohydrates but the main problem is that people often fry them which makes them high in fat. Jacket potatoes are very high on the glycaemic index as they’re very starchy. Roasting tends to use less fat than frying and steaming then mashing potatoes are a great, healthy alternative alongside any meat or chicken dish.
Marrows are traditionally sown during May and June. However, our exceptional summer means soils are warm and if you’re quick you’ll get a crop harvested before the severe weather really sets in.
As marrow is very high in water, its nutritional content is not as good as some vegetables, but it’s great for alkalising the body. The body prefers to be in a slightly alkaline state generally, and many vegetables and fruit help this process along; marrow can certainly do this too.
It doesn’t have too much taste but comes to life when stuffed with other vegetables, sprinkled with cheese and roasted in the oven, or filled with a chili con carne mince; the two opposite flavours complement each other really well.
So maximise your garden and get growing! The nutritional benefits are really worth it, plus the satisfaction you will get from growing your own produce makes eating it all the more pleasurable.
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