Whilst we’re all rather restricted in what we can and can’t do right now. But for those with vegetable patches, pots or allotments, it’s the perfect time to be growing your vegetables. For those of you without access to outside space, a balcony or even just a windowsill can give you the opportunity to grow some delicious and health-giving herbs.
Growing your own produce has big advantages over shop-bought as the produce is all pesticide-free and additive-free. Importantly, time from harvest to plate can be swift, helping to keep valuable nutrients intact, and helping the planet at the same time.
This National Gardening Week, Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer suggests a few things to start cultivating right now!
An all-round superfood, broccoli certainly lives up to its acclaim. It is very high in antioxidants provided by its vitamin, mineral and phytonutrient content. Plus, it’s great for the heart (it helps reduce cholesterol) and helps to protect the immune system. It can help to keep the digestive system moving smoothly and supports the liver’s ability to detoxify. Broccoli is also packed with lutein and zeaxanthin which are great for healthy eyes and eyesight.
In terms of nutrient content, broccoli is rich in immune-boosting vitamin C, bone-loving vitamin K and energy-boosting folate. There are so many different varieties of broccoli that you can sow right now; the purple sprouting type may have the slight edge in terms of antioxidants, which is down to its beautiful colour.
A real mainstay vegetable, no garden should be without carrots. They are best known for their ability to help you see in the dark. This is because they are loaded with beta-carotene, which is turned into vitamin A in the body, and which is essential for eyesight.
Why not grow a rainbow variety, which means you’ll have a combination of orange, purple and white-coloured carrots? They will all have slightly different tastes and the varied colours will deliver wonderful healthy phytonutrients.
If you plant some beetroot seeds now, you should have some wonderful beetroot globes available for the traditional summer salad season. However, beetroot is not only great in salads but is delicious roasted, pickled or cooked, and used in juices and smoothies.
Another superfood, beetroot is a great liver cleanser. Packed full of antioxidants, it also supports energy and is a good source of iron. Indeed, this is probably one of the reasons it has traditionally been known as a tonic and given to people whilst convalescing. Needless to say, it’s loaded with great nutrients and is incredibly versatile in many dishes, both sweet and savoury.
Basil is one of the tastiest herbs you can grow indoors. Plus, it smells beautiful and will always remind you of the Mediterranean. Basil makes a great accompaniment to any tomato-based dish and is an aromatic addition to salad and pasta dishes. It also great for the digestive system.
Basil is a pretty hardy herb that prefers full sunlight and now is the time to plant your pots for readiness by July. It will also happily grow in a pot amongst other herbs if you have room.
Chives are another great small pot herb which can be grown alone or in a slightly larger pot with other herbs such as coriander and parsley.
A member of the onion family, chives are very easy to grow and produce some pretty and edible flowers. Both the stems and flowers are great chopped for garnishing potato salad, in scrambled egg, soups and many other savoury dishes. As with all herbs, they have been hailed for many different health issues over the years, and chives have been used as a tonic and to stimulate appetite after illness.
So, get planting! And if you’ve never undertaken any form of gardening in the past, now could be a great time to start.
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