We all know adding more vegetables to our diet is an important step to improving overall health and wellness, but it’s not always easy to squeeze extra salads into a busy schedule. Wouldn’t it be great if you could skip the supermarket altogether and simply walk outside to grab everything you needed for produce – and a nutrient-packed meal? Consider your garden as a gateway to better eating. Read on for our tips on how to garden for a healthier diet.
What to grow
Not all vegetables are created equal, and some are a lot easier to grow than others. In order to avoid disappointment, start with items known to produce results without much effort. The following are not only easy to grow, they’re healthy and delicious.
Lettuce: The cornerstone of every salad, lettuce is one of the easiest vegetables to grow. As long as you water your crop adequately and watch for slugs (which seem to enjoy snacking on young leaves) you should get several salads’ worth out of each head.
Radishes: Radishes make a crunchy and subtly spicy addition to your salad. They are quick to sprout and ready to harvest (and enjoy) in about four to five weeks. Radishes can be eaten raw, cooked or even pickled, and are known as a good detoxifier and blood purifier.
Beets: Rich in calcium, iron, copper, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and zinc, beets are easy to grow and are easily stored in a cool, dry area for enjoying through the fall and winter. Beet greens (tops) are also nutrient-rich and can be tossed into a salad or sautéed with onions and garlic for a healthy and tasty side dish.
Zucchini: If you’ve ever tried to grow zucchini you know how easy it is. In fact, most people end with so much they can’t even give it all away. But zucchini is as versatile as it is healthy and can be prepared in many different ways, including shredded into a salad, roasted, grilled, pickled, or hollowed and stuffed with anything from rice to bulghur to ground meat.
Kale: If you grown only one thing in your garden this year, make it kale. This easy-to-grow vegetable is overflowing with essential nutrients including vitamins K, A and C, calcium and iron. Kale is a known immune-system booster and can be used in a wide variety of ways. Wilt it into pasta, put it on pizza, sauté it or chop it finely and add it to a salad.
Say hello to herbs
Fresh herbs can take any meal from bland to flavorful — and best of all, the majority are a snap to grow and yield enough to last all summer and beyond if you freeze or dry what you grow. Not only will you be spicing up every bite, the more fresh herbs you incorporate into your cooking the less salt you’ll use. Check out these nutrient- and flavor-packed herbs.
Parsley: Not just a garnish, this herb is full of antioxidants, iron and vitamins C and A. Parsley is also known for its ability to help flush toxins from the body.
Oregano: You can use oregano to add a flavor punch to your cooking, but this herb is also known for its antioxidant and anti-bacterial properties.
Cilantro: Synonymous with Mexican cooking, cilantro has a distinct taste that can freshen up soups, stews, salsas and of course tacos, enchiladas and fajitas. The herb is also known to help eliminate toxins from the body and aid digestion.
Basil: Perfect for pesto, basil is also known to have anti-inflammatory properties and contains several essential nutrients including iron, vitamins A and K, calcium and manganese.
Rosemary: One of the most fragrant and hardy herbs, rosemary is known to have antibacterial properties, and to promote circulation and aid digestion.
Herb gardens to fit any home >>
If you’re short on space — and most urban gardeners are — the best way to solve your small-yard issue and still grow a myriad of healthy vegetables is by growing your greens in containers. Any non-root vegetable can work in a container, but some of the best small-space options include tomatoes, cucumbers, Swiss chard, peppers, squash and green beans. Containers dry out faster than a standard garden, though, so remember to keep them adequately watered. You will also want to ensure that your containers have drainage holes to allow excess water to drain away.
Learn about container gardening >>
More Space-saving ideas
Other than growing your vegetables and herbs in containers, we’ve also come up with a few other ideas for urban gardeners hoping to maximize a small space.
Think about garden sharing. Do you have a friend with lots of space but no desire to garden? See if you can plant up a small area with vegetables in her yard and share what you harvest.
Trade flowers for edibles. Think about replacing some of your flowers or other plants with vegetables. Items like cabbage, Swiss chard, kale and broccoli can be quite ornamental, as well as nutritious.
Use your balcony. Even a miniscule balcony can house a few small pots of herbs, or if you have the room, larger pots with tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce or an assortment of other plants.