It is spring and earth day is upon us! All year long I hug trees, I pick up stray trash, I drive a hybrid, but what can I do specifically for Earth Day 2016? I know! I will plant the vegetable garden that I have been talking about for over a year now!
First, there are a few things to consider: 1) Due to the drought in California it’s time to be creative. We won’t be planting anything that needs daily watering, 2) We want to plant a healthy, well-rounded garden that gives back to our families (and friends/neighbors if it’s a particularly fruitful year), 3) It’s also important to consider the season. Some crops are best planted in winter, others in autumn; we’ll stick to planting spring vegetables.
Tomatoes are a Must!
That vibrant red color in home grown tomatoes is a carotenoid called lycopene. In fact, tomatoes naturally contain more lycopene, a cancer and heart disease fighting antioxidant, than any other food. Unlike most nutrients that diminish with cooking, lycopene is enhanced by heat, so make the most of that home grown goodness and roast your tomatoes for sauces. Plus, they’re a good source of calcium, iron, and contain 28% of the USDA Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of vitamin A and 21.5% vitamin C*. There are lots of tomato varieties to choose from. If tomatoes are absolutely off your list look to plant other sources of carotenoids (think naturally red, orange or pink foods) such as watermelon, pink grapefruit, apricots and pink guavas.
Plant Some Beta-Carotene!
Carrots are known for their bright orange hue – that’s beta-carotene. Like lycopene, beta-carotene is a carotenoid with antioxidant powers. Beta-carotene is converted into vitamin A in the body and supports good vision, strong immunity and general health. Carrots also contain vitamin K, potassium, manganese and are shown to have heart disease and cancer fighting capabilities. . When planting carrots, choose the right root size and shape for your soil. If sweet, homegrown carrots aren’t your thing opt for beta-carotene from sweet potatoes, winter squash, spinach, kale, cantaloupe and apricot.
Peas will go great in a spring salad or in a bowl of delicious Pasta Carbonara. They can help regulate both weight (they’re high in fiber and protein, low in calories) and blood sugar. A 100 calorie serving of peas contains more protein than ¼ cup raw almonds or 1 tablespoon peanut butter. Only 5% of peas grown are sold fresh, so it’s best to grow your own. You’ll need a trellace of some sort, but this fast growing legume will make you feel like you’ve got a green thumb, even if you don’t. ½ cup cooked peas contains 46% RDA vitamin K and is rich in vitamins A, B and C.
Sweet Smell of Basil!
Not only is it great in pizzas, pesto and strawberry-basil margaritas, but this herb contains flavonoids known for their anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. Those flavor-filled leaves also contain antioxidant power to protect against skin aging and multiple diseases. Basil is an excellent source of iron (26% RDA*) and vitamin K. That means not only does basil help with proper oxygenation of blood, but promotes healthy blood coagulation and strong bones. It also will contribute 175% RDA* of vitamin A. Growing basil is pretty easy and will make your garden smell amazing!
So there you have it, a healthy garden for a healthy spring. Spend a little time learning about recommended planting times, watering, and sunlight requirements and you’ll be rewarded with a garden that gives back with abundance.
Happy planting! HAPPY EARTH DAY!
*RDA based on 100g of vegetable/herb