Tuesday, 12 January 2016

EDIBLE PLANTS FOR A HEALTHY LIFE



EDIBLE PLANTS FOR A HEALTHY LIFE

The Festive season is now a very pleasant memory of meeting friends and family, great food and drink and plenty of it, but now we need to get back to reality. It is very easy to have gained a few pounds as it is not the time to be resisting the dumpling or pudding with a generous helping of brandy butter sauce, followed by a large slice of Christmas cake. However now we need to sort out some activities to use the energy stored up in our bodies.
John picking the Aronia Viking chokeberries
Some folk will be getting back to the gym, others out for a jog, a few country walks, a swim or cycle run and for us gardeners we can crack on with the winter digging, fence and shed repairs after all the storms, then there’s the roses, vines and shrubs to prune. Gardeners also benefit from having a good selection of fresh vegetables available all year round. Last week I had a notion for a fresh salad, something light after all the very tasty, but heavy going festive meals.
Then a trip to my allotment plot to pick a lettuce, spring onions, beetroot, and some salad leaves of mustard, rocket and mezuna. The very mild winter has kept these plants growing and quite fresh. Looking forward to the 2016 growing season I always make sure that there are plenty healthy crops on the growing plan. The top plants for health benefits are often referred to as the superfoods, and giving them this accolade does help to promote their use, but the term is vague with little scientific basis for evaluation. There are very numerous scientific experiments currently underway to try and evaluate superfood products on our health. Many of these experiments use concentrated extractions of the beneficial elements contained in the
fruit and vegetables so even when the results are favourable we should not read too much into them. It is however quite beneficial to consume a variety of fruit and vegetables to provide our bodies with wide range of vitamins and minerals, as one plant will be quite different from another, and growing your own has the added advantage with the crop not getting picked till it is fully ripe and uncontaminated by any chemicals. Any small garden or allotment plot can grow many of those fruit and vegetables earning the superfood status and just enjoy them and feel all the better in the knowledge that they all possess a wee bit more of those beneficial vitamins, anti-oxidants and minerals. My list of the best includes rhubarb, beetroot, chard, kale, broccoli, garlic, onions, peppers, blueberries, saskatoons and chokeberries. Although not on any superfood list, I would also include lettuce and heritage apple varieties, as when you research the health benefits of crops they both come out very favourably, especially the apples before they were subjected to breeding for size, heavy cropping and uniformity. Each crop has its own claim to fame.
Top of my list is the chokeberry with very high levels of vitamin C and anti-oxidants.
Saskatoons, blackcurrants and blueberries all having black fruits have similar health benefit properties and can be eaten fresh, frozen or processed for a wide variety of uses.
Beetroot including the leaves is also high in anti-oxidants and vitamin C but also vitamin A and K as well as a lot of minerals. Chard belongs to the same family so has a similar range of goodness.
Kale and broccoli are very high in calcium and iron.
Garlic and onions contain the vitamins A, E, C and B6 as well as the minerals iron, molybdenum, manganese, chromium, calcium and potassium.
Rhubarb is high in calcium and potassium and antioxidants.
Peppers are very high in Vitamin C, vitamin A, and most of the vitamin B range, as well as the minerals potassium, magnesium and iron. If you can build up a tolerance to hot peppers they are
recognized for excellent health benefits.

Wee jobs to do this week

Lift and divide rhubarb if it has cropped for three or more years. Discard old crowns but save and replant strong young crowns with at least two to three buds. As rhubarb will be undisturbed for several years dig over the ground incorporating plenty of manure or compost as rhubarb is a heavy feeder. Space crowns about three feet apart.

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