We are what we eat. Food is our medicine. These two sayings are oft repeated by people who understand that food and health are intimately related. I do not plan to argue the truth of either, I leave that up to the individual.
What I am interested in is the quality of the real food we eat. By real food, I mean vegetables, fruit, meat, fish and chicken. Personally, when it comes to what I either buy or grow, my main concern is the item contains the minerals, vitamins, and micronutrients my body demands.
When it comes to growing my own, there are three reasons why I select the plants I do. The first, I like to experiment. Grow something I have never grown, just to see what happens. Second, I enjoy certain foods. Third, I want to add foods that have a high nutrient density.
Nutrient density is a measure of the nutrients provided per calorie of food, or the ratio of nutrients to calories (energy). The salad or cut-and-come-again garden is ideal for some high nutrient plants.
Cut-and-come-again refers to the plants’ abilities to grow new leaves after they have been harvested. In hot weather, lettuces and other green leafy plants have a tendency to bolt, in other words, go to seed, rather quickly and the crop is lost.
Now what to grow in the cut-and-come-again garden or salad garden? There are many options. I like spinach, romaine lettuce, kale, and arugula, for example, but there are a number of others, that are ideal in a salad garden.
My five top crops for the home salad garden are and this is not in order of importance: leaf lettuces, radishes, snow peas, tomatoes, and cucumbers.
The snow peas, cucumbers and tomatoes can all be grown vertically in containers if your space is limited or if you simply do not want to bend over to tend them.
Leaf lettuce is a lettuce with an open growth habit, which forms loose clusters of leaves rather than a tight head of lettuce. There are a few leaf lettuces on the marker, a favourite is red leaf lettuce.
Leaf lettuces reach maturity before other lettuces and are ideal for the short season garden. I like growing several plants that are early producers because winter is long and the growing season quite short.
Growing something that provides a yield early provides fresh food early in the gardening season. This is why I also grow radishes. Some radishes can reach maturity in 28 days. We enjoy the mild heat and flavour in salads and sandwiches.
Cucumbers, tomatoes, and lettuce make a fine sandwich. Cucumbers are one of the foods that remind me of my youth and a garden just would not be complete without them.
Snow peas are great in a stir fry served with rice or noodles. They also make a great addition to a salad. In fact, all these vegetables can be combined in a number of ways to produce healthy and delicious salads. So, until next week, happy gardening.