Julie Whittington, RD

Healthy tips from a Registered Dietitian

Homegrown food from your garden offers healthful, economical benefits

Using garden fresh ingredients to make tasty meals and snacks can offer a host of nutritional benefits and also be easy on your wallet!  If you planted a good crop of herbs, vegetables or fruits this past spring, the summertime heat and rain have likely produced the beginnings of a good garden for you so far.

Make sure you take advantage of your yield, too.  Even I have overlooked the wonderful benefits of everything growing in my garden, buying herbs at the grocery store, forgetting I was growing fresh ones in my own yard! 

And, depending on how you manage your garden, you may be able to serve up truly organic or pesticide-free plant foods – a benefit to your health and to the environment.  Plus, with a very short distance from garden to table, you are likely to get the highest phytonutrient punch from these foods.  Did you realize that phytonutrients, including vitamins and minerals, can actually diminish with increased transit time from crop to table?  For example, those organic berries you bought from Chile, despite being organic, may in fact be lower in things like vitamin C than their local versions, from farmers here in the area.

So cast a second glance at your garden and really evaluate what you have.  Try these ideas to make delicious meals, snacks and condiments with your homegrown plant foods:

• Use herbs like basil, cilantro and parsley to make pesto.  Serve it on homemade pizza, in wrap sandwiches or in vinaigrette dressing.
• Grind woodsy herbs like rosemary or lavender with a mortar and pestle.  Sprinkle in scrambled eggs or in batter for homemade breads.
• Eat herbs and vegetables such as radishes raw, tossed in a green salad (perhaps using homegrown lettuce!)
• Make salsas with homegrown tomatoes, peppers, corn, green onions (leeks, onions or garlic work well, too), and fresh herbs.
• Grill eggplant, zucchini or summer squashes.  Simply baste with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and grill!
• Make gazpacho or other vegetable or fruit-based chilled summer soups.
• Cut up homegrown cucumbers.  Slice thin and toss with thinly sliced cucumbers.  Mix with apple cider vinegar for a cool, refreshing salad.
• Eat fresh berries on their own or on top of yogurt, cereal or salad.
• Make smoothies with berries or another homegrown fruit.  Try adding fresh mint for delicious flavor.
• Use homegrown lemons or limes in refreshing summer drinks like homemade lemonade or iced teas.
• Make your own tea bags by creating a sachet with cheesecloth.  Insert your herbs of choice.  Good picks include chamomile and mint.

Here’s to plenty of yield from your own backyards this summer!

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One comment on “Homegrown food from your garden offers healthful, economical benefits

  1. Jessie Yonkovit
    August 7, 2009

    I’m leaving this comment on your blog because we share some of the same values of organic, sustainable farming and the support of local family farms. I am trying to get the word out to the public regarding the plight of my friends, Jim and Linette Crosby. Their mint farm, which has been in their family since 1912 and is one of the oldest continually operating mint farms in the country, is scheduled to be foreclosed upon on August 15, 2009…ironically, during the annual St. Johns Mint Festival. To read about the “Battle of Mint Valley,” please visit http://www.peppermintjim.wordpress.com. I am asking for any help you can provide…notifying your readers of their plight, publicizing their website (www.getmint.com) and the National Dram Sale, advertising the Mint Jam ’09 benefit concert…anything at all is much, much, much appreciated! To see the latest news broadcast about the Crosby Mint Farm and it’s current situation, please visit http://www.wlaj.com/news/span-16641-farm-mint.html?referrer=facebook.

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