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Lawn & Garden

Turn ‘victory garden’ into ‘vitamin garden’ with veggies, herbs

6/26/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Staff Writer

Few Americans actually get the recommended daily dose of vitamins, and many turn to over-the-counter supplements to fill in nutritional gaps. But wouldn’t it be better — not to mention tastier — to get needed nutrients from what you eat? This season, why not turn your vegetable and herb garden into a “vitamin garden?”

Fortunately, many vitamin-packed vegetables and herbs are easy to grow. Hardy, bountiful varieties make it even easier to claim vitamin victory in your veggie garden. Studies show that gardeners tend to eat more fruits and vegetables than nongardeners, and nothing beats the flavor and freshness of home-grown vegetables, fruits and herbs. In addition to the many health benefits gardening delivers, such as gentle exercise, fresh air and sunshine, growing your own vegetables can help ensure you meet vitamin requirements.

While gardening is great exercise, starting a garden is actually an easy task. With just an hour a day you can start a small backyard garden, or even grow your own vegetables in pots. Just start with transplants  instead of seed — that will save time, effort and provide you with an earlier harvest — then choose a sunny spot with good drainage, and make sure the soil is in shape to receive plants by testing the soil using a kit and amending when necessary. Feed your plants, water regularly and don’t forget to patrol for pests.

Ready for your garden? Try these gardener-friendly, high-powered vegetables and herbs that can ensure your diet is full of flavorful, vitamin-rich foods:

  • Herbs

√ Basil — Low in calories and cholesterol-free, basil is a rich source of many essential nutrients, minerals and vitamins. It contains exceptionally high levels of beta-carotene and vitamin A.

√ Oregano — High in anti-oxidants, oregano has both antibacterial and antifungal properties.

√ Rosemary — Another antioxidant herb, rosemary is used to fight inflammation. It’s a good source of vitamin A, thiamin and magnesium.

  • Vegetables

√ Spinach — Spinach contains more than half the recommended daily value of vitamin A and is high in vitamins C, K, E, folate, manganese, magnesium, iron and potassium. Naturally low in calories, spinach grows well in spring, summer and fall, producing high yields of large, nutrient-rich leaves.

√ Tomatoes — Considered a super food, tomatoes deliver high doses of vitamins C, A, K and B6 and minerals such as potassium and lycopene. Hugely versatile, they’re a great ingredient in a variety of culinary styles or equally tasty eaten on their own. Check out the “Tomato Chooser” tool on Bonnie Plants’ website, www.bonnieplants.com, to make it easy to find the variety you want. Select traits you’re seeking, and the tool will list the varieties that match.

√ Peppers — Another versatile vegetable available in a wealth of varieties, peppers deliver fiber, folate, manganese, potassium, copper and vitamins A, C, K and B6. Many types are very easy to grow, and others deliver high yield and produce early in the season.

√ Squash — Popular and prolific varieties like zucchini and yellow squash require minimal care to produce hefty harvests. Green zucchini deliver vitamins C, K and B6, as well as folate, manganese and potassium. Yellow squash — either crookneck or straight neck — is easy to grow, early to mature and particularly high in vitamin C.

And what’s the one vitamin every single vegetable and herb in your garden delivers? You can count vitamin D — the true “sunshine vitamin” — among the nutritional benefits of vegetables, herbs and gardening. While you’re outside working in the garden, your body is turning all that sunlight into much needed vitamin D.

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