It may not get as much hype, but, yes, garlic is a superfood. Here’s how to grow that and others in the Pacific Northwest.
Instead of looking to the rain forests of South America or the mountains of Tibet for the next superfood, why not look to your backyard — or your local farmers market. The superfoods you’ll find there aren’t new or beneficiaries of a major marketing campaign, but they’re no less powerful. Now that spring is upon us, it’s time to get planting, or start stalking the markets. Here’s what to plant or pick up.
Blueberries. Blueberries are one of the few fruits native to North America, and they are the second most popular berry (after strawberries) in the United States. Blueberries contain more antioxidant nutrients than most fruits and vegetables, and they are particularly rich in a family of phytonutrients called flavonoids. One group of flavonoids, anthocyanins, provides much of the beneficial health effects, along with blueberries’ beautiful color. Look for blueberry shrubs at local plant nurseries.
Broccoli. Broccoli is full of not only the phytonutrients that are a hallmark of the cruciferous vegetable family (including cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and bok choy), but it’s an excellent source of essential vitamins, like folate, and is also rich in an array of phytonutrients. Many of the phytonutrients in broccoli have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, and may also help reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer. You can plant broccoli from seeds or plant starts.
Kale. Kale has been so trendy, and it is now so ubiquitous, that’s it’s become a bit of a punchline. But that doesn’t alter that it’s a nutritional superstar. It’s a dark, leafy green, but it’s also a cruciferous vegetable. That means it’s the best of two nutrient-packed worlds. Start kale from seeds or starts right now, or in late summer for fall/winter harvest.
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Collard greens. Some say that collards are the new kale. Even if not, they are a good source of magnesium, potassium and vitamins A, C and K. One cup of cooked collards has as much calcium as one cup of milk, along with 5 grams of fiber. Even better, collards are rich in nutrients like vitamin A, zeaxanthin and lutein, which have benefits for eye health, among other things.
Dandelion greens. Dandelion greens are one of the top four green vegetables for overall nutrition. They contain more beta-carotene than any other green veggie. They are also rich in calcium, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin K and fiber. You are probably already growing dandelions in your yard, like it or not, but you can also buy seeds for more gourmet varieties from various seed companies.
Strawberries. Like blueberries, strawberries have high levels of flavonoids. Plus, is there anything better than a fresh local strawberry? You can easily grow strawberries yourself in a garden bed, container or hanging basket. Strawberry starts can be bare root or in plastic nursery pots.
Garlic. The entire allium family of vegetables — including onions, leeks, shallots and scallions — are rich in phytonutrients that have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer benefits. A true superfood that is far more than a seasoning! Enjoy local garlic now, and plant cloves in the fall (buy garlic intended for planting, not a random head from the grocery store) to harvest and enjoy next year.
It seems to be part of the human condition to look for a magic bullet, but when you include these common-but-still-mighty superfoods in your meals, along with a variety of other nutrient-rich foods, you’ll have everything you need for optimal nutrition and health.