Edible Gardens: 5 Plots to go from the Garden to the Table

vegetable-gardenWinter is finally starting to wane and it’s time to think about what we want in your garden. A fun way to do that is to plan your garden around what you want to eat. It’s a simple idea and you’ll know exactly what to do with your vegetables once they’re harvested. Here are five edible gardens with vegetables that grow well together and taste great together, too.

carrotsAmerican Garden: What goes better with your barbecued chicken and ribs than creamy cole slaw? Not only is that grill in the backyard but so are the main ingredients for your slaw. All you need from the garden are cabbage, carrots and onions. The rest you can pick up from the store.

FYI:

  • Carrots and Cabbage are both biennial plants and fall crops can be easily stored during colder months.
  • Onions are harvested in late summer and can also be stored during winter months.

Mexican Garden: Chips and salsa are a great no-cook snack that you can eat throughout the summer. Salsa is best when it’s made fresh, but imagine if the ingredients — tomatoes, jalapenos, onions and cilantro — were picked from out your back door ? it can?t get more delicious or easier than that. The recipe for salsa or pico de gallo is straightforward and if you add a mashed avocado and a couple of squeezes of lemon to the mix, you’ve got guacamole.

pico-de-galloFYI:

  • Harvest cilantro weekly to keep the leaves growing and fresh.
  • Both tomatoes and jalapenos should be staked.
  • Tomatoes, jalapenos and cilantro all work well as potted plants.

Italian Garden: One of the best possible ways to taste fresh basil is in a caprese salad. It?s simple and tomatoes and basil love to grow together; they’re also the base for a margherita pizza. The recipe is easy (there’s no shame in using a store-bought crust!) and if you have the other ingredients (onion, garlic, parsley and oregano) on hand or in the garden, you’ll be serving up Italian food all summer long.

FYI:

  • Basil is an annual and grows best in warm weather and should be harvested if temperatures are expected to dip below 40F.
  • Tomato plants can handle temperatures as low as 30F, but a frost could kill a tomato plant, so keep an eye on the forecast.

ratatouilleFrench Garden: If you’re feeling a little French, you don’t have to go to Paris to get fresh ratatouille. Though there is debate on how to make authentic ratatouille, it can certainly be made on the stove top so you don’t heat up the entire kitchen during hot summer months.

FYI:

  • Zucchini (or squash), eggplant, tomatoes, and bell peppers all grow very well in hot weather.
  • Stagger your seedling start dates. Start eggplant seedlings six weeks before your last frost date and give zucchini just a two week head start will help you synchronize your harvest times and you can get your first summer dinner planned.

Spanish Garden: For a cool soup in the summer, a cucumber, tomato, bell peppers, onions will deliver a good gazpacho. It requires little more than fresh vegetables and a good blender. And, if you?re feeling dangerous, you can steal a jalapeno from your pico de gallo garden to spice up your soup.

tomato-plantFYI: 

  • Cucumbers should be picked every other day or so. Cucumbers left on the vine too long will make it harder for the plant to produce more cucumbers.
  • Both cucumbers and peppers love the sun and are thirsty — as are onions — but water moderately and cover the soil around the plants with mulch to keep the moisture in.

Quick tip: Remember that most plants will probably need to be started indoors if you’re starting with a seed and they shouldn’t be planted in the ground until after the last frost.

7 Foods You Thought Were Bad for You But Aren’t

Eating healthy can be a challenge. If it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, it might take a long time to prepare. However, there are some foods that just look too good to be true. But, in all reality are good for you. Here is a list of 7 foods that are actually good for you.

GuacamoleGuacamole The main ingredient of guacamole is avocado which is full of fat but it’s good fat that not only doesn’t contain cholesterol, but it can also help lower bad cholesterol. Avocados are also a good source of vitamin K, folic acid and vitamin E. In addition to avocados, guacamole also contains onions, jalapenos and tomatoes. Tomatoes are widely considered a super-food; they contain lycopene, vitamins A, C and E. Mix it all together and you have a cancer-fighting, heart-disease-battling dip.

Sweet Potato Fries Sweet potatoes are associated with carbohydrates which can scare away any dieter, but those orange tubers are packed with nutrients and they don’t contain nearly as much starch as rice or corn. Sweet potatoes are a great source of potassium, fiber and vitamin A (and Beta-carotene). Beta-carotene protects the body’s immune system and can lower the risk of cancer and heart disease. While adding fat through deep-frying isn’t ideal, in moderation the benefits outweigh the consequences. However, baked sweet potato fries are just as tasty as the fried ones.

Blueberry-SmoothieYogurt Blueberry Smoothie Smoothies get a bad rap for being high-calorie sugar shakes, but if you use yogurt instead of ice cream, they won?t be so bad. They can actually be quite good for you. Blueberries are rich in antioxidants which prevents the production of cell-damaging free radicals. They’re also anti-inflammatories. Yogurt promotes intestinal health as it’s full of probiotics and the active cultures help prevent yeast infections. You can add banana for texture and potassium and orange juice as a sweetener and for some vitamin C. Just hit puree and you have a shake for cancer to contend with.

Pork Rinds Deep fried pig skin. Sounds heart-stopping- deadly, doesn’t it? Well, unlike their potato counterparts, pork rinds contain no carbohydrates. The other good news: the bad fat in the skin is rendered off in the cooking process leaving behind almost pure protein.

Peanut-Butter-CupsPeanut Butter Cups You got chocolate in my peanut butter! You got peanut butter in my chocolate! Together, they taste like strength. Peanut butter is a protein rich food that helps build and repair muscle. It also has cholesterol-lowering, healthy fats and it’s loaded with anti-oxidants. Wrapped in dark chocolate, this may be the perfect food. Dark chocolate can lower your blood pressure, improve your cognitive function and reduce the risk for stroke. A peanut butter cup made with the right ingredients does a body good.

Coffee Coffee doesn’t just wake you up in the morning, it can give your brain a boost. It actually stimulates the release of dopamine and norepinephrine as well as improve your memory and cognitive function. But a cup of Joe can give your whole body a kick start as well. The long term benefits may include lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer?s and Parkinson?s disease.

Fried Food Fried food not only tastes good, but it?s good for you, too. Sort of. It depends on what is being fried. Something like battered and fried broccoli isn’t so bad despite that it’s cloaked in fat. But foods that contain carotenoids and fat soluble vitamins like A and K need fat it helps the body absorbs the nutrients. What makes the frying bad is the type of fat. It’s better to stick to oils like canola and safflower that are made up of unsaturated fats and monounsaturated fatty acids which improve blood cholesterol levels and decrease your risk for heart disease. The bad fats like butter and shortening (trans fats) should be avoided. They increase cholesterol significantly.