Nutritional benefits of growing fresh vegetables at home
July 5, 2016
Growing just one or two fresh food items at home can have a positive and healthy impact on your meals. Add a burst of flavour and nutrients to your meals with freshly harvested herbs.1
You don’t need to grow a lot of vegetables, or even have a large garden. You can make a difference by growing something in a pot, or a few pots at your back door. School holidays are a great time to start if you are yet to do so. We are in the second week of holidays this week. If you are also at the same point you may be looking for activities to get them outside to burn off some energy? The garden is great place to do this. Let the kids choose the plants to grow and give them the responsibility of caring for them to the point of harvest.
If you are unsure of what to plant at this time of year I have listed some herbs below. You can also download my simple guide to seasonal planting from the sidebar.
Herbs are easy to grow, with a variety suited to each growing season. Currently in the Australian winter you can grow parsley, coriander, rosemary and thyme. As spring approaches you can add chives, mint and basil once it gets warmer. Many herbs are rich sources of antioxidants. Sage is a rich source of vitamins A and C and also rich in potassium, zinc, calcium, iron, and many other minerals.2 Fresh basil is a good source of iron and has high levels of beta carotene and vitamin A.3 These properties begin to decrease immediately after harvesting, making those that are freshly picked and used as needed more beneficial to your diet than those that are purchased from a store.
There is a detailed chapter in my book, Grow Just One Thing – The first step in a fresh food journey that outlines my approach to growing fresh food and using it in our family meals, including many recipes.
The recipes below provide some examples of how you can add a small amount, or small number of freshly harvested garden ingredients to create a tasty fresh family meal.
Studies show that the nutrient density of freshly harvested vegetables is higher than if they have been stored or processed. Harvesting fresh food items you have growing at home when they are ripe and ready to collect means they are at their nutritional peak. Those purchased in the store are likely to have been transported a long distance, harvested prior to ripening. Studies have shown that tomatoes harvested green have 31% less vitamin C than those allowed to ripen on the vine.4
This is one of many reasons to grow your own.
In the studies I reviewed, Vitamin C was the vitamin commonly reviewed when comparing the levels of a fresh food item to one that is frozen, cold stored, or canned. Results can vary depending on the study methods employed and where and how the tested food is sourced. It is an unstable nutrient, water soluble and sensitive to oxidation, it begins to degrade upon harvest. Despite the variance amongst the studies and the processes used to derive the data, it was found that freshly picked vegetables consistently have the highest amounts of ascorbic acid. One study showed green peas loose 51% of their ascorbic acid within 48 hours.5
Get started today by planting just one thing. It will make a difference, get the kids involved and learning about the cycle of plant life and celebrate their gardening prowess with some fresh new family meals using your home grown ingredients.
Find 10 recipes below showing how just a few freshly harvested vegetables can be used to create a family meal.
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