Spring is in the air and gardening season has begun in our home! Some of the many joys a raw food enthusiast experiences in Springtime are: preparing soil in raised beds to grow favorite garden vegetables, choosing the perfect vegetable starts, then planting them and watching them grow throughout the season. Harvest time is always exciting, too, as we reap the “fruits of our labor” (and the vegetables, too!).
Plant leafy greens for optimal nutrition
This year, in order to pack our raw vegan diet with optimal nutrition, we’ve planted a plenitude of leafy greens, including several types of lettuce, frisée (curly endive), dandelion greens, arugula, two types of kale, and two types of collard greens. The lettuce varieties we planted are heirloom varieties of green leaf, red leaf, red Romaine, green Romaine, and red oak leaf. Lettuce, frisée, and dandelion greens are all members of the sunflower family (Asteraceae), while arugula, kale, and collard greens are members of the cabbage family (Brassicaceae). Members of this plant family are also known as cruciferous vegetables, and include broccoli, cauliflower, maca, turnip, rutabaga, Brussels sprouts, watercress, red and green cabbage, bok choy, and Napa cabbage.
We’ve also planted several varieties of tomatoes, including some of the heirloom varieties we love, like Pineapple tomatoes, Cherokee Purple, Green Zebra, Brandywine, and several different types of cherry tomatoes. Several tomato varieties love heat, and we planted those in our yard on the south side of the house, which is warmer than the rest of our yard and more sheltered from the wind. Tomatoes are part of the nightshade family (Solanaceae) along with bell peppers, eggplant, potatoes, tomatillos, goji berries, Incan berries, jalapeño peppers, and other hot pepper varieties.
Plant mints in containers for best results
We have quite a few plants from the mint family in our yard this year, including several types of basil and four types of mint. Mints have a tendency to grow and spread prolifically. Early in my gardening career I made the mistake of planting mint in my raised beds and found out the hard way that mint plants have a tendency to “take over” the garden. This year, I learned from past experience and planted the mints in half wine barrels to keep them appropriately contained. However, if you want a very aromatic ground cover, Corsican Mint is a beautiful choice. A couple of years ago, I planted it in a makeshift herb garden in a non-grassy area of my yard. It has since spread and creates a deliciously fragrant chocolate mint addition to the area. It may surprise you to know that Chia seeds are another member of the mint family famously popular in the raw food community!
On the other hand, most types of basil stay localized in their growth habit, so I plant basil directly in my raised beds. They make a lovely companion planting next to the tomatoes, and the two are a perfect culinary combination, especially in Italian cuisine.
Fruit-bearing plants in our yard include two types of lemon trees and a fig tree, which is already producing numerous small figs. The fig tree is only five years old, and has already been producing numerous baskets of figs for the last three seasons. Since we adore figs, we’re really looking forward to harvest time later this year!
Plant fruits and vegetables no matter where you live
This is a small sampling of the foods we are currently growing in our yard and garden. We enjoy being able to create more diversity in our raw food diets and growing foods we enjoy that can be harder to find in the grocery store aisles. Even more importantly, we notice a big difference in the taste and quality of the foods we grow compared to the ones we buy. We suggest growing your own fruits and vegetables—you’ll be well rewarded in both taste and nutritional value. Before we had a back yard, we grew vegetables and fruits on our apartment patio, and sprouts, greens, and grasses near a window in our dining room. There are so many ways to grow your own food, and at harvest time, you’ll be grateful that you made the worthwhile effort. Happy gardening!
Drs. Rick and Karin Dina, D.C. have developed and teach a Science of Raw Food Nutrition™ series of classes leading to certification at Living Light Culinary Institute. Next full session begins May 15, August full session starts August 7. Enroll today! Call 707-964-2420 for more information on this and all culinary and nutrition courses at Living Light Culinary Institute.