As we enter the brand spanking new year, we ponder what’s to come as well as future goals. I know most people tell themselves they’ll eat healthier, drink less, or lose weight so that they can finally fit into those jeans they’ve been holding onto for years. But part of that rumination should be what you’re eating and how you could do better. It doesn’t take a genius to know that eating fresh produce is healthy for you. Some consider going to the store and purchasing and consuming something from the produce section an act of eating fresh. If this is your only option to get produce, then by all means continue to do so. But it doesn’t have to be. Growing your own food is healthier on so many levels than just eating it. It affects not just our personal and mental health, but the health of the ecosystem of your yard as well as the planet as a whole.
The Wonder of Growing Your own
There is something magical about growing something and then using it to nourish oneself. Take a moment to visualize what charming things you can grow and how beautiful it will look. If you’re just starting out on this venture, remember to start small. Think of the tasty veggies you like to eat and focus on them. Using a raised bed and using organic or chemical free soil is the best option by far. It will not only be healthy for just you, but the amazing critters that will help keep your plants thriving. So when you’re envisioning that luscious garden, think of planting flowers to attract pollinators. Their beauty offers a stunning show throughout the season. One that will have you chilling out in the garden more often than not.
When you grow your own fruits and vegetables, it gives you more diversity in nutrients, antioxidants and minerals in your diet. Something that is key in maintaining a healthy body. As mentioned before, store bought veggies are better than nothing. But keep in mind that by the time those veggies get to the store shelves, a lot of their nutritional value has been depleted. An interesting fact about fruits and vegetables is that they breathe, and even after being harvested, continue to do so. Once taken from their source, it goes through the process called Respiration. This process helps break down all the wonderful things that make it healthy, such as proteins, minerals, fats, flavor, and overall value, the longer it sits around. Not to mention the fossil fuels and energy it takes to process those fruits and veggies, and getting them from point A to point B.
Eating fresh fruits and veggies is of course the main reason on why to grow your own, but there are so many other surrounding benefits that make up the whole point.
Getting outside and breathing fresh air and absorbing that vitamin D from the sun is crucial to being healthy. Vitamin D is important for bone, teeth and muscle and immune function. Your lungs will thank you too. Being around trees and other plants helps cleanse your lungs and improves your vitality. Whoa! With all this effort one would call this exercise. That’s right, gardening can be a form of exercise too. It can improve strength, cardiac and immune health, as well as motor skills. Just don’t forget to stretch right after.
One other thing most people either forget or don’t realize is that nature is therapeutic. Studies have shown that Nature Therapy is important for our well being. Surrounded by concrete buildings, loud cars and other forms of urbanization can negatively affect our mental health. A two-decade study has shown that being in a green space has a positive effect on one's mental state.
To some, gardening can be meditative or transcendental. A green space is somewhere one can be at ease and let their imagination run wild. We can learn so much about nature and ourselves if we just take the time with our gardens and plants.
How To Utilize the Bounty
You’ve created a garden, grown some delicious vegetables, now it’s time to harvest. There are many ways to stretch the shelf life of those delicious veggies into something healthy and tasty. There is so much you can do with your bounty. Try roasting a whole head of cauliflower after giving it a good spice rubdown. Or take those jalapeno peppers, stuff them with cheese, then bake them off for a yummy, healthier classic.
Another way to use up and keep those leafy greens such as kale and herbs, is to make a big batch of green smoothie mix, then freeze it. After it thaws, don’t forget to give it a good shake. With the herbs, you can dry them and make teas or spice mixes. Sage is a wondrous herb for sore throats. A must in the medicinal cabinet for the cold months.
Pickling and canning is one way to use up tomatoes for salsa or red sauce. Make fresh pesto, then freeze it. Or pickle cucumbers, radish pods or green tomatoes for a lip smacking alternative. And don’t forget to store your squash and root veggies in a cool dry place. So when you’re ready for some sage butternut squash lasagna or a stuffed savory pumpkin, you’ll have it on hand.
Food For Thought
As we stare over the cold landscape in the middle of winter in a new year, there are many things we wish we could do and hope for in the coming seasons. Spring is not that far away. Remember that your body is sacred and to take care of this vessel that will be with you for the rest of your life. Nourish it with fresh produce straight from the earth, and your body, mind as well as your spirit will be enriched. That is something we should all hope for every year.
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