Nutrition Spotlight: Growing Healthier

The Joys of Fresh Produce

By:  Carleton Rivers, RD

Welcome to spring! This is such a great time of year when the weather is starting to warm up and plants are blooming. It’s also wonderful because local farmers’ markets are beginning to open after a cold fall and winter season. If you haven’t visited your local farmers’ market yet, I encourage you to plan a trip this weekend. You will be amazed at how gorgeous and delicious the food is at each vendor’s station.

Another great way to enjoy this spring weather is to plant your own seasonal fruit and vegetables in the backyard. You might even be able to get your kids to eat more of these great foods if they help grow them. I have included a few tips below to help you begin growing your own produce.

Seasonal Produce:

Vegetables for Spring: Artichokes, arugula, asparagus, beets, fennel, scallions, peas, parsley, radishes, sweet onions, Swiss chard, and turnips

Fruit for Spring: Strawberries, kiwis, lemons, grapefruit, cherries, avocados, mangos, pineapples, navel oranges, and apricots

Tips for Your Garden:

  • You can use almost any size container to plant your produce; however, plants that are in potters require more water than those planted in the ground.
  • If you use a larger container that is 24 to 30 inches long, you can plant tomatoes, cucumbers, and parsley or chives all together.
  • Do not wait until the leaves are wilted to water the plant.
  • It is important that your plant container has a way to drain the water.
  • The bigger the vegetable, the bigger the container.
  • Use potting mix along with a complete organic fertilizer to ensure your plants are fed through the entire growing season.
  • When growing strawberries, trim off the “runners” to ensure better fruit growth. "Runners” are the vines that grow off of the main plant.
  • When growing tomatoes (indeterminate variety), remove the “suckers” that are located at the “Y” of two branches. Be sure to trim the “suckers” below the flower clusters that signify new growth. When “suckers” are removed, the plant’s energy is directed toward growing more tomatoes.

Using Your Freezer to Preserve Food:

After visiting the farmers’ market or harvesting your own produce, freezing extra fruit and vegetables may be a good option to prevent spoilage. For vegetables like broccoli, sweet potatoes and snap peas, all you need to do is blanch the produce, store it in a freezer bag, and place it in the freezer. What is blanching you ask? Blanching is when you place food in boiling water until softened and then move items directly into ice water to stop the cooking process. You can also preserve fruit in the same way; however, you may need to add lemon juice to the fruit after blanching to prevent oxidation. Freezing is also a great way to keep your meat from going bad. When freezing fish, it is best to put a bit of water in the freezer bag.

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