This is the time of year you start getting seed catalogs in the mail. As you start to plan ahead for the spring, Here are five of my personal favorite garden varieties to grow. I’ve chosen these for their great nutrition, easiness to grow, and as you’ll see – because I can get the kids to eat them!
Broccoli: This is often called the ‘super vegetable’. Especially high in vitamin C, but also the B vitamins, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. And yes, I am partial to the common Di Cissio variety for the home garden because you can get more than one cutting with the side shoots. Easy to grow. A general tip on getting kids to eat vegetables, and especially broccoli – smother it with a cheese sauce. Throw in some bacon bits if you want to make it completely irresistible.
Peas: Sugar snap peas are like candy. I like both the Oregon and Mammoth Melting Sugar varieties. Peas are rich in vitamin C, but also vitamin K and manganese. The best reason of all to grow these is my kids treat my yard like a snack bar when the peas are growing! I’ve almost had to break up fights over who gets the peas – one of the few arguments I loved.
Leafy greens: OK, I couldn’t decide which is better – kale, spinach, lettuce, chard… I love the Lacinto kale and American spinach varieties. And who can’t pass up good ole Romaine lettuce? Spinach, of course is rich in iron and has been called “the women’s vegetable” as women usually need more iron than men.
Lima Beans; ‘King of the Pole’ Lima Beans are easy to grow and for home gardeners where space can be at a premium, I love the pole beans that can go up, and produce lots of beans with little ground space. Lima’s are very rich in molybdenum, tryptophan, dietary fiber and manganese. Love that buttery taste too. Beans are an awesome staple.
Beets; Gosh, I love this nutritious multi purpose plant. I like to grow the Detroit Red variety. You can eat both the root and the greens. The beet root is high in iron, potassium, and vitamin C. The beet greens are high in iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and Vitamins A, B6, and C. The thing I love about beet roots are its easy to get kids to eat them – even surly teenagers. The secret? Tell them their pee will turn red and they will gobble it up to see.
And I can’t help myself with throwing in this last bonus plant.
Moringa: This is actually a tree native to the the tropics or semi-tropics, and to effectively grow it you need to keep it indoors during the winter. Its a perennial and easy to grow, aside from needing to be kept warm. Every part of the tree is edible, medicinal, or useful. The leaves are very rich in a diverse variety of nutrients – it is almost like a vegetable multivitamin. I add a teaspoon of dried moringa leaf power into almost every soup or sauce to boost the overall nutrition for my family. Moringa oleifera is the variety I grow.
Marjory Wildcraft is an Expedition Leader and Bioneer Blogger with The [Grow] Network, which is an online community that recognizes the wisdom of “homegrown food on every table.” Marjory has been featured as an expert on sustainable living by National Geographic, she is a speaker at Mother Earth News fairs, and is a returning guest on Coast to Coast AM. She is an author of several books, but is best known for her “Grow Your Own Groceries” video series, which is used by more than 300,000 homesteaders, survivalists, universities, and missionary organizations around the world.
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Have you considered winter squash?
Yes – you know I think squash (all kinds) is one of five basic staple foods you should know how to grow. I think of it more as a stape than nutrient dense, although it does have good nutrients.
Hmm, maybe I should write an article about the 5 Basic staples you should learn to grow.
Winter squash is not as nutritious as the ones you mentioned? We are planting it for both man and beast as well as its storage capabilities. I read online that it was considered a “super food.” This may, of course, just be a matter of opinion.
Hmm, I guess that depends on how you define ‘super food’. You know, trying to limit it to 5 is a bit silly. Winter squash is an excellent calorie source, and as youknow a good keeper – which is super important for getting through the winter.
oops! Apologies! I forgot I already asked and didn’t look. thank you for your response for the same question!
I actually get three veggies out of beets! The beet itself, the greens, and the stems. I tend to slice them into 1/4inch segments and saute them with onion until crisp tender. Sometimes I add them to the greens, sometimes enjoy them on their own. Do this with chard stems as well. Sometimes I cook the stems until tender, puree, add some broth and a touch of something creamy (milk, cream, cream cheese, whatever is on hand), and make a nice soup.
Stems! thanks for the ideas…I usually just throw stems in the compost.
Hi Marjory, I have enjoyed reading your articles and your sharing with others this valuable information and guidance. I’m an American, but have been living in the Philippines with my lovely Filipina wife for about 4 years now. We have a small farm with a very diverse “mini ecosystem” in that we have mango trees, guyubano (sweet sop/sour sop),star apple, jack fruit, coconut, guava, avacado, papaya,banana, citrus, etc., along with moringa oleifera (the local name here is Mulunggay), we actually did a perimeter planting of mulunggay as we utilize it most everyday in native dishes here, or even with fresh eggs for breakfast, and since we do live in the tropics, we enjoy eating the ripe seedpods about a month or so after the rainy season is upon us. As the gentleman from Costa Rica mentioned, we too have an abundance of fruit here, and of course our vegtables like eggplant, spinach (2 varieties), bitter melon (local name “Ampalaya”), onions, sweet potato,various pepper plants, tomato, okra, pole beans, ect., we do crave meat as well, thank goodness for Philippine native chickens and pigs, they are of course very well adapted to this climate, will eat almost anything, so no need for commercial (possible GMO) feeds, they almost never get sick, so no need for vaccines or antibiotics. They do grow slower, but they grow organically/naturally and we believe the wait is well worth it. I just wanted to share this with you, say hi and thanks again.
Wow, your situation sounds really nice.
would love to come visit you guys!!!
Oh and I forgot to mention we have started growing Dragonfriut as well with pretty good success, so much so, I have started learning about wine making 🙂
Just reading some of your archives And would like to know where I could get some of the Moringa oleifera that you mentioned. Is there some way to get starts off a plant or do you start from seeds?
You can start from seeds, or buy plants. Whew… I’ve seen it a lot for slae online.
Oh! ECHO, the amazing ‘Educational Conerns for Hunger Organization’ out of Florida – hmm, their link is http://www.echonet.org they should have seeds. And a fantastic group to support.
Marjory Wildcraft, Thank you for your posts. Sugar and bread are my down fall. My wife calls me her carbaholic. I have a great organic garden 20 x 20. I am growing Kale, Collard greens, red leaf lettuce, brussel sprouts, swiss chard, green tea, an herb that cleanese the liver, aspargus, leeks, and a fig tree. So I am getting the greens and good stuff. But keeping away from cookies and brownies not good at. Thanks again. Steve
Sugar is the elephant in the room, isn’t it?
I am working to switch my body metabolism from burning carbs to burning fat. Check here to see the posts I’ve written about the journey.
Hey, do do have a lot going on. Congrats for all the good work so far.
Marjory, I have started 5 moringa trees and one got to be about 7 foot tall before it dried up and died. The others didn’t get but about 4 feet tall before they died. I planted them in a 55 gallon plastic barrel cut in half and use Mel Bartholomew’s mix to grow them in. Two were in my house and the other 3 was in my greenhouse with my tomatoes. Any idea why I am have trouble?
Hi John, You mentioned ‘dried up and died’ – was water an issue? Where (roughly) are you located? Were they getting enough sun? Was there adequate drainage in the barrel?