These days supermarket shelves are awash with chia seeds, goji berries, cacao nibs and many other exotic-sounding foods. They promise good health—yet travel thousands of miles to get to your table. It’s easy to forget that we can grow nutrient-dense foods in our own back garden! Here are some of the best:
These tiny berries are brimming with vitamin C. In fact, a 100g serving contains 300 per cent of your RDA, which is more than three times that of an orange. Vitamin C plays an important role in keeping your skin plump and your immune system firing—huge advantages that are worth the effort of looking after a blackcurrant bush. Once harvested, they can easily be stewed for a nice yogurt or porridge topping.
If you were only to eat one vegetable for the rest of your life, broccoli would be a good choice. As well as being rich in vitamin K, vitamin C and folate, it contains special compounds that help your liver to detoxify harmful substances (and, yes, that includes alcohol!). The best time to sow broccoli seeds is between March and June.
This pungent plant has a long association with health—records from the Middle Ages indicate both its root and leaves were used as a medicinal aid. The fresh root is as fiery as the ubiquitous horseradish condiments, but also sweeter. Grate and steep in a little hot water for a drink that’s bound to clear a blocked nose. It’s easy to grow, as it needs little attention and isn’t sensitive to cold.
These are stalwarts of British roast dinners for good reason. The humble orange root vegetable is a rich source of beta-carotene, a compound that’s converted to vitamin A in your body. Vitamin A in turn contributes to normal vision—which is why your mother told you that carrots help you see in the dark! Sow in April and they’ll be ready three to four months later, and taste wonderful whether roasted or grated on a salad.
Their deep red colour comes from a substance called lycopene, which has been associated with lowering cholesterol and supporting our cardiovascular systems. You don’t need a greenhouse either, as plants can be started off indoors by placing pots in a plastic bag and keeping them on the windowsill. Enjoy the fruits of your labour with some mozzarella, fresh basil and olive oil—delicious!
Best in season: Spring onions
Why eat it?
This vegetable, which is simply a white onion harvested early, is a good source of quercetin. This substance is a powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine, and helps your body fight seasonal allergies.
How to cook it?
Choose the thinnest spring onions you can find and chop finely. These can be sprinkled over several dishes before serving, or folded into creamy mash potato for a fresh but comforting side dish.