News about so-called superfoods is everywhere, touting their abilities to do everything from relieving pain to preventing cancer. But what is it that makes these foods so super? These foods are all packed with exceptional levels of nutrients that punch way above their weight when it comes to health benefits.
While some of the most famous superfoods like olive oil and green tea don’t just grow in the backyard, others can and will. Read on to learn how to grow a superfood garden of your own.
Make a plan for your superfood garden
The most successful gardens begin with strategic planning. Start by making a list of superfoods, then narrow it down to plants that you know will grow in your plant hardiness zone. Source the seed and rootstock of plant varieties you want to plant and determine how many you can feasibly plant.
Using graph paper and a ruler, make a scale drawing of your garden plot. Map out the diameters of your plants at full maturity and use those dimensions for your plan. This is the best way to figure out how much space you’ll need.
If you plan on planting trees, you should plant them as soon as possible and on the northern edge of the garden. You don’t want them casting long shadows across your beds as they grow. That could deprive the vegetables of vital sunlight.
Stagger your plants. You don’t want long rows of a single variety. This will increase the resilience of your plants against pests and disease. (More on that later).
Superfood Garden All-Stars
The list of superfoods is long, but there are a few superstars that you can easily grow at home.
Blackberries and blueberries are favorite superfoods, recognized by their intense pigmentation (many superfoods are vibrantly colored). Their nutrient loads are also wrapped in sweetness. Full of antioxidants and phenolic compounds, these berries help protect the brain from aging. They also fight cancer and disease.
Blackberries are easy to grow along fence lines – some might say too easy. Once you establish them in a sunny spot, they can be hard to get rid of. Plant a thornless variety if you prefer a painless harvest.
Blueberries, on the other hand, grow in bushes that thrive in acidic soil. Mulch with pine needles and coffee grounds and use a fertilizer designed for acid-loving plants and you’ll have all the berries you can eat each year.
This family spans a range of veggies renowned for their healthy properties. The superfood standouts are broccoli, brussels sprouts, collard greens, kale, and turnip greens.
Crucifers contain mighty compounds and nutrients like sulforaphane, carotenoids, vitamin C, copper, and omega-3 fatty acids. These nutrients improve skin tone, reduce inflammation, and increase collagen. They also improve heart health, boost hair growth and reduce the risk of cancer.
The good news is that no matter what zone you live in, there’s a fruit tree that will grow there. Apples are the unsung heroes of the superfood world. They reduce the risk of diabetes, aide in digestion, and prevent degenerative brain diseases.
Papayas are tropical trees that grow rapidly and yield vibrant orange fruits that also help digestion. They also help control blood pressure and combat oral and throat cancers.
Grapefruit can help improve liver function, help prevent breast cancer, and fortify the immune system.
Pomegranates are celebrated for improving circulation, slowing the growth of prostate cancer, and reducing levels of unhealthy cholesterol.
Fruit trees need a little more room than vegetables but will thrive planted on the northern perimeter of a garden. The space they require is more than made up for by their longevity and productive capacity.
Beans and peas come packed with mega benefits: they reduce blood pressure and unhealthy cholesterol while helping manage diabetes. Beans are easy to grow and will yield more than you can possibly consume.
You can let bean pods mature and dry on the plant to save for the stewpot later. Just make sure you give peas and climbing-type beans something to climb on.
If you have a garden, chances are you’ve already been growing this superfood. Rich in lycopene, potassium, and vitamin C, tomatoes improve sleep and memory, support heart health, and preserve brain and nerve tissue.
Some of the most savory of the superfoods grow out of sight: garlic and onions, ginger, sweet potatoes, and turmeric are all subterranean stars.
Garlic and onions are bulbs that help bolster the immune system and help with cardiovascular health. They can be grown in most temperate climates.
Ginger and turmeric are both heat-loving tropical plants that don’t mind high humidity and rainfall. Ginger is good for stomach aches and nausea, and turmeric is an anti-inflammatory also known as an antiviral.
Sweet potatoes are easy-to-grow tubers packed with antioxidants that help to regulate blood sugar. What’s more, their leafy vines are delicious, nutritious, and abundant. Once sweet potatoes are established in your garden, you can expect them to come back every year because it’s nearly almost impossible to harvest every last one.
Some herbs are considered superfoods, which is good news because interplanting them in the garden can help combat pests and improve yields. They’ll also repel pests and attract beneficial insects.
Cilantro is great for weight loss, as it promotes the metabolism of fat and lowers blood sugar levels.
Chamomile increases the nutrient content and improves the flavor of vegetables. It can also be harvested and dried for tea.
Mint is a fabulous digestive aid that helps ease stomach pains and may have cancer-preventive properties to boot. Mint planted throughout the garden can help to keep ants, mosquitoes, and mice at bay.
Parsley is not only delicious but also high in antioxidants and supports healthy kidney function.
Sunflowers, while not exactly an herb, deserve mention here. Their towering blooms are a joy to behold, and they also repel aphids and lure pests away from vegetables. Harvest young sunflower shoots as a nutritious green, or harvest at the end of the season for their delicious seeds full of nutrients that support heart and nervous system functions.
If you’ve never grown a garden before there’s a lot to learn, but none of this knowledge is hard to put into practice. All gardens give great rewards, but if you learn how to grow a superfood garden, those rewards are multiplied many times over.
Natalie Baker is a freelance writer who enjoys splitting her time between her Denver apartment and an organic farm near Steamboat Springs, Colorado. She spends much of the year growing her own vegetables and raising chickens.
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