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Garden Expert – Super Garden Foods

Garden Expert - Super Garden Foods

For a powerhouse of nutrients in your diet, add these top five super foods to your garden this year

A recent edition of the TV show The Nature of Things recommended the top 10 gut-friendly foods. Interestingly, the top five of these digestive-aiding foods can grow in your garden, the bottom five not so much (i.e. nuts, yogurt, extra virgin olive oil, red wine and dark chocolate). This is a great time of year to decide what you will plant in your garden this spring.


JERUSALEM ARTICHOKE If you can grow twitch grass, you can grow Jerusalem artichokes. All they really need is soil of most any description (though loose and crumbly works best) and sunshine. Mother Nature will take care of the rest. Plant in a sunny position, as they are members of the sunflower family. Dig your first harvest next year and eat the root. The tuberous roots are available at your garden retailer in the bulb section. Plant as soon as the soil is dry enough to work.
LEEKS Leeks really like me. I grow a lot of them. Plant seedlings in late April or early May. Light frost will not hurt them if you harden them off before planting. Line them out in a shallow trench 8 cm apart, firm quality soil around the bottom centimetre of the plant to stabilize it in the soil. Full sun. Dress the root zone with compost or triple mix 5 cm up the stem, a bit at a time over eight to 12 weeks to create the white-blanching effect for mild, tasty leeks. Harvest late in the season, after a few early frosts, which intensifies their flavour.
GARLIC While autumn is the best time to plant garlic, you can plant them in the spring. The earlier, the better. Line the cloves of seed garlic (vs. grocery-store garlic) about 15 cm apart in rows about 25 cm apart. Garlic loves the sun and cool temperatures. Come July, when they bolt pigtails, cut these scapes off and use them. Come mid-August dig up the garlic plants, let them dry in the sun for three days or more and then cure the bulbs undercover, out of the rain but in a well-ventilated space.
LENTILS It is possible for you to grow this super food but frankly, I don’t know why you would. You can buy good, organic, Canadian-grown lentils very cheaply. Space in the average garden is better suited to higher yielding crops. However, if you would like to grow lentils for fun, go for it. All you need is sunshine and open/friable soil. Sow seeds after the threat of frost or start them indoors two weeks before the last frost and plant young transplants. Harvest when the pods have plumped up, like peas.
APPLES There are many dwarf and semi-dwarf varieties available at garden retailers in the spring. Many are well suited to urban life if you have enough sunshine (minimum six hours per day). Forget trying to grow Granny Smith as our season is not long enough (unless you live in zone 7) and the great cooking apple Northern Spy is hopeless unless you are a teenager as it can take up to 14 years to produce its first crop. Otherwise, buy the variety that you like the best! Note that pollination in an urban environment is never a problem as pollinating bees travel far enough to mix it up with crabapples and the like.

I love an apple in the car: I munch and drive.

When I get home I’ll mix some nuts with a scoop of yogurt, enjoy a glass of red wine and finish it off with a snack of quality dark chocolate. That’s five out of 10 super foods! This healthy lifestyle is not so hard to take


Mark Cullen is an expert gardener, author and broadcaster. Get his free monthly newsletter at Look for his new best seller, The New Canadian Garden’ published by Dundurn Press. Follow him on Twitter @MarkCullen4 and Facebook.