One of my fondest memories growing up was puttering around with my dziadzia (grandfather) in his garden, asking him at every moment, “Can I pull out the carrots yet?” As a child, just pulling a carrot from the ground was amazing, and then being able to eat it too? Mind boggling.
Being able to grow your own food is an empowering feeling.
What was it that made that freshly picked carrot grown with love taste so amazing? It was the plants’ chemical compounds. A mix of micronutrients consisting of the many vitamins, minerals and hundreds of thousands of phytonutrients that scientists are only just recently starting to discover. The mix can be quite complex. To give you an example, here’s the somewhat known chemical composition of a single organically grown strawberry:
- Vitamins: C, E, B6, biotin, folate, niacin, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, thiamin
- Minerals: calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, boron, iron, iodine, manganese, molybdenum, zinc
- Amino acids: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, valine
- Phytonutrients: anywhere from three to five thousand known plant secondary compounds, including ellagic acid, lutein, seaxanthin, and beta-carotene
Want to make things even more complex? Tomatoes make phenylethanol from phenylacetaldehyde, which is made from phenethylamine, which is derived from phenylalanine. Quite the science tongue twister, isn’t it? This compound needs that to make this compound, but that compound needs this to make that compound. How is one to keep track of all of these? I delegate this task to my food.
So how can we make sure we get all the micronutrients we need? Eat real, nutrient-dense foods like vegetables composed of nature’s magic potion. Scientists don’t have all the answers, in fact, they probably never will. If human cells had the ability to verbalize answers, we could just ask them what’s actually going on inside and what they need to keep things running smoothly. But until that day comes, we can only hypothesize how all of these chemicals work in our bodies and their synergistic abilities. Nature knows best and has outlived humans by thousands of years so it must know something that we don’t, right?
Benefits of your very own vegetable garden
When you eat your own organically grown fruits and vegetables, you tend to pick them when they’re fully ripe, getting the greatest amount of micronutrients required to maintain bodily functions. If your body doesn’t get what it needs to fully operate, it chooses which functions will get the limited amounts, and pushes the others aside until more micronutrients are consumed. If there’s never enough available, eventually systems start to break down.
By growing your own, you reduce your consumption of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, growth hormones, and antibiotics found in some commercially grown produce. A toxic buildup can interfere with a number of body systems including our neurological functions, endocrine system, the ability to ward off diseases, even behavioural issues in children.
You will learn to love healthy food. The more you eat those rich tasting fruits and vegetables, the less you’ll crave the human-made flavours of other “foods”. Even though these “foods” will set off our reward receptors, they are devoid of many micronutrients that are essential to thrive. Next time you reach for that processed item, imagine those foods reaching your digestive system and saying, “Gotcha! You thought I was full of nutrients didn’t you? I just tasted like I was! HA!” Leaving your nutrient hungry cells to sadly retreat and make do with what they have, hoping it’s enough.
You’ll save money because you’re growing your own food and you likely won’t eat as much! When you eat more phytonutrients, you tend to eat less because your body reaches the feeling of satiation more easily. Plant compounds are essentially toxic, BUT because of this toxicity, our bodies evolved to stop us from overconsuming. Say goodbye to that uncomfortable feeling of nearly bursting and limited movement.
Tips for growing your vegetable garden
Just like our bodies need nutrients, so do plants. The flavour of what you grow is largely influenced by what the plant eats, so use soil and compost rich in nutrients.
Grow lots of cut-and-come-again greens. Dark leafy greens are so important for us to eat, so make friends with salad. Tip: Massage greens with a bit of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar to tone down the bitterness and break it down for easier digestion.
No space, no problem! Try vertical growing crops. Vine plants like peas, beans and cucumbers grab a hold of anything they can get their tiny tendrils on. Tomato vines need a bit more structure to attach to and if you’re feeling super precocious, try MacGyvering a contraption using wires and panty hose (or even large brassieres) to hold large heavy fruits such as melons or pumpkins as they grow.
Curious if you have an inkling of green in that thumb of yours? Start small and plant easy to grow vegetables (greens, herbs, radishes, beets and beans to name a few). The feeling you get from seeing your very first vegetable bloom, no matter how small, is a gratifying one. Maybe next year you can get crazy and try growing celery!
Weed, water, then weed some more. Some weeds are actually quite nutritious, such as baby dandelion leaves, but the ones in your garden hog all the moisture and nutrients from the precious soil. I personally love to listen to music and sit on the grass while weeding. This connection of the electrical frequencies in the human body with the Earth’s electrical energy can help us feel more “grounded.”
Revelstoke is one of the best places to learn how to grow a vegetable garden. Check out The Revelstoke Local Food Initiative (www.revelstokelocalfood.com) for a ton of resources to get you on your gardening way, including plot rental opportunities coming up in April and May. The LFI also have Garden Guru Workshops throughout the growing season to further your garden learning.
Ever heard of the Seed Library at the Revelstoke library? Right there beside all the books at the end of the shelf, you’ll find a variety of locally donated seeds that are available for anyone to help themselves to.
So find a plot and build a garden. Work together with friends. Maybe your elderly neighbour could use a hand in the garden in exchange for a few veggies and berries? See what you can create this year with some dirt, a few seeds, a sprinkle of water and a touch of love. That first bite of something fresh from your garden might just remind you of what real food is supposed to taste like.