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Spring is the Time to Get Your Hands Dirty

Mar 22, 02:10 PM

Food and Fitness Fundamentals

Spring is finally here! Say goodbye to the dark dreary days of winter, and hello to the long awaited anticipation of tasting those fabulous in- season fruits, vegetables and herbs. If you already grow a bountiful garden in your backyard, you are familiar with this delightful and oh so rewarding hobby. If you have thought about starting an edible garden, but never followed through, here are some tips to help bring these fresh wholesome foods right to your kitchen door.

First, you need to decide on a good sunny location that can be easily accessed and tended. Most produce grows best in a south facing setting that provides a full day of direct sunlight. Adequate drainage is a must, especially when dealing with our Pacific Northwest heavy clay soil. Raised beds are ideal for growing edibles, as they provide great drainage, and can be easily amended with compost or aged manure to enrich the soil.

Since raised beds provide a system of planting crops 2-3 feet above ground, the actual process of gardening becomes less strenuous on the back, as there is minimal bending and stooping.

If your landscape is more limited, there is always the option of growing plants in pots or even old tires filled with a nice fertile soil. I have grown potatoes in tires for many years, and have found the best advantage comes at harvest time when I simply flip the tire over, and quickly pluck out all of the tubers in just minutes. This method eliminates the cautious digging required at harvest, as well as the ultimate damage that occurs when accidentally spading into the tubers.

Once you have decided upon your location and method of growing, you are ready to plan your seasonal menus! The planting choices are abundant, and one can certainly get overzealous, so make sure you have the correct amount of space needed for your ultimate selections.

I encourage choosing a variety of fruits, vegetable and herbs that have diverse harvesting dates. This method, along with succession planting (immediately replacing spent crops with new plants) is another way to enjoy the fruits of your labor all spring, summer, fall and even winter if you are so inclined. Are you are eager to get your hands dirty now? You can start seeds indoors six weeks before desired planting time; otherwise simply buy your favorite plants from local stores or nurseries when the soil warms up and you are ready to plug them in.

If you are a tomato lover, you may want to try OSU’s new Indigo Rose variety. This tomato was bred purposely for its deep purple eggplant color and is considered to be the first variety in the world that contains anthocyanins, a rich source of antioxidants.

Growing a food garden can be fun and educational for the entire family. It not only encourages healthy eating by simply including fruits and vegetables grown in your own back yard, it also creates an opportunity to try new seasoning techniques by using the fresh herbs right outside your kitchen door. Click here to learn about specific herbs and spices and for ideas on how to use them in meal preparations.

Getting all of the family involved in growing as well as preparing meals, encourages them to try new foods as well as readdress foods they previously may have disliked. And besides, gardening gives way for a perfect excuse to go outside, get some fun exercise and enjoy the warm sunny days of the seasons!

Until next time, here’s to healthy eating!

Lori Dodds, RD, LD, is a Registered Dietitian at The Corvallis Clinic Nutrition Services Department.

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