BY DOREEN POLLACK
It would be nice if the Food and Drug Administration stopped issuing warnings about toxic substances and just gave me the names of one or two things still safe to eat. ~ Robert Fuoss
There have been many health studies on the connection between our health and the foods we eat and, and no matter how you slice the research, fruits and veggies make the cut. Eating lots of fresh produce can lower your blood pressure, help you maintain a healthy weight, lower your risk of several types of cancer (including breast cancer), and reduce your risk of heart disease, a stroke and Type 2 diabetes. They provide numerous phytonutrients and antioxidants which help prevent cellular damage throughout the body. Even with all of these great reasons to eat our fruits and veggies, the majority of adults and kids aren’t eating enough. They’re colorful, crunchy, pretty, tasty and healthy — what’s not to love?
Stealing a few sneaky tricks from our parents out there is one way to get our kids to eat the “good stuff” — making faces out of our food, providing lots of dipping options (ranch, caramel, honey, cream cheese…whatever it takes!), blending them into oblivion so they are undetectable in pizza sauce. Another tactic many parents use is growing them yourself. Kids are way more likely to eat them if they’ve contributed to growing them…the cool factor. (The same tricks sometimes work on grown-ups too…sssshhhhhh.) So why not plant your own garden? Grow your own healthy food, and get some exercise in the garden while you’re at it!
Here are some delicious, healthy foods you can grow in your own Arizona garden:
• Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, cauliflower)
• Dark leafy greens (collards, kale, spinach)
• Carrots and tomatoes
Growing a garden may seem like a lot of work, but it doesn’t have to be – maybe start small! The best part is if you live in the low desert like Phoenix or Tucson, you can grow all of these foods throughout the winter and into April or May! The seeds or transplants can go into the garden now and you will be able to harvest in about 45 days.
And if you want to grow some delicious fruit – look at citrus, berries and cherries. There are many fruit trees that have been developed especially for our short, warmer winters. You can learn more about them and how to grow them through ValleyPermacultureAlliance.org.
Heal thy soil
Most garden soil has taken a beating over the summer. Between the hot sun, little or no rain and all the plants that grew in the garden, nutrients have been depleted from the soil. Now is a good time to add your own compost or purchase some at your favorite nursery. Make sure the compost is completely decomposed and resembles soil. Combine the compost with the soil by lightly digging it in to the top six inches of the garden. Turn the soil over a few times, mix it together and rake it smooth. Then it is ready for the seeds or transplants.
QUICK TIP: Be sure to keep the soil uniformly moist so the seeds or plants do not dry out.