GROWING fruit and vegetables can sound a bit overwhelming if you've never tried but it is a lot simpler than it sounds, fun and very rewarding.
The health benefits are many and include the higher nutrition content found in locally grown vegetables and fruit, getting out in the fresh air and sun and gardening is great for relieving stress. Many people who have a vegetable plot find it a great way to "switch off' from work or family pressures and to relax and others use it as a chance to get creative or get their children involved.
If you are growing your own in the garden, the chances are you will end up eating more fruit and veg. Including fresh vegetables and fruit in your diet can help protect against cancer and heart disease and slow down the ageing process as they are full of antioxidants. They are also a great source of fibre, helping to relieve constipation, are naturally low in fat and are full of potassium to help with blood pressure and water retention.
The vitamins and minerals in fresh fruit and veg are superior to supplements as your body knows exactly what to do with them. Vegetables may provide up to twice the benefits of fruits due to their healing effect on the blood sugar and higher mineral content. Vegetables from the brassica family such as cabbage, Brussel sprouts, broccoli and kale contain substances called glucosinolates, making them the most powerful at preventing cancer.
Eating green vegetables is especially good for your health as they are high in chlorophyll which turns to iron in the body and contain minerals such as calcium and magnesium to help alkalise the body and keep you healthy.
When you grow organic produce you have peace of mind that the vegetables are free from harmful chemicals and with stories in the media about food poisoning and foods being recalled, by growing your own fruits and vegetables you can relax, knowing they are very safe to eat.
Fresh fruit and vegetables also contain enzymes which give us energy but enzymes are destroyed through processing and storing. The produce in stores that is grown in foreign countries will contain much less nutrition and enzymes than vegetables and fruit that are grown locally or even better in the garden.
When they are growing in your back yard they taste delicious and are high in vitamins and minerals which many people are lacking in today as they are depleted when the same vegetables are grown year after year in the same soil. By making a compost heap you can have highly nutritious fertiliser for your garden for free that will give you mineralised vegetables and fruit.
Growing your own also helps the planet in many ways by reducing fossil fuels produced by transporting fresh produce from various countries to the supermarkets. i-laying a vegetable garden can give you affordable fruit and vegetables that are organic and saves time and money on frequent trips to the shops.
All you need to start are some seeds, seed trays, compost and water. You can even buy vegetables from the garden centre that are slightly older and plant them directly into the garden. Here are some vegetables and fruits that grow well in Northern Ireland — potatoes, cabbage, beans, peas, beetroot, broccoli, cour-gettes, carrots, bok choi, lettuce, cucumber, onions, garlic, strawberries, blackcurrants, apples, gooseberries and many more.
Kale is an especially nutritious vegetable that survives the winter and returns year after year as does spinach. Even if you don't have a garden or a big yard you can container garden by putting them in a sunny spot or start a herb garden on your kitchen windowsill (its possible to grow many peppers or tomatoes out of one pot). Children especially love being involved in growing fruit and vegetables and it benefits their health by helping them to get in touch with nature and spend more time outside.
If you are very busy why not have local, organic fruit and vegetables delivered to your doorstep once a week?