It’s that time of the year again…. This week I’ll be planting my early spring garden, and I’ll be planning my Summer garden.
My focus as always will be on finding as many ways as possible to maximize potential for growing nutrient dense food. That means a focus on soil health and a focus on choosing the strongest genetics, or the cultivars that contain the highest levels of nutrition. This month my focus is on choosing those cultivars I’m going to plant. I’ve been doing that now for 30 or so years and I find that I’ve developed very strong relationships with some of the vegetables in my garden. Some times that relationship feels so strong that those plants are now part of the family and I’ll probably always grow them. It actually feels as though my DNA recognizes them, and celebrates the nutrition they provide.
Others I still getting a feel for, and as I learn more about some of the cultivars in our collection, or as new knowledge or understandings come my way I rethink old choices and sometimes make new ones.
The longer I do this the more strongly I feel that the job now is to focus on nutrient density through both genetics and environment.
I love the way Jo Robinson explains .. in Eating on the Wild Side….the human tendency to choose sweet high carb fruit ad vegetables, the reason we’ve selected over thousands of years for these qualities rather than nutrition, and that challenges me to rethink my choices all the way through my menu.
She says in Eating on the Wild Side that as hunter gathers we were hard wired to spend our time searching for the food that made us feel good and kept us healthy, ie that food that was the sweetest, had the most amount of fat and the highest levels of carbs. When all of those things were hard to come by and when they did in small amounts that worked for us. After 10,000 years of plant selection for those qualities it no longer serves us to be constantly eating the sweetest and the fattest and the highest in carbs, we need minerals and vitamins and traditional fats
I’ve definately had a very big sugar addiction through out most of my life, and, and have largely succeeded in changing that . Following the principles of the Weston price Foundation which are the principles all indigenous people based their diets on made the big difference but choosing fruit and vegetable cultivars that contain higher levels of bioavailable nutrients helps a lot as well.
This season for my early Spring garden, I’m going to choose to plant more open leafy greens, (rather than hearting greens) that have a deep green colour or even better a lot of red or purple colouring. They simply contain many times levels of phytonutrients compared to pale coloured cultivars with tight hearts.
These will be my early salad ‘greens’
- Dalmatian parsley, far darker green no other come near for brix levels
- Rosso endive, deep green and deep red
- Red mustard, red leaves even when young when I pick it for salads
- Mignonette lettuce, magenta outer leaves and semi open heart, also Devil’s Ear lettuce with magenta out eaves and semi open heart, also Odell’s which has very dark green outer leaves with stunning sweet white heart
- Welsh Bunching onions, aka scallions and reputedly the most nutritious onions there are when the green tops are used. They are my favourite onions and the easiest to grow. Once you’ve got them you just keep dividing them up
- Coriander, deep green open hearted use both leaves and roots
- Young dandelion leaves and flowers
- Young red leaves from Bull’s Blood beetroot
- My early peas will be edible podded peas because they also contain way more nutrition than shellout peas. I like Southland Sno and Havelock and Amish Snap
I’ll plant Ohno Scarlett turnips because of their strong growth habit and deep red veined leaves which are delicious as well as the thick but tender red skinned turnips. These are a favourite ferment , and the red colouring colours the whole jar of pickles.
I’ll plant my favourite daikon, Aomaru Koshun, which have deep red mandalas in their centres, and I’ll plant Red Russian Kale and Dalmatian cabbage and De Cicco broccoli, for my Spring brassicas because they are also open hearted containing many times the nutrition of tightly hearing cabbages etc. Dalmatian cabbage aka Collards are just as nutritious as kale, and are our own NZ heritage vegetables. Cylindrical beetroot is my favourite not only because of the dark red colour but also because it is twice as productive as other cultivars.
I’m also chitting my potatoes ready for planting now and I’ll be planting Urenika and Whataroa, the two that feel the most nutrient dense to me. Certainly Urenika is well proven to have super high levels of anti-oxidents and bio available nutrients and Whataroa feels way higher than most others as well.
In my next blog I’ll talk about my choices for the most nutritious Summer crops …. Happy Spring!