Published in the Toronto Star, March 26th 2016
Of all the newsletters that I receive David Cohlmeyer produces one of the best. He bills himself as a ‘Sustainable Good Foods Consultant’ [not be to confused with the bad foods variety].
In a recent publication David talks about the micro biome in our gut, where billions of bacteria live [probiotics]. They are there to ‘digest food, provide us with energy, produce crucial vitamins, regulate appetite, protect our immune system and fend off and harmful bacteria’. Sounds like a big job.
Mr Cohlmeyer refers us to a recent edition of the TV show ‘The Nature of Things’ in which the show recommends the top-ten gut-friendly foods. Interestingly, the top 5 of these can grow in your garden, the bottom 5 not so much [ie. nuts, yogurt, extra virgin olive oil, red wine and dark chocolate].
We are just days past the vernal equinox: Sunday the 20th of March at 12:30 a.m. It is spring. This is the time of year to decide what you will plant in your garden this year. I start sowing many of my veggie seeds this weekend.
There are the top 5 super foods and how to grow them:
- Jerusalem Artichoke. If you can grow twitch grass you can grow J. A.’s. All they really need is soil of most any description [though loose and crumbly works best] and sunshine. Mother Nature will take care of the rest. Plant in a sunny position, as they are members of the sunflower family. Dig your first harvest next year and eat the root. David warns that they are difficult to digest and that the antidote is to eat more of them [!]. The tuberous roots are available at your garden retailer in the bulb section. Plant as soon as the soil is dry enough to work.
- Leeks. Leeks really like me. I grow a lot of them. Start the seeds now and plant the stringy seedlings in late April or early May. Light frost will not hurt them if you harden them off before planting. Line them out in a shallow trench 8 cm. apart, firm quality soil around the bottom centimetre of the plant to stabilize it in the soil. Full sun. Dress the root zone with compost or triple mix 5 cm. up the stem, a bit at a time over 8 to 12 weeks to create the white blanching effect for mild, tasty leeks. Harvest late in the season, after a few early frosts, which intensifies their flavour.
- Garlic. While autumn is the best time to plant garlic, you can plant them in the spring. The earlier the better. Line the cloves of seed garlic [vs. grocery store garlic] about 15 cm. apart in rows about 25 cm. apart. Garlic loves the sun and cool temperatures. Come July, when they bolt ‘pig tails cut these ‘scapes’ off and use them. Come mid August dig up the garlic plants, let them dry in the sun for three days or more and then cure the bulbs under cover, out of the rain but in a well ventilated space.
- Lentils. This is the ‘year of pulses’ and lentils belong in this family of leguminous plants. If this sounds mysterious keep an eye on my column as I will write about them soon. In the mean time, it is possible for you to grow this super-food but frankly I don’t know why you would. You can buy good, organic, Canadian grown lentils very cheaply. Space in the average garden is better suited to higher yielding crops. However, if you would like to grow lentils for fun, go for it. All you need is sunshine and open/friable soil. Sow seeds after the threat of frost or start them indoors two weeks before the last frost and plant young transplants. Harvest when the pods have plumped up, like peas.
- Apples. Cohlmeyer says, “An apple a day DOES keep the doctor away.” There are many dwarf and semi-dwarf varieties available at garden retailers in the spring. Many are well suited to city life if you have enough sunshine [minimum 6 hours per day]. Forget trying to grow Granny Smith as our season is not long enough [unless you live in zone 7] and the great cooking apple Northern Spy is hopeless unless you are a teenager as it can take up to 14 years to produce it’s first crop. Otherwise, buy the variety that you like the best! Note that pollination in an urban environment is never a problem as pollinating bees travel far enough to mix it up with crabapples and the like.
I love an apple in the car: I munch and drive.
When I get home I’ll mix some nuts with a scoop of yogurt, enjoy a glass of red wine and finish it off with a snack of quality dark chocolate. That’s 5 out 10 super foods! This healthy life style is not so hard to take.