With Covid-19 everything is behind except time! Time keeps moving forward but I find myself saying: “Why didn’t we plant our garden sooner?” But in quarantine, everything was closed so it just could not happen. The good news is there is still time to plant and harvest a few great veggies. Here is how I know that. Most plants will take 50-60 days to harvest their vegetables. If you buy your plants already started from a nursery ASAP and get them in the ground you have plenty of time to reap the rewards of homegrown veggies even if your frost comes early. Also, make it easier on your body and grow in pots. Over time you can add some raised beds if you have the room but if you live in an apartment or house with not much room you will be amazed how much you can grow in pots.
Gardening is back-breaking work but so therapeutic in another way. I can’t do all the hard physical work of tilling the soil and carrying heavy bags of dirt to prepare the soil, but if I can sit and do a little at a time then it is manageable. I love gardening. My mom instilled the trait of having a wonderful garden in all of us. She was British and they love their gardens and my mom was so good at it. My brother and sister have beautiful gardens and usually, I do too but during the last years eating only fruit we didn’t plant anything since we could not eat veggies or even salad. So this year I was so excited at the thought of my homegrown tomatoes once again. Vidal’s salsa with my summer heirloom tomatoes is irresistible I promise!
Here are my 5 top summer foods to grow & their benefits on our health:
#1 – Tomatoes are #1. They are fun to grow, they give lots of fruit and can go until frost, which here in LA can be November! They are filled with lycopene which is an antioxidant that is a super disease-fighting nutrient along with boosting our heart health. They are also high in Vitamin C & potassium both of which help fight off cancer. And did you know that cooked tomatoes have up to 30% more Vitamin C but 150% more lycopene? Yes, it is true. I learned this from Dr. Gregor many years ago and was happy to hear this because there is so much out there that speaks of how badly cooked tomatoes are because of their acid. But I learned from research and from Dr. Gregor, the food science doctor, that they offer many benefits when cooked. You can use them for sauces or raw in many different salads & then of course fresh salsa. See my blog for the Vidal’s salsa video recipe! It is the best. With the virus all around who doesn’t want more natural Vitamin C and antioxidants? Here are the health benefits of lycopene which is highest in tomatoes:
- Helps men with their prostate issues
- Tomatoes reduce the risk of prostate cancer, most likely due to the action of lycopene
- As an antioxidant, lycopene combats cellular stress
- It interferes with cancer cell proliferation
- Offers cancer prevention by inducing phase II enzymes
- Lycopene is known for skin cancer protection due to the antioxidant properties of carotenoids, which tomatoes contain in high amounts
- Dietary lycopene has been shown to prevent the formation of oxidized LDL
- Lowers risk of gastric cancer
You can see the disease-fighting power you will have just by adding tomatoes to your diet since studies have shown their ability to help reduce degenerative diseases. When you learn the health benefits of each fruit or vegetable you would never want to eat anything else or any processed food. Only learning the many natural health benefits of each fruit & veggie will help you really get the statement: “Let Food Be Thy Medicine & Medicine Be Thy Food!”
#2 – Basil. I love basil. I make a favorite salad with heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, some chunks of Miyoko’s vegan mozzarella or Kite hill ricotta in there and then top with balsamic vinegar and maybe a little tiny splash of olive oil. Then I slice up lots of fresh basil leaves and YUM YUM YUM is all I can say. It is a delicious summer treat. Did you know that basil is:
- Good for Digestion
- An Anti-inflammatory
- Fights free radical activity
- Has many skin benefits
- Fights depression
- Helps diabetes management
- Supports liver function
- Helps detoxify the body
- Promotes a healthy gut
Also, thee are many kinds of basil. There is one called Holy Basil that is a Super Food in my opinion. I am growing this in my garden this year. You may know of Tulsi Tea and if so this is holy basil, which is officially called Ocimum sanctum. Holy basil is an adaptogenic herb that combats stress. It lowers blood sugar, decreases inflammation, and helps joint pains. It is also great brain food and heart food & well known as an anti-aging food. Try it as a tea and see for yourself. One of my favorite drinks I discovered was watermelon juice with pinch of basil leaf in it. Also, I love homemade lemonade with basil leaves in there for a healing wild flavor!
#3 – Oregano. I love oregano. It is great in Italian food, Mexican food and that means it is used every day in my household because I love both of those foods. I love even the dried herbs, but fresh herbs are even more amazing in your healthy whole food plant-based meals. They really are nature’s medicine and a little pinch has tons of healing power & flavor. I am growing 3 kinds in my garden: Greek, Italian and one called Epazote, which is Mexican oregano. Epazote is also known as ‘wormseed’ and has many healing properties in the intestine & gut. I love it in all my Mexican dishes. Oregano is:
- Rich in Antioxidants
- Contains potent antibacterial properties, which helps fight most bacterias
- Has anti-cancer properties
- High in antioxidants
- One of the main herb to use as an anti-bacterial and anti-viral & great to eat daily during Covid-19
- Treats menstrual cramps
- Controls parasites so it is a great gastric aid
- Great first step remedy for flu or cold
Did you know that the Greeks used its leaf extracts to ease pain, menstruation, indigestion, and microbial infections & that is why it is commonly added to Mediterranean foods? So it has been used as medicine for centuries. Easy to grow, easy to heal therefore this is one of my top foods to grow & feed my body. I use it fresh in almost every dish I cook so to give you one recipe would be hard.
#4 – Kale. How can you have a garden and not grow kale? Although it is tough for many to eat once you find a way to cook it by steaming it or sauteeing it to make it softer, then you can add it to your recipes and fall in love with it. Also great in smoothies to get the nutrients minus the texture that many can’t handle. Or add a few leaves to a great green juice made with apples or pineapples, cucumbers & ginger! Yummy & refreshing and super detoxifying and nourishing. Did you know kale:
- Is great for digestion because it is loaded with fiber & the stems are a rich source of prebiotics that feed the good biotics and many think are even more important.
- It is high in natural iron. It helps with the formation of hemoglobin & transports oxygen to the cells which allows for proper cell growth. And pair it with a food rich in Vitamin C and it will increase your body’s ability to absorb this plant-based iron.
- Is loaded with Quercetin, which is a flavonoid. Flavonoids help regulate cellular activity and fight off free radicals that cause oxidative stress on your body. In other words, they help your body function more efficiently while protecting it against everyday toxins and stressors. You can’t beat that so be sure to eat your kale!
- Is high in Vitamin K. Vitamin K1 is known as the ‘coagulation’ vitamin because it helps regulate the body’s blood-clotting mechanism. Vitamin K2 activates a protein called osteocalcin, which helps new bone to be built & replaces the bone that is broken down. Vitamin K2 also encourages a protein called Matrix GLA protein (MGP) which helps to keep arteries healthy by discouraging calcium from sticking to the walls.
- Lowers cholesterol, therefore is a heart-healthy food
- Is high in Vitamin C, which is the giant of antioxidants
- Is anti-inflammatory food
Kale is honestly known as the most nutrient-dense food on earth! A garden without kale is like an empty medicine chest!
#5 – Last but not least I would have to pick CILANTRO. You either love it or hate it. I love it, but I know it is an herb many don’t like. I learned that in a 23 and me gene test you will discover if you love or hate cilantro. I do love cilantro and yes it showed I did in my gene test also.. so weird! I put a whole bunch of cilantro in my salsa, and I use it in every Mexican dish I can, I use it in Indian dishes, and just about anywhere I can. My favorite juice recipe is the juice of 5 green apples, one entire bunch of cilantro, and the juice of 3 lemons and a pinch of ginger if you like. I was addicted to this juice for 2 years. I feel my mouth watering just talking about it.
Cilantro has many health benefits. Did you know that Cilantro:
- Is a power DETOX food
- Helps remove heavy metals because it is high in selenium which aids in detox
- Help to lower blood sugar
- Is rich in immune-boosting antioxidants
- Is a good mood food
- Protects brain health
- Promotes good digestion and gut health
- Fights off infections
- The leaves also have antioxidant, anti-fungal, antiseptic, & disinfectant properties that help in clearing up your skin from many problems. Also, Vitamin C in its leaves helps in maintaining smooth skin.
Adding cilantro to your garden is so easy. You can do plant it in 5 min and reap your harvest in weeks and use it so many recipes including juice recipes. A summer garden without cilantro is a lonely garden, in my opinion!
Herbs are easy to grow in your garden and even indoors. They are easy to grow in pots and there is no comparison to using fresh herbs vs. dried herbs in your whole food plant-based cooking. Also, herbs are like concentrated nutrient-dense superfoods and truly are medicines so when you can eat them in your meals you are making them not only taste delicious but using your food to feed your cells with powerful protective antioxidants that have cancer-fighting properties that gives you so much prevention. You know the saying: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!” So eat your medicine and feed your body the food it was designed to function on!
Well, those are my favorite choices for easy to grow summer healing foods to eat and use herbally in teas or spices in my meals or salads. I hope you too will grow some of your own food and learn first hand how a tomato should really taste! Add the basil and a splash of salt and you are in healthy heaven!