The best veggies are backyard fresh, but is it too late to grow them now that it’s the middle of summer? Here are four veggies you can put in the ground now and pack for lunch by the fall.
It is estimated that a veggie in the grocery store can lose up to 30 percent of its nutrients from the time it is picked to the time it is polished off. If we’re trying to get our kids to eat their daily recommended dose of two to three cups of veggies a day, that may mean feeding them an additional cup each!
If that isn’t enough reason to think about backyard gardening, then consider this finding from the University of California: Some veggies can lose as much as 55 percent of their vitamin C within a week of picking. Spinach can lose 90 percent within a day of harvest.
Of course, we do not all live in sun-shiny places where the good weather ensures year-round gardening. But even in the middle of summer, in the middle of the country, there are plenty of highly nutritious veggies we can plant now and pick in time to fill school lunch boxes. Most important, planting a garden is a fun family activity. It will help kids appreciate where veggies come from, and then how to eat them.
Following are some recommended veggies for July planting, and why they are so important to growing kids:
Carrots: Relatively easy to grow in lots of sunlight, carrots give back in many ways. They are a key source of beta-carotene, a type of vitamin A best known for retina development and eyesight. But beta-carotene also is an important antioxidant important for maintaining healthy skin. Bonus: Carrots of other colors pack different nutrients. Purple carrots, for example, deliver anthocyanin and flavonoids, which help boost immunity and enhance brainpower.
Beans: Beans like warm soil and air and are pretty robust, so even a novice can get some pole beans or bush beans sprouting. Green beans are an easy-to-eat source of folic acid, which helps the body grow new brain cells for wittier bedtime conversations and happier moods. A gardening bonus is that some pests, such as Mexican bean beetles, are less common by mid summer.
Cucumbers: Good for growers who have a decent amount of space, cucumbers are worth the square footage. They are high in fiber, which is essential for detoxifying the body and clearing the intestines. Also, a cucumber’s plant-based sugars are slowly absorbed into the blood stream, so kids who eat them for lunch should experience stable moods for a few hours. Give cucumbers their room to grow, and they’ll help your kids grow.
Kale: Seeds for this dark leafy green can be put into the ground from mid-July to mid-August and grow into the fall – just the season for warm salted kale chips. Like beans, kale is chock-full of folic acid, vitamins and antioxidants, which aid in the growth of new brain cells and, therefore, bright ideas. Kale also boosts the production of dopamine, a chemical that triggers feelings of happiness. You can thank us later.
In the time it takes to pick and eat these homegrown veggies, we’re estimating not a single percent of their nutrition is wasted. Enjoy them raw with an all-natural dip or roasted with a preservative-free veggie topper. The trick to making them memorable is growing, harvesting and cooking like a family.
Oops – and one more note on maintaining vitamins and other health benefits: Remember that many veggies hold the bulk of their nutrients in their skins. So put the peeler away and just give them a good wash, for a 100 percent return on your gardening investment.