Monday, May 7, 2012

What to Plant?

When you start vegetable gardening it is tempting to plant absolutely everything. I know I wanted to. There are so many plants that you feel you somehow "ought" to plant. Even my neighbor, who has been growing veg for many years, will plant beans even though she really doesn't care much for them. Which has been a bit of a boon for me since she will give me some of the extras. I keep feeling like I should be growing eggplant, but I hate them.

I do grow a few extra things for my elderly mother, such as beets and parsley. This is due, in part, to the fact that you have to buy these things in bunches. Mum is so small that much of this goes to waste before she can use them up. By having them in the garden I can pick them as she needs them. This is also true of my beloved cilantro. When I buy it at the store I end up throwing quite a bit away. So planting it is great for having a steady fresh supply.

I have switched from planting lettuce to planting blends of greens called mesclun. This helps me create a fun and diverse salad easily and I don't have to plant each type separately. This also helps make the garden colorful and beautiful in the absence of all of the flowers in which I used to indulge. My favorite lettuce, iceberg, now so politically incorrect, has been harder to grow than I had anticipated, but I still try.

I always grow spinach. I am not a big spinach fan overall, but if I am going to eat it, it must be fresh. I was raised on canned spinach, which made me gag. With a couple of bowls of fresh spinach growing on the patio it is easy to throw a bit into omelets, soups, or pasta sauces. I am retraining my palate away from the memories of the food my mother prepared.

This year I am putting a push behind the brassica family of vegetables -- broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts. I have Grave's Disease, or hyper-thyroid. Most people have hypo-thyroid. Raw brassica vegetables (which includes radishes) have something called "goitrogens" in them that helps to lower thyroid function. Okay, I'm not going to eat the sprouts raw, but I do like them once in awhile cooked and cheese melted over them. Still fairly healthy.

I adore potatoes, so I started planting red potatoes last year. They didn't do really well, but I planted them late. So this year I am starting earlier. I chose red potatoes because I am also a diabetic. Red potatoes are lower in carbohydrates. While I can't eat them everyday, I can have them a couple of times a week. I have found that growing my own organic seems to have an even smaller effect on my blood sugar levels.

One of my goals has been to have perennial veg and herbs in the garden so that I will always have some food in the garden. So far this has taken the form of Egyptian walking onions, reseeding red spinach, chives, sage, oregano, and asparagus. Well, the asparagus will be new this year.  I also have raspberries and strawberries, both of which are excellent for diabetics. I have planted three blueberry bushes that came with the promise of bearing the first year. This is their third year and they have hardly grown at all. One of my missions this year is to see if I can fix the problem or if I need to just start over with them.

Some of the more difficult things that I try to grow are leeks. They can be rather expensive. The problem is that they have a very long growing season. I finally have leeks large enough to harvest this year. I planted them two years ago.

Some suggest growing only those things that you can't easily buy in the grocery store. However, I just love taking a colander in hand, wandering through the garden, and selecting what to trow together for dinner. The colander then goes into the sink for a quick rinse and I am ready to go. It satisfies something deeply primal in me.

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