10 Superfoods You Can Grow in Your Backyard
There is nothing better than growing your own fruits and vegetables -- especially superfoods that can stretch your wallet at the grocery store. Many superfoods can be grown right in your backyard, and the benefits go further than saving cash -- they're packed with nutrients, and you have peace of mind that your produce has been grown organically. Here are our favorite superfoods to grow at home.
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Each small berry packs a punch of antioxidants and phytoflavinoids. They are a top pick by doctors and nutritionists because they lower your risk of heart disease and cancer while acting as an anti-inflammatory. There is a blueberry for every garden -- small, tall, semi-evergreen, deciduous, blue, or pink. One easy pick is 'Sunshine Blue,' with ornamental qualities and exceptional taste. This variety thrives in Zones 5-10 and is semi-evergreen -- in fall and winter, its bluish-gray leaves transform to crimson, making it an ideal four-season plant.
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A popular grain in the food world, quinoa is touted to be packed with protein and fiber. Although it hails from South America, you can grow it in your own backyard. The grain is harvested from the dried seed pods. We like a variety called Brightest Brilliant Rainbow -- the seeds can be harvested in 90–120 days, but in the meantime it creates visual interest in your garden.
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Any type of greens are healthy for the body, but kale is a powerhouse. It is rated as one of the best veggies for absorbing free radicals, which have been linked to diabetes, Alzheimer's, and rheumatoid arthritis. Lacinato Kale, also known as Dinosaur or Tuscan Kale, has a sweet, mild flavor, especially when harvested at a young age. It's a gorgeous blue-leaf Italian heirloom variety that tastes fantastic in soups.
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Known for its omega-3 fatty acids that stabilize blood sugar, lower cholesterol, and boost energy, tiny Chia seeds play a big role in the superfood world. Chia seeds are cultivated from Saliva hispanica, a member of the mint family. Grow this plant like an annual herb and harvest seeds when the flower pods have dried. It is hardy to USDA Zones 9-11. Chia seeds will germinate in two to three weeks and the plant can reach up to 3 feet.
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One of the oldest cultivated foods in the Americas is packed full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. LSU Agriculture Department has been working on breeding new cultivars of sweet potato. Try 'Bonita', a newer variety with flesh that is truer white than older cultivars. Its texture is flaky when cooked, like a classic baking potato, with a sweet and nutty flavor. Photo Courtesy of Burpee.
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This fruit has a long history in Chinese medicine, and it's becoming increasingly popular in the American horticulture market. Full of vitamins C and E, beta-carotene and lycopene, the fruit is typically consumed dried like a raisin and has a strong sweet-sour flavor profile. If consumed fresh, it can have a very tart taste. Proven Winners has recently introduced two different goji berries to their collection: Sweet Lifeberry and Big Lifeberry. They grow like other vine crops (such as raspberries): As the canes get older, they will strengthen. Supporting with a fence or trellis would be helpful, although they can be easily grown in a container. This shrub grows well in Zones 5-9. Photo Courtesy of Proven Winners.
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Scientists are now confirming that microgreens -- greens and herbs harvested within 14 days of their growth cycle -- have a greater concentration of vitamins and minerals than their fully grown counterparts. In one study, the younger greens had four to six times more beneficial nutrients. There are several different microgreens to choose from, including Microgreens Milk Mix seeds, which are ready to harvest within five to ten days. Growing greens by seed is very simple: Just sprinkle the seeds over soil and cover with a very thin layer of potting soil. Microgreens are perfect for containers and window boxes.
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Beets are coined "nature's multivitamin" because they can ward off diseases from the common cold to cancer. This healthy vegetable has been appearing on roasted-beet salads in restaurants for years. Not only are the roots beneficial, but the leaves are just as edible and healthy. Try varieties like 'Golden', 'Chioggia' and 'Bull's Blood'. The colors of golden and ruby beets look gorgeous when combined in a dish together.
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These little red Scandinavian berries are one of the newest superfoods. Their berries are extremely tart, so they are often made into jam or jelly. You often see them paired with Swedish pancakes as a topping. However, that same jam could be added to milk to make a wonderful smoothie. Loaded with tons of nutrients and believed to help with a wide range of health problems, lingonberries are part of the blueberry family. They prefer acidic soil just as their relative does. There are a couple different varieties to choose from and many of them are hardy to Zone 3. Photo Courtesy of Raintree Nursery.
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Containing one of the richest supplies of carotenoids, just a half-cup serving of pumpkin gives you more than two times the recommended daily dose of alpha-carotene. Not only is the flesh good for you, but so are the seeds. There are plenty of different varieties to choose from, but it really depends on the size of your garden. For smaller gardens, we like 'Wee B Little' pumpkin from Bonnie Plants. This variety has a semibush habit so it doesn't need a ton of room, and the fruit is versatile. Photo Courtesy of Bonnie Plants.