To get the most naturally sweet strawberries, you need to raise them yourself. There are two kinds of strawberries. June-bearing strawberries produce one large crop, (in June!) so you can eat your fill then freeze the excess in small quantities -- perfect for smoothies. Everbearing types produce berries spring through fall. You can pluck fresh berries for smoothies all season. Strawberries are perennials, so they come back year after year. Plant in full sun. Zones 3-10
Health Benefits: Strawberries are packed with vitamin C and fiber.
Smoothie Recipe: Try a delicious smoothie recipe with homegrown strawberries.
A cool-weather annual, kale is cousin to the cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. The curly, colorful, nutrient-packed leaves are easy to drop into a blender to add a little vitamin zip to any smoothie. Sow kale seeds in early spring. When plants are established, clip leaves often to encourage new growth. Kale tastes sweeter in cool weather when cold temps turn the stem and leaf starches to sugars. Plants can take cold temperatures -- surviving up to 0 degrees F -- so you can enjoy the healthy leaves in smoothies long into the winter.
Health Benefits: Kale is high in calcium, antioxidants, and vitamin K.
Smoothie Recipe: Rev up with this kale-and-beet afternoon snack.
Blueberries grow on shrubs, producing sweet fruits in late summer. They grow best in full sun, well-drained, sandy, acidic soil. There are two types of blueberries: highbush, a tall shrub that can grow over 6 feet, and lowbush, a shrub that grows about 1 foot tall. Blueberries make edible and colorful additions to landscapes, blooming in spring and producing berries in summer. In autumn, the foliage turns red. You can grow dwarf blueberries in pots. Try compact ‘Jelly Bean’ blueberry. Zones 3-9
Health Benefits: Blueberries have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Smoothie Recipe: Whip up a yummy fresh blueberry smoothie.
If you want to grow your own cherries for smoothies, you need a sunny spot -- a place that receives at least six hours of direct sun a day. Choose sweet cherries such as ‘Tehranivee’, which is a self-fertile type (you don’t need a second cherry tree for pollination). ‘Rainier’ is a popular sweet cherry, but you need another cherry for pollination in order to set fruit. Sweet cherries need lots of airflow around them; this keeps them free of a disease called brown rot.
Health Benefits: Cherries are high in vitamins A and C, fiber, iron, and calcium.
Smoothie Recipe: Stave off junk-food hunger pangs with a nutritious cherry smoothie.
Easy-to-grow spinach leaves can be raised in garden beds or containers. This cool-weather crop can be sown in early spring and harvested for weeks. Keep snipping off the leaves for smoothies, and the plants will continue to produce more leaves. Once hot weather sets in, spinach usually bolts (sets seed), and plants will produce fewer leaves. You can pull up plants and use them in smoothies, then replant in cooler weather.
Health Benefits: Spinach is an ideal source of vitamin A, iron, calcium, beta-carotene, and antioxidants.
Smoothie Recipe: Go green with these smoothies that use 2 cups of spinach each!
Learn the secret to a delicious smoothie, every time.
You can grow your own ginger root in a pot! Purchase a plump ginger root from the grocery store. Soak it in water overnight, and then cut it into large chunks, ensuring there are bumps (growth buds) on each piece. Fill a container with quality potting soil. Set the chunks into the pot, and cover with soil. Keep the soil moist, but not wet. The roots will sprout leaves. Harvest roots after about eight months; the flavor will intensify the longer it grows. If you use a lot of ginger root, plant several pots so you can stagger harvests, ensuring a homegrown source for smoothies all year. Plants can't freeze, so bring them indoors when the weather turns cold.
Health Benefits: Ginger root has anti-inflammatory properties and helps with digestive challenges.
Smoothie Recipe: Refreshing and reviving -- add a small amount of ginger to any smoothie.
These luscious fruits come in red, purple, black, and yellow. There are two types of plants: summer bearing and fall bearing (also called everbearing). As their name suggests, summer-bearing plants produce one big crop in late summer. Everbearing raspberries produce two crops a year: one in early autumn and a smaller crop early the next summer. Raspberries grow on long, thorny canes, and they can reach up to 6 feet tall. They need ample space -- plant canes 20 inches apart. Raspberries are perennials and will come back year after year. Plant in full sun. Zones 4-9
Health Benefits: Raspberries are an excellent source of fiber, vitamin C, and antioxidants.
Smoothie Recipe: Start out your day with the power of berries.
Enjoy sweet, fresh, juicy peaches from your own backyard. Peach trees bear fruit two to three years after planting. Trees flower in spring; flowers develop into fruit that grows bigger throughout the summer. Harvest time is dependent on variety -- as early as midsummer to mid-fall. Choose varieties that best suit your zone; some varieties, such as ‘Reliance’ are especially cold hardy. Trees range in size from 6 to 20 feet tall. Peaches require a sunny location. Zones 4-8
Health Benefits: Peaches are a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin A and C, and Niacin.
Smoothie Recipe: Mix sweet, homegrown peaches with bananas!
Both the beet root and leaves are edible. Sow beet seeds in early spring and harvest in about two months. (Most garden varieties are ready to harvest in 55 to 60 days.) These annual vegetables love full sun. Try traditional red types, along with a rainbow of other options: red, yellow, purple, and white roots. ‘Chioggia’ features a white-and-red striped root.
Health Benefits: Dark red beets have phytonutrients as well as anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Smoothie Recipe: Try this beet-inspired morning kick-starter!
Homegrown broccoli is flavorful and tender, but it generally has smaller heads than those you see in the supermarket. Plant in cool seasons: spring or fall. Broccoli grows 18 to 24 inches tall and requires full sun or partial sun. Most broccoli varieties are ready to pick 55 to 70 days after planting. Since broccoli does best in cool weather, plan to plant and harvest two crops per season: one in spring and one in fall.
Health Benefits: Broccoli is high in fiber and rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, and beta-carotene.
Smoothie Recipe: Broccoli adds a vitamin boost to healthful smoothies.
Just one cucumber plant produces lots of fruit -- for smoothies, salads, and pickles. Cucumbers come in two types: slicers are long and thin, and picklers are short and bumpy. Slicers might be the best for smoothies because they are the best for eating fresh. Set cucumber plants into the ground in a sunny spot. Once fruits appear, they develop quickly; pick every couple of days while cucumbers are small. Oversize cucumbers become seedy and bitter. If you have a small space, plant bush variety cucumbers because they produce vines that reach a couple feet high and can even grow in a container on a trellis.
Health Benefits: When eaten fresh, cucumbers offer antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Smoothie Recipe: Stay cool as a cucumber with this fresh smoothie.
Colorful, leafy Swiss chard is so easy to grow. Sow seeds in early spring. Start harvesting leaves when they are 3 to 5 inches tall. Keep harvesting to encourage more leaf production. Swiss chard, unlike other greens, such as lettuce or spinach, can take hot weather. (Their flavor is best in cool weather, though.) Plants grow 10 to 30 inches tall. Try ‘Bright Lights’ Swiss chard in containers or in landscape planting; its brightly colored rainbow stems come in red, gold, pink, and orange, making it as beautiful as it is delicious.
Health Benefits: An excellent source of antioxidants, vitamin C, K, and A.
Smoothie Recipe: Drink your greens with this simple smoothie treat!
Honeydew melons have a creamy, white rind and light green or orange flesh. Melons are easy to grow, but require a large space. They love full sun. Plant in early spring after frost danger has passed; buy already-started plants to get a jump on their growth. It generally takes about 80 days from seed to harvest. Try ‘Super Dew’ honeydew melon, which bears 6-pound fruits. Delicious!
Health Benefits: Honeydew melons are a good source of soluble and insoluble fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin B6.
Smoothie Recipe: Melons are the perfect ingredient for summer-cooler smoothies.
Although it takes three to five years for a newly planted apple tree to produce apples, it’s worth it. Plant now! Apple trees come in dwarf, semi-dwarf, and full-size heights, ranging from 6 to 40 feet tall. Small varieties can be grown in containers. There are all sort of delicious heirloom varieties you’ll never see in a grocery store. Plus, you can raise your own apples organically. Zones 3-10
Health Benefits: An ideal source of soluble fiber that can lower cholesterol.
Smoothie Recipe: You know the saying, “An apple a day, keeps the doctor away.” Drink up!
Mint is one of the easiest-to-grow herbs. In fact, it is so adaptable, it can become invasive. Best practice: plant your mint in a container. This perennial herb produces lots of flavorful leaves, perfect for adding a refreshing zip to smoothies. Mint comes in several flavors: spearmint, peppermint, apple mint, orange mint, chocolate mint, and more. Buy mint plants at the garden center and place in a container with annual flowers or other herbs. Mint loves full sun, but it can also take some shade. Zones 4-9
Health Benefits: Mint freshens breath, promotes digestion, and calms nausea.
Smoothie Recipe: Refreshing mint adds that “wow” factor to smoothies.
Carrots are an easy and fast crop to grow in your home garden. Sow seeds in early spring. Carrots are ready to harvest in 60 to 75 days. You can harvest carrots as soon as they develop full color (you can see their color at the base of the leaves). There are many carrot varieties other than the traditional orange. 'Purple Haze' has purple skin with an orange core. 'Red Cored Chantenay' is a deep orange heirloom variety. A good variety (and big producer) for juicing is 'Kuroda'.
Health Benefits: It is a good source of vitamin A and beta-carotene.
Smoothie Recipe: Carrots are a sweet treat when combined with apples in a smoothie.
The purple, shiny fruits of eggplant are beautiful in the garden. (There are also round white-and-pink eggplants.) This hot-weather vegetable is easy to grow in a sunny location. Wait to plant until the threat of frost is over in your area. You can plant eggplants at the same time you put tomatoes and peppers in your garden. It takes plants about 60 days to produce ripe eggplants. Plants grow 1 to 3 feet tall and require a sunny location.
Health Benefits: Eggplants are a good source of fiber, vitamin B1, folate, and vitamin K.
Smoothie Recipe: Eggplant in a smoothie? Check it out!