How does your garden grow?

Some of my favorite memories growing up are of watching many of my family members grow awesome gardens and getting that great taste you can only experience from  homegrown food. Both my grandmothers and my mother had really great gardens. I remember getting vegetable soup made with vegetables grown in the garden, eating strawberry pie made with just picked strawberries, and having fresh asparagus from the garden.  I must add that it likely took my mother at least 10-20 times of presenting me with the asparagus to try it.  I think I finally tried it as a teenager because I felt left out being the only one not excited about our asparagus harvest.  Unfortunately, my garden has never been as successful.  However, despite the deer eating my harvest before I can most years I continue to plant the garden year after year.

One of the plants that keeps me planting is black raspberries.  Black Raspberries are different from blackberries. Compared to blackberries, black raspberries are smaller and sweeter.  They first turn red and you are tempted to pick them as they look like red raspberries, but if you pick them when they are red they will not pull away from the vine.  From nutrition standpoint black raspberries have higher amounts of iron and calcium than other fruits.  However, one should not expect to meet their daily calcium needs on black raspberries only.  Black raspberries are also high in ellagic acid, which is believed to aid in prevention of certain types of cancer.  The dark color of black raspberries is indicative of the presence of anthocyanins, which are an antioxidant, also thought to aid in cancer prevention.  They also are a good source of vitamin C, potassium, and fiber.  Aside from their great nutritional value I like them because they are a perennial fruit and I do not have to plant them every year.

When I talk to my kids about these sweet little gems I do not really tell them about the nutrition benefits. I simply use it as an opportunity to teach them where food comes from.   Having a garden or including a plant that produces fruit or vegetables in your home is a great way to start teaching nutrition and healthy habits to your children, which is another reason I continue to tend my garden.   Many times I will walk outside and find my boys and their friends snacking off of our black raspberry bush.  I am very grateful for all the effort my grandmothers and my mother put into their gardens because I believe it led to my interest in learning about nutrition.  There is evidence to support that garden education could have the potential to increase fruit and vegetable consumption in children.

Black Raspberries

Here is a picture of the black raspberries that are ready to pick compared to the red ones that are not quite ready.

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One year (in the 13 years I have planted a garden) I got produce that looked like this weekly throughout the month of July and some of August.  It is that year that keeps me planting and hoping.

Tips on how you can start to garden:

Gardens do take some time, but here are some simple ways those that may not have a lot of time or space can start to grow some of their own food:

  • Have a small container of herbs that you keep on a kitchen window. Basil, parsley, or thyme are good choices.
  • Find a perennial fruit or vegetable that you can plant. Examples are blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, asparagus, rhubarb, and more. There are some container varieties you could check out if you have limited space.
  • Choose just one thing and grow only a few plants in a small plot or container. Tomatoes, peppers, or lettuce would be good for container gardens.

So far this year my garden has produced black raspberries and blackberries.  It also seems like we will have a few carrots, cabbage, and if we outsmart the deer we might actually get to eat our tomatoes.  Other than looking at the produce my garden yields I hope that someday it will yield 2 boys that enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables and one day they will remember the lessons our garden has taught them.

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