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The Ten Best Foods You Maybe Aren’t Growing and Eating… Yet

Today I came across an article from the New York Times entitled “The Eleven Best Foods You Aren’t Eating.” I love articles like this– the direct, precise advice about the important things you are somehow overlooking in your daily busyness– and apparently so do a lot of people because this article recently appeared on their list of most-viewed stories for 2008.

One of the drawbacks of these types of lists, however, is the fact that we don’t tend to eat foods in isolation. A meal of just blueberries — no matter how good they are for us– isn’t really a meal, is it? Fortunately the author does provide some “how to eat” tips for integrating the foods into one’s eating, if you need that sort of assistance.

My other issue with the NYT list is that it is focused on foods with which we fill our shopping carts. Not surprisingly, I’d like to focus on foods we can grow. For our zone, which is 5B (you can look up yours here too, if you’ve forgotten or don’t know!) , there are some repeats of the NYT list and I’ve added a few others that are too often overlooked. I’ve also noted some of our favorite ways to consume these health guardians of the garden.

1. Beets.
Why: beets are high in folic acid, potassium, calcium and antioxidants
How to eat: We like them roast, boiled or shredded raw. Jim is particularly fond of steamed beet greens; I let him have them all!

2. Cabbage.
Why: Cabbage contains iron, calcium, and potassium. High in vitamin C. Also high in vitamins B1, B2, and B3.
How to eat: In addition to the traditional cabbage dishes, we like chopped cabbage slightly sauted with fresh garlic. This year we are going to make homemade sauerkraut (successfully, this time, I swear) and homemade kim chee.

3. Kale.
Why: Kale is an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C and manganese. It is also a very good source of dietary fiber, copper, calcium, vitamin B6 and potassium.
How to eat: Kale can be simmered in broth for a tender dish. Kale can also be stir-fried with garlic and soy sauce for a heartier taste.

4. Broccoli.
Why: Broccoli is also a good source of Protein, Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Thiamin, Riboflavin, Pantothenic Acid, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Selenium, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin B6, Folate, Potassium and Manganese.
How to eat: We like broccoli steamed or stir-fried best. Raw broccoli with a light dip or shredded broccoli in a vegetable slaw are also delicious.

5. Cantaloupe.
Why: Cantaloupe is also a good source of Dietary Fiber, Niacin, Vitamin B6 and Folate, and a very good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Potassium.
How to eat: Sliced or in chunks, for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner. The one time I had cantaloupe wrapped with proscuitto will live on in my memory, but that was a rare treat indeed.

6. Pumpkin seeds.
Why: Pumpkin seeds are very low in Cholesterol and Sodium. They are also a good source of Protein, Magnesium and Zinc.
How to eat: Roasted seeds make a great snack in moderation. Can be mixed with dried fruit and nuts for a trail mix.

7. Black Raspberries.
Why: Black raspberries are also a good source of Vitamin K and Magnesium, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin C and Manganese.
How to eat: Straight off the bush. By the handful. On cereal, yogurt, oatmeal, cottage cheese, ice cream. Baked in muffins or pies. Black raspberry daiquiris on the rare occasion.

8. Pumpkin.
Why: Pumpkin is a good source of Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Thiamin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Iron, Magnesium and Phosphorus, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Riboflavin, Potassium, Copper and Manganese.
How to eat: Baked as a side dish. Stuffed with seasoned meat and vegetables and baked. In muffins and pies. Creamy soup. Can be made sweet or savory.

9. Tomatoes.
Why: Tomatoes are High in Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Potassium, Manganese, Vitamin E, Thiamin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Copper.
How to eat: Oh, so many ways! Raw, chopped, sliced, with herbs, with vinegrette, with creamy dressing, stuffed, sauted, on pizza, sandwiches, sundried, in sauces, juices…

10. Rhubarb.
Why: Rhubarb is also a good source of Potassium, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Calcium, Magnesium and Manganese.
How to eat: Jim says that anything that tastes like rhubarb has got to be really good for you! When I was a kid, I ate rhubarb raw, pulled out of the garden, rinsed and dipped in sugar. Now I prefer my rhubarb stewed or baked in a pie or crisp. I have a recipe for a rhubarb drink that I will have to try next summer.

What excited me most about my list of “best foods” is that we can grow them all in our garden. None of these plants are difficult or more demanding than the rest of our garden. With a little planning and initiative, you can increase your nutritional intake on your own terms, in your own soil.

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