From quinoa to chia seeds and goji berries, make these nutrition superstars super local by growing them in your home or garden..
I’ve been known to go on and on (and on) about trendy superfoods – and how local foods are no less heroic than those grown in exotic places. Goji berries may be fashionable, but blueberries are badass and have a smaller carbon footprint since they didn’t travel across the globe to get to you.
Now I’m taking the “local heroes” angle even further. Grow them at home! It doesn’t get much more local than your windowsill or back yard. There are loads of superfoods you can raise all by yourself. The following list isn't intended as a definitive guide to all the dirty details, more of a first stop to see where you might be able to go. But since I've done my homework, I've included instruction in some places, and suggestions for where to go for more information in others.
1. Goji berries
OK, I was harping on goji berries above, but that's just the goji berries grown in China, which is most of them. But as it turns out they are easy to grow right in the U.S. – those ones are great! They are drought tolerant, container adaptable, and can take part shade; and they can be grown in zones 3 through 10. A goji plant is pictured top, and there's a great how-to here:
2. Microgreenshave more vitamins and healthful nutrients than their fully grown counterparts. Kapow! All you need is soil, seeds, a container and a sunny spot in your home ... and then, a new crop every seven to 14 days.
Here's a good little video introduction; and they're actually so easy you don't need much more than this:
3. Chia seeds and sprouts
A little research later and I learned that chia seeds were a staple of Aztec and Native American diets. But what really left me with an astonished “huh?” is that chia seed oil contains an extraordinarily high percentage (63 percent) of omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid. Who knew? Our Chia Pets would be growing superfood fur. A quick trip to the FAQ section of Chia Pet maker, Joseph Enterprises’ web site and bingo: “Joseph Enterprises’ Chia seeds are not treated with any chemicals or fertilizers.”
You don't have to grow your chia on a terra cotta kitten, but if you have one laying fallow in the closet, bring that little pet out and put it to work! You can also use an unglazed terra cotta plant liner or plate. Here's a how to in case you've lost your ch-ch-ch-Chia Pet instructions. You can eat the delicious peppery sprouts straight; for seeds, dry the pods and remove the seeds.
Heirloom Organics, and there is a lot of good information and visuals here:
Mother Earth News notes that this super-nutritious green is one of the easiest to grow of the cabbage crops and can be harvested in spring, fall and often well into winter. No wonder it's so trendy. Learn more at All About Growing Kale and Collards.
I've already written all about the magic of turning seeds into food in a vessel here: Grow your own sprouts in a jar.
7. Sweet potatoesOrganic Life notes:
In the garden, on a trellis, or in a container, sweet potatoes are a beautiful plant—delicious tubers in the fall are an added bonus to the lovely foliage and flowers.Sweet potatoes grow well in a sunny vegetable garden, but you can also grow them in other parts of your home landscape. Try them as a temporary ground cover or a trailing houseplant. In a patio planter, a sweet potato vine will form a beautiful foliage plant that you can harvest roots from in fall.Plus: 18 unexpected ways recipes for sweet potatoes.
It is a "garden anchor" that comes back every spring, providing height and dimension within the garden. Oregano also grows well in containers, so if you live in a high-rise apartment or have a limited growing space, it is a great option. Oregano also performs well indoors, when given enough light and warmth.So you basically have no excuses. And if you really don't like oregano, all herbs have beneficial properties; pick your favorite – grow, eat, repeat.
9. Sunflower seeds
To harvest seeds, keep an eye out for ripeness. The back of the flower head will turn from green to yellow and the bracts will begin to dry and turn brown; this happens about 30 to 45 days after bloom and seed moisture is about 35%. Generally, when the head turns brown on the back, seeds are usually ready for harvest.Cut the head off the plant (about 4 inches below the flower head) and remove the seeds with your fingers or a fork.To protect the seeds from birds, you can cover the flowers with a light fabric such as cheesecloth and a rubber band.Or, you can cut the flower head early and hang the heads upside down until they seeds are dry; hang indoors or in a place that's safe from birds and mice.And don't have to limit yourself to seeds from sunflowers, here are more you can harvest from your garden while you're at it: 7 super seeds to add to your diet.