What’s in the garden?

From SAGE member Stephanie Williams

A vast array of food plants will be thriving in the soil over the coming months. Here’s just a couple to get us started, and some nutritional facts we may never have known.

Beetroots (Beta vulgaris)

Right through spring and into early autumn these magical deep red globes packed with nutrients swell beneath the soil. Use a few of the small young top leaves to add nutrients and colour to salads. While spinach and parsley are probably higher in iron, the beets themselves combine fibre, iron and a fair percentage of easily assimilated natural sugar to make a perfect energy food. Forget the plastic packaged muesli bar!

My grandad used to pull a beetroot, wipe it on his trousers before grating it on a somewhat rusty grater he kept on the low stone wall for just such jobs (more iron I guess), fetch a freshly laid egg from one of his chooks (hens to the Brits), add a sprinkling of salt and a good teaspoon of honey from his apiarist buddy, tip the lot into one of those tall metal containers we used for milk shakes and beat it together with a fork. He sat on the wall, rain or shine to enjoy his version of “morning coffee” before he returned to digging in his wondrously productive garden on the North Yorkshire Moors. He lived a long and healthy life.

Today we have juicers so this mixture can be much more easily frothed into a more appealing and nutritious drink, and while modern medicine probably dismisses the nutritional value of such vegetables, we know better.

Beans (Phaseolus vulgaris – varieties)

From now into January we can see plump beans hanging from trellises or hiding in bushes. What can be more wonderful than pulling a basketful of fresh beans and snapping them to eat straight away?! Anyone know where we can get those old fashioned bean slicers now?

Beans come from the family known as legumes; and the pulses are the dried seeds of these plants. Both are used as food – think of soybeans for the production of tofu, sesame and chickpeas for tahini, broadbeans mashed with lemon and yogurt when avocados are too costly.

The legume family is a veritable powerhouse of nutrition and is said to be the origin for the phrase “a radiant glow of health”. In other words they are packed with thousands of beneficial nutrients which the body uses to keep all its twelve systems in good working order.

People who live with high cholesterol levels; people who are developing diabetes (Type II); people who have high blood pressure; people who choose foods to prevent cancer; people who want protein without the meat; and people who just want more vitality can all benefit from eating a regular amount of beans. Don’t forget that beans, rice and corn are everyday staples for a vast percentage of the world’s population who have no access to high quality proteins. And high quality proteins like meat and fish – on a global scale – involves factory farming practices on huge scales that are becoming increasingly questionable.

So eat yer beans and beets!

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