When I was teaching gardening to elementary students our mantra was “Eat a Rainbow.”
So we planted and happily harvested purple carrots, orange tomatoes, red radishes and yellow melons.
Eating a rainbow is something all of us should do every day. Eating a colorful diet guarantees that we are getting a wide range of vitamins, minerals and nutrients.
So as you go about planning your garden this year, consider growing your produce for its nutritional impact. Gary Heilig of Michigan State University Extension said that gardeners might be pleasantly surprised at the nutritional value of a homegrown veggie.
After comparing 50 vegetables, the highest level of vitamin E is found in rhubarb. For vitamin K the winner is kale, he said.
Kale is considered a superfood because it also contains the highest concentration of nutrients and vitamins such as A, C, K, B6 and calcium of any leafy green vegetable, said Kirsten Gerbatsch, Michigan Land Use Institute’s FoodCorps Service Member garden coordinator. “Kale is also a dynamic garden green — it grows in a wide range of climates and can even survive severe frost,” she added.
For the best source of folate, sow some Edamame soybeans. And Popeye was right, spinach does make you stronger.
“While not quite as hardy as kale, spinach thrives in cooler temperatures and is a great choice for the spring garden. It is high in Vitamins A, C, K and folate, and a great source of iron,” said Gerbatsch.
Greens are one of the best sources for calcium and magnesium.
Want some vitamin C? A cup of fresh red bell peppers provides more vitamin C than a glass of orange juice. Broccoli also ranks high in vitamin C.
Radishes, an easy to grow veggie, are another surprising source of vitamin C. One cup of raw radishes provides 28 percent of one’s daily vitamin C.
“There are many varieties of radishes that would make a nice addition to any spring garden,” said Gerbatsch. “My favorites are: Cherry Belle, French Breakfast and Philadelphia White Box. Radishes take up very little room in a garden bed and can be inter-planted with other crops such as beans and greens.”
To round out your rainbow plant some beets and carrots. These nutritious root vegetables come in array of varieties and colors.
“Beets are incredibly high in potassium and Vitamin C, and a good heart-healthy vegetable. Carrots are high in Vitamin A and alpha-and beta-carotene,” said Gerbatsch.
Fresh-picked vegetables from your backyard also maintain nutritional value much better than food that has traveled any distance, explained Heilig.
“When broccoli is shipped long distances such as California to Michigan, the vitamin C content will decrease by more than 50 percent,” he said. “Consuming broccoli harvested fresh from the backyard garden will contain its full nutritional value and if you are interested, the fuel needed to ship that broccoli to you could be saved if enough people grow their own.”
Other factors can have an impact on the nutritional value of your food including varieties, health of the soil, when it’s picked and how it’s processed.
“When you grow food at home you also eliminate the potential of consuming pesticides and chemicals that may be on your produce,” said Gerbatsch.
To learn more about the nutritional value of your food before you plant it visit the Self Nutrition Data website at www.nutritiondata.self.com or find helpful smart gardening information at www.migarden.msu.edu.
Lean and Green Couscous Salad
1 ½ c. (8 oz.) uncooked instant couscous
1 ¼ c. vegetable broth
¼ c. olive oil
½ c. feta cheese
1 small tomato, ciced
¼ c. dried cherries
¼ c. chopped parsley
¼ t. kosher salt
¼ t. black pepper
Place couscous in a large mixing bowl. Pour boiling broth over couscous and cover tightly. Let sit for 5 minutes, the ,fluff with fork and allow to cool. When couscous is close to room temperature, toss in remaining ingredients
— Janis Grooms, Northport Public School, courtesy of Michigan Land Use Institute
Turkey, Spinach and Apple Wraps
12-inch honey wheat wraps
Baby spinach leaves, loosely packed
Thin turkey breast (4 slices per wrap)
Gala, Honey crisp or other seasonal, crisp apple, sliced paper-thin or chopped into small pieces
Leaving a margin free on the tortilla side closest to you, sprinkle a layer of approximately ½ c. greens. Top each layer with 4 slices of turkey.
Evenly divide Apple slices and lay lengthwise across turkey. Fold over the end of the wrap closest to you, then the two sides. Roll the wrap as tightly as possible toward the opposite side. Cover ypur serving tray with a lid or layer of plastic wrap to retain moisture if preparing 2 hours or more before service.
When ready to serve, cut each wrap in half, at an angle. After cutting in half, each wrap provides 2 servings.
— Traverse City Area Public Schools, courtesy of Michigan Land Use Institute
10 leaves kale or Swiss chard
1/2 of a lemon
1/2 t. salt
2 t. olive oil
5 chive leaves
1/2 of an avocado
Tear kale/chard into bite-sized pieces, removing stems. Squeeze lemon juice onto greens and add salt and olive oil.
Massage lemon juice, salt and oil into leaves with your hands until they’re soft and tender. Make sure your wash your hands well before-hand, or you can put the ingredients in a big Ziplock bag and massage them on the outside of the bag.
Tear chives into tiny pieces and add to greens. Grate carrot and add to greens. Cut open avocado and cut up flesh into small cubes; add to salad. Mix well.
Cut tortillas into triangles, scoop a little bit of super salad onto each one, roll it up and enjoy.
— By Lola Bloom, DC City Blossoms, courtesy of Michigan Land Use Institute
Orrecchiette with Kale and Breadcrumbs
1 lb. Tuscan kale, or other variety (about 2 large bunches), stems trimmed
5 T. olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling
1 c. coarse fresh breadcrumbs
3 garlic cloves, chopped, divided
Freshly ground black pepper
2 T. (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
4 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained
1/4 t. crushed red pepper flakes
1 lb. orecchiette (little ear-shaped pasta)
3/4 c. finely grated Parmesan
Working in batches, cook kale in a large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, about 4 minutes. Using tongs, transfer to a rimmed baking sheet; let cool. Set aside pot with water. Squeeze out excess liquid from kale; chop leaves and finely chop stems; set aside.
Heat 3 T. oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs and cook, stirring often, until beginning to brown, about 4 minutes. Add one-third of chopped garlic and cook, stirring often, until breadcrumbs are golden, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate; let cool.
Heat butter and remaining 2 T. oil in a large heavy pot over medium-low heat. Add anchovies, red pepper flakes, and remaining two-thirds of chopped garlic; cook, mashing anchovies with a spoon, until a paste forms, about 2 minutes. Add reserved kale and 1/2 c. water. Cook, stirring often, until kale is warmed through, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, bring reserved kale cooking liquid to a boil; add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 c. pasta cooking liquid.
Add pasta and 1/2 c. pasta cooking liquid to kale mixture and stir to coat. Increase heat to medium and continue stirring, adding more cooking liquid as needed, until sauce coats pasta. Mix in Parmesan and 1/2 c. breadcrumbs; toss to combine. Divide pasta among bowls, drizzle with oil, and top with remaining breadcrumbs.
12 oz. bag frozen shelled edamame (or fresh equivalent)
3 whole-wheat pocket pitas, cut into 8 triangles each
2 cloves garlic
2 T. tahini
3 T. fresh lemon juice
2 T. olive oil
3/4 t. salt
1/2 t. ground cumin
1/4 t. black pepper
2 large red bell peppers, cored, seeded and cut into 24 strips
Heat oven to 450°. Bring edamame to a boil in a medium saucepan with enough water to cover; cook, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Drain in a colander and run under cold water. Bake pita triangles on a baking sheet until golden, 3 to 5 minutes. Pulse edamame, garlic, tahini, juice, oil, salt, cumin and pepper in a food processor until mixture is the consistency of guacamole; add water 1 tablespoon at a time if too thick. Cover; refrigerate until party time. Serve with pita toasts and peppers for dipping.
— SELF magazine