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Growing your own vegetables during the pandemic

Many Americans are exploring growing their own vegetables as they practice social distancing. Those same garden goodies can also help boost your energy levels. Photo: Getty Images

A number of Americans are learning that growing your own vegetables is a fun and healthy way to spend your free time during the pandemic.

Public Health Nutritionists Judy Harris and Laura Holtrop Kohl joined Maria Shilaos, host of the “Let’s Get Moving with Maria” podcast, to dive into the conversation of growing your own vegetables during the pandemic. 

Benefits of growing your own vegetables

Growing your own vegetables has a number of benefits, our experts said. 

“You have access to it in a timely manner,” stated Judy Harris. “Having them at home is more fun and it probably at its most nutritional value at that taste.”

Laura Holtrop Kohl added that it often tastes better than what is at the grocery store.

“It is fresh and if the food is going to taste better we are going to eat more of it,” said Kohl.

Tomatoes in the grocery store taste waxy compared to home grown tomatoes, as stated by Maria Shilaos. 

Growing your own food can get kids involved in producing their own gardens. Kids are more likely to enjoy it, eat it and ask for it if they have grown something themselves.

Top Vegetables to plant

Tomatoes 

  • Tomatoes are always good to have in your diet 
  • High in Lycopene
  • Easy to use fresh or in a number of recipes 

Varieties mentioned: Cherry, Heirloom

Kale

  • One of the easier vegetables to grow and also one of the most nutritious 
  • It is so much sweeter when you grow it yourself 
  • When the leaves are a few inches tall, that is when it is going to be its sweetest 
  • Kale doesn’t bolt and will last through the summer because it doesn’t mind the heat 
  • Several days worth of iron and folate and even has a little bit of calcium
  • Good for woman’s health as women often have low iron levels 

Varieties mentioned: Red Russian Kale, Dinosaur Kale

Zucchini 

“One of my favorite things to do in the summer with zucchini is to spiralize it.” Laura Kohl stated. “I like to keep it raw and drizzle it with a little garlic olive oil and maybe some slivered almonds on it.”

  • Zucchini is one of the easier vegetables to grow 
  • Harvest them early to prevent them getting seedy
  • Great in soups 
  • Zucchini Bread 

“I love slicing them up and putting a little bit of salt and pepper, and just grilling them.” Judy Harris stated.

Spaghetti Squash

“I like to blanch it very quickly and pour tomato based spaghetti sauced and put that over it,” said Judy Harris. “It is a great way to reduce calories and bump up the nutritional value of your meal.” 

According to Harris, ideally, half of your plate should be reserved for fruits and vegetables.

“It is important to have variety in your gardens to try different things,” Harris stated. 

What to think about when planting

  • Start small and see what is doable
  • Create a raised bed with 6 ft. planks 
  • Use cinder-blocks to secure the corners
  • Prepare the soil – create an easy mixture or vermiculite type of soil, peat moss, manure, etc. 
  • Have the composition prepared

A rookie mistake, according to Laura Kohl, is not reading the directions on the seed packets and planting things too deep or close together. 

“Think about how you are going to water your garden as each plant may require different water maintenance,” stated Kohl.

With many of us spending more time at home and doing more cooking at home as a result of the pandemic, it is a great time to explore food and eat fresh out of the garden, Harris said. Going back to the basics is really is what is going to keep up the healthiest during this time, she added.

“Enjoy food for the value and the taste,” said Judy Harris. “Food is a great way to celebrate our friendships and families.”

To learn more, listen to the full podcast episode:

Follow Let’s Get Moving on Facebook and Instagram. 

Listen to more episodes on the KSL Podcast page or wherever you listen to your podcasts.