Just because a blanket of snow covers the ground doesn't mean you have to stop gardening this winter. I've brought my love for gardening inside with an indoor edible garden. There are many herbs, vegetables, fruits and edible plants you can easily grow indoors. They are just like us -- they need water, air, nutrients and light to flourish.
One of the reasons why I wrote my book The Need for Seeds: Making Seeds an Everyday Food in Your Healthy Diet is because nine out of every 10 bites of food we eat today start with a seed. Seeds are important in our food ecosystem. Plus, we know that gardening is not only good for the environment, but also promotes both mind and body health. Let's explore two simple plants you can grow indoors and enjoy on your menu this season.
Baby carrots and round carrots are among the easiest vegetables to grow indoors. You'll need high-quality potting soil mix, fertilizer specially formulated for edible plants, pots or planting containers at least 20 cm (8 inches) deep with drainage holes, a sunny window and of course the seeds. Once you have all the supplies, it's time to get started. Fill the containers with the soil, moisten it with water and plant the seeds 2.5 cm (1 inch) apart or according the instructions on the package.
Carrots are a source of fibre which is good for digestive health, as well as vitamin K which is good for bone health.
Label the containers with the date you planted the seeds. Place the containers in an area that receives at least five hours of sunlight daily (a south facing window is often a good choice), has no extreme drafts and is an ideal temperature of 21°C (70°F). Remember to keep the soil moist -- don't let it dry out too much and don't soak it. You should see the seeds starting to sprout in about two weeks. Transplant the seedlings if the container becomes too crowded. If all the conditions line up well, the mini carrots should be ready for harvesting after a two-month growing period.
Health Benefits of Carrots
This root vegetable is high in the antioxidant beta-carotene, which gives carrots its orange colour and is good for both eye and immune health. Carrots are a source of fibre which is good for digestive health, as well as vitamin K which is good for bone health. They have many other vitamins and minerals making them a nutritious veggie both raw and cooked.
Microgreens are known as vegetable confetti and are one of the fastest growing crops you can produce indoors. To get started you'll need to purchase specific microgreen seeds. There are two common systems to grow microgreens: one is in soil and the other is in a soil-less seed starting mix.
Let's focus on the soil system. You'll need high-quality potting soil mix, fertilizer specially formulated for edible plants, seedling trays with drainage holes, grow lights, and of course the seeds. The first step is to fill the seedling trays with your potting soil, then moisten it with water and scatter the seeds evenly. Press seeds into the soil and cover with another thin layer of soil. It's important to follow any instructions on the seed package too.
Label the containers with the date you planted the seeds. Place the containers in an area that receives 10 to 12 hours of light daily -- setting up some simple LED grow lights along with a sunny window will allow this extended time. The area should have no extreme drafts and an ideal temperature of 21°C (70°F). Mist the soil daily. You should see the seeds start to germinate in only three to five days. In just under one month, the microgreens should be ready for harvesting. Harvesting the result of your hard work is easy: Simply hold the microgreens at the stem and cut off the leaves with a pair of kitchen scissors.
Health Benefits of Microgreens
Encouraging people to eat more fruit is fairly easy; however convincing them to add more vegetables daily is a different story! Adding microgreens to your everyday menu is a tasty and simple way to get more veggies with the added health benefits of fibre, vitamins and minerals, which are good for digestive, heart and immune health.
Sowing Final Thoughts into Your Indoor Garden
Having just-picked ingredients on hand for meals is delicious and convenient! If you haven't tried an indoor garden in the past, I highly recommend this pleasurable and rewarding activity. I've discussed traditional methods of using pots or containers and soil, however, have fun experimenting and explore other options that are available, including complete hydroponic gardens. I'll leave you with one of my favourite quotes from Robert Louis Stephenson that I liked so much I used it in my book: "Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant."
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We all know how important ginger can be for our diets this time of the year, but it can do more than just help with a cold. "It can help with blood flow, fight pain and inflammation. It is also used as a digestive aid for when a winter bug has left you feeling nauseated," says registered dietitian Nicole Osinga of Oshawa, Ont. "It works in the digestive tract by reducing intestinal contractions."
The best way to have this root is consuming it as a tea. Add finely chopped ginger and tea leaves into a cup of boiling water. Let it steep for two to three minutes and strain out the ginger and tea leaves. If tea isn't your thing, you could also use minced ginger in a hearty carrot and ginger soup.
"Capsaicin is an active component of chili peppers, which has been found to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects," Osinga says. These peppers are also beneficial if you're fighting a cold — they can shrink blood vessels in your nose and throat, relieving congestion, she adds.
If spice isn't really your thing, sprinkle a small amount of crushed red chili peppers on your chicken, soup or scrambled eggs. If you can handle the heat, try soaking dried chili peppers in a lentil soup.
"These seeds can be used as a digestive aid, as it calms digestive spasms that can lead to diarrhea," Osinga says. This is good for those who experience any type of gastro bug this winter.
If you are roasting any vegetables, add crushed coriander powder on top. It tastes best with carrots, potatoes or cauliflower.
Garlic’s active ingredient allicin brings a whole host of health benefits. "Its antibacterial and antifungal properties can help with some sinus infections and the winter common cold," Osinga says.
Include garlic in soups, sauces and dips — and of course, on bread.
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