Vegetables provide a balance of vitamins and minerals that support the immune system and build our general level of health. The healthiest vegetables are those we grow ourselves without using poisonous sprays.
Fresh is always best, because the moment a vegetable is picked its nutritional value starts to diminish. Even if the homegrown excess is stored in the refrigerator, the veggies retain far more goodness than produce that is handled many times, and transported many kilometres, before reaching the supermarket shelf.
March is the main planting month for autumn and winter vegetables, which have very specific health benefits for this time of the year. You may have heard the saying, ‘nature gives us what we need when we need it’.
Based on what the family will eat, and the vitamins and minerals they need, here is a rundown of veggies that are good for us.
Cruciferous veggies are generally high in fibre, essential minerals and vitamins A, C, K and E, which strengthen the immune system. According to the US Department of Agriculture, the recommended consumption of cruciferous veggies is one cup of cooked vegetables a day, or two cups of raw vegetables.
To grow: Cruciferous vegetables do best in full winter sun, need fertile soil and regular fertilising and watering – they should not dry out. Take your pick from these:
• Brussels sprouts require preventative spraying for aphids, fertilising during their growth stage and topping when 1m high to develop the sprouts. Staking is necessary.
• Broccoli needs plentiful water to develop a good head. Once the main head is cut, it will produce side shoots that extend its harvestable life by a month or more.
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A Haze Of Purple
The evergreen ribbon bush, a compact shrub with dull-green leaves and abundant spikes of two-lipped deep purple flowers with darker purple spots, is a selection derived from Hypoestes aristata and was developed at the Walter Sisulu National Botanical garden. It carries the apt varietal name of ‘Purple Haze’ and is widely cultivated in gardens all over the country.
The Allure Of Lavender!
This herbaceous plant, a member of the mint family Lamiaceae, is so famous that its common name is even used to describe a colour. Most of us will associate the term lavender with a gentle shade of light purple that symbolises elegance, refinement, serenity, purity and luxury – the latter two probably due to the Latin word ‘lavare’, which means to bathe and to wash. One can just imagine how the conquering and decadent Romans bathed in bunches of lavender sprigs and flowers, draped their newly washed togas over the bushes to permeate them with the fresh smell, and stacked dried stems of leaves and flowers in dark corners to repel plague-infested fleas!
Magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’
If cauliflower was a stock to trade, some would have made millions in the last few years as the humble cauliflower became one of the most versatile cruciferous vegetables in the kitchen. With an increase in the popularity of flexitarian, vegan, gluten-free, keto and plant-based diets, cauliflower is no longer only baked into a cheesy casserole, but spiced and grilled as ‘steaks’ on a braai, mashed, riced, sauced, powdered, blended and made into pasta or a crispy pizza base. There are not many vegetables that can do all that!
Mushroom plant (Rungia klossii) is a bushy perennial with crisp, mushroom-flavoured leaves that are good for adding to salads or for cooking. Steam just before serving so that the leaves don’t lose their fresh green appearance.
A passion for roses
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Time For Wild Hyacinths!
We told you in January that planting bulbs would be a great trend in 2021, so March is a good time to kick off your annual bulb planting quest with the indigenous wild hyacinths, also called Cape hyacinth, Cape cowslip and, more botanically correct, Lachenalia. Between South Africa and Namibia there are more than 120 natural species (some of which are sold in flower by specialist nurseries), but there are also many desirable hybrids bred by commercial bulb growers that are readily available in bulb form from the end of February.