Spring is the perfect time of year to dig into the rewarding world of growing your own food. Having fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs at your fingertips makes bringing more nutrition and flavor into your meals and snacks easy.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diets rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of some types of cancer and chronic diseases and help you maintain a healthy weight. Fruits and veggies are sources of essential vitamins, minerals and fiber — all of which are important for good health.
If gardening intimidates you, keep these tips in mind:
Gardening is an investment in both money and time. Don’t go overboard in size or variety if you’re new to gardening. Try growing a few versatile staples like tomatoes and peppers in containers. Or start with pots of herbs such as basil, cilantro and rosemary. Herbs offer a great way to add freshness to dishes, from salads to side dishes. When colder weather arrives, you can bring your containers of herbs inside and set them in a sunny window for a taste of summer all winter.
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Try planting a ‘recipe garden’
Focus on planting just the veggies and herbs you need for some of your favorite go-to meals or snacks. Use the extra produce for sandwiches or enjoy it as a grab-and-go snack.
- Salsa garden: tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, onion, cilantro.
- Pizza garden: tomatoes, bell peppers, onion, basil, oregano.
- Salad garden: lettuce, radishes, tomatoes, cucumbers.
Try raised beds or garden boxes
Raised beds are built off the ground and offer a gardening option for someone who isn’t able to garden at ground level due to physical limitations. Garden boxes can be raised or placed at ground level. Aside from being more accessible, they save time because less weeding is needed.
Try this Greek yogurt-based dip recipe with fresh veggies like cherry tomatoes, pea pods, bell peppers or cucumbers. Change up the herbs based on what you have on hand or those you prefer.
Greek Yogurt-Veggie Dip
2 cups plain, non-fat Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon chopped chives
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill
½ teaspoon minced garlic
In a large bowl, combine Greek yogurt with herbs, garlic, salt and pepper. Cover tightly, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours for flavors to blend or, ideally, overnight. Serve with fresh veggies such as bell peppers, carrots, radishes or cucumbers.
Nutrition information per serving (¼ cup): 30 calories, 0 g. fat, 0 g saturated fat, 2 g carbohydrates, 0 g fiber, 5 g. protein, 20 mg sodium (doesn’t include added salt).
Tori Erickson is a registered dietitian at Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse.
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