Chard en Garde Manger: The Delicious 3-Season Green for Food Security

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This article on growing chard is part of our Green of the Month series. To read the rest of the articles in the series, click here.

In case you don’t speak French (or visit lots of fancy restaurants), that title is my attempt at a little food funny. The term garde manger means “the keeper of the pantry.” The modern garde manger usually does other cool stuff, too, like make garnishes for plate-up, prepare cold dishes, and even ice-carve.

Originally, though, that title was literally applied to the person who guarded the food supply from rats and robbers, and ensured there was plenty of food to last through lean times. Food security was something the wealthy took very seriously. Having a dedicated garde manger looking out for your food stores was a sign of status and meant you were an important person.

As home-food growers, particularly those of us concerned about the precariousness of our modern food supply, we also have to be garde mangers of our own pantries and gardens. Growing chard can help.

The Goods on Chard

Here are some important reasons why anyone concerned with good health and a year-round food supply should add chard to their garden lineup.

1. Long Production Period

Chard is one of those awesome vegetables that makes you a garde manger in the traditional sense—as in, it offers a continuous supply of nutritious food you can rely on even in periods of drought, light frosts, extended heat, and more.

It’s definitely a 3-season vegetable. In many cases, it can even make it through winter with just a little weather protection. Once established, it can be harvested often and over long periods of time.

2. Adds Soil Tilth Without Tilling

Long-standing chard can grow a deep taproot. This makes it a wonderful scavenger of minerals and nitrogen. It can even do well in somewhat depleted soils.

If the root is left in the ground to rot after the top growth dies, it acts similar to tillage radishes, making food for bacteria and creating air spaces to break up soil compaction.

3. Nutrition Powerhouse

A cup of raw chard has 7 calories and contains 374% of your daily dose of vitamin K, 44% of vitamin A, 18% of vitamin C, and 7% magnesium. It’s almost 93% water, which makes it extremely hydrating if you are worried about health risks from chronic dehydration.1)

A cup of cooked chard has 35 calories and contains these amounts of your daily vitamins: 636% of vitamin K, 60% of vitamin A, 42% of vitamin C, 36% of magnesium, 32% of copper, 25% of manganese, 22% of iron, 22% of vitamin E, 20% of potassium, and 13% of your daily fiber.2)

Chard is loaded with phytonutrients. Red- and yellow-ribbed chards may also contain harder-to-come-by phytonutrients like betalains, betaxanthins, or indicaxanthins.

4. Ridiculously Easy to Grow

In my own experiments with growing chard, I find it grows better if I don’t fuss over it. I plant my seeds, mulch around where the root will come up, and maintain moist surface soil until the plant is 2 inches tall. After that, I water weekly in dry periods and keep weeds down until the chard really takes off.

It does need prepared garden soil. However, I specifically skip adding compost when planting chard to encourage it to grow deeper roots rather than letting it glean nutrients from the top few inches of soil.

Some of my chard roots have been over 2 feet deep. They are technically edible, but not as tasty as beet roots.

5. Versatile for Use in Cooking

I have heard a lot of gardeners and CSA members complain about having too much chard and not knowing how to cook it. I used to have that problem until I challenged myself to prepare a multi-course meal with chard as the main ingredient.

This month, rather than give you a recipe for chard, I am going to share that menu. I hope these ideas will inspire you to find creative ways to use your abundance of garden-grown chard.

Le Menu

Amuse-Bouche (i.e., tastebud tantalizer): Essence of Chard

Sauté chard with garlic and butter. Add some cream, salt, and pepper, and puree the mix in your food processor. Run your liquid through a fine sieve to make it smooth. Served chilled in small ramekins, like soup shooters, with a bit of crumbly bacon on top.

First Course: Chard Leaf Wraps

This is a play on cabbage wraps. Steam the chard leaves and wrap them around the filling from your favorite cabbage wrap recipe in lieu of cabbage.

Second Course: Chard en Garde

Make a paste, the consistency of peanut butter, using blue cheese, minced walnuts, a little cream for texture, salt, and pepper. Spread your paste down the stem of the chard leaves and roll them lengthwise into long tubes. Tie them with some chives to hold them together. Set them on the plate like two swords “en garde.”

Third Course: Chard Terrine

This is basically a fancy name for chard lasagna. Sub in chard for pasta and use your standard lasagna recipe for the filling. Bake as usual.

Fourth Course: Sausage With Chard Slaw

To make the slaw, ribbon the chard and mix with raw, shredded carrots. Warm your favorite vinegar-based coleslaw dressing and pour over the vegetable mix to make a hot slaw that pairs perfectly with your favorite grilled sausages.

Fifth Course: Chard Salad

This is simply chard chopped into salad-sized bits with a Dijon mustard vinaigrette. It is meant as a digestive break before the last course. Go heavy on the mustard to give this course bite. Also, use baby chard leaves if you have them, as they are more tender.

Sixth Course: Chard Cakes

This course is about like making zucchini bread. Sure, it has chard, but the flavors are mostly masked by large doses of sugar, flour, and eggs.

Sauté chard in butter, puree it with some milk, and use it as your liquid in your favorite cake batter recipe. Use cream cheese icing for added sweetness.

This is just a peak at how to use chard in recipes. Also try chard paneer, spanakopita with chard instead of spinach, chard-and-artichoke dip, Tuscan bean and chard soup, wilted chard salad with bacon dressing, chard omelets, and more.

A Few Cautions About Chard

Too Much K Vitamin for Some

Similar to some of the other leafy greens we’ve covered in this Green of the Month series, chard has lots of vitamin K, which can be a problem for people on blood thinners or who are pregnant. Similar to using beets and beet greens, there is also some controversy about whether chard is okay for juicing.

It’s in the Beet Family

Chard is in the beet family, along with spinach. You’ll want to keep this in mind if you are using crop rotation for pest control or nutrient management.

Read More: “Crop Rotation for the Home Garden, Part 1: Pest Control”

Read More: “Crop Rotation for the Home Garden, Part 2: Pathogen Prevention”

Growing Chard

Now that your mouth is watering at the thought of fresh chard from your own garden, you need to get out there and plant it.

Soil Preparation

Chard grows best in prepared garden soil. It doesn’t need a lot of nitrogen for good production, but it does need consistent moisture. Keeping mulch or well-aged compost around the base of the plant will help retain moisture throughout the growing season.

Seed Starting

Chard is best started by direct planting in garden beds. Soaking the seeds for a few hours before planting will expedite germination.

Like beets, a single seed is actually a cluster of seeds. Planting seeds about 6 inches apart in a lattice pattern works best for beds that are 3-5 feet wide. Otherwise, if you have rows less than two feet wide, just plant them about every 4-6 inches apart down the center of the row. If you use mounded or raised beds, it’s better to avoid planting chard at the edges for better moisture control (edges dry out faster). Plant no deeper than 1/4 inch for speedy germination.

Lattice Planting - Chard - TGN

When your seedlings emerge, there will usually be a few new plants clustered together. Use scissors to cut the extra seedlings back to the ground. You can use the trimmed leaves in salads. Do not pull the extra seedlings, as this may disturb the roots of the plants you want to grow.

For continuous production of baby chard for salads, start new plants every few weeks. As the plants mature and their root mass expands, the leaves begin to grow much faster. This makes it harder to harvest baby greens from mature plants at exactly the right time. Younger plants are better for growing baby greens and older plants are better to use as cooked spinach substitutes.

Young Plant Care

While plants are young, make sure to keep the top few inches of soil moist by watering as necessary. Once plants are about 5 inches tall, the root is usually sufficiently deep that you can cut back to once-a-week watering if rainfall is less than 1 inch per week.

Mature Plant Care and Harvesting

To maintain good production, you need to encourage additional growth by regularly harvesting larger leaves. Also, older leaves are more prone to insect damage and fungal issues. Timely harvesting keeps chard plants healthier for longer.

To harvest, cut the outer leaves close to the base of the plant. I try to cut my stems so that about 1 inch remains above the soil. For long-standing chard, if plants begin to slow their production, cut all of the stems down to about 2 inches from the ground. Allow the plant to regrow several leaf stalks and then start harvesting again.

Varieties of Chard

Usually when people think of chard, dark green leaves and deep red stalks come to mind. Home gardeners may also think of a mix of colors including dark red, pink, and yellow stalks. These are most likely rhubarb, Five Color Silverbeet, Bright Lights, or Rainbow Chard varieties.

These very colorful varieties are often the highest in some of those hard-to-get phytonutrients mentioned earlier. They are awesome in salads and cooked (older leaves). However, the less colorful kinds of chard are also highly nutritious and are often more prolific for using as a summer spinach substitute. 

My two favorite chard varieties for using as a cooked spinach substitute are Erbette Chard and Perpetual Spinach. These are not great for salads, but they get huge fast and allow for lots and lots of cuttings. They hold up extremely well in heat and humidity and taste delicious sauteed or steamed.

Also, here’s a list from Cornell University with more varieties to check out: Cornell Chard Variety List

Unconventional Growing Tips for Adventure Gardeners

Chard is an awesome choice for edible landscaping. The challenge with using it this way is being able to have your chard and eat it to. To keep a beautiful stand of chard while harvesting it too, go ahead and leave two plants in one hole rather than thinning back to one when the seedlings come up.

Harvest from one plant for a while, then allow it to rest and harvest from the other for a while. Alternate about every 2 weeks when plants are mature.

This works because those established, deep roots are faster at growing new leaves than young plants. However, you may have to manage the nutrition in the soil a bit better since you have multiple plants competing for the same resources. Also, root rot can be an issue in wet soils, so hardwood mulch tends to work better for this method.

Tell Us What You Think!

What’s your experience with chard—cooking it or growing it? Do you have a favorite variety or any tricks you’ve learned to keep chard in constant production? Use the comments section below to share your ideas!

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8 Health Benefits Of Spinach You Likely Didn’t Know

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8 Health Benefits Of Spinach You Likely Didn't Know

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If you could eat something that could boost your eye health, strengthen your bones, increase your body’s healing processes and aid your digestion, would you eat it? What about if that same food was easy to grow or inexpensive to purchase — and easy to add to soups, salads and main dishes?

That food is spinach, a known superfood long before the term “superfood” was ever coined. In fact, the leafy green vegetable has been used for centuries to promote health and well-being.

Persians cultivated spinach thousands of years ago. Historians believe the plant made its way east to China about 1,500 years ago and then to Europe a few centuries years later where it quickly became a staple as a side dish vegetable and as an ingredient in numerous dishes.

The comic book character Popeye’s secret weapon, spinach is an excellent source of many minerals and vitamins. Let’s look at some of the many “kitchen cures” it offers.

1. Eyes

You know about how eating carrots can benefit your eyes, but you may not know that consuming spinach is just as helpful, if not more so.

The carotenoids and antioxidants found in spinach can protect your eyes from age-related macular degeneration, as well as from cataracts and glaucoma.

2. Heart

Atherosclerosis is a life-threatening condition caused by hardening of the arteries. Lutein, which is a pigment in spinach, reduces the risk of atherosclerosis and, as a result, can help decrease the chance of heart attack and stroke. Lutein works to reduce fat deposits in the body’s blood vessels.

Need Non-GMO Spinach Seeds? Get Them From A Company You Can Trust!

The mineral folate, which is plentiful in spinach, also helps to reduce high blood pressure and the inflammation of blood vessels.

3. Bones

One cup of boiled spinach produces 41 calories and offers twice the recommended daily serving of Vitamin K.

This high concentration of vitamin K can help you maintain bone density and prevent bone fractures. Other minerals found in spinach, including manganese, magnesium, copper, zinc and phosphorus, also help build strong bones, teeth and nails.

4. Healing

8 Health Benefits Of Spinach You Likely Didn't Know

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One serving of spinach contains 56 percent of the recommended daily amount of Vitamin A. Vitamin A helps boost the body’s natural healing process, including cellular and collagen development.

5. Digestion

Eating spinach helps protect the mucus lining of the stomach, which helps prevent ulcers, and this protection helps flush toxins from the colon.

6. Pregnancy

Spinach is a great food for expectant mothers to eat. The folate found in spinach helps the fetus develop properly. Studies show that birth defects, such as cleft palate or spina bifida, may be due to a folate deficiency. The high amount of Vitamin A contained in spinach also helps aid the unborn baby’s lung development.

7. The Brain

The potassium, folate and other antioxidants found in spinach also may provide neurological benefits. For example, the journal Neurology reports that folate consumption may be linked with Alzheimer’s disease prevention. Potassium helps increase blood flow to the brain, which may improve cognition and concentration.

8. Muscles

According to the Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, an antioxidant found in spinach, called C0-Q10, helps strengthen muscles, especially heart muscles. C0-Q10 may help treat cardiovascular diseases and coronary heart disease.

One potential drawback of consuming a lot of spinach is its oxalic acid content. Oxalic acid blocks the body’s absorption of calcium and iron, and some people who eat large quantities of raw spinach may experience symptoms of gout, arthritis and rheumatism. High levels of oxalic acid also can lead to kidney stones and gallstones in some individuals.

One way around the potential problem with oxalic acid is to pair spinach with a food that is high in Vitamin C, such as oranges.

In addition, boiling spinach greatly reduces its amount of oxalic acid, and unlike other vegetables, spinach retains its nutritional after it is cooked.

If you are looking to add spinach to your shopping list, here is one other important thing to keep in mind. Go organic, since pesticides on the leaves are difficult to wash off. Or, grow your own spinach.

Finally, here are some ways to add this powerful superfood into your family’s meals:

  • Add spinach to your favorite soup or stew.
  • Toss a handful of spinach into a fruit smoothie before blending.
  • Chop and stir spinach into your pasta sauce.
  • Top lasagna or your macaroni and cheese with finely chopped spinach.
  • Place a leaf or two of spinach on your sandwich instead of lettuce.
  • Make a quesadilla with spinach and cheese.
  • Use spinach as a pizza topping.
  • Add it to your omelet or scrambled eggs.

Do you have any spinach-growing tips? What is your favorite superfood? Share your thoughts in the section below:


Cicero, Karen. Giant book of kitchen counter cures. Jerry Baker publisher, 2001. Print.

3 Easy Ways To Cook Plantain, The Spinach-Like ‘Survival Weed’

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3 Ways To Cook Plantain, The Spinach-Like 'Survival Weed'

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I grew up in Chicago and remember seeing plantain growing in yards and parkways along city streets. What always caught my eye were the slender seed stalks emerging from a nest of green leaves. I had no idea they were edible, but have harvested them frequently since then.

Both plantain leaves and the seedy stalks can be eaten, and they contain a surprising number of nutrients on a par with spinach and other leafy green vegetables like kale and collard greens. Plantains have healthy doses of vitamins K, A and C, in addition to iron and fiber.

Harvesting Plantain

Plantain leaves can be easily snipped from the plants with a pair of scissors. The leaf stems are actually a bit fibrous, so cut close to the base of the leaf. The leaves are best when harvested before the tall 4- to 6-inch seed stalk emerges. Much like dandelions, the leaves of plantain become a bit bitter once the seed stalks emerge.

The seed stalks also can be eaten, and there are a few ways of preparing both the leaves and the stalks.

Cooking Plantain

A general rule of thumb for cooking plantain is to immerse the leaves or the stems in boiling water for 4 minutes, and then immediately immerse them into a bowl of ice water. This will shock the leaves or stems to stop the cooking process and fix their deep, green color. When plantains are overcooked they tend to disintegrate, so stay close to the 4-minute rule.

Just 30 Grams Of This Survival Superfood Provides More Nutrition Than An Entire Meal!

This initial boiling step will not only tenderize the plant but will help to dilute any bitterness in the more mature leaves. Once you have done this initial step you can go into a variety of directions with further preparation and recipes. It’s not absolutely necessary to do this blanching step. Young, tender leaves can be washed and tossed into a green salad, served with any dressing you prefer.

3 Ways To Cook Plantain, The Spinach-Like 'Survival Weed'

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Here are three recipes:

1. Sautéing Plantain

I’ll often follow the blanching step in the boiling water with a quick sauté. I’ll drain the plantains and then drop a couple of tablespoons of butter or olive oil in the pan, and toss the plantains around over medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes. They make a great side dish, and you can top them with anything from pine nuts to bacon bits.

The seed stalks can be sautéed the same way, and when stacked on a plate have the appearance and a bit of the flavor profile of asparagus. The seeds also can be stripped from the stalks and used as a garnish on everything from salads to mashed potatoes.

2. Plantain Soup

In its simplest form, plantain soup includes strips of plantain leaves boiled in a broth for 4 minutes. I’ll usually add two cup of plantain leaves cut into julienne strips about a 1/4-inch wide and bring 4 cups of chicken broth or beef broth to a boil before adding the plantain leaves. You can add other ingredients to the broth, from noodles to vegetables or even chunks of chicken or strips of beef or venison. Add the noodles or meat or other vegetables to the pot first, and add the plantains to the broth 5 minutes later and cook for an additional 4 minutes.

3. Plantain ‘Goma Ae’

I lived and worked in Asia for two years and spent about 4 months living in Japan. It was there that I first encountered Goma Ae. It’s basically boiled spinach that is squeezed dry after boiling and then tossed in a mixture of sesame seed oil and soy sauce before being shaped into a cube about the size of an ice cube. It’s then sprinkled with a little more sauce and sesame seeds and served cold.

To make the plantain version of Goma Ae, take 2 cups of plantain leaves and boil them in water for 4 minutes. Shock the leaves in ice water and then squeeze out as much water as you can. Mix 2 tablespoons of sesame seed oil with 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and toss the leaves in the sauce. Form the leaves into cubes with your fingers; you should get about 4 cubes in total from 2 cups of leaves. Drizzle any remaining sauce over each and sprinkle with sesame seeds. This is the plantain recipe I make most often, and it goes great with any meal. If you want more cubes just double or triple the recipe.

How do you eat plantain? Do you have any other advice? Share your tips in the section below:

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Stinging Nettles: The Edible Weed That Tastes Like Spinach, Is Healthier Than Broccoli, And Is Easily Tamed

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Stinging Nettles: The Edible Weed That Tastes Like Spinach, Is Healthier Than Broccoli, And Is Easily Tamed

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From Russia across Europe to the United Kingdom, stinging nettles are enjoyed in soups, stews and as an ingredient in everything from pasta to pesto. The nettles also make an excellent tea, but regardless of the recipe you need to apply a bit of caution and common sense when harvesting and preparing stinging nettles.

Of course, stinging nettles also are found in yards and fields throughout the United States and North America.

It’s hard for many people in North America to understand the popularity of stinging nettles in Europe. There are a few good reasons why Europeans consider them a regular part of their diet:

  • Stinging nettles can be harvested in early spring, long before other green, leafy vegetables show up.
  • They grow like weeds and grow just about anywhere, making them easy to find, and they’re free.
  • They are commonly found in grocery stores and markets in Europe, but rarely if ever in grocery stores in the US.
  • They are a long-established part of European culinary traditions and culture.

Here’s the point: Don’t be put off by the name. They can be incorporated easily into many recipes if handled and prepared properly.

Once the leaves of a stinging nettle have been exposed to hot liquid for a couple of minutes or finely chopped in a food processor, the needles and stinging chemicals are neutralized and they’re safe to eat. They are often used as a substitute for spinach, and, in fact, have a taste similar to spinach with cucumber flavor notes. There are numerous vitamins in them, from vitamin A to vitamin C to vitamin K. (In fact, they have more vitamin A, fiber, iron, calcium and magnesium than broccoli – although broccoli does have more vitamin C). Nettles have a surprising 25 percent protein content, and they’re known to be a natural blood thinner and diuretic. They’re also high in iron and have a similar nutritional profile to other green, leafy vegetables like kale and spinach.

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Stinging Nettles: The Edible Weed That Tastes Like Spinach, Is Healthier Than Broccoli, And Is Easily Tamed

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So, what makes a stinging nettle sting? The leaves, leaf buds and parts of the stem on a stinging nettle are lined with small, hollow filaments that contain a variety of chemical compounds, including formic acid. When the filaments come in contact with the skin, they break off like tiny needles and cause a stinging, burning sensation. That’s why the standard recommendation of harvesting include gloves, long sleeves and pants. Scissors are usually used to trim the leaves and leaf buds from the plant, and they are typically collected in plastic bags.

Recognizing Stinging Nettles

Stinging nettles have a unique, heart-shaped leaf with serrations along the leaf edge. They are typically a deep green and are often harvested in the spring and early summer. Once they flower, they develop some hard deposits that some believe will irritate the urinary tract. If in doubt about a plant, you can always run your finger along a leaf from the tip to leaf stem. If it stings, you’ve found a stinging nettle. Hopefully you only have to do this once or twice as you familiarize yourself with the plant.

Cures for a Sting

It’s inevitable that you’ll get stung if you regularly collect stinging nettles. Common remedies include the external application of apple cider vinegar, a paste of baking soda and water, over-the-counter sprays like Bactine or Solarcaine, aloe vera, ice cubes and cold water.

Initial Prep for Stinging Nettles

Most recipes for stinging nettles recommend an initial preparation step that involves immersing the nettle leaves in lightly boiling water, broth or sautéed in butter or oil for at least 2 minutes up to 5 minutes.  The leaves are then squeezed dry for addition to some recipes, or left in the broth for a soup or stew.  Some people simply add the raw nettles to a food processor but I prefer blanching them for at least 2 minutes before any food-processor step.

Countless recipes for stinging nettles can be found on the Internet, and we’ll feature some of them here, but a basic rule of thumb is that any green, leafy vegetable or herb can be substituted with the leaves of the stinging nettle. Examples include replacement of basil with stinging nettles leaves in a pesto, or any recipe that calls for collard greens, kale, spinach, mustard greens and others. You can even make a green pasta with a processed paste of nettles leaves and flour. What’s important is to precede any usage of nettles with the initial preparation step in gently boiling water or hot oil.

Nettle Pesto


  • 1 cup of blanched nettle leaves
  • ½ cup of nuts (pine nuts or your choice or mixed nuts)
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • ½ teaspoon of pepper
  • ¾ cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup of olive oil


Stinging Nettles: The Edible Weed That Tastes Like Spinach, Is Healthier Than Broccoli, And Is Easily Tamed

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Add all of the ingredients except the olive oil to a food processor and pulse until the nettles are a smooth paste. Drizzle the olive oil into the processor while it’s running. You can add more oil to the consistency you like. Use to top pasta or any other dish that calls for pesto.

Nettle Soup with Noodles

(Makes four one cup servings)


  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 3 carrots sliced
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 3 cups of fresh, raw nettles
  • 4 cups of chicken broth
  • 1 cup of rotini or other spoon-sized noodles


Sauté the onion and carrots in a saucepan in the olive oil for about three minutes or until the onions are translucent. In a separate sauce pan, bring water to a boil and cook the noodles. Deglaze the carrots and onions in the other pan with the chicken broth and bring to a gentle boil. Add the fresh nettle leaves and simmer for four minutes. Strain the noodles and add to the soup broth. Serve with crusty bread.

Nettle Greens with Bacon

(Serves 4)


  • 6 slices of bacon
  • 4 cups of water
  • 6 cups of fresh nettle leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Fry the bacon until crisp and drain on paper towels. Reserve the bacon drippings in the frying pan. While frying the bacon, bring four cups of water to a boil and add the nettle leaves and cook at a gentle boil for four to six minutes. Drain the leaves and try to press out some of the moisture and toss in the warm bacon drippings. Serve on a platter and sprinkle crumbled bacon over the top.

If you’ve never tried stinging nettles before, this may be the year to give them a try.

Do you eat stinging nettles? What advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below:

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The 7 Healthiest Vegetables You Can Plant In The Garden This Year

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The 7 Most Nutritionally-Dense Vegetables You Can Plant In The Garden This Year

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If you are looking to become more self-sufficient while boosting your nutrition at the same time, there is no better choice than with a home vegetable garden.

Homegrown veggies are superior to store-bought veggies in terms of freshness, taste and nutrition. When you add in their lower cost, and the pride you feel in growing your own food, it is a no-brainer. Plus, many veggies are easy to grow and do not require large amounts of space.

It makes sense that fresh-picked vegetables taste better than store-bought veggies, but why are they more nutritious? It has to do with that freshness. Supermarket produce usually has traveled many miles over a period of a few days to even a few weeks to get to your store. That long trip from farm to table allows nutritional content to degrade, especially if the vegetables have been exposed to heat. According to nutritionists, temperature is the top factor in keeping fruits and vegetables in the best condition.

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The 7 Most Nutritionally-Dense Vegetables You Can Plant In The Garden This YearIf you are looking to pack the biggest nutritional punch that you can with your garden this year, here is a list of seven veggies – based on government nutritional data (see chart) — that are the healthiest you can grow.

1. Kale – You’ve probably read about all the health benefits of this superfood, but did you know it was easy to grow, too? It likes sunny, cool conditions of the spring and fall and soil that has a neutral to slightly alkaline pH.

Kale leaves are rich in fiber, iron, vitamins A, K and C, and new studies link kale to lowered LDL (bad cholesterol) levels. Add it to salads, soups and stews for its hearty taste and nutrition.

2. Spinach – This super healthy vegetable does well in spring, fall and even winter in some locations. Leaves will turn bitter tasting, so it is a good idea to harvest them promptly.

Spinach contains the antioxidants beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin that are good for eye health and for digestion. Spinach also is high in iron, calcium and vitamins A, B and C.

3. Collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens — You can mix these greens — which are rich in minerals, vitamins and antioxidants — or eat them separately. A Harvard University study concluded that people who regularly consume dark green, leafy vegetables are about 30 percent less likely to have a heart attack or stroke. Eating these greens may also protect against certain types of cancers, according to studies by the American Institute for Cancer Research.

These greens are hardy in the garden. They don’t need much space, and they can thrive in partial sunlight.

The 7 Most Nutritionally-Dense Vegetables You Can Plant In The Garden This Year

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4. Carrots – You probably grew up hearing that eating carrots was good for your eyes. It’s true. Carrots are loaded with beta-carotene, a type of vitamin A that gives carrots their orange color and helps the retina and other parts of the eye to remain healthy. This root vegetable, which is at its most nutritious in its raw state, also is a good source of fiber, antioxidant agents, vitamins C, K and B8, folate, pantothenic acid, iron, potassium, manganese and copper. Bugs Bunny was definitely on to something!

Carrots grow best in the cool temperatures of early spring and late fall. They can do well in small spaces and do not mind a little shade.

5. Red bell pepper – High in nutrition and low in calories, red bell peppers taste great raw in salads or cooked in pasta dishes. One medium pepper can provide 150 percent of your daily requirement of vitamin C. At only 32 calories, that’s quite a boost. Red bell peppers also help combat atherosclerosis, which can lead to heart disease.

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Red bells come in many different varieties. They prefer full sun and soil of at least 65 degrees that drains well. As the plants grow, you may need to stake them, depending on the size of the peppers you are growing.

6. Bok choy – One of my new go-to-favorites, bok choy (aka Chinese white cabbage) is loaded with more beta-carotene and vitamin A than any other type of cabbage. It also contains vitamins C and K, potassium, magnesium and manganese. Additionally, the Harvard School of Public Health calls bok choy a better source of calcium than dairy products.

The 7 Healthiest Vegetables You Can Plant In The Garden

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Bok choy is low in calories – one cup contains about 20 calories – yet its high fiber content will help you feel full. You can use bok choy in place of other cabbages or eat it raw.

Bok choy requires rich, loose soil, and it will need fertilization not long after planting.

7. Sweet Potatoes – Many nutritionists place sweet potatoes first in their list of healthy veggies. They contain high amounts of vitamins B6, C and D, iron and magnesium.

Unlike other types of potatoes, sweet potatoes prefer hot weather, so they grow best in the South. If you live in a colder climate, you can have success with raised beds with covers. Either way, sweet potatoes like sandy soil and plenty of sunshine.

According to 2015 research by the National Gardening Association, 35 percent of all American households are growing food either in a home garden or in a community garden. This percentage is an overall increase of 17 percent over the last five years.

Another advantage of growing your own vegetables is that you avoid the dangers of chemicals. When you plant and care for your own garden vegetables, you know exactly what has been sprayed – or has not sprayed – on them.

What are your favorite healthy vegetables? Share your advice in the section below:

Every Spring, Gardeners Make This Avoidable Mistake — But You Don’t Have To. Read More Here.

4 Frost-Hardy, Early Spring Vegetables You Can Plant In The Ground Right Now

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4 Frost-Hardy, Early Spring Vegetables You Can Plant In The Ground Right Now

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While it may be a few weeks for much of the country before we can plant any warm-season crops like tomatoes, beans and peppers, we can start planning cool-season crops right now.

Cool-season crops are those plants that can take a bit of frost and don’t do well in hot weather. These plants are typically done growing by June, just when the warm-season crops are beginning to take off. Examples of cool-season crops include lettuce, broccoli, radishes, turnips, carrots and onions.

For these cool-season crops, you should plant them as soon as the soil is workable.

1. Chives. This plant is a perennial herb that can be harvested as soon as the leaves appear in early spring. The leaves impart the classic chives flavor, but the edible late spring blooms taste more like onions. Chives do well in containers and also in perennial garden beds.

Plants can be propagated by seed or by division, and planted 8-12 inches apart. They are great for attracting birds and bees, are deer resistant, and make a great low-maintenance garden plant.

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Culinary uses for chives include salads, used in egg dishes, as a garnish in cream soups, and, of course, on baked potatoes.

2. Spinach. Spinach is packed with essential nutrients like iron, calcium, protein and beta-carotene.

4 Frost-Hardy, Early Spring Vegetables You Can Plant In The Ground Right Now

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Spinach is easy to grow, and if you place it in shade, you may be able to keep it growing throughout the summer months. Where winters aren’t very harsh, spinach can be grown in late fall to allow for harvesting early in the spring, and it can also be overwintered in a cold frame. It can be grown both in partial sun and in full sun.

The small baby leaves can be harvested for salads 20-30 days after sowing, and the larger leaves can continue to be harvested until the hot weather leads to bolting. The larger leaves are quite tasty when briefly sautéed in olive oil and garlic. Whole spinach plants can be harvested 25-50 days after seeding.

Propagate spinach by direct seeding as soon as the soil is workable, about 4-6 weeks prior to the last frost date.

3. Lettuce. Lettuce comes in a wide variety of colors, shapes and flavors, and if you start growing your own, you’ll likely develop your favorites. Growing your own lettuce produces much fresher and tastier lettuce than you typically can purchase in grocery stores. Lettuce is a plant that really does best in cool weather, and one that bolts and tastes bitter when it gets too hot. You can find a number of more heat-tolerant varieties on the market. It also grows successfully in containers, as it does not require much space to grow.

Directly seed lettuce seeds as soon as the soil can be worked, at spaces of 2-12 inches apart, depending on the variety. Harvest can be extended by seeding every three weeks until late spring, and then again in late summer for a fall harvest.

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Warning: Some lettuce varieties cannot tolerate hard frosts. Choose your varieties wisely. Romaine can tolerate a light frost but not a hard one.

4. Kale. A nutritional power green, kale seems to be all the rage these days. Kale bestows many health benefits to those who consume it, including iron, vitamin K, antioxidants such as carotenoids and flavonoids, vitamin C, beta-carotene, calcium and anti-inflammatory properties. Kale can be used as a garnish and added to salads, stir-fries, steamed vegetable dishes, soups and stews. The flavor and the color of kale are improved when the weather is cool and frosty.

Kale can be propagated from seed and grown in partial sun or in full sun. Be sure to plant kale plants at least 12-36 inches apart from one another.

Baby kale greens can be picked 20-30 days after seeding, and the mature leaves can be harvested 30-40 days later. Individual leaves can be selectively harvested and the plant will continue to produce more of them. Older leaves can be cooked and used in recipes.

What would you add to this list? Share your ideas in the section below:

Every Spring, Gardeners Make This Avoidable Mistake — But You Don’t Have To. Read More Here.

How to Dehydrate Spinach

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If you purchase fresh produce in bulk it can be sometimes be hard to eat it all before it goes bad. Learn how to dehydrate spinach and always have a supply | PreparednessMama

…and why you should. We are trying to eat healthier at our house by having a salad every day at lunch. We are also trying to do this on a budget, which can sometimes be problematic. I’m sure you’ve noticed that fresh, organic produce just costs more. I get around that by purchasing our food in as big […]

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5 Super-Fast Indoor Vegetables You Can Grow In About A Month

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5 Super-Fast Indoor Vegetables You Can Grow In About A Month

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Winter gardening is good for the mind. It keeps us thinking and learning new things, which helps our brains stay alert, healthy and young.

But gardening can be hard when there is a foot of snow covering the garden. Have you ever thought about growing vegetables indoors? Indoor gardening helps us grow fresh produce until our outdoor gardens are ready to be used again. Incredibly, there actually are vegetables you can grow and eat within about a month.

Let’s take a look at five quick-growing vegetables that thrive indoors.

Setting up for Indoor Vegetables

Vegetables simply need air, nutrients, water and light. Windows are a perfect place to sit your vegetables, especially in south-facing window, although grow lights can be beneficial if you don’t have the right set-up. During the winter, indoor vegetables need at least five to six hours of sun, as well as good quality air circulation. Put your vegetables in pots, or have a mini-garden.

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Mini-gardens can be made from large containers with proper drainage. Each vegetable will need a space of about four inches. Plastic dishes and pans have worked for many. Growing flats also works for indoor gardening. When using pots or containers, make sure the pots drain well so your vegetables don’t become waterlogged.

Most potting soils works well, but look to see what kind of soil your vegetables do the best in. Remember to use potting soil and not gardening soil. Gardening soil often gets packed down in containers.

Note: Do not overwater, but at the same time, don’t underwater. Once they grow, harvest from your plants often to encourage regrowth. Stay away from drafts.

Which Vegetables Should You Try?

You can grow pretty much any vegetable, but if you are pressed for time, or don’t like waiting months during winter before tasting your produce, you may want to take a look at the quick-growing varieties. (Baby greens are quick and easy to grow. They add color and a fresh taste to the usual winter dishes.)

Here are five vegetables you will be able to enjoy within about a month.

1. Radishes. This vegetable is known to be one of, if not THE, fastest growing vegetable. Radishes only take 25 to 30 days to grow after being planted. They are fresh and colorful, adding a little zip to salads, or even to use as a healthy snack.

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Radishes take up very little space and are very convenient. They come in an endless list of varieties and colors.

5 Super-Fast Indoor Vegetables You Can Grow In About A Month

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2. Green onions. The stalks of green onions can be harvested after only three or four weeks. Most onion plants can take around six months to fully mature, but green onions are an exception. They take up little space indoors, and can frequently be used for cooking. They like rich soil, often a mix of compost and potting soil.

3. Lettuce. Lettuce is easy to grow indoors, and does especially well when grown in containers. This vegetable can handle its seeds being sown close together and still grow well. Most leafy lettuces, especially romaine, can grow to the harvesting stage in about 30 days. Let the leaves grow to about three inches before cutting to eat.

4. Baby carrots. Keep in mind: These are baby carrots, not regular carrots. Baby carrots are quick to grow. They take up to 30 days to mature, where other regular varieties can take 50 or more days. You can sprinkle the seeds on the top of the soil and moisten the surface. You can thin out the seedlings to the amount you want when you see the growth. They love the sun.

5. Baby spinach. This plant grows very similar to lettuce. It doesn’t require a lot of space to thrive, either. Spinach only takes four weeks to grow once planted. It is super healthy, and adds color and distinct flavor to any dish. Spinach can be used in salads, sandwiches, omelettes and other endless dishes.

Growing your own winter vegetables is a healthy and entertaining way to spend your winter. You will know where your fresh produce is coming from and you can have their freshness throughout the colder months. There is no need to suffer the winter “blahs” or boring, plain dishes. So try your hand at these five indoor winter vegetables you can grow in a month.


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What vegetables would you add to this list? Share your tips in the section below:

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