Start Your Own Vegetable, Herb Garden

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By: Giovanni Roselli Special to the Boca and Delray newspapers

It’s that time of year in which gardeners have prepared their soil, and have patiently anticipated a bountiful season full of nutritious fruits and vegetables. I recently sat down with New York City integrative medical doctor and frequent Delray Beach visitor Dr. Jeffrey Morrison. Below are his 5 top vegetables and herbs for this season.

Parsley: It’s so much more than a garnish! Parsley supports detoxification, acts as a natural diuretic to help reduce fluid retention, and works as a natural breath freshener. The vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants found in parsley are helpful for strengthening immunity. Vitamins such as vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin K, folate, and niacin each act on different aspects of the immune system.  It adds a freshness and beautiful green color to any dish, and works well in juices and green smoothies.

Cucumber: It grows easily, and is one of the most hydrating vegetables, great in salads, juices, green smoothies, or sliced up and enjoyed on its own as a refreshing, low-calorie snack.  Cucumbers are rich in two of the most basic elements needed for healthy digestion: water and fiber.

Zucchini: Another easy-to-grow vegetable with a wide variety of uses. Zucchini contains good amounts of potassium that helps reduce blood pressure and contains moderate levels of folate that breaks down amino acids that cause heart attacks and strokes. It’s considerable amount of magnesium helps in keeping blood pressure at a normal rate.

Basil: A versatile herb that’s delicious in omelets, salads, and Italian-style dishes, as well as smoothies. It’s also very easy to make a dairy-free pesto with basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste — a great sauce for zucchini noodles. Basil contains antimicrobial properties that fight viruses and Infections.  Additionally, it combats stress by acting as an ‘adaptogen.’

Kale: It’s hardy and packs a nutritional punch, providing chlorophyll, beta-carotene, vitamin C and calcium. Additionally, it is high in glucosinolates that act as an anti-inflammatory and rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, which are powerful for vision health.  Great in salads, cooked with eggs, blended in smoothies and in soups.

Indoor gardening

Consider a small indoor herb garden with rosemary and mint. These herbs love an east or south-facing sun-flooded window, and are made into delicious herbal teas with hot water and maybe some lemon. Rosemary is rich in antioxidants and is thought to have anti-inflammatory benefits. Fresh mint is soothing to the digestive tract, making it great to enjoy as a tea after meals.

Plant yourself in a garden

Lastly, there is one more health benefit: Gardening is a good workout.

“It’s not just exercise for exercise itself, which can become tedious,” says Katherine Brown, the executive director of the Southside Community Land Trust, a nonprofit that supports community gardens and other urban agriculture in and around Providence, R.I. “It’s exercise that has a context, that reinforces the limberness of your limbs and the use of your hands. You’ve got a motivation for why you want to grip. You’re not just gripping a ball. You want to pull a weed.”

Gardening in Florida can provide some increased challenges due to it’s climate, so it can be helpful to seek advice from the experts at a local nursery — they can help you get started with vegetables that are easy to care for and grow well in our area.

Whether you grow your own garden vegetables or shop for them, prioritize getting the above five for what they might contribute to your health and wellness.

Giovanni Roselli is the Regional Director Of Personal Training for PurLife Fitness Center located in Delray Beach. Originally from Westchester, NY, he graduated from Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT double majoring in business administration and sports management. He is a certified personal trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine and holds a nutrition certification with industry leader Precision Nutrition.  His television appearances include NBC’s ‘Today Show’ and National Geographic’s ‘Brain Games.’