Superfoods from your garden

'Superfoods' is a popular name for foods that claim to retard ageing, raise spirits, increase physical strength and agility and even boost intelligence. The truth behind these claims is often contentious, but some superfoods are easy and fun to grow, taste good, and add variety when eaten as part of a balanced diet.

Beetroot

Quick facts

Tomatoes are rich in lycopene (United States Department of Agriculture)
UK fruit and vegetable consumption is falling (UK Food Pocket Book 2013)
Planted area of cabbages in England and Wales has fallen by 50% since 1990 (defra Horticultural Statistics 2013)
Planted area of calabrese in England and Wales has risen by 35% since 1990 (defra Horticultural Statistics 2013)

Suitable for...

Plants cited as being 'superfoods' include: apricots, bell peppers, asparagus, blueberry, broccolicabbage, carrots, chard, beetroot, globe artichokeJerusalem artichoke, kale, oranges and grapefruits, pumpkin, spinach, sweet potatoes and tomatoes.

When to get growing superfoods

Seeds for superfoods are best sown in spring, from February under glass or fleece, or from April outdoors, but quick-growing crops can be sown at intervals of about three weeks all summer, until the final sowing in August, or for some leafy crops (beet or leaf beet, chard) in early September.

Greenhouse crops can be sown in September and October for gathering in winter.

Easy-to-grow superfoods

*Crops marked with an asterix are particularly suitable for gardeners in northern and other cold regions; suggest sowing two weeks later than in the south and similarly can expect cropping to finish earlier in autumn.

Asparagus*: plant between February and April, bearing in mind that there is a two year delay before spears can be cut. Moderately difficult.

Jerusalem artichoke*: plant between February and April. One or two square metres sufficient for most families. Exceptionally easy.

Globe artichoke: plant between April and June. Slightly tender so best in southern England. Easy.

Beetroot*: sow between February and July. Easy.

Blueberry *: requires an acid soil, but can be planted in pots of ericaceous potting media where garden soil is not acid. Moderately easy.

Broccoli*: plant between May and August or sown every three to four between February and July. Novelty broccoli such as ‘brokali’ are tasty and highly nutritious and especially recommended. Easy. 

Cabbage*: plant between May and August. This includes the delicious crinkly savoy cabbage and also red cabbage which is especially nutritious, and also for cold regions storage cultivars, 'Kilaton' for example can be very convenient. Easy.

Carrots*: sow from February until mid-July. Easy.

Chard*: sow between April and July. Easy.

Kale*: plant in May or sown between February and May. Novelty kale ‘Petit Posy’ delicious, hardy and especially recommended. Exceptionally easy.

Oranges/grapefruits: can be planted in pots, kept indoors in winter and outdoors, in a sunny site, in summer. UK gardeners cannot expect heavy crops, but these are very attractive and much loved plants. Moderately easy.

Bell peppers: best planted in greenhouses between March and April, but can do well on sunny patios and similar sheltered sites in cities and other warm regions. Moderately easy.

Pumpkin: sow between April and June. Easy.

Spinach: sow between February and September. Easy.

Sweet potatoes: plant in May and ideally grown in a greenhouse, or at least beneath horticultural fleece even in southern regions. Moderately easy.

Where to grow superfoods

Superfood plants can suit any garden size and location. For smaller plots and urban gardens possibilities include pots of citrus and blueberries, a kiwi vine over an arch, and alpine strawberries beneath trees.

Apricots can be planted against sunny garden walls, while globe artichokes for example adds height, colour and taste to ornamental beds and borders.

Tomatoes, which are packed with lycopene, and broad, French and runner beans can be dotted across a garden to exploit their decorative properties.

Creative gardeners may create wigwams of climbing beans and a raised bed filled with carrots, beetroot, chard, kale and spinach can be fitted into a sunny area in most gardens.

Calabrese
Asparagus
    Calabrese Asparagus

    Problems

    The chemicals in 'superfoods' that are thought to benefit health, may also confer some protection from plant pests and diseases making these crops relatively easy to grow.

    Despite this, pests and diseases can occur - visit our plant problem pages for details of how to deal with these.

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