Superfoods – or foods those that pack such a powerful nutrient punch that they’re at the very top of the healthy foods list – are a smart addition to any diet. While exotic fruits like acai and goji berries or mysterious-sounding roots like maca and moringa may come to mind when you think of superfoods, not all of these nutrition notables are tricky to pronounce or hard to find. In fact, some are foods you probably eat every day already; and many can be grown right in your own backyard.
Interested in growing a superfoods garden? Start with these eight fruits and vegetables that don't even require a green thumb to plant, maintain and harvest:
One of the most frequently eaten superfoods, spinach can be grown easily in a backyard garden or in smaller outdoor areas like patios or balconies. Spinach plants prefer cooler temperatures and are quick to grow and mature. This versatile veggie is loaded with nutrients such as iron, beta-carotene and vitamin C. Enjoy it in salads, casseroles, soups or smoothies -- or try this simple spinach smoothie bowl for a refreshing summer treat!
This dark green vegetable has skyrocketed in popularity over the years. Kale grows quite easily in colder climates and is well known for its resilience. It's rich in vitamins C and K, fiber and antioxidants that provide protection against cell-damaging free radicals. Leaves can be baked in the oven to create crisp kale chips for a healthy snack, or throw together a delightful summer superfood salad.
Grow a row of blueberry bushes for a bountiful harvest of berries with incredible nutrition benefits, including antioxidants, fiber, vitamin C and manganese. Blueberry plants may also be housed in pots on your patio or porch (just be sure to bring them indoors during colder winter months). It's also a good idea to cover the plants to protect your harvest from the birds. Make this blueberry protein smoothie your go-to superfood breakfast.
4. Sweet potatoes
Like other root vegetables, sweet potatoes grow underground. Root sprouts (available from nurseries) should be planted in small mounds or hills. Keep the plants covered to encourage the sweet potatoes to grow underground along the root system. Serve up your sweet spuds -- supplying ample vitamin A, vitamin C and potassium -- the same way as regular potatoes: baked as fries, mashed or even in a pie.
Another root vegetable, beets should be planted in deep, well-drained soil. Pull them about two months after planting and enjoy the entire plant for all of its superfood qualities (which includes a healthy dose of vitamin B6, zinc, phosphorus, protein and fiber). Use beet roots in soups or stews, or roast thinly sliced beet root for a spectacular side dish. Try these homemade beet chips for a healthy snack.
Grow cabbage in a row of your garden, harvesting the heads when they're easily held with two hands. You may lose some of the outer leaves to insects but simply discard those pieces before eating. Often times cabbage gets overlooked, but it's an incredible superfood, known to be very good source vitamins C, K and B6 as well as folate and manganese. Not sure how to use it? This elegant red cabbage salad is irresistible!
Plant a pumpkin patch in an area of your yard with lots of sun and plenty of room for vines. You can also grow pumpkins in large buckets or pots on your patio. Seeds should be nestled in small dirt mounds, and you'll only need to wait 90 to 120 days for the harvest. Besides packing in vitamins A and C, potassium, magnesium, manganese and fiber, pumpkin is pumped with healthy antioxidants that protect your health. Possibilities for pumpkin go way beyond pumpkin pie. Enjoy it in soup, pasta dishes and even pumpkin burgers.
8. Red bell peppers
With twice as much vitamin C as an orange and antioxidants like lycopene and beta carotene, red bell peppers are the perfect addition to a superfoods garden. Start pepper seeds in a pot and transplant them to the garden, about 24 inches apart. It's a good idea to cover them with a small windshield (such as plastic bags) for protection and to encourage growth. Harvest peppers when they're about the size of your hand -- and enjoy them in homemade hummus, a delightful frittata or a mouthwatering pizza.
All of these superfoods can be planted, grown and harvested in your backyard garden -- and most of them will last multiple seasons, making it easy to reuse your garden for the fall.
Remember, not all plants will grow at the same rate, so plant a good variety to ensure that you have superfoods for snacks and meals throughout the entire growing season.