These healing foods can be grown anywhere, or bought at organic stores, and can absolutely SUPERCHARGE your vitality, health and life energy!
Recently, more consumers have become aware of potential problems with conventional fruits and vegetables. Pesticide contamination, scientific uncertainty surrounding the safety of GMOs (see Ultraculture’s book Monsanto vs. the World), and even risks of radioactivity from fracking waste water in some regions has led to an explosion of home-grown produce and healing foods. Freshly harvested, organic fruits and vegetables are often more nutritious than store-bought equivalents that travel long distances. Store-bought produce is often treated before shipping to add artificial color and a false appearance of ripeness.
In addition to the health benefits of growing your own healing foods, they’re extremely affordable. The average American spends $40-$80 on food per week. When compared to the cost of growing food, every dollar invested in a healthy garden of healing foods can yield an equivalent of $500 of grocery store food during a season.
These 10 healing foods can provide a continuous source of beneficial, healing nutrients this season.
1. Wild Mediterranean Oregano
Wild Mediterranean Oregano (oreganum vulgare ssp. Hirtum) is rich in the compounds carvacrol and thymol, which give the herb its warm smell. These substances have demonstrated significant antioxidant, antibacterial, and antimicrobial properties. It has a recorded history of use dating back to ancient Greece, where it was used to treat stomach ailments and clean wounds by the medical scholar Hippocrates. Proponents also claim its bacteria fighting qualities may boost the immune system. A wild species, it is hardy and requires little maintenance, making it ideal for small garden or container growing.
Soil: Oregano thrives in a well-draining organic soil mixture. Generally, it has no need for fertilizer, especially if organic compost is used to improve drainage. Gravel can also be used to encourage draining if the soil is retaining too much moisture. It can be grown in small to medium containers at least 6 inches deep with adequate drainage holes or planted directly into the ground. It makes excellent ground cover when allowed to spread, but can be trimmed regularly to encourage a bushier plant.
Planting: Oregano seeds can be planted directly in prepared soil. Cover seeds with a thin layer of soil and moisten. Sprouts will emerge between 3 days and 2 weeks. It can be grown indoors at any time of year as long as the temperature stays above 70 degrees. For outdoor growing, seeds can be started inside 6-10 weeks before the last frost and then moved outside once the weather is consistently warm.
Sun: Oregano is native to the Mediterranean, so it thrives in full sun, low humidity, and well-circulated air. A sunny spot outdoors or a window that receives at least six hours of sunlight a day is ideal. In hotter regions, some afternoon shade may be beneficial.
Water: Oregano requires only moderate watering, as it grows naturally in dry, gravelly soil. To prevent over-watering, only water once the soil has dried slightly.
Harvesting: Oregano can be harvested once it is 8 inches tall. When the plant reaches 8 inches in height, it can be cut back to 4 inches to encourage a denser, bushy plant. The leaves can be used fresh to season dishes, or dried and used over time.
The edible rhizome of the Ginger plant has been used in Asian cuisine and traditional systems of medicine and healing foods for thousands of years. It is often used to sooth the stomach and aid digestion. Ginger is also a power anti-inflammatory food, which prevents cancer, boosts brain function, and protects cells. In West Africa and the Caribbean, fresh ground ginger is sometimes mixed with hot water and citrus juice to create a comforting elixir that makes an excellent addition to any regimen of healing foods.
Soil: Plant in well-draining organic soil mixture, supplemented with compost or sand to improve drainage. Ginger grows in tropical regions, and prefers moist soil with dense nutrients. Organic fertilizer can be used at the time of planting to enrich the soil, and it can be fertilized every few weeks after planting if necessary.
Planting: If using store-bought ginger, soak in water for a few hours to remove any growth-reducing agents. Plant the whole ginger rhizome just below the surface in a small or medium pot or directly in the ground if the climate is warm enough. The best time for planting is late winter or early spring. If the ginger piece is too large for the pot, it can be broken into smaller pieces before planting. It even thrives in small, crowded containers.
Sun: Ginger needs plenty of light but minimal direct sun. Place in a north or south facing window or outdoors in a location with plenty of coverage from harsh direct light.
Water: The ginger plant prefers constant moisture. The soil should never dry completely. It also grows well with ample humidity, so it is best to avoid overly dry locations.
Harvesting: Small pieces of the root can be dug after 4 months, but it tastes best after 8-10 months, once the foliage has died down. At that point, the whole plant can be dug up, and the rhizomes removed for eating and re-planting.
Spinach is one of the most nutrient-dense leafy greens and a king among healing foods. It is low in fat and cholesterol and packed with niacin, fiber, and protein. It contains significant amounts of vitamins A, C, E, K, and B6, as well as thiamine, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and copper. It grows quickly, and even a small plant can produce a significant amount of food. Eaten regularly, spinach reduces the risk of many common 21st century ailments such as cancer, heart disease, and stroke.
Soil: Spinach grows best in well-draining organic compost with a neutral pH. Nitrogen improves growth speed, so soil can be enriched with cow manure, organic fertilizer, or cottonseed meal.
Planting: For outdoor growing, plant seeds ½ inch deep and 8-12 inches apart up to 6 weeks before the final frost. If growing in container, allow 15 centimeters between plants and at least 10 inches of depth for roots. Spinach prefers temperatures in the 70s, so it thrives from early spring to the beginning of summer.
Sun: Spinach thrives in full sun outdoors or a window that receives at least 6 hours of direct sun per day.
Water: Spinach requires regular watering. Soil should be allowed to dry slightly between watering, but never completely.
Time: As soon as there are enough leaves, they can be harvested sustainably, allowing the plant to continue to grow. If desired, the whole plant may be harvested at once when it has reached sufficient size. When the temperature begins to exceed 70 degrees regularly, the spinach may develop a bitter taste, indicating it is nearing the end of its growth cycle.
Radishes are rich in vitamins, fiber, and phytonutrients. Their nutritional properties aid digestion and prevent cancer. With high levels of vitamin C, radishes also bolster the immune system. In Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine, radishes are thought to be cooling and to flush toxins from the body. This corresponds to their hydrating effect from minerals and electrolytes.
Soil: Well-draining organic soil with compost and a small amount of sand if needed to boost drainage. For container growing, a wide pot one gallon or larger can be used.
Planting: Radishes can be planted in early spring or late summer. Place the seeds ½ inch below the surface of the soil and 1 to 2 inches apart. Keep evenly moist. As radishes grow, insure the tops of the edible roots are covered with soil as they may protrude.
Sun: Plant in a location that gets at least 6 hours of sunlight daily.
Water: Water regularly and maintain good drainage in soil. Do not water while soil is still saturated.
Harvest: Harvest as soon as the radishes reach the desired size. The smaller radishes will be more pungent and flavorful.
5. Mung Beans
Mung Beans are a good source of fiber, protein, and a wide array of vitamins, minerals and lots of other great energy sources that come from healing foods. The beans may be eaten as-is, or sprouted for a crisp texture. Scientific studies have found that mung beans also inhibit LDL oxidation, a transformation of cholesterol that is a major factor in heart disease. It is also a low glycemic food, and can provide a good source of carbohydrates to diabetics who may experience adverse effects from other sugars.
Soil: Soil should be mixed well with a generous layer of compost to assist drainage. The pH should be between 6 and 7. For container planting, make sure the container has plenty of drainage holes. Soil should be 6 inches deep.
Planting: Mung beans are best planted from May to June when the weather is warm but not too hot. Plant beans just below the surface and moisten soil. If desired, sprout seeds before planting by soaking in water for one day, draining, and allowing the beans to rest until sprouted.
Sun: Place in direct sun or at least 6 hours of sun per day to encourage fast growth.
Water: Water once the soil has become dry to the touch.
Harvest: Plants will be ready to harvest after about 3 months. Once the beans have formed and matured, cut the whole plant and hang upside down until the pods dry. Remove the beans from shells once they are dry for eating, replanting, or sprouting. To sprout harvested seeds before eating, soak in water for 24 hours and then drain and wait another 24 hours.
Beets are powerful anti-inflammatory healing foods that boost cell health, immune response, and potentially longevity. They are high in vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, and contain unique pigment compounds which may cleanse the liver and even shrink tumors. They also contain tryptophan, a chemical that the body metabolizes into the vital neurotransmitter serotonin, which boosts mood and cognitive function. In addition to the edible roots, beet greens are also edible and nutrient-dense.
Soil: Use good quality soil and a fertilizer with balanced nutrients. If using a container, it should be 6-12 inches deep. After planting, a thin layer of mulch can be applied to the surface of the soil.
Planting: Beets can be planted up to 30 days before the last frost. Plant seeds slightly below the surface of the soil and allow 1 inch between plants. Once the plants reach 3 inches in height, the weakest plants can be pulled to allow more room for larger plants to expand.
Water: Water evenly when the surface of the soil is dry to the touch.
Sun: Beets need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day to thrive.
Harvest: Pull the beets when they are between 1 ½ inches and 3 inches in diameter. The greens can be harvested once the plants exceed 3 or 4 inches in height.
Watercress is a close cousin of broccoli and cabbage, all excellent healing foods. Like its relatives, it is packed with vitamins and minerals. It also boosts cancer-fighting antioxidants. Watercress contains significant vitamin K, which supports bone health. Like carrots, it is rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, two compounds that improve vision. Like Oregano, Watercress was celebrated by ancient Greek physician Hippocrates for its healing properties.
Soil: Use an organic, soil-less mixture with agents to improve draining like perlite or vermiculite. If planting in a container, use a pot at least 6 inches deep with drainage holes. A tray or dish placed underneath the container will help retain vital moisture.
Planting: Plant seeds ¼ inch deep with 3 to 4 inches between plants. If planting outside, watercress requires wet terrain, so it may be easier to grow in a container to maintain moisture. The plants will thrive outdoors after the last spring frost.
Water: Watercress must be kept very wet. Water until the drainage tray beneath the pot is halfway full. Replace the water in the tray every few days and mist the surface of the potting mix.
Sun: Watercress prefers indirect sunlight. Windows that receive steady daylight but little direct sun are ideal, or outside in a somewhat sheltered area.
Harvest: The leafy greens can be harvested once the plant reaches 5 or 6 inches. Do not cut smaller than 4 inches to continue healthy growth.
8. Pea Shoots
Pea Shoots are the small green leafy tendrils that emerge from peas when planted. They are simply young pea plants. Because they are harvested early in their life cycle, they can be planted densely in small containers or patches of earth. Pea Shoots are one of the richest sources of vitamin C, making them excellent healing foods. They also contain substantial vitamin A, beta-carotene, and folic acid. Like many young plant greens, they have a very sweet flavor and can be eaten raw.
Soil: Any organic compost. If using a container, it must be at least 2 to 3 inches deep with drainage holes.
Planting: Soak dried sugar pod peas in water for 24 hours. Water the compost and sow seeds very close together, leaving only a few millimeters between them. Cover with ¼ inch more compost and water. If growing outdoors, plant after the first frost and repeat as desired after each harvest. Cooler weather will lead to a sweeter plant.
Sun: Pea shoots require full sun at least 6 hours per day.
Watering: Keep soil moist but not overly saturated. Let surface dry slightly between watering.
Harvest: Once the plants are 3 or 4 inches tall, cut or pinch them just below the bottom leaves. They are best eaten at this stage as they become tough when the plant ages.
Dandelions are often overlooked as potential healing foods. The leaves, flower, and root are all edible and contain significant nutrition. They have been used traditionally as an herbal digestive aid and cleanser for the kidneys and liver. Dandelions contain more protein than spinach. They are also rich in vitamins, fiber, minerals, and electrolytes. They are one of the few plant sources that contain notable levels of vitamin D.
Soil: Any organic soil will do as these flowers grow readily in many environments. If using a container, choose a pot at least 6 inches deep and 4 inches in diameter with drainage holes. Fertilizer can be used regularly once the plants reach 4 to 6 inches in height.
Planting: Purchase or collect dandelion seeds, the white fibers that form after the flowers and blow in the wind to propagate. Plant 1 to 2 inches apart in damp soil and cover to a depth of only 1/8 inch. Dandelions will grow in soil 50 degrees Fahrenheit or above, but thrive when the temperature is in the 70’s.
Water: Keep evenly moist.
Sun: Dandelions prefer full sun but will also grow in partial shade.
Harvesting: Harvest greens by cutting the base once they are 4 to 8 inches in height. Flowers can be harvested when open but before going to seed. To harvest the flowers, cut the stalk at its base. Once the plant ages through the summer, the leaves can become bitter.
Carrots have been long celebrated among healing foods for their vision boosting carotenes. One serving of carrots provides 210% of the daily recommended intake of vitamin A, which the body metabolizes from beta-carotene. They also contain vitamin C, calcium, iron, protein, and carbohydrates. Fiber, folic acid, and trace minerals promote digestive and metabolic health. Carrots also come in various colors with different nutritional components, for example red carrots contain lycopene, the antioxidant found in tomatoes.
Soil: Carrots grow best in loose, light soil with perlite. Dense soil will lead to shorter carrots. If using a container, it should be 12 to 24 inches deep with adequate drainage.
Planting: Spread seeds evenly on the surface of the soil leaving some space between them. They are very small and easy to over-plant. Cover with a thin layer of soil and mist to moisten thoroughly. If carrots are grown outdoors, they should be planted in spring after the last frost. After harvest, they can be replanted if there is enough time left in the growing season.
Water: Keep carrots lightly watered but not too damp. Until carrots sprout after about 2 weeks, keep the surface slightly moist. After sprouting, wait until surface is dry to the touch between watering.
Sun: 6 to 8 hours of direct sun is ideal for Carrots.
Harvest: After two to two and a half months, carrots should reach a good size for harvest. Pull them up delicately and rinse off any excess soil. Home-grown carrots do not need to be peeled.
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