GROWING fruit and vegetables can sound a bit overwhelming if you’ve
never tried but it is a lot simpler than it sounds, fun and very rewarding.

The
health benefits are many and include the higher nutrition content found in
locally grown vegetables and fruit, getting out in the fresh air and sun and
gar­dening is great for relieving stress. Many people who have a vegetable plot
find it a great way to “switch off’ from work or family pressures
and to relax and others use it as a chance to get creative or get their
children involved.

If
you are growing your own in the garden, the chances are you will end up eating
more fruit and veg. Including fresh vegetables and fruit in your diet can help
protect against cancer and heart disease and slow down the ageing process as
they are full of antioxidants. They are also a great source of fibre, helping
to relieve constipation, are naturally low in fat and are full of potassium to
help with blood pressure and water retention.

The
vitamins and minerals in fresh fruit and veg are superior to supplements as
your body knows exactly what to do with them. Vegetables may provide up to
twice the benefits of fruits due to their healing effect on the blood sugar and
higher min­eral content. Vegetables from the brassica family such as cab­bage,
Brussel sprouts, broccoli and kale contain substances called glucosinolates,
making them the most powerful at pre­venting cancer.

Eating green
vegetables is especially good for your health as they are high in chlorophyll
which turns to iron in the body and contain minerals such as cal­cium and
magnesium to help alkalise the body and keep you

healthy.

When
you grow organic pro­duce you have peace of mind that the vegetables are free
from harmful chemicals and with stories in the media about food poisoning and
foods being recalled, by growing your own fruits and vegetables you can relax,
knowing they are very safe to eat.

Fresh
fruit and vegetables also contain enzymes which give us energy but enzymes are
destroyed through processing and storing. The produce in stores that is grown
in foreign countries will contain much less nutrition and enzymes than veg­etables
and fruit that are grown locally or even better in the gar­den.

When
they are growing in your back yard they taste deli­cious and are high in
vitamins and minerals which many peo­ple are lacking in today as they are
depleted when the same vegetables are grown year after year in the same soil.
By making a compost heap you can have highly nutritious fertiliser for your
garden for free that will give you mineralised vegetables and fruit.

Growing your own also helps the planet in many ways
by reducing fossil fuels pro­duced by transporting fresh produce from various
countries to the supermarkets. i-laying a vegetable garden can give
you affordable fruit and vegetables that are organic and saves time and money
on frequent trips to the shops.

All
you need to start are some seeds, seed trays, com­post and water. You can even
buy vegetables from the garden centre that are slightly older and plant them
directly into the gar­den. Here are some vegetables and fruits that grow well
in Northern Ireland — potatoes, cabbage, beans, peas, beetroot, broccoli,
cour-gettes, carrots, bok choi, lettuce, cucumber, onions, garlic,
strawberries, blackcurrants, apples, gooseber­ries and many more.

Kale is an
especially nutri­tious vegetable that survives the winter and returns year
after year as does spinach. Even if you don’t have a garden or a big yard you
can container garden by putting them in a sunny spot or start a herb garden on
your kitchen windowsill (its possible to grow many peppers or toma­toes out of
one pot). Children especially love being involved in growing fruit and
vegetables and it benefits their health by helping them to get in touch with
nature and spend more time outside.

If
you are very busy why not have local, organic fruit and vegetables delivered to
your doorstep once a week?