Boost the flavor and nutritional value of winter meals by growing a container of greens indoors. Plant, tend and harvest greens for garden-fresh flavor now and throughout the year.
Green leafy vegetables are healthy sources of carbohydrates, typically rich in fiber and nutrients, while also being low in fat and calories. Many of these vegetables can help reduce the risk of stroke, anemia, high blood pressure, certain cancers and diabetes. They also help improve the health of your gut, heart, bone and skin while boosting your body’s immunity.
To create your own indoor garden of greens all you need are seeds, a container, potting mix, and a sunny window or artificial lights. Select a container or planter with drainage holes or reduce maintenance with the help of self-watering containers like the Viva Round or Square self-watering planters. Their water reservoirs reduce watering frequency.
Fill the container with a quality potting mix that is well-drained and retains moisture. Plant seeds as recommended on the seed packet. You can grow each type of green in its own container or mix them up for an attractive display in larger planters like the Tartu Elevated Rectangular Planter (gardeners.com).
Water thoroughly and often enough to keep the soil moist while waiting for the seeds to sprout. Reduce the need for frequent watering by covering newly planted containers with a plastic sheet or dome. Once sprouts appear, remove the plastic and begin watering thoroughly when the top inch of soil begins to dry.
Boost productivity and increase planting space with the help of artificial lights. You will find a variety of setups for any space in your home. Counter and tabletop light stands like the Micro Grow Light Garden can be conveniently located in the kitchen or dining room. Stand-alone light shelves provide more growing space within a small footprint. Furniture-grade light stands make them easy to use in any room in the house.
Grow greens you and your family like to use in your favorite recipes and salads. Green or red leaf lettuce is easy to grow indoors and its mild flavor is most appealing to children and picky eaters.
Spinach is another popular and easy-to-grow leafy green vegetable used fresh in salads and smoothies or added to soups and sauces. It contains many vitamins and nutrients, including iron, folic acid, and calcium.
Kale is considered a superfood. This nutrient-dense vegetable is packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. If the flavor is a bit too intense for you, try the baby leaf types that are milder in flavor, or try braising kale for a milder flavor and more tender texture.
Add a bit of peppery flavor to salads, soups, pastas, and other dishes with arugula. Add a spicier flavor with mustard greens. Sauté mustard greens or add them to your favorite Southern, Asian, Indian or savory dish.
Include color and flavor in your winter meals with beet greens. The leafy part of this vegetable is often overlooked but is the most nutritious part of the plant. Use these the same way you would spinach or kale. You can purchase beet varieties selected for growing the best greens to harvest from baby to full size.
Make it more fun by getting others involved. Hand family members and guests a plate and kitchen shears so they can harvest and help prepare the meal.
Melinda Myers is the author of more than 20 gardening books, including “Small Space Gardening” and “Midwest Gardener’s Handbook, 2nd Edition”. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” DVD series and Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio program. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and was commissioned by Gardener’s Supply for her expertise to write this article. Her website is www.MelindaMyers.com.