Growing For Sustenance In The Home Garden
Our home gardens are excellent for raising nutrient dense vegetables and herbs that can be a mainstay in the kitchen and our diets. If you’re looking to cover the spectrum for essential vitamins, minerals and phyto-chemicals, there is really no substitute for the benefits received from consuming leafy greens and the plethora of vegetable crops we can grow at home in Englewood. The same can be said for the many fruit and berry plants available to us. Most of them are delicious, great for our health and fun to grow. These nourishing foods are a pillar to our wellbeing, but I want to focus on crops that can provide energy and sustenance in the way of calories and healthy fats, foods that can be a staple in your diet. There’s a special satisfaction when you eat a meal where the primary source of calories has come from your garden and we have a lot of great, easy to grow plant options available to us.
This is not an article on nutrition, I’m not an expert, but I do understand the importance of eating high quality food, preferably homegrown. In order to be properly nourished and satisfied you’re going to have to get some calorically dense foods. These are crops that are often overlooked as cheaply sourced commodities such as sweet potato, cassava, taro, yam, coconut, etc. Although it may be more cost effective to buy these foods at the grocery store, you have to remember that this is the fuel that powers us through our day, so it’s worth growing them at home. Greens and vegetables are awesome and important, but these are foods of substance that you can actually live on. If you’re going for caloric return on investment, this is where to look. The best thing about all of the plants listed below is that they all thrive in our summer heat, so get out there and grow some fuel!
Sweet potatoes are one of my favorites to grow. Not only do they provide abundant, delicious roots that can be harvested year round, but their sprawling growth makes it an excellent ground cover in the summer.
Yams, (dioscorea alata) not to be confused with the invasive, non-edible “air potato vine”, can often be found growing wild throughout south Florida. There are also quite a few cultivated varieties of this vining species. A under appreciated, easy to grow source of starchy complex carbohydrates. The harvestable roots of this plant can grow to over 50 lbs!
Taro is a plant grown in wetlands of Hawaii. The tubers are a staple in their diets and grow just as well here in Southwest Florida.
Cassava is possibly the best bang for your buck in terms of ease of growing and return on calories. Another worldwide starchy staple, this plant takes nearly zero effort to grow here when planted in full sun.
Tree and Nut Crops
Avocado is a fruit with the rare quality of high fat content. This source of healthy, plant based fat is a special treat that we are blessed to have the ability to grow here.
Jackfruit can be used in a variety of ways to create nutrient dense, energy rich meals. The fruit sweet and delicious when ripe, but can also be cooked when picked early. The seeds of jackfruit are also eaten when boiled and resemble the taste of chestnuts.
Coconuts are the classic food of choice for covering the gamut of nutritional needs. The meat is loaded with healthy fats and calories. We are pushing the cold hardiness limits for coconuts here in Englewood, but if you look closely you’ll see a lot growing around town. If you’re close to the water this is must for your edible landscape.
Saba Nut, also known as the “Money Tree” is a very under-utilized crop in Florida. The nuts produced from this easy to grow tree are calorically dense and high in protein.
Banana/ Plantain is another one that is often bought from the grocery store but can be grown quite readily here with the proper care. There are so many fantastic varieties available to us here that are far superior to what you find on the shelf in the store.
Sam Baker is the owner and operator of Englewood Homegrown, a local, edible landscaping business based out of The Open Studio. His company offers consultation, nursery sales, installation and upkeep of fruit trees and food based gardens. Stop by The Open Studio to visit the gardens and nursery at 380 Old Englewood Road. Contact Sam at email@example.com, 941-840-2022. Visit www.englewoodhomegrown.com or www.theopenstudio.org