Although growing your own fruit and veg is the best thing you can possibly do for yourself and your family, there is a magical world beyond the simple veggies we can grow in the garden. Some of the most annoying plants in fact have some amazing benefits.
Weeds and wild plants:
Dandelions seem to pop up everywhere and every single part of the plant is useful in some way; the flowers can be made into a delicious jam, the sap in the stem is an effective treatment for warts and veruccas, the young leaves are packed with vitamin C and can be eaten in salads, and the roots can be roasted and ground as a caffeine-free coffee substitute. All that from a simple weed!
Brambles, although a force to be reckoned with on a woodland walk, are also brimming over with magic qualities. Bramble ( or blackberry ) leaf tea has long been recognised as a helpful tonic and aid to digestive disorders. And the blackberry fruits are packed with minerals and vitamins. Although blackberries are often collected from the wild, care should be taken not to collect from the side of the road (car pollution), next to non-organic farms (chemical pollution) or low-growing bushes in public places (dog pollution). Otherwise, blackberries can be cultivated at home. New thornless versions are available and more suitable for a garden than wild plants.
Perennial power packs!:
Asparagus is a wonderful addition to the vegetable garden. Asparagus spears are usually ready for eating in the early spring months when little else is available in the vegetable garden. An asparagus bed, properly maintained will last for many years, and needs only a layer of seaweed or sand added every autumn to keep it thriving. Buy healthy crowns from a garden supplier or try growing from seed. However, although growing from seed is very satisfying and does work, it will mean a wait of about three years before you can harvest any asparagus.
Blackcurrants are grown commercially in many parts of the world and a huge percentage go to making blackcurrant cordials and juices, as well as flavourings for alcoholic drinks and confectionery produce. Blackcurrant leaf is used for its vitamin and mineral content, similar to blackberries above. And the fruits are higher in vitamin C content pound for pound than many other fruits. Easy to grow hybrids are available from good garden suppliers and will last many years with a little TLC from time to time.
Magical herbs and spices
Parsley is probably one of the most under-used herbs, simply because it has been used mostly as a garnish for many years. It is one of the most healthy plants you can grow as is high in iron and other vitamins. Parsley will freshen the breath, especially after eating garlic. It is nearly always added to garlic butters when making garlic bread for example.
Mint has been used for centuries in culinary and medicinal recipes. It is probably one of the best herbs for helping digestive disorders as well as being an exceptionally good herb to serve with roast lamb! There are hundreds of different varieties including a chocolate mini hybrid that really does smell like chocolate mints. The plant is perennial and hybrids will often revert back to original wild varieties after a few years. It can be invasive in the garden and should be contained where possible.
These half a dozen plants are simply the dot on the tip of the mountain of magical plants nature provides. And growing your own produce is rewarding in the extreme, even if you don’t have a large garden or any outdoor space, herbs can be grown on a windowsill and all manner of crops can be planted in containers and grown on balconies and patios, wherever there is a small amount of free space.