What Do Microgreens and Berries Have in Common?
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At this time of year, as summer gardens are winding down, we usually turn our thoughts away from planting and harvesting. However, it’s actually a great time to think about planting again. If you read the recent article that Hannah Bundy, Extension Horticulture Agent, wrote about fall planting, you may remember the benefits of planting blueberries and strawberries in the fall instead of the spring. Planting these and other fruiting perennials in autumn means you’ll be able to harvest and enjoy the plant’s delicious fruit during its first spring/summer season.
Since fall is a great planting time, Cooperative Extension will hold a plant sale in September. Strawberry and blueberry plants will be available along with select vegetables such as spinach, kale, lettuce, and micro-greens.
Leafy greens, and micro-greens in particular, are super nutritious. Micro-greens are tiny tender greens harvested just after the true leaves of the plant start to emerge – the growing stage between “sprouts” and “baby greens”. Micro-greens provide a variety of flavors from sweet to spicy and are known for their various colors, shapes, and textures. In addition to adding flavor and interest to dishes, micro-greens are packed with nutrition. Many are 4 to 6 times higher in vitamins and antioxidants than their adult forms. Antioxidants are substances that help to prevent cell damage.
Including micro-greens in your diet can give you a nutritional boost with few calories. There are so many ways to add this punch of power to your menu. Mix them with other leafy greens in salads, add them to sandwiches and wraps, stir into sauteed vegetables and stir-fries, or garnish your favorite meats, soups, and pasta dishes.
Berries are nutritional super stars too. Berries, like leafy greens, are high in antioxidants. In fact, berries have the greatest antioxidant content per serving than any other food except spices. Consumption of blueberries and strawberries has a protective effect on brain function and improves sleep quality due to their melatonin content. Blueberries also have been shown to improve memory.
There are so many delicious ways to enjoy berries. They add color and flavor to yogurt, cereal, and oatmeal. You can give an antioxidant boost to the batter of pancakes, waffles, muffins, and other quick breads. A mixed berry salad or fruit kabobs provide a sweet, healthy finish to any meal and are always a hit with both adults and children. Crushed, warm berries drizzled over frozen yogurt is a refreshing treat. Parfaits, smoothies, and flavored waters are also great ways to use berries especially when you have extra on hand. In addition to dessert-type dishes, berries are showing up more often in vegetable, grain, and meat recipes. Mixed green salads with berries, for example, are popular. Some of my favorite combinations are spinach and strawberries or kale and blueberries. Of course, eating berries fresh out of hand, just as they are, is always a fun and healthy way to enjoy them.
If you are interested in growing your own fruit, we hope you will consider purchasing your plants from Cooperative Extension during the fall sale. Several varieties of both blueberries and strawberries are available and, of course, we hope you will try your hand at growing micro-greens. Order forms are available at Cooperative Extension, 193 Callahan Koon Road in Spindale, or by calling 828-287-6010. Pre-orders are required and plants will be available for pick up in September and October. All proceeds from the plant sale support 4-H youth programs and other Extension educational programs.