Gardening for Health

Stir fried cabbage with red chili peppers, peanuts and peas.

Sustainable Eating Starts in the Garden  

By Maria Price 

As the summer vegetable season begins to decline, now is the time to note what did well and what didn’t do well in the garden. Fall vegetables can be started now, beginning with garlic, lettuces, carrots, beets and brassicas. 

If you are gardening to support a sustainable diet, you should consider planting vegetables that can be used as an alternative to meat next spring. Plant-based proteins are considered healthier   than traditionally raised beef and better for the environment. Cultured meat, meat mimics, insects, beans and nuts are all being used as alternatives to red meat substitutes. These are all fine new innovations to reduce our carbon footprint. 

Beans and lentils are a healthy substitute for meat, as they are rich in fiber, iron, potassium and amino acids, as well as protein. Livestock farming accounts for about 15 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions and beans take far less energy to produce and harvest. Peas provide protein and reduce the need for nitrogen fertilizer because they take nitrogen out of the air and store it in their roots. 

Many traditional cuisines that incorporate vegetarian dishes have stood the test of time for their nutrition and flavor. Become familiar with Greek, Italian, Turkish, French country, Thai, Asian, Mexican and Indian cuisine. As you become familiar with vegetarian recipes from various countries, plan to try and grow many of these vegetables required. 

An example of an easy vegetarian recipe from India is stir fried cabbage with red chili peppers, peanuts and peas. Stir fry a chopped cabbage with a little olive oil, 1½ teaspoons of cumin and turmeric powder. Add three red chili peppers or hot pepper paste and cook until the cabbage starts to wilt. Add 2 cups each of toasted peanuts and peas. This is a healthful, crunchy dish full of protein. The turmeric also helps with inflammation. 

You can plan to plant cabbage and peas now for a fall garden.  Cabbage will mature in 60 to 80 days depending on the variety.  The cool weather  will help to sweeten the flavor of the leaves.  Shelling peas will average 60 days to maturity.  If the weather gets extremely cold use row covers to protect your plants.