veg

The start of a new year is usually the time for a lot of us to look at making lifestyle changes, be that going to the gym, a diet plan, or just simply vowing to eat healthier from now on. Everyone knows that fruit and vegetables are the key to eating a healthier diet, but you can go a step further by growing your own produce.

When buying fruit and vegetables from supermarkets, the produce has already travelled around the country and, unfortunately, preservatives will have been used to ensure that they remain fresh for longer when they hit the shelves. By growing your own produce, you can be completely aware of the growing process that your fruit and vegetables have been through before reaching your plate.

Growing Under Cover
You also don’t need to worry about waiting for summer to be growing your new healthy produce; that is what a polytunnel is for! Be sure to remove any overgrown weeds or dead plants before planting anything new to give your fresh plants as much room as possible to grow. I suppose one of the silver linings to climate change is that growing seasons are starting earlier and earlier as the temperatures rise earlier in the year. This being said, Heaters or propagators may be needed to get them started but once the seeds start sprouting, they will thrive in a covered polytunnel.

Seasonal Fruit + Veg
When you’re ready to start growing your new crops, get the plants with the longer growing seasons on their way. A lot of the seasonal winter vegetables are much sturdier than crops more closely associated with summer.  Plants like leeks, celeriac and onions will grow just as well, if not better, when started earlier than other plants. Fruit Cages are also a great way to get your fruit growing underway, without needing to worry about birds, butterflies and other insects from getting to them helping towards a “fruitful” growing season.

If you’re looking for inspiration for healthy meal ideas, why not try a vegetable stew? Vegetable stews are a great way to use what you have grown because you can throw virtually any vegetable into the pot and it would work nicely. They’re also a great way to enjoy a healthy meal that will also keep you warm and comfortable on the cold winter nights. Why not give this recipe a go? It’s brilliantly simple and is designed so that you can use whichever vegetables you like and leave out the ones you don’t! Courtesy of BBC Good Food


Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 2 leeks, split lengthways up to the root several times, washed under running cold water then sliced thickly
  • 2 carrots, cut into 1cm/½in dice
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely diced
  • 1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • 2 potatoes, peeled, cut into 1cm/½in dice
  • 600ml/21fl oz vegetable stock
  • ½ head cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • 200g/7oz fine green beans, cut into 2cm/¾in pieces
  • 1 x 400g/14oz tin baked beans
  • 2 tbsp roughly chopped flatleaf parsley
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. Heat a large frying pan or saucepan until medium hot, add the olive oil, onion and leeks and cook gently for 5 minutes until just softened.
  2. Add the carrots, garlic, paprika and thyme and stir to combine. Cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the potatoes and vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for 5 minutes until the potatoes are just softening then add the cauliflower and simmer for another 5 minutes.
  4. By now, all the vegetables should be nearly cooked. Add the green beans and baked beans and cook for 3 minutes then stir in the chopped parsley and season well with salt and pepper.