If your day has you on the run (and whose doesn't?), you may have discovered that liquid lunches are the way to go—and I'm not talking martinis here. I'm talking kale, carrots, apples, and a whole slew of other healthy goodies pressed through a juicer or perhaps just blended, poured into a travel cup, and taken here, there, and everywhere. "Delicious, nutritious, and makes you feel ambitious," as the mother of a friend of mine likes to say.
Well, yes, there is. You can grow your own "juice garden" and harvest peak-of-ripeness ingredients that change with the seasons. You'll get a variety of flavors from the convenience of your home for minimal cost. Here's how:
1. Plant fruit trees and bushes. This is an easy-to-overlook aspect of your garden as it takes a few years before you get any fruit, but trust me on this. Those few years pass quickly, and the yield you will get from just one fruit tree will keep you up to your eyeballs in juice. Find out what grows best in your climate, and choose varieties that will ripen each month so that you have a continual supply of fruit.
2. Plant dark, leafy greens. Collards, kale, and Swiss chard all grow large, nutrient-rich leaves that will give your juices a definite power-punch. Adding greens to juices that include sweet ingredients like carrots and apples is a clever way of boosting the amount of greens in the diets of anyone (such as kids) who may be finicky eaters. And we could all use more greens.
3. Plant root crops. Did you know that beets have the highest sugar content of any vegetable? Add them to juices, and don't forget to use their greens as well. Other root crops to throw in your juicer include parsnips, rutabagas, kohlrabi, carrots, and sweet potatoes.
4. Plant microgreens, sprouts, and wheatgrass. No energy or time to go outside and harvest? No space for a garden? No problem. You can grow nutrition superstars right on your kitchen counter—as long as you have a sunny window. Look into starting a tray of microgreens, which are grown from many of the seeds you would plant outside (such as broccoli, cabbage, kale, arugula, and tatsoi), but are snipped and used when they are just an inch or two tall. Sprouts are pretty much the same thing, but consumed at an even earlier stage. Wheatgrass requires its own special juicer, and you really only need a few ounces of it to get remarkable nutritional benefits; many people either add that small amount to their larger glass of juice or just have a shot glass full of wheatgrass each day. Another benefit of wheatgrass? It is really beautiful when it grows and makes a very pretty decoration or centerpiece (as long as it gets enough sun).
5. Plant perennials and high-water-content crops. Herbs such as sorrel, mint, and lemon balm provide seemingly endless growth and add a nice variety of flavor along with additional nutrients to your daily juices. "Watery" crops such as celery and tomatoes add abundant liquid to your juice in addition to their specific nutrients and flavor.
If you already have a robust garden, you know how you hit those times when you are knee-deep in some crop that you can't eat fast enough. Add juicing to your repertoire (which may also include freezing, canning, dehydrating, and donating), and "use up" your bounty during times of plenty. Have fun experimenting and coming up with your own beloved flavor and nutrient combinations. Who knows? You may even end up with a new business idea. Go to almost any farmers market and you are bound to find some juice business that got its start exactly that way.
Hungry for more? Write to email@example.com with your questions, concerns, and feedback.
Daron Joffe is a 30-something eco-entrepreneur who lives to make a difference in the world one homegrown organic fruit and vegetable at a time. Known as "Farmer D," Joffe has grown food for celebrities, private communities, and elementary schools in his "town-by-town mission to re-energize the food culture." His products are sold at select Whole Foods and Williams-Sonoma stores. Born in South Africa and based in Atlanta, Farmer D is online at www.farmerD.com.