Monday, October 24, 2011

Guest Blog: Growing Goodness of Greens

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Barbara Storz was awarded the 2011 Texas Health Champion Award at this year's Texas Obesity Awareness Week event.

Has the doctor told you to put more greens in your diet to reduce your cholesterol, protect from heart disease and cancer, or support eye health? Maybe you’ve heard that greens are loaded with nutrients that support healthy bodies and prevent disease. You can’t go wrong by planting a powerhouse of three leafy greens: Collard greens, Mustard greens and Kale. 

Beginning in mid-October, we have the best weather conditions for planting members of the Brassica family. In small acreage or backyard gardens, you can get the most of the season by planting a little of these greens each week from now until late December. Stop after Christmas as the best flavor and nutritional value will come from these greens during cool harvests in November through March. This is when their vitamins and antioxidants are at their best. Once it warms up, flavors will change and the plants will flower and seed out, ending the harvest season and the lifespan of these annuals.

Direct seed these greens into raised beds, planted one fourth inch deep and spaced 2 inches apart. Commercial producers generally apply half of their fertilizer requirements at planting and the other half by the time the plants are being thinned out. Organic producers and gardeners should note that these plants are heavy feeders, as are all members of the Brassica family, and would do well with a dose of fish emulsion or a higher rate of nitrogen found in the new Miracle Grow for Organics on a regular basis.

Blue Max, Champion, Vates, and Georgia Southern are varieties of Collards that work in Texas. Mustard varieties for our area include Early Mizuna, Florida Broadleaf, Green Wave, Large Smooth Leaf, Flash and Southern Giant Curled. Both green and red leafed varieties are available in Kale: Dwarf Blue Curled, Nero de Toscano, Rebor, and Red Russian.

Why bother to grow greens? Collard, Mustard, and Kale are packed with Folic Acid, minerals like Vitamin A, C, E, and carotenes, Vitamin K, manganese and zinc. All of these greens are a good source of fiber and work overtime to lower blood cholesterol, reduce the risk of heart disease, promote eye health and bone health and protect us against a variety of cancers. Mustards are spicy, peppery and kale is mild and earthy in flavor. All three of these flavors can be enhanced with garlic, lemon, onion, and a splash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. While they can be eaten raw (and juiced), their powerful nutrients work best for us when they are steamed instead of eaten raw (try not to overcook).

For more information on growing Mustard, Kale, and Collards, go to: http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu.


Written by
Barbara Storz, MS

Barbara Storz is an Extension educator for horticulture with Texas AgriLife Extension Service, part of Texas A & M University system and she can be reached at (956) 383-1026, or by e-mail at b-storz@tamu.edu