I imagine all of us have heard this from our parents. EAT YOUR VEGETABLES!!!  Some vegetables taste good but others do not taste so wonderful. My mother was pretty good on nutrition so she would tell us why we should “EAT YOUR VEGETABLES”. I like carrots but the idea of my “eye medicine” made them even better.  Now I read they help prevent night blindness and lower cholesterol.  I used to like to separate the two parts (core and shell) and eat them separately. They are easy to grow but need fairly deep, loose soil for them to be nice and straight.  The seeds are tiny and sometimes slow to get started.  I like to plant a few big strong radish seeds in the row to break the crust if it forms, or you can cover them with sand or a board to keep the soil moist.  They do well in raised beds as it gives them a longer root zone. Carrots need 60 to 80 days to grow up. When I was a kid we dug a pit, lined it with straw and had fresh carrots most of the winter.

          Next on my list of “must haves” are beans.  Their magic occurs in the amount of protein, fiber, and magnesium.  Many years ago beans, rice, and potatoes made the major portion of the diet.  All were cheap and available. With no refrigeration they all kept rather well.  If you lived in the country you grew most of your own food and seldom went to the store. I have a collection in a BIG jar of different dry bean seeds.  They range from white to black. Some are streaked, some are spotted, and come in all sizes.

          Beans are a good crop for a kid’s first garden.  The seeds are big and easy to plant, and they grow fast.  We generally think of two kinds (snap and dry) which can be the same plant. They are a warm season crop, so unlike carrots that can be planted in the fall before the last frost, beans need the soil to be at least 60 degrees F. A variety of insects and diseases can affect the crop such as aphids, bean beetles, leaf miners, cucumber beetle, anthracnose, blight, mosaics, and rust. Their harvest time varies from 40 to 60 days.  They need to be picked when slender and before a bulge of seeds is prominent.  When this happens one can let them finish maturing and use as dry beans. 

          Cauliflower is a plant I find to be a little temperamental.  Too many hot days when they are very young, or a lack of enough water will cause very tiny heads or none at all. They like moist, well drained soil with lots of organic material in full sun. Most people fasten the leaves over the heads soon after they appear in order to get the white heads. If you don’t mind green cauliflower, they have more vitamins, etc. from those not covered. Since they are a member of the cabbage family, the little white butterflies find them a good place to lay their eggs.  Using Bt (Bacillus thuringensis) several times during the summer will take care of them. 

          We hear all the time about rotating where we plant tomatoes.  The same is true of cauliflower as they have their own set of disease problems.  All members of this family are listed under “anti-cancer powers”. If you don’t like broccoli, try cauliflower! They are a good fall crop as they like cool nights.  Since varieties vary in maturing time (50 to 115 days) check the seed packet to know when to plant.

          Beets don’t seem to be as popular as some crops in the grocery store but there is nothing better than hot buttered beets or pickled beets. They are also easy to grow as the seeds are large and the plants have fewer diseases or pests than many others.  They are a 3 season crop as an early crop of leaves can be treated as spinach, then the summer crop, followed by winter as they will keep in a root cellar or buried in straw in the garden. The last few years some very fancy leafed ones have been available.  I like to plant them under my lilies as a skirt.

          Here in Lincoln with its clay soil, digging in as much  compost as possible or making raised beds makes it much easier for any of the root crops to expand. Beet seeds are not single season seeds but actually a multiple season crop as they can be planted 2 to 4 weeks before the last frost in the fall. Have you noticed the food signs about eating color to stay healthy? Beets are a must.

          Onions have an interesting history of aiding allergies.  They contain querietin, an anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory.  Some studies show they may aid in preventing cancer.  They need adequate amounts of water as they are actually a high percentage of water.  You need to decide on whether you want your onions for spring salads or the large bulbs for slicing. You can have both but read the seed packets as some varieties do better than others.            Every year we hear complaints about blackbirds ruining the onion crop as they start with the tops and eventually drill into the bulbs.  Row covers will keep them off and since you don’t care about pollination they can be left on until you are ready to pull and eat.  Sweet onions such as Vidalia’s don’t do well in Nebraska and they don’t keep very well which is why we see them for a few weeks each spring. If you choose the right variety they store in a cool place. If you don’t want to start them from seeds you can purchase the sets (small bulbs) and plant them for the green pulling onions. The plants do best for growing the big slicing onions.

          I read in “Magic and Medicine of Plants” that the ancient Egyptians swore on an onion, not a Bible.  They thought of its pattern of layers wrapping around each other as symbolic of their gods care for them.

Copyright 2008