Eating my words

A few years ago, when the “edibles” craze (re)surfaced, I pooh-poohed it. Not that I think vegetables are inherently bad, although I rarely consume as much as I should. But the trend toward incorporating edible plants among ornamentals seemed, at first, to be a small part of the newly reincarnated environmental awareness that swept the nation. I figured, sure, let’s plant a few more tomatoes and sell a few more pots of basil. But beyond that? Gardeners will tire quickly and move on to something new.

Boy, was I wrong.

We may not see Victory Gardens sprout up in every yard, but growing your own has settled in nicely to become a reliable source of a few extra goodies for the gardener’s table, as well as a few extra dollars for growers. Whether you launch a full-scale production program or fill in some vacant square feet in the greenhouse, food crops can go a long way toward rounding out your inventory.

A report from the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion; Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity—an agency of the Centers for Disease Control—states, “Eating [fruits and vegetables; F&V] lowers the risk of developing many chronic diseases and can also help with weight management. Creating greater access to quality F&V nationwide is an important step to increase F&V consumption.” This “State Indicator Report on Fruits and Vegetables 2013” goes on to claim that overall consumption in the U.S. is low—no surprise there—revealing that only three states report median daily vegetable intake among adults is equal to or more than 1.8 servings. California, New Hampshire and Oregon, we salute you.

Brown Turkey fig (Ficus carica ‘Brown Turkey’) from AgriStarts

Ranging from tree fruits to potted herbs and root vegetables, there are so many varieties of edibles that fit beautifully into an ornamental setting; we’ve provided just a small taste in this issue. Colorful strawberries are delectable and provide Vitamin C. Brilliant peppers provide a little zing, plus vitamins and, it’s said, pain-relieving compounds.

How about a fig? Loaded with antioxidants, fresh figs don’t often transport well. Plant a small fig tree and you’ve got a reliable source.

So here’s the marketing opportunity: Gardening is healthy. Growing fruits and vegetables for home consumption, then, is even healthier. It’s fun, it’s economical, it’s delicious. It’s all the rage.