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Description:

Onion maggots (Hylemya antiqua) are tiny maggots that are a cosmopolitan pest of onions and related plants. They feed below the ground on onion bulbs, producing tunnels and possibly introducing disease organisms into the plant. Once established, onion maggots are very tough to get rid of, particularly where continuous production is practiced. Onion maggot damage is more prominent in cool and moist soils.  oniob maggot

The onion fly has an ash-grey body and resembles a housefly. They have humped backs, large wings and are ¼ inch long. Their wings overlap over their bodies when at rest.

Onion fly eggs are elongated and white and are generally laid in groups on the shoots, leaves and bulbs of host plants and on the ground nearby. Eggs hatch in 3-8 days. Maggots tend to keep together and feed in groups.

The larvae or maggots are white and cylindrical and have 3 stages that develop over the course of 2-3 weeks before turning into brown, ringed, oval pupae.

Life Cycle:

Onion maggots overwinter as pupae in soil associated with previous host plant cultivation. Adult onion flies emerge around mid-May, after which females start laying eggs. The larvae, upon emergence, crawl beneath the leaf sheath and enter bulbs. After weeks of feeding they pupate and the next generation of adults emerges 3-4 weeks later. There are usually 3 generations per year, the 1st being the largest and often most damaging. A complete cycle takes about 45 to 65 days.

Host Plants:

Onion maggots are highly host-specific to plants in the onion family including onions, leeks, shallots, garlic and chives. Stunted or wilted onion plants are the 1st signs of onion maggot damage. Light infestations may not kill onion plants but make them more susceptible to bacterial rots. Larval feeding may kill seedlings, thus poor plant growth may indicate onion maggot problem. In larger plants, larvae may tunnel into the bulb causing plants to become flaccid and yellow.

Organic Control and Prevention Methods:

1. Use yellow sticky traps in spring when onion adult flies emerge. Tanglefoot can be spread safely on stems and leaves to catch anything that sits it. Unfortunately, this method will bring in some beneficial insects too.

2. Crop rotation is a good practice. Grow onions and related plants in a different spot from previous seasons.

3. Cover seedlings and plants with floating row covers to keep adult onion flies from laying eggs on host crops. This is a highly effective method and has to be implemented immediately when seedlings are planted.

4. After each season of growing onions and related crops, the ground has to be worked thoroughly. Till the soil to destroy pupating larvae, remove plant debris, remove all onions and culls to ensure there aren’t areas for onion maggot pupae to overwinter.

5. Since the 1st generation of onion maggots are the largest and most damaging, plant onion sets into the garden as late as possible. Or set out onion plants before spring, weather permitting so that when the onion flies emerge your onions will be ready to harvest.

6. White onion varieties are prone to onion maggot attack. Grow red onions and Japanese bunching onions, which are somewhat resistant to onion maggot damage.

7. Sprinkle onion planted areas with ground cayenne pepper, ginger, dill or chili powder to repel females and prevent them from laying eggs.

8. If a small area of your garden is infected with onion maggots, get rid of that soil. If the area is too large, drench the area with the following mixture. Puree peppers, garlic and onion in a blender. Add water and organic soap and let it stand for a day. Strain out the solids and use this liquid to drench infected soil.

9. Buy insect parasitic nematodes that control onion maggots and apply to the soil as directed. Seek advice from a local gardening expert before buying.

10. The onion maggot has many natural enemies such as ground beetles, birds, parasitic wasps, nematodes and a parasitic fungus that is most effective in cool, wet weather.

11. Sand, wood ash and diatomaceous earth can be applied to the base of plants to deter adult flies and onion maggots.

12. Growing onions in raised beds with fresh soil or in containers is a good idea as onion maggots love poorly drained soil.

What is Vertical Gardening?

Think your garden space is not quite enough for your needs? Have only a limited sunlit area? Plagued with a sore back from too much bending over to weed? Got bare walls that are begging to be used? Well then, vertical gardening is the way to go! Make the most of your garden space with delicious vegetables and fruits up on trellises and arbors, colorful flowers in towers of pots and hanging baskets, while enjoying the benefits of easy maintenance, healthy plants, effortless harvesting and high yields.

'Trombetta', a summer-squash variety over an 8-foot-tall arched metal trellis.

‘Trombetta’, a summer-squash variety over an 8-foot-tall arched metal trellis.

Vertical gardening is any technique that utilizes various resources to allow plants to extend upward rather than along the surface of the garden. Vertical gardening can be more than just letting ivy crawl over a fence or hanging flower pots from the eaves- it brings this whole new dimension to your landscape that was being unused before!

No surprises here, but vertical gardening is just what it sounds like- making plants grow upwards using a wall or trellis or any sort of support- rather than growing out and to the sides as in a typical garden. It is one of the hot gardening trends these days especially since it is applicable in small spaces, patios, porches, balconies, window sills, you name it! Heck, it even makes dull walls and fences spectacular. Through vertical gardening, you also obstruct undesirable views or create an area of architectural or aesthetic interest.

Benefits of Vertical Gardening

-Plants growing upwards have a smaller footprint than those out in beds, i.e. saves space.

– Lesser work and time in preparing vertical gardens- no tilling, no digging.

Vegetable plants hanging from pots.

Vegetable plants hanging from pots.

– Lesser bending and backbreaking work.

– Better protection from soil-borne diseases and pests.

– More plant varieties in smaller spaces.

– Overall lesser maintenance chores.

How to Grow Vegetables Vertically

In recent years, we’ve been shown undisputable proof that fresh, homegrown organic produce is tastier, healthier and cheaper than purchasing from a store. When you think of growing vegetables you think “out”, but here we are letting your mind wander “up”!

1.Plan the vertical garden

Like any garden, to start off you need to plan. Determine the location of your vertical garden depending on what plants you plan to grow. Most vegetables require at least 6 hours of the sun. Understanding the basics of growing vegetables vertical is mandatory. Almost any vegetable can be grown vertically given an adequately deep container and a vertical support that is strong enough to hold the plant with its fruit.

Evaluate the conditions of your garden to choose vegetables that will thrive based on sunlight, wind, humidity and heat. Prepare to water vertical vegetables daily. Select “vine” varieties of plants when applicable.

2. Prepare the soil:

Ah, soil. You’d want weed-free, compost-rich organic soil for your vertical garden. The soil you use would of course depend on the requirement of the plant growing but in general, a mixture of fertile top soil and peat moss or perlite should work wonders.

3. Structures and containers:

Gardeners growing vertically do so using some sort of vertical support structure or container. Trellises, pyramids, tripods, arches, arbors, fences, wire cages and frames, gazebos and walls are all commonly used structures. Even consider options such as bamboo poles, tree branches, ladders and plants with strong stems.

Choosing the type of support structure would depend on the plant you’re planning to grow. For example, tomatoes would need sturdy vertical support structures, while peas would just climb over any structure without bearing much weight on it.

Always place the support structure in your garden before planting the vegetables to prevent damaging your plants. Yes, more proof that planning is essential.

Several containers are available for vertical gardening, including hanging baskets or hay baskets, pot hangers, cascaded pots (pots mounted on each other), window boxes, urns, clay pots and even wooden crates. The main requirement is that the container being used is deep and sturdy enough to support the type of vegetable you are growing. Drainage is important too, so if the container does not have holes, drill a few on the bottom of the container before filling it up with soil.

Vegetables To Grow Vertically

– Pole Beans: Pole beans will climb almost any structure, including other plants. Native Americans grew pole beans alongside corn because the corn stalks provide the vertical support.

– Peas: Like pole beans, peas will also climb any structure with ease and barely need encouragement to twine around vertical supports. Trellises, bamboo sticks, arches and arbors can be considered while growing peas.

– Tomatoes: Tomatoes are heavy plants that require sturdy vertical supports. As the tomato plant grows, fasten the branches to the structure with a soft twine or cloth regularly. Select non-bush or indeterminate tomato types.

– Winter Squash and Gourds: These have long vines that necessarily need sturdy structures to support their weight. Trellises work well for winter squashes and gourds. To provide extra support to growing fruit, wrap cloth or strips of pantyhose around the fruit and secure it to the vertical support.

– Cucumbers: The vine variety of cucumbers is ideal for a vertical garden as they are natural climbers. A-frames, cages or trellises are strong enough to support cucumber vines. In the beginning they may need a little encouragement to entwine themselves around the vertical structure, but as soon as the tendrils attach themselves there is no stopping them.

– Melons and Pumpkins: Melons and pumpkins too have long vines and their fruit will need the additional support of wrapped cloth tied to the vertical support. Vertical support can be provided in the form of any sturdy trellis or cage.

Squashes are prolific warm weather crops and evidence suggests that squashes may have been first cultivated as long as 10,000 years ago. Squash is part of “Three Sisters” along with corn and beans, the three main agricultural crops of Native Americans groups in North America.

Squashes!!

Squashes!!

Squashes are divided into 2 categories- summer and winter squash. Summer squashes are harvested during the growing season as immature fruits, while the skin is still soft, requiring little to no cooking. Crookneck, zucchini, straight-neck and patty-pan are all summer squashes. Winter squashes are harvested at maturity, generally at the end of the growing season and get their name because they can be stored through the winter. They have thick, hard skin and require longer cooking times than summer squashes. Butternut, Hubbard, buttercup, ambercup, acorn and spaghetti squashes and pumpkins among others are all winter squashes.

Nutritional Content of Squashes

Squashes are nutritional powerhouses loaded with health benefiting nutrients, minerals and antioxidants. These contents vary depending on the type of squash. In general, squashes are a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron, potassium, manganese, vitamin B2, vitamin B6 and phosphorous.

Health Benefits of Squashes

1. Heart Health: Squashes are almost fat and cholesterol free, low in calories and are packed with nutrients that aid cardiovascular health. The magnesium and potassium content of squashes help reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. The folate helps rid of the unhealthy metabolic byproduct homocysteine, which is known to contribute to heart diseases. Squashes have plenty of fiber that helps lower cholesterol levels reducing the risk of atherosclerosis and other heart diseases.

2. Eye Health: With all the carotenes present in squashes, including beta carotene and lutein, they make for an excellent addition to one’s diet to maintain excellent vision. Intake of lutein helps prevent the onset of cataracts and macular degeneration.

3. Boosts Immune System: Vitamin C is known to a have a positive effect on the immune system and is present in abundance in squashes. A cup of butternut squash contains a third of one’s daily required amount of Vitamin C.

4. Digestive Benefits: Squashes contain both soluble and insoluble fiber that is critical in the excretion of toxins, normal functioning of digestive system, promoting regularity and adding bulk to stools.

5. Blood Sugar Regulation: Squashes contain B1, B3, B6, pantothenic acid and folate, all B-vitamins that are essential for regulating blood sugar levels.

6. Good for Pregnant Women: Folate which is present in squashes has been shown to reduce the occurrence of neural tube defects and other birth defects when ingested by women before and during pregnancy.

7. Anti-Oxidants: Squashes have high content of various antioxidants, helping keep harmful free radicals at bay and preventing prostate, colon, lung and breast cancers.

8. Bone Health: Adequate amounts of manganese, calcium, zinc, phosphorus and magnesium all contribute to mineralize bones and add to general fortification. Regular consumption of squashes helps fight osteoporosis and other bone diseases.

Need squash seeds? Visit our online store, Sweet Corn Organic Nursery. Read our How to Grow Squash guide for assistance in growing squash.

Spinach is that green-leafy vegetable the cartoon character Popeye credited his superhuman strength to. Yup, every time he popped open and gobbled up a can of spinach his muscles bulged and he never lost a fight. Although that notion is dubious, spinach’s health benefits make it one of the healthiest foods out there. That’s right. Just about anything that is or might ever cause you problems, you can battle with spinach.

Spinach- The Secret to Strong Bones.

Spinach- The Secret to Strong Bones.

Nutritional Content of Spinach

Spinach is a nutrient dense vegetable rich in antioxidants, especially when fresh, steamed, or quickly boiled. Spinach is an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, magnesium, manganese, folate, betaine, iron, vitamin B2, calcium, potassium, vitamin B6, copper, protein, phosphorous, zinc, niacin, selenium and omega-3-fatty acids.

Health Benefits of Spinach

1. Eye Health: Spinach is a healthy source of beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin which are known to be very beneficial to maintaining eye health, reducing the risk of age related macular degeneration and preventing cataracts.

2. Bone Mineralization: A cup of fresh spinach contains nearly twice one’s daily vitamin K needs, which functions in retaining the calcium in the bone matrix. In addition to this, the presence of calcium, manganese, copper, magnesium, zinc and phosphorus helps build up stronger and denser bones. This will in turn help prevent the onset of bone related diseases such as osteoporosis.

3. Strengthens Muscles: The coenzyme Q10 is a component found in spinach and acts as an antioxidant that plays an important role in the strengthening of muscles, especially the heart muscles. This coenzyme is used to treat many cardiovascular diseases such as hyperlipidemia, heart failure, hypertension and coronary heart diseases.

4. Anti-Cancer Properties: Spinach contains more than a dozen different flavonoids, phytonutrients that function as anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer agents. Studies have shown reduced risks of prostate, stomach, bladder, liver and lung cancers as positives from the contents of spinach.

5. Anti-Oxidant Properties: The vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, manganese, zinc and selenium serve as powerful antioxidants that eliminate free radicals in the body and combat atherosclerosis and high blood pressures.

6. Builds Immunity: In addition to the immunity builder vitamin C, the high vitamin A content in spinach protects and strengthens the entry points of the body such as the mucous membranes, respiratory, urinary and intestinal tracts.

7. Skin Health: The vitamins A, C, E and K are great for the skin. Spinach can help clear up acne, fight eczema, psoriasis, keratinization, wrinkles and may even prevent cancer from sun exposure.

8. Brain and Nervous Functions: Spinach has components of potassium, folate and various antioxidants that provide great neurological benefits. Folate reduces occurrence of Alzheimer’s disease. The vitamin K contributes to a healthy nervous system by being an essential part of the synthesis of sphingolipids, the fat that makes up the Myelin sheath around the nerves.

9. Alkalizes the Body: The various minerals present in spinach helps balance off a highly acidic diet which drains energy, increases obesity and creates a host of other health issues.

10. Maintain Blood Pressure: The high amounts of potassium and low content of sodium make spinach very beneficial for high blood pressure patients as potassium lowers the blood pressure by its function as a vasodilator. The folate content also contributes by relaxing blood vessels and maintaining proper blood flow.

11. Fetus Development: Spinach has folate which is needed by growing fetuses for the proper development of their new nervous system. The vitamin A content aids lung development in fetuses as well as aiding mothers in breast feeding.

12. Anti-Ulcer Property: Spinach has been found to have the ability to protect the mucous membrane of the stomach leading to increased resistance to stomach ulcers.

Need assistance with growing spinach? Look at our How to Grow Spinach guide. Also, find heirloom Spinach seeds at our store, Sweet Corn Organic Nursery.

What is Powdery Mildew?

Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that affects the foliage, stems and less often the flowers and fruits of plants, where a superficial fungal growth covers the surface of the plant. Powdery mildew diseases are caused by different species of fungi belonging to the order Erysiphales and these fungi are host specific, meaning a particular species will grow only on certain plants, and will not spread to others.

Powdery Mildew on a Tomato Leaf.

Powdery Mildew on a Tomato Leaf.

A wide variety of vegetable plants are affected by powdery mildews, including artichoke, beans, beets, carrot, cucumber, eggplant, endive, lettuce, melons, parsley, parsnips, peas, peppers, potatoes, pumpkins, radicchio, radishes, squash, tomatillo, tomatoes and turnips. It also commonly affects edible and ornamental garden plants, grasses (cereal crops), weeds, shrubs, fruit trees and forest trees.

Powdery mildews typically thrive in environments with high humidity and moderate temperatures. Crowded plantings, cool damp settings and poorly ventilated areas are highly susceptible to powdery mildew attacks.

Its symptoms are quite distinctive, making powdery mildews easy to spot. Infected plants display white or gray powdery splotches on the surfaces of the plant, especially the lower leaves and stem parts. The fungus if left unchecked grows and spreads to larger areas all over the plant. Powdery mildews are unattractive but rarely fatal. They do however, impair photosynthesis, affect flavor and reduce yields of fruits and vegetables. On some plants, powdery mildew may cause the leaves to eventually turn completely yellow and die off, twist, buckle or distort.

Powdery Mildew on Squash Plants.

Powdery Mildew on Squash Plants.

Control and Preventative Measures of Powdery Mildews

1. A key preventative step is planting mildew-resistant or mildew-tolerant varieties. Resistant varieties will get lesser mildew than susceptible ones and tolerant varieties may get attacked by mildews but their performance won’t be affected.

2. Another preventative measure that you should consider is growing plants where there is good air circulation and exposing as much of the leaf surface to direct sunlight, which inhibits the growth of fungus spores.

3. When transplanting plants outdoors or when buying seedlings, choose the healthiest plants as they will have a high tolerance to mildew damage.

4. It would be wise to not plant non-resistant varieties in the shade.

5. To avoid the spread of mildews to other similar variety plants, remove and destroy all infected plant parts. It is advisable to not compost infected parts, rather rid of them in the trash.

6. Some suggest watering plants at the base to avoid leaving the leaves and stems of the plant damp. Others recommend overhead watering because powdery mildew spores cannot germinate when foliage is wet, but when foliage dries off, the ensuing dampness could prove to be highly susceptible.

7. To control an infection, improve air circulation by thinning and pruning.

8. Once you have an infection, reduce the use of any nitrogen based fertilizer (organic or inorganic) to limit the production of succulent tissues as they are most susceptible to infections.

9. Mix a tablespoon of baking soda in a gallon of room temperature water. Add a drop or 2 of liquid soap to help the solution stick to the plant. Add a teaspoon of vegetable oil or horticultural oil and shake well. Spray the affected areas with this solution. This solution changes the pH balance on the plant’s surface, making for an unsuitable environment for powdery mildews to proliferate.

10. Neem oil has been found to be beneficial in the control of powdery mildews. Mint oil, rosemary oil and cinnamaldehyde (cinnamon tree extract) are also effective powdery mildew controls.

11. Garlic’s anti-fungal property is said to control powdery mildews. Prepare a garlic extract solution by blending 2 bulbs of fresh garlic in a quart of water with a few drops of liquid soap. This liquid should be strained to remove solids and then refrigerated. This concentrate should be diluted and then sprayed onto affected areas.

12. Biological fungicides (such as Serenade) that have beneficial organisms formulated into the product are available in the market and can help tackle powdery mildews and other diseases. Seek advice from a local expert before buying and using any product, though.

Description:

Mexican bean beetles (Epilachna varivestis) are part of the ladybird beetle family but unlike most of their counterparts (who are beneficial insects) are notorious agricultural pests and feed on plants rather than insects. They are found throughout Mexico and the eastern United States, and are more prominent in wetter areas. They do not tolerate extremely dry areas.

Entire life-cycle of Mexican Bean Beetles.

Entire life-cycle of Mexican Bean Beetles.

Adult Mexican bean beetles are oval-shaped, yellowish brown to copper-colored, 1/4 inch long with 16 black spots on their wing covers.  Since they look very much like lady beetles, distinguish them from the lady beetles by looking out for their larvae.

Larvae are fat, yellowish orange, 1/3 inch long with no legs and rows of long, branching spines protruding from their body.

The Mexican bean beetles’ eggs are small, yellow and oval and are laid on the underside of leaves.

Adults overwinter in the soil and emerge in spring. The females lay their eggs on host plants and the eggs hatch in 5 to 14 days. The larvae feed for 2 to 5 weeks, pupate and emerge about a week later as young yellowish-colored adults that soon mature. 1 to 3 generations per year.

Host Plants:

Cow-pea, lima bean, snap bean, green bean, string bean, bush and pole beans, black-eyed pea, mung, adsuki, velvet bean, alfalfa, clover and soybean can all get affected. Both the adults and larvae predominantly feed on the tender parenchyma on the underside of leaves giving the leaves a skeletonized appearance. Adult beetles may also eat the fruits and flowers of the plant. Larvae tend to do more damage than adults. If left unchecked, Mexican bean beetles can completely defoliate plants, thereby severely ruining yields.

Organic Control and Prevention Methods:

Handpicking: For small plantations, handpicking adults and larvaeis a viable option. Also seek and destroy eggs and pupae. If done regularly, damage can be considerably controlled.

Use Crop Covers: Floating row covers with edges buried in the soil is one of the easiest ways to prevent Mexican been beetles from infesting your plants. Use the covers when you plant the seedlings after weeding and check weekly to ensure no lucky individuals are prospering beneath.

Cultural Control: Cultural control includes planting early-season bean varieties that can help avoid main beetle generations, tilling, removing debris, digging up and getting rid of crop residues of previous seasons to remove overwintering sites.

Trap Crops: Planting soybeans as a trap crop is a common practice. Destroy the plants that are infested.

Biological Control: Beneficial insects, such as ladybugs, lacewings, eulophid wasps and minute pirate bugs are avid predators of both the eggs and young larvae. Toads, birds and spined soldier bugs (Podisus maculiventris) are some other general predators. The commercially-reared parasitic wasps Pediobius foveolatus are a proven biological control method of Mexican bean beetles and is highly recommended.

Companion Planting: Interspersing bean plants with companion plants allows one to take advantage of natural components to either attract beneficial insects or repel pests. Marigold, Nasturtium, Petunias and Rosemary help deter Mexican bean beetles. You can attract native predators and parasites by allowing a few nectar-rich flowering plants such as daisies, sweet alyssum or yarrow grow nearby. Another common approach is planting a row of beans in between a row of potatoes.

Organic Insecticides: Neem oil has been reported to deter adult bean beetles and offset the feeding of larvae but may also harm some beneficial insects too. Organic insecticidal soaps also help control beetle populations and must be applied thoroughly, especially on the undersides. Beauveria bassiana is a fungus that acts as a parasite on various bugs including the Mexican bean beetle. Use a product based on this fungus as soon as you see an infestation.

Other Methods: Spreading diatomaceous earth on the surface next to the plant and on the plant is not too pleasing to beetles and may deter them from infesting your plants. Chickens are known to feed on all sorts of insects including beetles. Let them loose near your bean plants only once the bean plants are tall. Aluminum foil mulch works by reflecting sun rays which discourages flying pests from landing on host plants. Ask your local nursery for varieties of beans that are naturally resistant to the Mexican bean beetles in your area.

Find Neem Concentrate at our online store, Sweet Corn Organic Nursery.

Rutabagas are a root vegetable that have originated as a cross between the cabbage and the turnip. The leaves can also be eaten as a leaf vegetable, but the delicate sweetness of the roots is what makes them popular worldwide. Rutabagas are called so only in the US. Elsewhere they have names such as Swede, Swedish turnip, yellow turnip and neep.

The Splendid Rutabaga.

The Splendid Rutabaga.

Nutritional Content of Rutabagas

A cup of boiled rutabaga provides about 66 calories, no fat, 2g of protein, 15g of carbohydrates, 10g of sugars, 3g of dietary fiber and no cholesterol. Rutabagas are very high in vitamin C. In addition, rutabagas have appreciable amounts of potassium, magnesium, phosphorous and manganese.

Health Benefits of Rutabagas

1. Anti-Cancerous Properties: Like all cruciferous vegetables, rutabagas contain glucosinolates that have been linked to inhibiting the growth of cancerous tumors.

2. Boost Immunity: Rutabagas are loaded with vitamin C, a single serving providing as much as 50% of DV. Vitamin C is a really effective antioxidant that has been recognized to boost defense mechanisms and cure common ailments.

3. Digestive Health: Rutabagas contain dietary fibers which are essential in the maintaining of a healthy digestive tract. Sufficient fiber consumption can protect against constipation, colon cancer, type-2 diabetes and obesity and may even lower risks of developing heart diseases. Also the glucosinolates are thought to help the stomach create bile.

4. Rutabagas also contain carotenoids helping with strengthening the immune system.

5. Rutabagas are a low calorie, nutrient rich, high fiber food that can be included in weight loss diets to boost metabolism and assist bodyweight management.

6. Rutabagas provide potassium which encourages bone health, ensures proper functioning of cardiovascular system, normalizes blood pressure, and reduces risk of stroke and helps with energy production.

7. Rutabagas are a source of zinc which is an important mineral in many enzymes, in turn helping with defense functions as well as protecting from physical stress. Rutabagas also contain manganese (for energy), vitamin B6 (supports the nervous system), calcium (bone health), magnesium (helps absorb calcium and great for relieving stress) and phosphorus (helps metabolize proteins and sugars).

8. Rutabaga has found to be helpful in alleviating asthma due to its high vitamin C content.

9. Rutabaga consumption regularly can increase stamina, slow aging, protect against DNA damage and prevent alopecia (spot baldness).

10. Women can increase milk production capacity and alleviate PMS on consuming ample amounts of rutabaga frequently.

If you need help with growing rutabagas, check out our How to Grow Rutabagas article. Find Rutabaga seeds at our store, Sweet Corn Organic Nursery.

Kale is a nutritional powerhouse that boasts an abundance of antioxidants and other disease-fighting agents and has amazing health benefits. Kale, also called borecole, is one of the healthiest foods on the planet, and is especially good for the brain. This leafy green vegetable is a member of the cruciferous family which includes cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and collards among others. The three most common types of kale are ornamental kale, dinosaur kale and curly kale, each having their own distinct flavor, texture and appearance.

Kale: The Nutritional Powerhouse

Kale: The Nutritional Powerhouse

Nutritional Content of Kale

A cup of chopped kale contains a meager 36 calories while providing 9% of the daily value (DV) of calcium, 206% of vitamin A, 134% of vitamin C and a whopping 684% of vitamin K. Kale is also a good source of copper, potassium, iron, manganese, phosphorus, carotenoids, flavonoids and fiber.

Health Benefits of Kale

1. Kale is low in calories, has no cholesterol or fat and is high in fiber. A serving of kale has only 36 calorie, 5 grams of fiber and 0 grams of fat. These characteristics make kale an excellent food in weight loss diets.

2. Kale is a source of 2 powerful antioxidants: carotenoids and flavonoids that protect cells from free radicals which cause oxidative stress. In addition, kale has ample amounts of vitamin C, vitamin A and manganese which are also antioxidants.

3. Kale has great anti-inflammatory properties because of vitamin K and omega-3 fatty acids that play key roles in reducing inflammation in the body by regulating inflammatory processes. It helps fight against arthritis, auto-immune diseases and asthma.

4. Cancer prevention properties: Kale’s anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory powers work hand in hand to prevent and combat several cancers, including colon, breast, bladder, prostate, ovarian and gastric cancer. Like all crucifers, kale contains glucosinolates whose derived isothiocyanates block growth of certain types of cancer cells and help in DNA repair.

5. Kale boosts detoxification process. Both the isothiocyanates from glucosinolates and sulphur found in kale are found to aid in detoxifying the body.

6. Cardiovascular health: Apart from the heart healthy anti-oxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, kale has sufficient quantity of fiber to influence the lowering of cholesterol in the body. Reducing cholesterol lowers the risk of heart diseases and stroke. In addition, kale contains Indole-3-carbinol, a phytonutrient that helps reduce the secretion of the cholesterol transporter by the liver, thus benefiting the cardiovascular system.

7. Kale is high in vitamin A which is required for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin and is also essential for healthy vision. Foods rich in vitamin A are known to protect against lung and oral cancers. The beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin present in kale helps protect the eyes from UV rays and prevent the onset of cataracts, osteoporosis and age-related macular degeneration.

8. Kale is an excellent source of vitamin C which is known to build up the immune system and help fight diseases. Vitamin C also boosts the metabolic rate which is good for overall body performance.

9. Kale has an unbelievable amount of vitamin K, as much as 700% DV in a serving. Vitamin K is necessary in promoting bone health, limiting neuronal damage in the brain, normal blood clotting and help with symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. It is also essential for the synthesis of sphingolipid, the fat required to retain the myelin sheath around the nerves.

10. Calorie for calorie, kale provides more calcium than milk. Calcium aids in preventing bone loss, preventing osteoporosis and maintaining a healthy metabolism.

11. Copper, potassium, iron, manganese and phosphorus are other essential minerals found in kale that boost overall health. Potassium promotes cardiovascular health, iron is necessary for cellular oxidation and red blood formation and manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the anti-oxidant co-enzyme, superoxide dismutase.

12. Kale is a notable source of B-vitamins such as niacin, pyridoxine, thiamin, pantothenic acid,etc., that are essential for substrate metabolism in the body.

Find Kale seeds at Sweet Corn Organic Nursery.

Cucumbers (Cucumis sativus) belong to the gourd family Cucurbitaceae, which includes gourds, melons and squashes. Cucumbers are the 4th most cultivated vegetable in the world and is believed to have originated in the Indian sub-continent.

A slicing cucumber variety.

A slicing cucumber variety.

Nutritional Content of Cucumbers

The refreshing power of cucumbers is in part because of their high water content and is often part of low-carb diets. Importantly, cucumbers are low in fats and calories. They are rich in vitamin A, B1, B6, C and D, calcium, potassium and folate making them excellent in the everyday diet.

Health Benefits of Cucumbers

1. Hydrates the Body: Freshly cut cucumber slices or cucumber juice can re-hydrate the body as cucumbers are 95 % water and replenish vital nutrients. This characteristic is great as it also helps flush out toxins and harmful free radicals from the body.

2. Reduces Headaches and Cures Hangovers: Cucumbers contain natural sugars, B-vitamins and electrolytes to replenish essential nutrients and reduce intensity of hangovers. A glass of cucumber juice works great to rid of hangovers.

3. Fights Cancers: Lariciresinol, pinoresinol and secoisolariciresinol- 3 lignans that have been linked to reduced risk of several types of cancer, including breast, prostate, uterine and ovarian cancer are contained in cucumbers.

4. Strong Bones: Calcium and phosphorus are found in cucumbers and they help in building bones. Vitamin K found in cucumbers regulates bone mineralization and helps maintain bone density.

5. Aids Digestion: Digestive problems like heartburn, acidity, gastritis, constipation and even ulcers can be cured by the regular consumption of fresh cucumber juice. These benefits are mainly due to the high amounts of dietary fibers that aid digestion.

6. Oral Health: Foul mouth odors can be combated by eating cucumbers. Cucumbers also promote stronger teeth, gums and also kill bacteria in the mouth.

7. Weight Loss: The high water content, low calories and fat and high dietary fiber make cucumbers great for people who are looking to lose weight.

8. Control Blood Pressure: Cucumbers contain adequate amounts of potassium, magnesium and fiber which are great at regulating blood pressure for patients of both high and low pressure.

9. Stimulates Hair and Nail Growth: Cucumbers contain silicon and sulfur, elements that promote shiny healthy hair and nails.

10. Benefits Diabetics: Cucumbers contain a hormone which can be useful for the pancreas to produce insulin making them highly beneficial to diabetics.

11. Protein Digestion: Erepsin, an enzyme contained in cucumbers aids in the digestion of proteins.

12. Healthy Joints: Cucumbers are rich in silica which promotes healthy joints and strengthens connective tissues.

13. Reduces Cholesterol: Reportedly, compounds called sterols found in cucumbers help reduce cholesterol levels.

14. Kidney Health: Cucumbers lower uric acid levels in the system greatly benefiting the kidneys. They also show healing attributes in relation to diseases of the urinary bladder and the kidney. In fact, cucumbers are one of the best natural diuretics.

15. Healthy Skin: High water content and presence of particular vitamins and minerals work in tandem to nourish skin. Puffiness and swelling under the eyes can be alleviated due to the ascorbic acid and caffeic acid present in cucumbers that bring down water retention rates.

Find cucumber seeds at Sweet Corn Organic Nursery. Read our How to Grow Cucumbers article for guidance.

Corn or maize, is a large grain plant whose leafy stalk produces ears that contain grains protected by silk-like threads called corn silk and encased in a husk. Corn is a cereal grain and is also eaten as a vegetable, depending on the variety. Although corn is often associated with the color yellow, it grows in a host of different varieties that feature an array of different colors, including red, pink, black, blue and purple. When you reach for those tempting ears of sweet corn in the produce (hopefully organic) aisle, you’ll be pleased to know that apart from being wonderfully delicious, they boast amazing health benefits.

Zea mays

Zea mays

Nutritional Content of Corn

Corn is beneficial to health as it contains B-vitamins, folate, vitamin C, beta-carotene, protein and fiber in good amounts. In addition corn is a decent source of potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc. Corn is a carb-rich food, so in order to reap nutritional benefits it is important to eat it in moderation and not slather it in butter and other fatty foods.

Health Benefits of Corn

1. Digestive Benefits: Corn is a good source of fiber, both soluble and insoluble and has well-documented digestive benefits. Corn consumption can help alleviate common digestive ailments like constipation and hemorrhoids.

2. Lowers the Risk of Cancer: Corn contains phytonutrients in the form of bound phenolics that are associated with a reduced risk of colon and other digestive cancers. Also the resistant starch found in corn promotes butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid found in the colon that may help fight colon cancer. Beta-cryptoxanthin, an orange-red carotenoid has antioxidant properties that are linked to significantly lowering the risk of lung cancer. Also ferulic acid, a phenolic compound found in corn is effective against liver and breast tumors.

3. Heart Health: Corn grain is high in folate, a type of B-vitamin that is known to reduce homocysteine, an inflammatory marker attributed to heart diseases. A diet high in folate may significantly reduce the risk of developing heart and other cardiovascular related diseases.

4. Controlling Cholesterol: Sweet corn contains good amounts of vitamin C, carotenoids and bioflavonoids that help in controlling cholesterol levels.     Consumption of corn husk oil lowers LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol, while HDL is the good one) by reducing cholesterol absorption in the body, according to the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.

5. Prevents Anemia: The folic acid and several B-vitamins present in sweet corn help prevent anemia. Moreover, people suffering from anemia on regular consumption of corn have shown positive signs of improvement.

6. Controls Diabetes and Hypertension: Consumption of corn kernels assists in the management of non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM). Also cornstarch, a product made from corn was shown to improve glucose metabolism in normal and overweight women. The phenolic phytochemicals present in whole corn are effective in people with hypertension.

7. Healthy Eyes: Yellow corn is a rich source of beta-carotene, which forms vitamin A in the body and is known to be essential for maintaining good vision. Also, the carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin found in corn have been associated with reductions in risks of macular degeneration and development of cataracts.

8. Improved Brain Function and Energy Levels: Corn is an excellent source of thiamine, a nutrient that is helpful in the functioning of the brain to enable one to execute cognitive duties. Thiamine also helps synthesize acetylocholine, a neurotransmitter that helps strengthen the memory, delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and development of age related senility. In addition, thiamine (vitamin B1) and pantothenic acid help cells convert carbohydrates into energy, thus making corn a popular choice for people with fast-paced and stressful lives.

9. Youthful Skin: Corn is rich in antioxidants that help eliminate free radicals and keep the skin nourished. Corn starch can be used to soothe skin irritation and rashes.

10. Good for Pregnant Women: Deficiency of folic acid in pregnant women affects the baby, which is why pregnant women are encouraged to consume corn for its folic acid content.

In short, corn is a rich source of many essential nutrients and fiber and may protect and aide against many ailments. So go on then, and start shucking!

If you need any help growing corn, feel free to get in touch with us, we’re always keen on helping our fellow organic gardeners! In the meantime, check our How to Grow Corn article. You can get corn seeds at Sweet Corn Organic Nursery.