How to harvest your own medicine

  • The secret to green fingered remedies
  • Here are three of the best for your garden…
  • …and some hot stuff for the window ledge

Spring has sprung, as they say.

All around me the trees are in blossom, the dandelions and daises are poking through the lawn and the weeds are taking over my vegetable plot…

…but this year I have the time to spend beating the little blighters.

I am finding a gentle bit of hoeing and weeding every day is quite calming on the nerves and allows me to enjoy the fresh air and plan for this years bounty.

Whilst I was planning the full Percy Thrower vegetable patch (albeit in a relatively small area!) it set me thinking about what I could grow that would benefit the family in more ways than just a tasty meal or two.

You can protect your health and fight all sorts of illness just by making use of your garden.

A topic that was covered a few years back by the BBC in a programme called – Grow Your Own Drugs.

A title which may have attracted a wider audience than the BBC imagined… but one that switched over fairly quickly when hashish wasn’t the topic of conversation!

The health benefits of fresh food is something we’ve covered a lot in The Good Life Letter, but to see the same ideas broadcast on the BBC was really refreshing because they can get their message across to millions of people.

Still, I don’t really need to tell YOU how good fresh fruit and vegetables are. If you read The Good Life Letter you’ll need no persuading of the benefits of eating plenty of both.

Medicine you can plant right now

Now we’re well into April, there’s a whole range of ‘natural medicines’ you can start growing…

Tomatoes… tomatoes are loaded with lycopene, a caratenoid which has been linked with prevention of certain cancers, such as prostate cancers.

And that’s just the start of the mighty tomato’s protective powers… a study in Israel showed that a good dose of tomato can help lower blood pressure reduce the risk of heart disease. This study looked at patients who were being treated for hypertension, but weren’t reacting well with the drugs. Instead, they were given doses of tomato extract.

The result…?

A significant lowering of blood pressure after just four weeks.

You can start potting the seeds right now.

Beetroots… beetroot contains a powerful little substance called betaine, which acts like a really old-fashioned cleaning lady and sweeps out damaging homocysteine with ruthless efficiency (You can almost picture Mrs Betaine running a finger along an artery, checking it’s clean).

Homocysteine is a nasty little amino acid that’s been linked with heart disease if it’s produced too keenly. So getting betaine into your system will help make sure homocysteine doesn’t build up.

Beetroot juice is also said to ‘awaken’ your body’s natural antioxidant functions – so get planting today.

These can go direct into the soil, and April is the perfect month to do it.

Carrots… oh boy, where do I start? Carrots have a ton of goodies in them – calcium, iron, essential carbs, proteins, vitamins B1, B2, B6, C and K, niacin, potassium… my typing hand is struggling to keep up. (Actually, it’s my typing finger – that’s the extent for my typing skills).

Carrots can help fight erectile dysfunction, fatigue, diabetes, stroke, eye problems and inflammation…all the way down to less serious problems like itching, coughing and dandruff.

So make room in your garden bed for them, and get digging!

There are lots of other vegetables that are ready to plant now… turnips, lettuces, radishes, spring onions, cabbages, leeks and brussel sprouts to name but a few.

All offer fantastic natural health benefits but as I’m going on the assumption that your garden isn’t Hyde Park, I thought I’d stick to three veggies that don’t take up a ton of room, or require any special skills to grow.

If you don’t have the space…

One of the delights of growing your own produce is watching it develop, and then eating it at its most perfect and fresh stage.

Of course, I realise that many people don’t have a garden space or maybe aren’t able to physically do the work required, and that’s where your windowsill can help.

Again, ‘Auntie Beeb’ comes to our aid with a useful guide to growing food plants indoors – have a look here.

Believe it or not, given the right type of pots you can grow the tomatoes, carrots and beetroot I was mentioning earlier on your windowsill, no problem.

But I would also urge you to try salad or spring onions and loose leaf lettuce as well.

A simple shallow tray is all you need to get these growing and the beauty of this method is that you only need to pick exactly what you need from the crop.

Just a few salad leaves can be plucked and the plant will continue to grow and flourish.

My favourite of all the plants to grow though is the chilli.

Right from my days as a student to the current time I always have a chilli plant on the go, right in the kitchen window.

Having the luxury of nipping a fresh fruit from the plant and adding it to curries, salads or roasted fish is the height of joy in my world.

I hope this has inspired you to try a bit of ‘gardening’ even on a small scale.

The rewards are worth any effort it takes, I promise.