Super Foods, Super Models

Written by Rhonda Ferree, retired Extension horticulture educator

As promised I'm writing each month about a 2014 garden trend. Trend two from the 2014 Garden Media Group report is "Super Foods, Super Models." Let me try to explain what that is.

My interpretation is that the trend is to grow your own highly nutritious food (super foods) using nontraditional methods (super models).

The main reasons people state for growing their own food is taste, nutrition, and quality. I can vouch for the taste and quality part. For me, there is nothing like the taste of a ripe tomato picked off the vine on a hot summer day.

I turned to Mekenzie Riley, University of Illinois Extension Educator in nutrition and wellness, to help explain the nutrition part. She posts about this regularly in her "Lifestyle Choices for Wellness" blog. In her January 16th post Mekenzie wrote "A study done by our very own University of Illinois confirmed that canned foods are comparable to cooked, fresh, and frozen varieties in their nutrient contribution to our diets." So, maybe fresh isn't always better.

Two "super foods" have gotten a lot of attention lately. It seems like everywhere I go I hear something about Kale. School kids are growing Kale in classrooms and turning them into Kale Chips, teaching them the entire food production process from seed to stomach.

Kale chips are a tasty, healthy alternative to potato chips. Here is a University of Illinois Extension recipe to try. Tear kale into bite sized pieces and place in a bowl. Sprinkle with olive oil and "toss". Then spread out on a cookie sheet, lined with parchment paper, add any flavor you want: salt, cider vinegar, chili powder, Italian dressing and bake at 350? for about 10 minutes.

Microgreens are the other popular "super food". When I was in Costa Rica in December, the Parador resort we stayed at grew their own microgreens for use in their restaurants. Microgreens are similar to sprouts, but harvested at a larger growth stage. These edible greens are produced from various kinds of vegetables and herbs, such as lettuce, chard, spinach, basil, dill, and more.

Homeowners are growing vegetables nontraditionally in "super models" such as indoors under lights or on sunny windowsills in everything from plastic pots to 2 liter soda bottles. I have a tea garden growing right now in my kitchen. My "Aerogarden" contains mint, lemon mint, lavender, and lemon balm. I also have carrots and celery growing on my kitchen windowsill.

Want to learn more about vegetable gardening? University of Illinois Extension has several good websites that teach homeowners how to grow their own fruits and vegetables. I particularly like "Watch Your Garden Grow" found at

Stay tuned for trend three on March 1st when I will explain all about how to "Drink Your Garden." Intrigued?