Fresh vegetable juicing has enjoyed a meteoric rise in popularity recently; here in Northern California and all across the United States. To that end, the DripWorks demonstration garden will be growing heirloom varieties of carrots, beets, kale, parsley, local apples, and melons to provide us with the raw materials for this delicious and nutritious way to be healthy. With proper planning, you can enjoy fresh juices year round without having to resort to less fresh and potentially nutrient deficient produce from the grocery store.
Here is a rundown of the most popular juicing veggies and fruits:
Carrots - All carrots deserve praise for being a high source of soluble fiber that helps lower ‘bad' cholesterol and glucose. Purple carrots, which we are growing in our demo garden, contain higher amounts of anthocyanins than orange carrots. Anthocyanins are responsible for much more than adding a vibrant shade to your juice; they also act as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. In addition they improve heart health by helping regulate cholesterol levels and blood sugar metabolism. Like most root crops, carrots are cold tolerant and have a long shelf life.
Beets - This colorful root vegetable adds a sweet, earthy quality to juice that just cannot be found in any other vegetable. Beets are touted as a blood cleanser, and because, like purple carrots, they contain anthocyanins, they also help protect against heart disease. The entire beet plant can be put right into the juicer, leaving nothing to waste. The plants are cold tolerant, making them available year round if you plant them every 120 days or so. I suggest trying the Detroit Dark Red or Crapaudine Beets as they are old standards and most flavorful.
Kale (and other leafy greens)-Kale is an easy plant to grow and returns a big nutritional payday. The sulfur and fiber in kale are key elements in digestive health, lowering cholesterol and strengthening the immune system. Kale also has more iron than beef, making it an essential staple in a vegetarian diet. Dark leafy greens are a great source of vitamin C, so think of planting chard and spinach too. Tolerant to cool weather, kale can be planted both early and late in the season.
Fennel - This aromatic herb is less common as a juicing ingredient, despite having a host of nutritional benefits and a wonderfully distinctive flavor. Fennel is an excellent source of dietary fiber and a natural diuretic, qualities that help cleanse the body of toxins. Fennel is a perennial that needs lots of sunlight and well-drained soil. If you're intending to plant cilantro in the same area be forewarned that the two plants will cross-pollinate, affecting their respective flavors.
Cucumbers - In my opinion, cucumbers are the ultimate way to add a refreshing zest to juices. Even plain tap water tastes better with the addition of a few cucumber slices. The juice of the cucumber has a normalizing effect on body temperature, making it ideal on a hot day or when treating a fever. Choose a sunny spot in the garden for planting, preferably near a fence where they can be trellised to support their tendency toward prolific growth. If you're selecting a plant primarily for juicing, consider a thin skinned variety like Muncher.
Parsley - This herb is the best addition to any morning juice blend, freshening bad breath by cleaning toxins from the digestive system. Parsley also contains folate, a B vitamin which helps protect blood vessels and reduces the risk of heart attack. The high levels of carotenoids in this herb also make it good for your vision. When planting, select a location that provides full to partial sunlight for best results. One of the most fascinating aspects of juicing is the ability to customize your juice to your desired health benefits and taste preference. Below are some of the favorite recipes from our friends at BakerCreek Heirloom Seeds.
- 1 large beet (cylindrical purple is best)
- 2 apples or pears
- 1 fennel bulb
- 2 large purple carrots
Wash produce thoroughly; core and peel apples. Dice the fennel bulb to fit in the juicer. Cylindrical beets and carrots should be able to be juiced whole. the vibrant purple color of this juice will be a feast to the eyes (especially since fennel and carrots help improve vision health.
- 2 large handfuls of kale or any leafy green
- 1 medium handful of parsley
- 1 large cucumber
- 1 half lemon
- 1 apple or pear (Asian pears are great)
When you grow your own cucumbers, there is no need to peel them; just quarter and feed through the juicer. Wash, peel, and core the apple. Squeeze the lemon into the finished product. This juice is tangy and filling; it's ideal for breakfast to ensure good breath and a settled stomach. It's also a great drink when you feel a cold coming on.