Smoothies are a great way to help you reach the suggested daily serving of fruits and vegetables – but the ones you buy from the store can be loaded with sugars and artificial ingredients. The best smoothies are the ones you make at home. When you’re in charge, you know exactly what goes into your drink – and what better way to do it than with the freshest possible produce, straight out of your own garden?
To get the most naturally flavorful fruits and vegetables, you need to raise them yourself. Too many days on a grocery store shelf can rob your produce of its essence, leading to a bland, listless, nutrient-poor product. Starting your own smoothie garden is an easy and fun way to grow your own ingredients. In fact, it’s possible even for those with limited space: most of the plants can be grown in buckets or flower pots, suitable for even the smallest patio or apartment balcony!
Here are some smoothie-worthy options you can start growing today (and our suggestions for turning them into tasty treats):
Greens are, hands-down, one of the easiest plants to grow (as long as you get the timing right). While you can use any variety in your smoothie, there a few that pack an extra-nutritional punch (and taste great!)
- Kale – This hardy, cool-season green grows best in the spring and fall and can tolerate early frosts (in fact – a light frost is said to improve the flavor!) It offers many health benefits and is rich in minerals and vitamins A and C.
- Spinach – This super–cold-hardy variety can be planted in very early spring, as well as in fall and winter. It is super high in iron and calcium, and one of the best sources of vitamins A, B, and C (beware – spinach can hinder iron absorption, so make sure to pair with citrus!)
- Swiss chard – Simply “chard” to some, this green is a little more tolerant – it does well in both warm and cool temperatures so that it can be planted throughout the season. Like the others, it is high in vitamins A and C.
Berries are a perennial favorite for smoothie lovers everywhere. Although the growing season for most varieties is limited, you can preserve or freeze for future use.
- Strawberries – This choice berry comes in two varieties: June-bearing and Everbearing. As the names suggest, the former (and sweeter variety) ripens during June, while the latter produces over a longer period. Either can easily be grown in containers for those with limited space.
- Raspberries – As with strawberries, raspberries offer a summer-fruiting variety and an everbearing variety. They are an excellent source of dietary fiber and Vitamin C and people love their slightly-tart flavor.
Perhaps not the first thing you think of when you think “smoothie,” squash of all varieties is an excellent option. With very few calories and a wealth of vitamins, they help add creaminess to your smoothie without using any high-fat dairy products.
A common favorite is pumpkin. While pumpkins do require a long growing season (and lots of food), they’re reasonably easy to maintain. They are also one of the greatest natural sources of Vitamin A, as well as a good source of fiber, Vitamin C, and several B complex vitamins.
While you wait for your garden to grow, it’s the perfect time to make sure you have all your equipment in order – because what’s the point in having a smoothie garden if you can’t turn it into smoothies?
Some useful items to have are:
- A small personal blender (like the Magic Bullet) – perfect for whipping up a smoothie on the go.
- A larger, professional blender (like this Ninja) – for when you want to make a big batch and save some for later (or you have a really large family!).
- A vacuum sealer – a must-have for keeping your produce fresh for as long as possible (or for freezing for later use).
- One great cookbook! We love “Superfood Smoothies: 100 Delicious, Energizing & Nutrient-dense Recipes” by Julie Morris (they taste SO GOOD!), but you can choose any book that appeals to you!
Hopefully, we’ve inspired you to get out there and create your smoothie garden. Trust us – your taste buds will thank you!