Blending the Garden
Most fads come in some sort of a box or a package, but when it comes to the “green smoothie” craze, there are no gimmicks or tricks to it.
By Jennifer Schamber
[This article was first published in The Gateway Gardener July/August 2015 issue]
Most fads come in some sort of a box or a package, but when it comes to the “green smoothie” craze, there are no gimmicks or tricks to it. It’s really so simple: grow it, pick it, blend it, drink it! There are no rules to making them, just use what you have available in the garden or kitchen.
Smoothies are not to be confused with juices. The process of juicing eliminates the seeds, fiber and skin of the fruits or vegetables, while smoothies retain all those parts (except bigger seeds) and leave much less waste. From a gardener’s standpoint, we want to use every last bit of our harvest, especially when those bits have so much of the nutrition and vitamins. Any blender will work, a good quality blender will definitely last longer, a low-grade blender used daily for smoothies may only last a couple months, so investing in a good blender is certainly recommended.
The power packed into smoothies can be noticed within the first day of consuming one. Eventually these can become part of a daily routine and can even become a partial or full meal replacement once a day, or maybe just a snack. The “side effects” can include improved energy all day long without the need for caffeine, clearer skin, a clearer mind and loss of excess weight. Most people will say the reason they drink them is because of the way they make them feel, and these “side effects” are just an extra bonus! Of course, when paired with a healthy diet, the list of benefits goes on and on.
When planning a garden for smoothies, the main focus is on greens. This is easy in early spring and fall, but the summer and winter months can be tougher, so be ready to supplement with greens from the farmer’s market or grocery store. To extend the fall crop into the winter, consider building a cold frame, which can add several months to the growing season by also giving you a head start in the spring. The best time to start a fall garden is in August, so start thinking about seeds you may want to sow and locate areas of the garden where you can plant more greens. A good goal might be to incorporate at least one ingredient from the garden for each smoothie. So maybe you pick up a watermelon at the store and blend it with a cucumber and some mint from the garden in summer, or add your own greens to some fresh apples from the farmer’s market in fall.
Kids may shy away from green smoothies at first, so try starting them with fruity versions first, then start adding in greens and other veggies over time. Carrots may be a good one to sneak in, they tend to make the smoothie thicker, so adding a little extra coconut water or other liquid base can help. Another trick is to always let them help you make your smoothie, they are more likely to try something that they’ve helped grow and make. Over time, kids will become accustomed to seeing you drink them, so it won’t look like “yucky muck” in a jar, but fresh veggie goodness straight from their garden.
Some of the best plants to grow for smoothies include:
Never throw away bananas or berries! Freeze them before they go bad and throw them into smoothies!
Smoothies seem to taste best when in glass containers, try mason jars! You can even purchase special lids that have a hole for straws.
Adjust your recipe based on what is in season, it can be different every time.
Make two batches at a time, smoothies will usually taste great up to two days after preparation. Some parts may separate but they can be shaken back up.
Consider adding a protein supplement if you are using the smoothie as a meal replacement.
Always use organic growing methods in your edible garden.
Garden “Go-Go” Smoothie
2 cups of coconut water
¼ cup of chia seeds and/or flaxmeal (or Qi’a Original flavor)
¼ cup orange juice
1 cup packed fresh spinach
1 cup packed kale
1 frozen banana
1 cored pear or apple
2 tbsp honey
Combine all and puree in a blender until smooth. Enjoy the power of the garden!
Jennifer Schamber is the general manager of Greenscape Gardens in west St. Louis County, Missouri. She is a past president of the Landscape & Nursery Association of Greater St. Louis and past vice president of the Horticulture Co-op of Metro St. Louis. Greenscape Gardens is the national 2015 winner of Today’s Garden Center Magazine’s Revolutionary 100 Award.