Health Team

Vegetable garden provides healthy bounty on the cheap

Posted September 25, 2012
Updated September 26, 2012

— Two reasons many people don’t eat enough vegetables are cost and flavor. Many turn to cheaper processed foods packed with sodium.

But one easy alternative is to grown your own.

Organic culinary farmer Maggie Lawrence is getting the most out of her summer produce before time runs out.

“One more good month of warm weather before we get a frost,” she said.

Everything she grows in a garden on the campus of SAS Institute in Cary ends up in Chef Scott Crawford's kitchen at Heron's restaurant.

“The key here is that it's harvested today, cooked today and consumed today,” Crawford said.

As picked produce sits day after day, it loses flavor. So the restaurant menu is built around what's available and ready for harvest.

“This is a very prolific variety of bell pepper,” Lawrence said, showing off the vegetable. “The chefs would be able to stuff that, fry it.”

Herons chef makes snapper with peppers and tomatoes Herons chef makes snapper with peppers and tomatoes

There's a wide variety of peppers, carrots and tomatoes, including a cherry variety that Lawrence says tastes just like a piece of candy.

She says they're more flavorful than store bought varieties because they're sun-ripened on the vine.

Lawrence also grows a wide variety of fresh micro-greens for salads and edible blossoms for garnishes.

“They have different levels of sweetness, a lot of different textures, they offer, obviously different colors,” Crawford said.

Lawrence also grows several herbs, including rosemary, thyme, lavender and basil. Crawford said the herbs add a real burst of flavor.

Lawrence said anyone can grow their own produce.

“This is a simple thing that people can do at home,” she said. It requires a sunny patch of soil and some gardening know-how.

“If you can't grow these yourself, the best thing is to go to your local farmers' market, find out what days the farmer is picking them and be there that morning early as possible,” Crawford said.

Crawford says these tips will help you fall in love with vegetables and the healthy flavor they can add to any meal.


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  • fishon Oct 1, 2012

    We have four 3' x 10' x 10 inch raised beds. It was a little bit of work putting them in over a couple of years but now it's not that much work. Some of the dirt was leftover from other projects (drain trench, holes for accent plants etc), mixed with topsoil. We water with soaker hoses when needed, and have a variety of greens (letucce, spinach, kale), tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, eggplant, brocolli, parsley, basil, oregano, cilantro, sage etc depending on the season. The main work is turning the dirt in the spring with some organic materials, planting, harvesting, then pulling out the dead materials in the fall. Not that much work and lots of enjoyment of the fruits, er, veggies of our labor.

  • Hammerhead Sep 27, 2012

    "It's great, if you have the time."

    Which is pretty much true of every hobby.

  • babbleon1 Sep 27, 2012

    It's great, if you have the time.

  • Hammerhead Sep 26, 2012

    No doubt it is hard work sabedo, but for me its a labor of love. For some reason I have no problems with deer, rabbits, mildew or bugs, but the slugs love my lettuce in the spring, so I grow tons of it and pick through carefully. The excess gets tilled for summer crops. I live in the country surrounded by trees too. I have bird feeders and houses all around my house and yard, the wrens and mockingbirds take good care of most of the bugs I think. Spiders live in the mulch and will eat anything they can. I hear deer all the time, but they don't touch my gardens at all. I sprinkle hair, blood meal, and urine a few feet from the gardens and it seems to keep them away.

  • sabedo Sep 26, 2012

    A garden is a little harder done than said, but I do like my garden-what the deer, rabbits, bugs and mildews leave for us!

  • CestLaVie Sep 26, 2012

    We do "square foot gardening" in boxes in our back yard, which are like raised beds. No weeds, no hoeing, no fertilizer. All natural. We had so many cukes this summer, my husband finally pulled the TWO plants up so he didn't have to pick 'em & try to find homes for 'em plus all we could eat.

  • Hammerhead Sep 26, 2012

    Johnny, totally agree, the cost is practically nothing, and water is free for the most part.

  • Hammerhead Sep 26, 2012

    Quite the opposite for me Student Nurse. I also keep 3 beehives nearby, may have something to do with it, and prepare a few yards of my own compost every year. No chemicals, natural fertilizer only. Every year I grow plenty of winter and summer veggies on a relatively small amount of land. It does require some long-aquired know how, a green thumb, and plenty of care. I treat my tomatoes, peppers and eggplant practically like children since I start them all from seed in late March. The exercise, visual pleasure, and pure enjoyment of gardening is also a part of the equation. Companion planting, crop rotation, soil prep, encouraging natural predators and treating your garden like an ecosystem rather than a super-controlled entity is also key.

  • JohnnyMcRonny Sep 26, 2012

    Growing your own is the only way to know where/how they were grown. And some vendors at farmers' markets are unscrupulous. I know of at least one who buys produce at the market in Raleigh and then sells it at one in Hillsborough, claiming to have grown it himself.

    This year was a poor one for a number of our crops but great for others. Some are flowering again, especially tomatoes. We get so much variety through the summer that I take a lot to work. In an area just 20' x 20' we got 100lb of potatoes. It didn't take much time and certainly not much money. It's always sad towards the end of summer because we have to start buying veggies again and they look and taste so bland in comparison.

  • Student Nurse Sep 26, 2012

    I always spend more on creating my garden than I actually get out if it. Except for these tabasco peppers this year. My word, they are coming out of my ears, but the long anticipated beans, cukes, and tomats were all FLOP.