Get your hands dirty, it’s garden season

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If you’ve read any of my articles in the past, you know I like to stick to season-appropriate topics. And while I’d love to throw you for a loop this week I won’t, because it would be strange to talk about winter activities when it’s 90 degrees outside!

Instead, let’s talk about gardening. June 6 - June 12th is National Garden Week.

If you’re looking for new hobbies to keep your yourself, your kids, or the whole family busy this summer, look no further! Gardening is fun for all ages and there are many benefits to be had.

First, and foremost, nutrition. If you’re growing fruits or vegetables you have immediate access to fresh produce that is loaded with nutrients. This makes adding veggies to your meals a whole lot easier. Oh, and did you know that children are more likely to try new fruits and veggies if they help with the planting, growing, and harvesting?

Not only are you getting nutrients directly from your produce, but also by simply being outside. Exposure to sunlight gives you an extra boost of vitamin D which in turn increases your calcium levels. Just don’t forget your sunscreen.

Being outdoors and gardening can also be a natural stress reliever. It allows us to take our mind off other worries and focus on something positive. Working towards a goal and then having that sense of accomplishment in the end is a great feeling. It may even help build self-esteem and boost your confidence.

Gardening can be a great solo activity, but it’s also a great activity for the whole family to do together. This is an opportunity to get kids outside and away from TV, tablets and video games. It’s a chance to instill good habits and responsibility while bonding with them, too.

And last, but not least, gardening is a great way to be physically active. Digging, hoeing, planting, watering, harvesting and hauling use all the major muscles groups in our bodies. Anyone who’s woken up sore after a long day of yard work can attest to that.

Now, you may be thinking, 'Well this is great, but I just don’t have room in my yard to plant a garden.' That’s okay! All you need is a small or large container for planting. If you want to grow a tomato plant, look for a 5-gallon bucket. Or start off small and try growing herbs, like basil or cilantro, in a small pot.

Wherever you may be on your journey to finding your green thumb, I wish you well.

And while your garden may not be ready to harvest quite yet, it’s never too early to start dreaming up recipes to put your fresh produce to use. Try this recipe below!

Farmer’s Market Salsa

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 (15 oz) can of corn, drained, about 1½ cups

  • 2 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed

  • 3 tomatoes, diced

  • 1 onion, diced

  • 1 green pepper, diced

  • 4-6 garlic cloves, finely chopped

  • 3 tbsp lime juice

  • ¾ cup picante sauce

  • Optional: fresh cilantro

DIRECTIONS

  1. Wash hands with soap and water.

  2. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.

  3. Drain excess liquid before serving.

  4. Serve with fresh veggies or your favorite tortilla chips

  5. Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours.

Notes: 1 ear of corn equals about 1 cup. Blend portion of salsa for a thinner consistency.

Jordan Luxa is a Food, Nutrition, and Health Educator for Nebraska Extension in Washington County. She can be contacted at 402-426-9455, jordan.luxa@unl.edu, or visit the Washington County Extension website at www.washington.unl.edu.

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