Gardening – specifically, growing edible crops – can be a very useful tool in enabling a benzoate-intolerant person to have as wide a variety of fruit and veg as possible.
I have mentioned before in my post about fruit that travel time, storage and preparation methods may have an effect on how well some things are tolerated. As a case in point, I managed to eat a small handful of raspberries this morning without any significant ill effects, unlike the almost violent reaction I get from supermarket berries. This morning’s fruit was picked only 5 minutes before eating from my garden, in sharp contrast to supermarket-bought raspberries that could have been several days off the cane before they made it to the shelf.
But speed of processing isn’t the only benefit – there are many more varieties of herb, fruit and vegetables that can be grown from seed than are seen in the shops. Tomatoes, beetroots and carrots of (almost) every shade in the rainbow can be grown, as can some lesser-known but very tasty additions to meals – take Kohl Rabi for instance – useful both as a leafy green and as a summer casserole addition – yet how often do you see it in the shops?
Another benefit is cost, especially when you’re only cooking for a couple of people, or if you’re using otherwise expensive ingredients. In the garden, you can pick only what you need, rather than buying a huge packet and throwing most of it away. Talking of cost, did you know that you can grow the expensive spice, Saffron, in UK gardens? All you need is somewhere with a little shelter from early autumn storms and you’ll have all you need. See saffron for a UK stockist.
If you don’t know where to start, or if you don’t have much space, then the best place to turn to for advice is a local independent garden centre. They will be able to direct you to the plants, seeds and equipment that is suitable both for your space and your location. If I, as a benzoate-intolerant gardener, were to give some advice about plants, I’d probably start by recommending a few things in pots – a quantity of plants that should be suitable for every space except small balconies. Please note, though, that these are recommended with my own South-West Scotland climate in mind – if you have a different climate then you may need to pick different plants:
-a rhubarb crown in a large pot
-a handful of saffron crocus bulbs and a small winter savory plant in a window box, along with any combination of thyme, parsley, oregano, rosemary or lavender (depending on size).
-a trough or tub with a fast growing, interesting vegetable seeds sown in it -perhaps rainbow carrots, rainbow beetroot, kohl rabi, or one of the more unusual kale varieties – something that you can’t get so easily in the shops.
-a dwarf variety of either a soft fruit cane or an apple or pear tree, depending on your personal tolerance levels
Use your imagination in the garden when picking plants and thinking about edibles. If you’re not sure your selection is safe, the Latin name, found on almost all seed packets, is the only thing you need to wring a chemical analysis out of Google – this is how I determine if an unusual food is safe or not, or what the risk may be. If you’re not sure though, please ask and I’ll see what I can find out. (All my science A-levels from donkey’s years ago still come in handy now and again!)
I’d like to hear from readers about your adventures in the garden. What have you grown successfully? What have you enjoyed eating? And what, if anything, have you reacted differently to when you’ve eaten home grown food as compared to supermarket purchased?