This time of year, the worst feeling is that you have a cold coming on. Of course there are more serious maladies, but nothing is quite as frustrating and fatiguing as a bad cold; many of us end up feeling like we get a cold every month or so. However, your garden can be part of the solution, since the same healthy foods you can grow at home are the same ingredients that will help you battle the viruses that plague us all during the cold months. Whether you grow these items all summer and preserve them, or grow them indoors over the winter, keeping a great supply of them will keep you healthy when you feel your immune system is a little compromised.
Elderberries are pretty easy to grow as they grow wild in many temperate areas naturally. Choose a few varieties to plant as hedges or decorative landscaping. While this may not seem like an important detail if you're just aiming to grow ingredients for remedies, by having at least two varieties you ensure a better rate of fruiting. Aim for full sun, though some shade is fine as well; amend the soil with good compost and mulch for good drainage to keep the plants healthy. When berries are dark purple, they are ready for harvest. You're probably better off cutting clusters of berries instead of trying to pick individual fruits, since you'll end up with a sticky, berry-juice mess!
Elderberries are full of vitamins, and many cultures use a concentrated syrup of elderberries as a general purpose tonic to protect against illness. This syrup, made from boiling and straining the juices, can be added to teas, sparkling water, or even meals - try it on pancakes. The unprocessed fruits aren't tasty and are just entirely too sour, but mixed with sweetener and cooked down, their flavor is quite pleasant and makes for an incredibly healthy addition to your diet even if you're not nursing a cold.
Ginger is especially helpful for upset stomach and nausea, but the health benefits are also great if you are having cold symptoms. Sometimes, the feelings of being ill can also mess with your appetite, so ginger can be part of getting better in two ways!
Growing ginger from a nub of ginger root is simply a matter of finding a good sunny windowsill and planting the root in a pot with good drainage. Keep an eye out for the growth of new roots and leaves, as that's the first sign that your ginger is on its way to developing successfully. Let it grow for a few weeks, but after that, you can harvest a little bit at a time as needed for teas and seasonings. If you grow a large crop of ginger, consider harvesting all but a little bit of it to make candied ginger, which is a great alternative to other sugary treats and can make you feel better when you have a sore throat.
Lemons and Other Citrus
Growing lemon or other citrus fruits is a great idea outdoors in temperate zones, or indoors during the winter from small potted trees. Lemon is not only full of great vitamins, including vitamin C, that help you boost your immune system, it also offers a soothing addition to teas or hot water. While lemon is usually a little too sour to eat on its own, other citrus fruits like orange and grapefruit are great options for getting healthy fiber and eating even when you aren't feeling like eating much.
Mint grows plentifully both outdoors and indoors, making it the easiest item on this list to grow prolifically. The active ingredients in mint can thin mucus and phlegm, lessening your symptoms of the common cold, and can also soothe you, both upset stomach and sore throat, when in the form of tea. Adding some mint leaves to cold water, giving it a pleasant flavor, can also help promote hydration, one of the most important ways to fight a cold.
Carrots, Celery, and Onion
One of the most delicious combinations of vegetables is that of carrot, celery, and onion, which form the typical basis of the soup combo called mirepoix. When cooked together with butter or oil, then simmered, these become a delicious and healing soup, to which can be added many other vegetable options.
Growing these items in your garden all year round and freezing them makes it possible for you to have great, easy veggie soup at all times, but carrots in particular are good options for growing indoors over the winter in deep pots by bright sunny windows.
When you feel a cold coming on, take a multi-faceted approach: put a pot of vegetable soup on that uses whatever vegetables you have available, brew up a pot of mint tea with lemon, and make sure that you add some elderberry syrup and ginger to your teas and hot water whenever you can. With these strategies, you will be able to boost your immune system with great nutrients and antioxidants, all while using the full power of your garden to keep you healthy.