Alarmed by recent food safety scares? There’s never been a better time to start growing your own produce in your own hydroponic garden! And speaking of water-grown produce, there are some superfood veggies from the sea that not only promote health, they also are a delicious addition to home-cooked meals.
What is Hydroponics?
Hydroponics involves growing plants in nutrient rich water rather than soil. It may be the future of farming since land and chemicals are not needed, 80% less water is used (compared to traditional agriculture), and plants can grow twice as fast. Water plants do so naturally, but terrestrial plants are also able to be grown in water with the addition of plant nutrients.
Getting going with hydroponics
You don’t need a lot of space or expensive equipment to grow your own hydroponic produce. There are many counter-top hydroponic units that are available online. If you prefer DIY, you will need an enclosed structure (greenhouse, basement, patio or deck), a bucket, garden hose, plant clips, 50-gallon nutrient tank, PVC pipe and a pH testing kit. There are many videos online to help you get started.
Your hydroponic garden should be indoors during cooler temperatures where you will also need grow lights for supplemental lighting. From someone who learned this the hard way, you will not regret buying the most powerful grow lights you can afford. Also, choose plants of the same height to grow together so that the taller ones don’t block the light from smaller plants.
You can grow a variety of nutritious vegetables, herbs and fruits hydroponically at home including spinach, lettuce, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, kale, strawberries, mint, basil and more.
Keeping your new plants healthy
You may find the occasional pest or fungus on your plants. Checking in on your plants regularly is not only fun – leaves can double in size overnight – it will allow you to literally nip any leaves that are not perfect, in the bud. Removing infected leaves is usually all that is needed to keep your plants in great growing shape.
While it’s fun to try and find out how tall your plants will grow – do harvest them often. It’s good for them and you will have regular tasty and fresh additions to your meals.
Superfood veggies from the sea
Oceans offer an untapped potential for health and wellness and certain superfoods do not need to grow in soil to be good for your health. Whether you are fighting the common cold, or wanting to turn back time on those wrinkles, seaweed, sea moss and sea lettuce are three oceanic vegetables that have you covered when it comes to promoting health, longevity and sustainability.
There are many types of seaweeds that grow in the ocean that are highly nutritious and that have long been consumed because of their association with longevity, beauty and health.
Seaweeds are also some of the most nutrient-packed foods you will encounter, and contain fiber and other naturally occurring substances that benefit cholesterol levels and possess anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties as well.
A rich source of several vitamins, including vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids), vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, and B vitamins, seaweeds also offer varying levels of protein depending on type of seaweed you consume. Red seaweed has the most, with up to 50 grams of protein per 3.5 ounces of nori.
Carrageenan, an ingredient found in red seaweed may be the most valuable seaweed nutrient. Because of its gelling, thickening and stabilizing properties, carrageenan, a natural, plant fiber from red seaweed is an important ingredient used in many foods including yogurt, ice cream, sour cream, cottage cheese, infant formula, coffee beverages, creamers and nutritional drinks. Human clinical research suggests carrageenan may play a role in lowering cholesterol, reducing inflammation and fighting colds and viruses.
Seaweed + Butter = Taste sensation
Fans of fine dining are finding the seaweed and butter in the form of seaweed butter are a taste marriage made in heaven.
Seaweed butter is not only popping up on more restaurant menus, one of the world’s leading chefs has made a seaweed butter marinated Charlotte potato the centerpiece of the menu at her two-Michelin-starred restaurant.
There are many videos online that will guide you through making your own seaweed butter at home. With each sounding more delicious than the next, the most difficult part will be to choose which one to make first.
Sea lettuce is a kind of aquatic plant that can be found around the world. It has many health benefits including aiding in weight loss (100 grams of sea lettuce contains 130 calories, is high in fiber and low in fat). The high soluble fiber content of sea lettuce also slows down the rate at which food is digested, helping to balance and regulate the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream.
Sea lettuce can be added to broth along with vegetables, miso and tofu to make a delicious Japanese soup. When soaked and cooked with beans, the minerals and salt content of sea lettuce makes it easier to digest the beans. Once dried it becomes very flaky in texture and makes for a great topping for foods.
Known as ogonori, sea moss is a source of collagen and a critical building block for youthful skin. As a person ages, their body produces less collagen, which leads to wrinkles so consuming ogonori could buy your skin more time.
Other health benefits include being a good source of iodine, which is important for the proper functioning of the thyroid gland; reducing inflammation; optimizing the immune system (it’s loaded with vitamin C); and bolstering the body with fiber to avoid constipation. Ogonori is typically eaten cold and tossed into a soup or salad.
Good for People and Planet
It’s good to know that the ocean superfoods are good for both people and planet. Seaweed farms can produce 17 times the protein of a livestock farm with no fuel, no fertilizer, no freshwater, and no land. Seaweed sequesters nitrogen, phosphorus, and carbon, meaning seaweed farms are carbon negative – they improve the environment.
As an example, carrageenan-containing seaweeds are sustainably harvested and readily available, employing 75,000 family seaweed farmers in developing economies around the world.
Seaweed farming to produce carrageenan has improved the health of the oceans and helped lift families out of poverty and improved the economic well-being and social fabric of thousands of communities in countries across Southeast Asia and Africa. In Zanzibar farming seaweed has become an empowering and liberating force for women.
Biography: Gail Barnes, Ph.D., is a technology, food and sustainability expert who has consulted with companies worldwide on product sustainability innovation with composting and recycling strategies, as well as navigating food safety and regulatory processes and procedures and advising on consumer insights and evolving trends. She began her career as a high school teacher, and her corporate career with Unilever in South Africa. Barnes’ passion for sustainability and the environment has led to her work in several global environmental initiatives. Her career has helped her gain insight on industry technology issues and consumer trends and education practices. South African born and educated, Barnes is multilingual and holds a master of science degree in biology and a Ph.D. in applied chemistry – food science from the University of Natal. She earned her master of business leadership from the School of Business Leadership at the University of South Africa.