We all know why eating vegetables is good for us, but what about superfoods? If the word “superfood“ sounds like a cucumber in a cape, think again. These are foods that punch above their weight when it comes to nutrient density. While buying a ton of these fruits and veggies is an option, you can save money and get in a little extra workout by growing your own. Here’s your essential superfood garden guide for Des Moines.

Berries

You can spot a superfood by its intense pigment, so it’s easy to assume all berries are on the list. Rich in antioxidants, berries help to protect the brain from aging and prevent cancer and disease. If you have a patch of land — preferably on a fence line — that gets at least six hours of sun a day,you can grow your own. Raspberries are a solid choice for Des Moines. But you can also plant a couple of varieties of blackberries that have adapted to withstand our harsh winters. Blueberries are another favorite that grows well here with a little special care, like making sure the soil pH is low enough to keep them happy.

Leafy Greens

Collard greens, Brussels sprouts, kale, and spinach are all superfoods. Packed with nutrients and compounds like carotenoids, vitamin C, and omega-3 fatty acids, they improve skin tone, increase collagen, and reduce inflammation. This is especially important for folks who work out! The U.S. Centers for Disease Control in 2014 issue a list of “powerhouse fruits and vegetables” that are nutrient-dense, and many leafy greens are on the list — even the often-mocked iceberg lettuce

 

 Like many crops in Des Moines, you’ll want to start your plants early in the seasonand take careto give them the advantages they need to succeed. Once you get leafy greens going, you can continue to harvest the outer leaves and have fresh greens waiting for you whenever you want.

Fruit Trees

Adopting a healthy lifestyle is a long-game pursuit. Apples are a fruit that have amazing benefits (reduce the risk of diabetes, aid in digestion), and they can grow right in your backyard. Cherries, too. It may take several years before you’re harvesting loads of fruit, but it’s worth the wait. Choose a spot that gets full sun and that you don’t mind being taken over. A healthy fruit tree will serve you fresh fruit and shade for decades.

Legumes

Beans and peas reduce blood pressure, help to keep unhealthy cholesterol in check, and can help manage diabetes. How’s that for super? Better yet, they’re easy to grow and can produce more than you can imagine. If you suffer from an overabundance, just leave them on the plant and let the pods dry. You can harvest them to make pots of beans later, and save a handful to plant next year.

 

Getting started with a garden may seem daunting, but start small and work your way up. Just like building a better body, you have to start somewhere, and it takes time to see the results of your efforts — but once you do, there’s no turning back.

Growing some superfood fruits and vegetables at home will save you money, give you a little extra workout, and keep your body fueled with the freshest, healthiest, most nutrient-dense foods around.

 

Francesca Singer is a landscape architect who is passionate about plants, DIY home restoration, and travel. When not writing, she can be found working in the garden, wrangling her toddler, or wielding power tools in Texas or rural France.