The healthiest veggies

The smallest vegetable beds can pack in lots of nutrients ― and great flavor ― if you choose plants carefully

Test pepper

'Inferno' pepper is a prolific producer

Thomas J. Story

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First we heard from Hippocrates: "Let your food be your medicine." Then our grandmothers chimed in: "Eat your vegetables; they're good for you." And now, seed grower Renee Shepherd advises: "The more color on your plate, the healthier your meal is."

All of them are right: as you eat higher quantities of a wide variety of fruits and veggies, your risk of heart disease, cancer, and stroke declines. And when you grow what you eat, you can get incomparably sweet, vine-ripened produce that beats anything you can buy. Fresh really is best.

All this good news isn't lost on plant breeders, who are developing vegetables that are higher in certain vitamins and antioxidants, such as lycopene and beta-carotene. If you include some of their offerings (many are listed on these pages) in your vegetable garden this year, you'll eat healthier.

We polled plant breeders, seed sellers, and food scientists to learn what should go into a health-promoting vegetable garden. Then we talked with nutrition-savvy vegetable gardeners and cultivated our own garden at Sunset, including herbs to use as fresh flavorings.



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