The healthiest veggies

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

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Tomatoes. 'Health Kick' is high in the antioxidant lycopene, while 'Vita-Gold' was bred for increased beta-carotene. So far, most tomatoes bred for increased nutrition are saladette types (about 4 ounces each); they tend to be less flavorful than standard tomato varieties. Use them for paste, or mix different colors of tomatoes in a salad and top with a tangy dressing. Garden Candy cherry tomato mix has seeds for gold, red, and orange cherry tomatoes, but you can easily assemble your own blend.

Watermelons. Our favorite melons for summer picnics are much more nutritious than anyone might have realized: they're loaded with antioxidants. Rainbow Sherbet mix produces a good 4- to 7-pound fruit. The mix includes seeds for watermelons with yellow, orange, and pink flesh.


Broccoli. The vegetable that presidents love to hate is extremely high in nutrients overall, with plenty of vitamins A and C, as well as the antioxidant lutein. 'Shogun' continues to produce side heads after the main head is cut. All-Season Blend is a mix whose varieties have staggered maturity dates for an extra-long season of harvest.

Cabbage. It's the only leaf vegetable that stores well long after harvest, and it's packed with good things ― vitamin C, carbohydrates, and fiber. To save garden space, look for miniature varieties like 'Arrowhead II' and 'Red Express', which are the size of a large grapefruit at maturity. Among full-size cabbage, grow Savoy types.

Kale. One of the most nutritious leaf vegetables you can grow, it includes calcium, folic acid, vitamin C, and potassium. It's at its best after frost has sweetened it. Try 'Lacinato' (sometimes sold as 'Black Tuscan' or under the nickname "dinosaur kale"), 'Red Bor', or 'Winter Bor'.

Lettuce. Nutritionally, it's a lightweight, but you benefit from its fiber. Romaine has the most nutrients.

Mesclun. "Mesclun" means "mixture," so a mesclun blend can include any of a number of leaf vegetables, usually starting with lettuce. From a nutritional standpoint, mesclun's diversity recommends it, and blends that include oriental vegetables or mustard and kale usually rank very high on the nutrition scale. Keep plants well watered.

Spinach. Rich in the antioxidant lutein. 'Oriental Giant' grows on a very large plant (double the size of conventional spinach), and its smooth leaves are perfect for salads.

Swiss chard. High in calcium and lutein. 'Bright Lights' is colorful.


Carrots. They're valued for their high levels of beta-carotene (which the body uses to make vitamin A). 'Healthmaster' is especially packed with beta-carotene, and 'Nutri-Red' has an increased amount of lycopene. Sunshine Mix is colorful.

Potatoes. This staple is high in vitamin C and potassium. Potato skins are a good source of fiber. 'Yukon Gold' is a productive favorite, while russets have slightly higher levels of vitamin C.


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