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Growing versus buying! Which is better?

Published 10 March 2015 by

Growing your own is not only hugely satisfying, it also allows you to take control of your food. You have the pleasure of planting it, nurturing it and watching it grow. Then, when it’s ripe and ready to eat, picking it and popping it into your mouth whist it’s at its freshest.

But, why should you even bother, the veg on the supermarket shelf is fine, right? Well, yes, it is, but here are some of the main advantages to growing your own. Read through them and make up your own mind!

Costs less – this has to be one of the biggest motivators for people starting to grow their own – it’s clearly much, much cheaper than buying. This is particularly true if you’re buying prepared veggies, as they are sold at an even higher premium. So a 500g packet of organic peas is £3.50 and from that packet you can choose to sprout 200g, so you get the super nutrition, grow 200gms into baby green peas shoots and let the rest grow into mature plants, that’ll give you peas fresh from the pod until September.

Ready when you are – fancy a crisp, fresh salad for your tea? Forget driving to the shops, battling for what you want and then queueing for ages. No, just walk to your boxes and snip off the leaves you want. In essence, you’ll never have a ‘what is there to eat’ moment again, as there’ll always be a fresh salad or stir-fry sitting on your windowsill.

No pesticides, fertilizers or chemical cleaners – being in control of what’s in and on your food is one of the main advantages of growing your own. Unless you buy organic, you can never be 100% sure of what’s been sprayed on your food or given to it as fertiliser. When you grow your own, especially if you start with organic seeds, you can control precisely what you give to them and minimise the amount of chemicals you ingest.

And the chemical clear-out doesn’t end there. Once the produce has been picked, it needs to be washed, ready for packaging for the supermarket. And, what do you suppose they use to wash it with? Chlorine, that’s what. Yes, you’re food is washed in a chlorine solution that’s even stronger than the one you wash your body in when you go to the swimming baths. Growing your own eliminates these chemicals from your diet.

It tastes better – The fresher your food, the better it’ll taste. Even the freshest of fresh foods in the supermarket are at least 24 hours old. That’s 24 hours of the food going off, which affects the flavour. So, what do the supermarkets do to keep the leaves fresh? They put them into ‘Modified Atmosphere Packaging’ (MAP). This is a technique where the air in the package of salad or prepared vegetable is replaced with different gases, depending on what the food stuff is. What this does is artificially keep the food fresh for longer periods, so that it can be transported around the country and onto shelves still looking green and fresh. Were it not packaged in this way, it’d end up on your shelf looking limp and a little bit sad.

However, there’s controversy about how safe this method is, with some researchers showing that it destroys the nutrient values of food quicker. So, if you can avoid foods with MAPs by growing your own, why not?

There’s more nutrition – as we said above, it’s widely accepted that as soon as you pick something, it starts to deteriorate and the nutritional value decreases all the time. So if your lovely, healthy baby spinach leaves are picked on Monday, but don’t end up on your plate until the Wednesday, that’s two day’s worth of nutrition lost. And, that’s one of the quickest times it’ll ever take. Many fruits and veg travel thousands of miles before ending up on your plate, like green beans from Kenya, for example. After being transported to the UK, they could end up in storage in the supermarket for a day or two before being put on the shelf. And once you’ve bought them, they might spend another 3-4 days in your fridge before being eaten.

After all that time, they’ll have been quite a lot of nutrient loss. Compare this to the 15 minutes or so that you’ll need to walk to your container, pick the beans and walk back to your kitchen.

Cutting your carbon footprint – if you grow your own veg and fruit, you’re reducing your carbon footprint by loads. As mentioned in the previous point, lots of food that can be grown here, is grown in faraway lands and then transported here. So, growing your own saves on that travel and allows you to reduce your carbon footprint too!

You get some exercise – doing the little bits and bobs needed to care for your plants, even if it’s just something really simple, is better than sitting on your bottom on the couch. And, as you progress to bigger and better containers, the more bits and bobs you’ll have to do.

Forces you to eat seasonal – nutrient values are not just connected to how far your food travels before it reaches your plate. It’s also connected with the time of year the food is grown. The reason why so much food has to be flown in from overseas is because we like to eat salad in the middle of the winter. Hands up who remembers the time when you could not get lettuce or tomatoes in the winter? They were summer vegetables so not available in the cold weather. Oh how we looked forward to the summer so we could have salads! Nowadays you can practically have what you want, when you want.

Growing your own will, inevitably, force you to eat seasonal, which should benefit your health. The Austrian Consumers Federation states that seasonal foods are higher in nutrients than those flown in from overseas, out of season.

We’ve only mentioned the most common reasons for wanting to grow your own here, there are plenty more online if you just type in ‘benefits of growing your own’ to Google.

So, have we convinced you to have a go at growing your own? If we have, why not have a look at our handy three step guide to getting started.