Thursday, April 30, 2020

Connecting with Nature: Grow Herbs & Veggies

by Dr. Leena Athparia, ND, AAWC

Cultivation has been part of the human lifestyle for thousands of years and in the recent months, many people are turning towards their gardens to become more self-sustainable. Whether it's fear of food shortage, the hassle of picking up groceries with long line-ups, the disappointment from online orders with missing or wilted vegetables, or the concerns of grocery budgets, ma
ny individuals are seeing how their can take matters into their own hands. While the idea of providing all the groceries for your family is unrealistic in a cooler climate like Canada, there are still many ways of supplementing your diet with home-grown produce. I am not an expert gardener but in this blog I want to share that its possible for anyone to supplement their diet with fresh herbs & vegetables that they can grow even without a garden space or experience!

Benefits of Gardening

Gardening is not only a way to provide food for your family, but it has added benefits of fresh, local produce loaded with nutrients & vitality and a beautiful way to connect with nature. Here are just some of the benefits to help motivate you:

  • Connection with nature. Earth element is one of the 5 foundations of this existence. Spending time with the earth has a grounding effect on your whole body & mind.
  • Relaxation. Spending time with the soil has a meditative effect and encourages us to be in the present.
  • Self-sustainability. There is something so rewarding about seeing your hard work bear fruit. It deepens our appreciation for what we eat when we are involved in the process.


If you don't have garden space or it's not warm enough outside, sprouting is a wonderful way to grow something nutritious and fresh at home without soil! Sprouting is very cheap and easy to do at home, turning grains, nuts, seeds and lentils into delicious sprouts that you can add to salads, sandwiches, soups or stirfries. They are packed with concentrated nutrients and full of prana  or life source. You can read more about the benefit of sprouting in this blog here.

Depending on the type of seed and size, soak the seeds for a few hours or overnight, then drain and place in a colander, glass jar with a net or a sprouter. It's best to purchase organic lentils, beans, seeds & nuts since they are more likely to sprout than conventional seeds that have reduced viability. You can buy sprouting seeds online or in health food stores: simply search for 'sprouting seeds'. Here's an example of a video which highlights 5 easy sprouting ideas with instructions.

Sprouting seeds or legumes you may already have in your kitchen:

  • Lentils (French, green or brown lentils)
  • Dry peas
  • Mung beans
  • Chickpeas

Additional ideas for nutritious seeds to buy and sprout if you like variety:

  • Alfalfa seeds
  • Broccoli
  • Mustard
  • Radish
  • Sunflower seeds (with shells)
  • Arugula and many more ideas
Don't forget, it is always important to wash sprouts frequently to prevent bacteria contamination or mould.

Growing Vegetables from Groceries

Did you know there are ways to regrow plants from vegetables you may already have at home? Instead of throwing out your lettuce stubs or onion tops, try saving them and planting them in water or soil in small containers at home. This can be an educational activity for kids at home and is fun way to see the veggies grow!

Top Vegetables & Herbs to Replant:

  • Lettuce
  • Celery 
  • Green onions
  • Garlic
  • Potatoes
  • Bok choi
  • Herbs: basil, mint, sage, rosemary
Check out this video for some more inspiration and this video to help guide you. Most of these can be started indoors and transplanted outdoors in warmer weather. For the leafy greens, you can usually start harvesting a few leaves after 1-2 weeks!

Planting Seeds from Groceries

The trend for buying and planting seeds has shot up incredibly over the last few weeks with many Canadians turning towards growing their own food. Currently, many seed companies are backordered and unable to turn out seed orders quickly. If you are waiting to order seeds, there are several saplings you can grow in the meantime by harvesting the seeds from your veggies in the fridge. Such as:

  • Tomatoes: simply slice the tomatoes or scoop out the seed pulp and place in pots under ~1cm of good quality soil or compost. Keep moist and in the sun and within 1-2 weeks, you will have tomato saplings! (see photo - these are sprouts from organic tomatoes at home after 2 weeks)
  • Squashes (ie. butternut): instead of throwing the seeds away, scoop, wash and soak them overnight. Then place in a moist paper towel in a clear container in the sun. Keep moist and within a few days you will see sprouts. Once they are sprouting, you can plant indoors in the soil and transplant outdoors in warmer weather.
  • Peppers & Chillies: wash the seeds and follow the same instructions as the squashes.
  • Peas: if you have dry green or yellow whole peas, soak overnight and drain. You can keep in a clear container with moisture, in the sun until sprouts start to form and then plant in the soil.

Further Resources

If you feel you still need some guidance, reach out to friends or family who have experience in the garden. Everyone starts as a beginner and like anything, gardening skills get better with practice. Here are a few additional resources in the community that offer free classes, webinars, documentaries or even seeds to encourage people to start growing their own veggies:
  • 20 Free & Inspiring Documentaries
  • Backyard Groceries: a sustainable local business that offers set-up and hands-on guidance on growing your organic garden.
  • Richter's Herbs: supplies seeds and saplings of many medicinal herbs and exotic plants such as Ashwagandha, Ayurvedic herbs, Curry leaf plants and other local plants.
  • Food Up Front: offers free seeds while supplies last to encourage people in Toronto to grow vegetables in their yards or balconies and share with neighbours.

Your chances of sprouting are higher with organic veggies. While there are many other vegetables and herbs you can grow this season, the above ideas are simply suggestions to help get you started right away with what you have at home. If you have never done any gardening, now's the time to break your shell and give it a try! There may be trial and error, but in the end, you will have fresh, local, organic produce from your own home with the benefit of boosting mental health and connecting with the earth! Speak with your naturopathic doctor for customised suggestions on nutrition and veggies that are best suited for your body type or Ayurvedic dosha type this season!

Dr. Leena Athparia
 is a naturopathic doctor at Naturopathic Foundations with a focus in chronic disease and health promotion with Ayurveda. She has a keen interest in Ayurvedic nutrition and lifestyle. If you would like to work with Dr. Athpariaplease call the clinic at 905-940-2727 to book an appointment