Gardening Vivian | 02 Feb 2010 11:25 am

Growing Cancer Fighting Vegetables

Can you grow your own cancer fighting foods? Before you read any further you need to know that I am not a cancer expert but merely a gardener but from what I read you can grow your own foods which are supposed to help in the fight against cancer. However, I need to caution you with something that happened to an Aunt of mine. She was diagnosed with cancer in her liver and after seeing a few specialists she and her husband were so enthusiastic about how they were going to beat this disease with eating certain foods it was enlightening. It did not work in her case but that does not mean it cannot work in other people and in other circumstances. After all, we are all different. So with that out of the way what can you do to help yourself? Well the main vegetables you can grow are Broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower contain something called indole-3-carbinol. This is supposed to help combat breast cancer. Broccoli and sprouts are also supposed to help in preventing some types of cancer, such as colon and rectal cancer.

Apparently the more bitter tasting the broccoli the best it is supposed to be. Carrots contain beta carotene and it is though that this may help reduce a wide range of cancers. There has also been research that shows beta carotene may help cause cancer. Apparently you need to eat a lot every day though and I have seen it suggested that this needs to be as high as nearly 5 lbs or higher. Raw carrots are better for you than cooked carrot though. I have read that Chili peppers and jalapenos which contain capsaicin help against prostrate and stomach caners. My wife is convinced that I will not suffer from these diseases as I like my chilies so much. Garlic contains a lot of products which are supposed to be healthy for you. It is a slight anti bacterial and is also reported to help increase the activity of immune cells which help to fight cancer. It also appears that chives, leeks and onions may also help. Studies have shown that eating raw garlic can lower that chances of developing certain cancers compared to those who do not eat raw garlic. Other research has shown that eating green and leafy vegetables has been linked with lower levels of stomach cancer and kale is thought to contain chemicals which suppress the growth of tumors. Sweet potatoes are thought to contain many anticancer properties. One of these is beta carotene as found in carrots.

Tomatoes are becoming recognized as a super food with regard to cancer as they contain lycopene which is an antioxidant which works against something called free radicals. These are thought to be linked to cancers. If it is hotter then tomatoes produce more lycopene. Apparently lycopene is concentrated on cooking so use lots of tomatoes in your kitchen. I always have a glut of tomatoes in the fall and either make (and freeze) tomato soup or just peel, chop and freeze to use later in cooking. There are a lot of fruits which are supposed to help in the fight against cancer but I do not grow these so cannot offer any advice on growing them, but eating vegetables is generally thought to help especially with cancers associated with the digestive system. Please remember though that I am a gardener and not a cancer specialist so you need to consult an expert and carry out a lot more research to make your own mind up about the benefits of cancer fighting foods. Now for the gardening bit.

So how do you grow things? Well Broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower are all brassicas and as such more or less need to be treated the same. Brassicas are the only crops I grow where I compress my soil mix when planting. To do this once I have added compost I firm down the soil mix with my hands. This usually lowers to soil level by about two inches but brassicas need a very firm soil. After cropping has finished add more compost and fluff up the soil mix to allow water and air to work its way through the soil.

It is important to make sure your soil mix is firm and after adding compost press the solid mix down until it feels fairly hard. Make sure you have plenty of compost in the soil mix. Brassicas like a fairly sunny spot and apply Fish, Blood and Bone Meal a few weeks before planting.

Brassicas work well when grown in a greenhouse before planting into the mini plot in your High Density Garden. It is important to make sure that when you transplant your seedlings you place them firmly into the ground. You should be able to tug on a leaf and this should rip rather than the seedling pull out of the ground. Make sure you have a well composted mini plot when planting and watch out for slugs and also watch out for birds pecking at the leaves. You could try covering your seedlings with netting to stop birds eating your crop. Water well in dry weather and add compost as a mulch when your crop is growing. Another problem is caterpillars. I pick these off and put them on the bird table but you may not be as cruel as me. I just think it is a natural process and I am just making it easier for the birds to find food.

If you plan to keep your plants in the ground over the winter, you can add more compost and make sure this is firm round the stems of the plants. It may also be sensible to tie the plants to canes to help them survive harsh winter winds. Carrots are a well known and regularly grown vegetable and although we all recognize the orange carrot different colored varieties are becoming more readily available. Until the 17th century colored carrots were the norm and the Dutch bred the orange carrot as it was sweeter than other colors. I have also seen it said that this also represented the orange on their national flag. Your soil in your High Density Garden needs to be deep and fertile but I have no problems growing in my six inch deep bed but remember that these have the old, (and dug over), lawn beneath them so the roots can go down deep if they want to. If you have a bed on a hard surface grow short rooted varieties.

I have also seen that you should not grow carrots on land where you have added manure in the past year – again I have ignored this and had no problems. However, after your first year if you just add home made compost this should not be a problem. I would recommend adding Fish, Blood and Bone Meal a couple of weeks before planting. Pick a sunny spot.

Space in a 6 by 4 pattering in a mini plot ( that is 24 in a 12 inch square mini plot) and plant about half an inch deep. Whilst this may mean you do not get the largest carrots I find that the fact they are smaller means they taste better. I have also grow carrots at a spacing of 2 inches which means 36 in a High Density gardening mini plot of . You will find it very hard to plant just one seed in each planting position as the seeds are so small. I have just sown some carrots and I would imagine there may be as many as ten seeds in some holes. I do not worry about this too much although it is a waste of seed.

Once the seeds start to grow you need to remove the extra seedlings and I pinch off the tops between my fingers. The developing seed just withers away and dies. If you pull the seedling out you risk disturbing the seedling you want to leave behind. I have seen it recommended that you should thin carrots late in the evening. This is to try and deter the dreaded carrot root fly. Keep the soil moist which makes sure your developing carrots have all the water they need to swell into a good crop.

Carrots can be ready as early as 3 months after planting although at this stage they will be fairly small. You should be able to just pull them out of your soil mix as this should be fairly loose but if it becomes compacted then use your fork to ease the soil round them Chilies like a fertile soil mix and plenty of sun. They also like it warm so if you live in a cooler part of your country like I do, I suggest growing in a greenhouse or polytunnel. Dig in some home made compost before planting and also add a dressing of fish, blood and bone meal a few weeks before planting your crops.

As mentioned I start my plants off in a warm environment. I usually do so on a windowsill in my house and once the plants are growing move them to the greenhouse. They are still in small pots at this stage and I can bring them inside if it looks like frost as they are a very tender plant when it comes to frost. I may even plant them into larger pots depending on the time of the year. If you can plant them out after the risk of frost has passed then do so, but if frost could still be a problem pot on into bigger pots. Keep watered and keep warm. Protect from frosts otherwise it may well kill your plants. I stake my chili bushes but stakes are not supposed to be needed. Maybe I am over protective but I know I want a good crop. As my chilies are in a greenhouse they are on an automatic watering and fertilizing system so they are fed with the same soluble food as the tomatoes. This is a specialist purpose tomato food and I do not start feeding my chilies until I start feeding my tomatoes. Chilies are fine with this type of food. This is a high potash feed. I harvest chilies when they have turned red although they can be eaten green. As I dry most of my chilies I want them as dry as possible before harvesting so I tend to leave them on the plant until they start to dry. I pull them off with the stalk attached as I understand this can act as a wick when drying and helps moisture evaporate. If you are growing outdoors you need to keep them as dry as possible and try to get as much sun on the plants as possible at harvest time. Garlic grows well on most sites but particularly likes a free draining soil which is exactly what you should have. Try to pick a sunny and sheltered spot but I have found that garlic needs a long rotation period and should not be grown on the same spot twice in six years. This means moving it about a lot so just be aware of this. It is not much good moving to the next mini plot either as this may be too close. I have three High Density Gardening beds so I plant on the lines of at the end of one bed one year, the other end the next and them move to the second bed and so on.

Garlic does best when planted in the Fall or Autumn as it likes a fairly long growing time and seems to grow better after it has been exposed to frost. When you buy garlic it comes in bulbs. You need to split these into cloves and plant each one with the root area downwards. I make a hole to plant in by pulling my finger sideways across where I want to plant. This does not compact the soil mix as much as just making a hole straight down with your finger. Plant them about an inch below the ground. Buy specialist garlic to grow from a garden center or an online specialist. Do not grow what you find in the supermarket as this will not produce the best bulbs.

Watch out for birds trying to pull the emerging shoots out of the ground. Other than that keep weed free and water when they are dry. You should not need to water over winter but do not let them dry out. Garlic is ready when the leaves begin to turn brown and become dry. If the weather is fine, leave it for about one more week and then lift the bulbs and store on a wire mesh above the ground. This will allow the sun and breeze to dry the bulbs. If this is a problem due to rain, I usually dry them off in my greenhouse but you could just as easily use your garage or windowsill. If you do dry it in the house watch out for the smell. The site and soil for tomatoes depend on whether you are growing in a green house or outside and I am going to concentrate on what to do when growing outside in your High Density Gardening bed. You want to add plenty of home made compost over the winter before you plant your seeds and a few weeks before add some fish blood and bone meal and dig this in and let nature start to release the food value in it. I dig the soil fairly deep which allows the roots to penetrate deeply as this helps to support the plant when it is windy. Remember though the plants will also need support later on as they grow. You need to pick a sunny spot which is fairly sheltered. I always start my tomatoes off very early in January but I will be planting these out into my greenhouse. As you will be planting these in your raised beds you need to make sure that the risk of frost has passed before planting them out. Because of this, sow them about eight to ten weeks before you want to plant them out. I start my seeds off in a seed tray, (flats), in the house and they usually germinate within a week or just a little longer. After this you need to plant them into pots and I usually find that they have grown too tall in the seed trays. For this reason I prick them out into pots and do this so that I cover most of the stems. In other words I bury part of the stem. Surprisingly the stems will go on to develop extra roots which helps the plants grow even stronger. I usually buy a packet of seeds and there are always too many so I save them until next year and use the rest of the seeds.

Many people recommend that if you grow a bush variety you do not need to support the plant but I do just to be on the safe side. Cordon varieties which will need to be tied to a support such as a bamboo cane need treating a little different from bush varieties. You can often just leave a bush tomato to grow, but growing one up a stem usually requires a little help. You will find that tomatoes will develop a side shoot which grows from the joint of a leaf stalk and the shoot. These need to be removed. What I do is just pull them off by nipping them between my finger and thumb. Keep the soil moist and check every day. If you apply too much water after the soil has dried out your tomatoes can develop blossom end rot or even split. If any do split, remove them. I just cut the split out and cook with the rest of the tomato. You will also need to feed your growing plants regularly and I use a specialist tomato feed as these have been formulated just for tomatoes. Organic tomato feed is available but I do not use one, maybe I should. Harvest when ripe and pull the tomatoes from its stem by breaking it off at the first joint above the tomato. This is on the stem that holds the tomato and this point is known as the knuckle. The best way to eat is fresh, try them before you get back to your house while they are still slightly warm.

I love tomatoes fresh but they will keep for about a week if stored correctly. You can bottle tomatoes, can them, dry them (and store in quality olive oil) and you can also freeze them. Try chopping before freezing and freeze in bags in quantities you would use. You can also freeze them whole but they do not keep their texture on thawing which is why I chop them before freezing. I also skin them first. To do this just cut a small cross in the base and drop them in boiling water for a couple of minutes. Plunge them into cold water and then the skin rubs off fairly easily.

Ric Wiley is an internet writer and gardener. His website about High Density Gardening can be found at and his latest ebook is High Density Gardening which is all about how to grow your own tasty veg and who knows, they may help in the fight against illness.

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