Since 1990, there have been 363 outbreaks of food-borne illness linked to
various leafy greens, including iceberg lettuce, romaine, and spinach, causing
13,568 cases of illness. This statistic comes from a study published in 2009 by
the Center for Science in the Public Interest identifying the sources of
outbreaks of food-borne illness.
Leafy greens are some of the most nutritious foods you can eat, especially dark
green varieties such as spinach and kale. They contain an abundance of vitamins,
antioxidants, and fiber. While the food we buy from the supermarket is,
statistically speaking, very safe overall, there are ways you can reduce your
risk even further.
Grow Your Own Greens
Leafy greens are some of the easiest vegetables to grow from seed. You can
divide greens into two categories (although there is plenty of crossover...)
Cooking greens: These greens have thick, meaty leaves that are usually cooked
before eating, and include amaranth, beet greens, bok choi, broccoli raab,
chard, collards, dandelion greens, kale, mustard, sorrel, spinach,. Swiss chard,
and turnip greens.
Salad greens: These are the greens you eat fresh, without cooking. They include
all the familiar lettuce types, including greenleaf, redleaf, romaine,
butterhead, and iceberg. Also in this category are spinach and spinach
substitutes, like Malabar spinach, as well as "gourmet" salad greens like
arugula, escarole, mache, and radiccio. In addition, many of the cooking greens
mentioned above are fine for fresh eating if they're harvested while they're
young and tender.
Mesclun mix is a combination of salad greens harvested when the leaves are still
very small. The mix usually contains some spicy greens in addition to the
milder leaf lettuces. In the supermarket produce section, mesclun often sells
for $10 to $12 per pound or more, yet it's one of the easies types of greens to
grow in your garden from seed.
Other Easy Foods to Grow From Seed
Beans, cucumbers, peas, pumpkins, radishes, and squash round out the top easiest
foods to grow from seed. Plant the seed from one packet of each of these and
you'll have enough nutritious - and safe - food to enjoy fresh, preserve, and
give away by the armloads.
In addition to knowing your home-grown food is safe from food-borne
contaminants, you also know what's been sprayed on it. Most of the vegetables
you buy at the supermarket have been treated with pesticides at some point
during their growth, and many vegetables contain pesticide residues. When you
grow your own food, you choose how to manage pests. In the home garden, many
pests can be controlled by simply hosing them off daily!