Backyard garden crops can power up your fruit smoothies. Any gardener knows the reward of plunking a homegrown fruit or vegetable onto the table, or in this case, into the blender. Minnesota’s short growing season procures a variety of useful crops ideal for smoothie prep. Consider strawberries, kale or basil.
With some planning, pest prevention, good weather and a bit of luck, smoothie gardening can be easy. Spinach, lettuce and other greens grow well during the milder parts of spring and summer. Herbs grow easily in pots or garden beds. Keep parsley and mint away from each other and never in the same pot, Karen Platt, Edina Garden Council (EGC) membership and plant sale chair advises. (Certain plant combinations grow against each other). A bonus for parsley growing is the plant attracts black swallowtail butterflies.
With their happy habits, strawberries are some of most reliable representatives of the berry family. They grow in containers, hanging baskets or in the ground. Allow space for the strawberries to spread, Platt says. Strawberries need protection. Bunnies, birds, chipmunks, squirrels and other critters enjoy nabbing fruit just as much as the gardener
“If you can add just as much vegetable as fruit, that really increases the benefit.” —Melissa Dvorak
Strawberry plants look as charming as they taste. Frilly leafed plants dotted with cheery flowers and ripening berries are decorative. Newer varieties sport showy pink flowers rather than traditional white. Aesthetics aside, old-fashioned strawberry cultivars have a proven record for bearing tasty fruit. Besides a vibrant taste, the red color turns smoothies into a pastel canvas of pink.
Raspberries are another possibility. These perennial berries grow “pretty darn easy once you find a spot they’re happy in,” Platt says. Blueberries can thrive with some experimentation. They require a specific pH level and sandy soil not naturally occurring in Edina.
Why go to all the fuss for a smoothie? Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and other fruits whirl in a cloud of color. With warm weather coming, it makes sense to keep in season with local ingredients. Tasty homegrown crops or farmers market items could go into the mix. For veggies try spinach, kale, carrots or beets. Vegetables pack loads of nutrients and fiber.
"I get more out of my day and more out of my life.” —Luis Leonardo
With the right ingredients, a smoothie serves as the ultimate meal on the go: portable, practical and pleasing. Flavors that go from sweet to savory cover just about any dietary preference. The prep lends itself to carefree customizing.
With one blender at home and another at the gym, Luis Leonardo is always ready for smoothie prep.
Smoothies fuel his healthy lifestyle as owner and personal trainer at Tres Sports. After mastering the concept of intermittent fasting for two years, he has more energy and fewer cravings. “I get more out of my day and more out of my life,” he says. A smoothie breaks his fast. “Well, do I really need that much food all day long?” Leonardo says. “The most amazing thing I’ve discovered is what the human body can do on its own.”
The Tres Sports smoothie becomes thick when blended. Eat with a spoon. For a different flavor omit peanut butter or sprinkle in some cinnamon.
Health Benefits of Smoothie
“A smoothie can have endless nutritional benefits depending on what you put into it,” says Emily Kaster, wellness manager at Linden Hills Co-op. “If you are putting healthy ingredients in it, I wouldn’t worry about calories.”
Take control and whip up a homemade smoothie, says Melissa Dvorak physician assistant PA-C at Fairview Southdale. Through her work with patients seeking surgical weight loss, she’s mindful of portion sizes and advises others to do the same. The ideal smoothie serving is 8 to 12 ounces. Most store-made smoothies exceed that amount, Dvorak says. Some exceed 20 ounces with a wallop of 1,000 or more calories. Liquid foods set themselves up for over-consumption because they lack satiety and the satisfaction from chewing. “If you can add just as much vegetable as fruit. That really increases the benefit,” she says. A tablespoon or two of flaxseed meal boosts nutrition with omegas.
Smoothie Fixings for Sale
Not everyone has the option for a home garden or a green thumb to make edible plants flourish. Luckily, fresh produce is close at hand. Edina grocery stores and markets showcase an abundance of fruits and vegetables, some locally grown in season. Harvest a smoothie crop in the aisles at the Linden Hills Co-op, Lunds & Byerlys, Jerry’s Foods, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s or Cub Foods.
On Thursday afternoons from June 21 through September 27 head to the Centennial Lakes Farmers Market. Talk first hand to the purveyors of Minnesota Grown produce. Be bold; try something new.
Axdahl’s Garden Farm provides Consumer Supported Agriculture (CSA) produce to participants weekly from June to October. The CSA’s drop-off locations at Lunds & Byerlys offer convenience. Cucumbers, strawberries, beets and other smoothie-friendly mainstays are features.
“A lot of our CSA customers are into juicing,” owner Leslie Axdahl says. “That’s why they joined our CSA to get more produce.” Greens, beets and some fruits are sometimes juiced before going into a smoothie.
“You could put anything in a smoothie you want. It’s just a matter of preference and personal choice,” Axdahl says.
Purchasing Smoothies in Edina
In a hurry for that smoothie? Let someone else do the work and purchase a fully prepared smoothie on the go. Around Edina Grabbagreen, Agra Culture and Good Earth whip up healthy blended drinks to order. Some have build-your-own menu choices that make the possibilities endless. The add-ons go beyond what the average home cook would have in the cupboard: wheat grass, goji berries, maca, spirulina, and whey or vegan protein powders, to name a few.
Grabbagreen smoothies are less sweet than most. They are “green and good for you,” Rocky Osborn owner-partner says. Smoothies are a quick and easy way to get your daily allotment of fruits and vegetables. Consider the “feeling fabulous smoothie” weighing in at 328 calories. The nutrient-dense blend of avocado, coconut water, cucumber, kale, spinach, lemon and agave is a very good option for meal.
Banana, Avocado, Peanut Butter Smoothie
1 ripe banana (frozen for a richer consistency)
1 Tbsp. peanut butter, optional
1 – 1 ½ cups almond milk
1 serving VegaOne Protein Powder
1 cup water
Half-fill a blender with ice. Add banana, avocado, peanut butter, almond milk and protein powder. Gradually add small amounts of water if needed to blend.
Spinach, Strawberry, Banana Smoothie
1 cup spinach (fresh or frozen)
1 cup strawberries
1 small banana
1 cup milk
Place spinach in blender with enough water to whirl into fine bits.
Blend in strawberries, bananas, milk and vanilla extract. Pour into two cups and serve.
During the growing season for strawberries, stock up on inexpensive produce. Buy in bulk. Spread on cookies sheets and freeze then place in large Ziploc plastic bags. Refreeze for quick smoothies any time of year. If bananas are getting too ripe, cut in half and freeze in zip lock bags to use in smoothies later.