For several months in the year, the clinic garden produces soft fruit. From April to August pick-your-own is a daily affair in our house, providing super-fresh berries for snacks and desserts. Berries are some of the healthiest fruits you can eat being rich in phytochemicals and low in sugars. From September onward apples ripen on the trained trees surrounding the garden.
One’s microbiome will also improve as a result of eating fresh fruit from your own garden, as the bloom on fruits is replete with good microbes of all sorts, and one’s hand may well have some soil micro-organisms, all of which research tells us is supportive of our own microbial richness and function. A strong strain of research confirms that children who grow up on farms or with allotments or a garden produce patch have lower rates of allergies than those growing up more separate from natural surroundings, and they have more diverse microbial species in their gut, which is a ‘good thing’.
Another reason to grow your own fruit is that collecting berries from your own garden is healthy for your gut flora too, with many studies showing gardeners and farmers have a more diverse and robust microbiome. Another well-established observation is children who grow up in homes with fruit or vegetable gardens have fewer allergies. In all these cases benefit seems to come through ingesting the bacteria and yeast that are naturally found in gardens.
Table fruits like apples, plums and oranges have been selectively bred over centuries to be larger, sweeter and higher in water than their wild counterparts (think crab apples or sloes). These changes, it is argued, have made these fruits less healthy as the phytonutrients have been diluted and the sugar content has risen. Berries, on the other hand, are closer to their wild counterparts – packed with immune and anti-oxidant boosting goodness.
If you visit the clinic at the right time of year take a look at what is growing, and if you want to try some of the berries just pick-(a few of)-your-own!