Two guides for growing vegetable crops have been launched by Teagasc for anyone seeking to “grow their own” produce.
This year is designated by the United Nations General Assembly as ‘International Year of Fruits and Vegetables (IYFV)’, covering the theme “Fruits and vegetables are your dietary essentials”.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) Healthy Food for Life Guidelines recommend that people should eat more vegetables, salad and fruit – up to seven servings a day.
To support and raise awareness of the value of fruits and vegetables, Teagasc Horticulture Development Department will be incorporating this theme into its planned programme of activities throughout 2021.
With spring the perfect time to start planting, Teagasc recently updated relevant information and two useful guides available for the home gardener: ‘A Guide to Vegetable Growing’ and ‘Greenhouse Salad Crops – A Guide for Home Gardeners’.
The guides are free to download on the Teagasc website here.
Importance of fruit and veg in diets
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends eating a variety of fruits and vegetables that are in season.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are an important source of fibre and potassium, and reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases.
Prof. Paul Cotter, head of Teagasc Food Biosciences Department, said: “Plant-based foods and beverages, including fruits and vegetables, are rich sources of dietary polyphenols.
Consumption of plant foods is associated with lower risk of chronic diseases including cancer, heart diseases, type 2 diabetes and other inflammatory diseases.
“A large number of these biological effects are attributed to phytochemical components of plant foods.
“Moreover, it has been suggested that many of the beneficial impacts of these secondary metabolites on overall health is mediated through the manipulation of gut bacteria in the colon and their transformation therein by the gut bacteria present,” Prof. Cotter added.
Speaking about the horticulture sector, Dermot Callaghan, head of the Horticulture Development Department at Teagasc, said:
“Irish commercial horticulture has an output value ranked fourth behind dairy, beef and pig meat.
Noting that the sector had a ‘farm gate’ value of €477 million in 2019, Callaghan said:
Horticulture food includes: mushrooms worth €119 million; potatoes worth €111 million; field vegetables worth €78 million; protected fruit worth €43 million; protected vegetables worth €34 million; outdoor fruit worth €11 million; and honey worth €4 million.
“While fruit and vegetable production is an economically important activity, and the health benefits of eating fruit and vegetables are widely reported, and probably undervalued, it would seem logical that we all have a responsibility as consumers to ensure the long-term viability of an industry that puts local, fresh, top quality vegetables on the supermarket shelf.
“It is essential to show support for locally grown food to ensure shorter supply chains, and high product quality, and support sustainably grown food which matches production practices with local conditions,” Callaghan concluded.