How to Grow Lycopene-Rich Foods in Your Garden

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What is lycopene?

Lycopene is one of the most sought after antioxidant in fruits and vegetables. While few people may never have heard of the word ‘lycopene,’ it plays an important role in these fruits and vegetables. Although lycopene is not a vitamin, as a carotenoid it gives fruits and vegetables their characteristic colors – red, yellow, and orange. Lycopene is present in the plants for one main function – to help protect plants against photosensitization by absorbing light during photosynthesis.

How does it affect human health?

Health-wise, lycopene also plays an important role in helping to reduce the risk of heart-related diseases. It is also vital in reducing the body’s susceptibility to stroke, osteoporosis, and cancers – stomach, prostate, breast, and lungs.

The best thing about lycopene is that it can be taken in large amounts without any harmful effects. Lycopene is a non-toxic antioxidant and is readily available in larger quantities in some fruits and vegetables.

We live in a world where we search for the fountain of youth tirelessly. We spend billions of dollars researching on anti-aging products and its byproducts. Lycopene has also been proven to be an effective agent in slowing down the aging process.

Examples of lycopene-rich foods

With the few mentioned benefits of lycopene, growing lycopene-rich fruits and vegetable in your garden is a great way to easily get sufficient consumption of this amazing antioxidant. To help with this, here are some lycopene-rich foods you may want to have in your garden.

Tomatoes and Its Products

Tomatoes have been found to be one of the highest sources of lycopene. A better descriptive explanation to this lies in the fact that a daily consumption of a single tomato provides more than the daily recommended lycopene intake. More interesting is the fact that the lycopene content in tomatoes has been observed to triple when consumed in juice form or when cooked. These alternative tomato forms include tomato paste, ketchup, canned whole tomatoes, tomato puree, tomato sauce, tomato soup, and minestrone.

Watermelon

This is yet another fruit with high lycopene content. When in comparison with tomatoes, it was observed that watermelons have higher lycopene content in every 100g. Watermelons make an amazing garden fruit. They can be eaten fresh, grilled, prickled, or in a salad. Watermelons are not only a rich source of lycopene, but they can also be seen as a rich source of Vitamin C.

Papaya

This is yet another good source of lycopene. Although papaya may not fall into the ‘mainstream fruits’ category, it gives an incredible amount of lycopene. You can get the recommended daily lycopene intake from consuming just a cup of papaya daily. While getting your hands on papaya may not be as easy as getting a tomato, this makes it all important to grow them in your garden.

Asparagus

Asparagus is a good source of lycopene but only when consumed in large quantities. Unlike the fruits mentioned above and vegetable, you would need to add these beanstalks to your meals to complement your daily lycopene intake. Apart from fresh asparagus, you could also get little amounts of lycopene from both frozen asparagus spears and canned asparagus.

Grapefruit

If you are looking to have a citrus fruit rich in lycopene in your garden, then grapefruit is the sure way to go. Grapefruits are easy to come by and present a rich source of lycopene. Consumption of a single grapefruit is enough to get the recommended daily lycopene intake.

Guava

While this is not a conventional garden fruit, it can also be planted in your garden if you know exactly what you are doing – it can also be grown indoors. Often regarded as “super fruit,” guavas are known for their numerous health benefits. When in comparisons with oranges, guavas are known to have more than three times the vitamin A & C content in oranges. Lycopene in guavas can be obtained when eaten fresh, juiced, or made into jam form.

How to Plant These Lycopene-rich Foods in Your Garden

Tomatoes

  • Location – Tomatoes needs lots of space to allow for air and adequate sunlight. They require a minimum of 7 hours of sunlight daily. Your garden space and location should be such that can allow for 3 feet spacing between each plant.
  • Choosing tomato variety – this is very important if you do not know much about tomatoes. If you are uncertain which variety to settle for, try planting different varieties.
  • Seedlings – Unless you are a professional at growing tomatoes from seeds, you would need to buy seedlings from your local nursery. You would need to grow the plants to a height of about 15 to 25cm before transplanting.
  • Transplants – Place the growing seedlings in a spot with adequate sunlight. To get new roots – this invariably means more fruits – plant the tomatoes up to its first level leaves.
  • Water – it is best to give the tomatoes adequate water within minutes of transplanting
  • Compost – You can never go wrong with compost. Tomatoes grow best in soils with pH from 6.2 to 6.8 and use up soil nutrients quickly. Composting will help provide extra needed nutrients to the plant.

Watermelon

  • Location – Watermelons do best in gardens that are exposed to adequate sunlight. Its seeds grow best in warmer climates.
  • Choosing watermelon variety – Just like most other fruits, watermelon comes in different varieties. Ensure you are buying seeds or transplanting a variety you want.
  • Seedlings – Watermelons grows best in higher climates. Your garden soil would also need to be as high as 70 degrees at least. With this type of temperature, you can grow watermelons directly from seeds. At lower temperatures, germination of seeds is very poor.
  • Soil preparation – Use a tiller to till the soil to remove big clumps. Watermelons grow best in soils with good drainage. Watermelons also eat up soil nutrients quickly. For this reason, composting is highly recommended. It grows best in soils with a pH of 6.0 to 6.8
  • Water – Water plays an important role in watermelon seed germination. As the plant grows, it is important to avoid drying out of the soil.

Papaya

  • Seeds – Papaya transplant doesn’t do well most of the time, but seeds work exceptionally well. You can either buy the seeds or get them from previously grown papaya fruits.
  • Soil preparation – Papaya grows best in soils with good drainage ability. It works best in soils with a pH of 4.5 to 8.
  • Compost – Papaya can be regarded as very hungry trees/plants. It is ideal to add quality compost to provide necessary nutrients. Dig a hole, place the compost and mix it all up and then pour in some seeds.
  • Water – Ensure you water the seeds immediately after planting. While they do no need much moisture, you would need to ensure the soil stays slightly damp as possible.

Asparagus

  • Location – Asparagus may be a hardy plant, but it just doesn’t grow well everywhere. You have to find out if it grows well in your region.
  • Seedlings – You can either get started by planting seeds or starting off with crowns. Seeds usually take up to 3 years to grow. Crowns take about 2 years before harvesting.
  • Soil preparation – Till the soil and remove weeds from the top layer. It works best in soils with very good drainage.
  • Compost – After planting, it is good to place about 4 to 8 inches of compost mulches. Not only does this add nutrient to the soil for the plant to absorb, but it also helps reduces the growth of weed.
  • Water – Asparagus need regular watering to keep the soil moist all the time.

Grapefruit

  • Location – While grapefruit is not a conventional garden plant, it is very possible to grow it in your garden. You would need a garden located in the southernmost part of your home. This location allows for adequate sunlight access. It should also be at least 12 feet away from buildings or walkways.
  • Soil preparation – Grapefruit requires a soil that is very fertile and has good drainage. Improve soils by applying good compost if necessary.
  • Planting – Dig a hole that can comfortably accommodate the plant and the emerging roots. Cover the hole with soil and gently press down to help remove air bubbles.
  • Water – After planting, water the spot to help backfill the earth. You may not need to actively water the plant, but it is important to avoid drying out of the soil.

Guava

  • Location – Guava is a tropical and sub-tropical. It would not do well in most regions. It is important to check with your local weather listing for confirmation. You can start a nursery indoors.
  • Seed preparation – To break seed dormancy, it is recommended to place the seeds in a pot of boiling water.
  • Planting – You would need to get a soilless starting mix of seeds. Place the boiled seed in the middle of the nursery pot. Cover with the soilless mix by pressing down gently to fill up air spaces.
  • Water – The nursery pots should be placed in indoor space with warm temperature from 65°F. You should expect the seeds to germinate anytime between 2 to 8 weeks.

Learn more at http://gardenercorner.com/.

Sources:

http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/fruits/guava/growing-guava-fruit-trees.htm
https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/grow-your-own/vegetables/tomatoes
http://www.almanac.com/plant/asparagus
http://www.burpee.com/gardenadvicecenter/vegetables/watermelons/all-about-watermelons/article10022.html