Gardening with Sunset’s Feel-Good Foods

Chioggia beets are an Italian heirloom beet first introduced to U.S. gardeners in 1865. (Image provided by Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.)

The January issue of Sunset Magazine features 10 feel-good foods for adding a little zip to menus for the New Year. Along with fresh sardines, artisanal tofu and bison are veggies like Chioggia beets, scarlet runner beans and quinoa.

The article promotes the feel-good factors of adding these new tastes to our diets, but doesn’t mention an added benefit: each of these can be grown in home gardens.

For example, Chioggia beets (pronounced KEE oh gee ya) are a small, pretty beet that can be grown just about anywhere.

Jere Gettle, owner and founder of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, has offered the beet seeds in his catalog for the last 10 years.

“They are so beautiful and taste so good, we grow them here every year,” he says.

Named for an Italian fishing village, Chioggia beets are good for spring, summer and fall gardens because they can take both hot weather and cold temperatures to about 20 degrees.

“If you live in a warm zone, you can grow them year ’round,” Jere says.

The flesh of these medium-sized beets is tender, mild and sweet and when sliced they show off their red and white striped rings. When grilled they turn a bright beautiful color to add extra interest to any meal. The beet greens are delicious, as well.

Like many other varieties of beetroot, Chioggia beets mature in about 60 days.

Gardeners can also grow scarlet runner beans, another of Sunset’s feel-good foods. Native Americans grew runner bean vines and used both the bean pods and dried beans for cooking. The flowers are as beautiful as any ornamental flower and the beans are equally lovely with their crimson color dotted with black spots.

Scarlet runner beans prefer cool weather and take about 80 days to grow.

Adventurous gardeners may want to try their hand at growing quinoa, a seed native to the Incas. Quinoa (pronounced KEEN wah) is used like a grain and is gaining popularity because of its gluten-free status.

Depending on the climate, cold-tolerant quinoa plants are started in early spring or in late fall for warmer climes.

One more healthy favorite is the American kiwi fruit. Loaded with vitamin C and potassium, kiwi is a healthy addition to home gardens–but only if those gardens are located in California.

Have you grown any of these feel-good foods in your garden? I’d love to hear about your experience.


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We’ve done the Chioggia and scarlet runners here in our zone 5 Chicago garden. Both are delicious! We like to wash the beets, roll them (still damp) in salt so some of it clings to the skin and bake them… the salt penetrates the peel and makes them yummy.

Quinoa is on the list for this year!!! We do Amaranth every year – it is gorgeous and we expect the Quinoa to be of a similar beautiful ilk.

Well, you’re ahead of the Sunset pack by growing these–and saving a lot of cash, too. Buying specialty vegetables at groceries and farmers’ markets can really add up compared to the cost of a packet of seeds. Please keep us posted on how your quinoa crop does this year.

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