Also serving the communities of De Luz, Rainbow, Camp Pendleton, Pala and Pauma

Growing antioxidants in your backyard

Roger Boddaert

Special to the Village News

Most fruits and vegetables provide some source of antioxidant value and can grow successfully in your garden.

One common trait in most high-antioxidant fruit is dark fruit, with a bright interior and exterior pigment color. Black-, red-, purple- and orange-colored fruits generally have the most significant values of antioxidants.

Most fruit antioxidants are calculated using the ORAC scale (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity). The recommended daily intake of antioxidants is between 3000 to 6000 ORAC units found in a three to four-ounce serving of each fruit daily.

The following is a list with information on fruits containing some of the highest antioxidant ORAC values to consider for your overall health.

Avocado – 800 ORAC – Avocado trees will do best in a full sun location. They require fast-draining sandy soil, and these trees should be protected from frost, especially when young. Three or four varieties planted nearby can give you year-round fruit and is a good investment for your garden and health. Avocado is a superfood: high in vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.

Citrus – 600 to 900 ORAC – Citrus trees prefer full sun with well-drained soil and enjoy feeding in spring thru fall. Our Southern California weather lends itself to having some form of citrus in our kitchen fruit basket year-round. Staging your citrus plantings, you can harvest lemon, orange, kumquats, limes, calamondin, pomelo, grapefruits, and Australian limes year-round.

Blueberries – 2500 ORAC – Blueberries require a fast-draining, high organic, acidic growing media, consisting of 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 ground bark, and 1/3 fast-draining soil. They are wide varieties developed for our Southern California gardens from UC Davis.

They enjoy the full sun but will tolerate some shade in the hot summer sun in the afternoon to keep them cool. They bloom traditionally in early spring through mid-summer with tiny flowers, followed a few months later with yummy berries. And I like to plant several types to have a succession of fruit for a couple of months in my garden.

Pomegranates – 3000 ORAC for Dark Reds – The cultivation goes back more than 5,000 years. Most varieties prefer long, hot summers. Pomegranates grow naturally in a multi-trunked, bushy form and are deciduous in the winter. They can make an excellent screen and even espaliered against a fence or chain link.

Their flowers can range from light creamy orange to dark red. These plants have many values for their beauty, diversity, flavor, and high vitamin and nutrient value. There is a dwarf type, which can be grown in pots or trained as a bonsai specimen. Feed two times annually, in February and June.

Plum – 1000 ARAC for red, black, or dark skins – The fruiting plums are an actual summer fruit to savor, and my favorite is Santa Rosa. When you eat it for the first time, you'll know what I mean. Plums like well-drained soil, and there are many types depending on the chill factor for your area; check with your local nursery what does best for your site. Again, I suggest planting different types to ensure good pollination and a long season of fruit.

If you have excessive crops, always consider putting them up in preserves or jams and have them on that morning English muffin with a cup of Joe. Pluots (plum/apricot hybrids) can also work well with your plum plantings. There are grafted three-in-one plum tree combinations. It's the new wave of growing these multi-types all on one tree due to the lack of space in some landscapes.

Remember, the darker the skin of fruits, the higher the antioxidants. Fertilize plums three times from February through June.

Olive – 600 ORAC green, 800 ORAC black – Olive trees are from the Mediterranean region, similar to our Southern California landscapes. There are ancient olive trees well over 500 years old growing in Spain, Italy, and Southern France. Olives are produced and used for oil and the cosmetic industry.

Fallbrook, years ago, had a thriving olive industry with thousands of olive trees planted by Frank Capra from the movie industry and had a pressing plant in downtown Fallbrook. Water three to four times during summer; if natural rainfall ever returns, they should be fine.

I recently attended an educational workshop on olives as a new agricultural crop for California, with folks attending from all over California. Understanding there is a vast marketplace, many growers are looking for crops requiring less water in the future. There is a company in Temecula that will even come out and press your olives at your farm.

The olive tree has always been a staple landscape tree that fits comfortably into the drought-tolerant landscape, and I incorporate them in my landscape garden designs. They look delightful in a drought-tolerant landscape and can mix well with other sustainable plantings for the future.

Grape –800 ORAC for reds and 1000 for black types – Grapes are a fast-growing vine and require structural support, so choose a trellis, arbor, patio timbers, or a simple post and wire system. Grapes follow two pruning cycles, and annual trimming is the key to grapevine culture.

You must get the grape vines happy in their new settings for the first couple of years and start good production when selecting grapes for wine or table grapes. There are even types of champagne grapes that can be grown. Grapes have become a valid and viable agri-crop in the southland but require knowledgeable and constant stewardship to succeed.

Give three to five deep irrigations and feed two to three-time between February and June. For those of you who want to plant a colorful fall grape, look for "Rogers Red," but with no affiliation to me. It's a rapid California native grape that produces many tiny grapes for habitat plantings; it has brilliant red leaves for fall color and is a knockout. If interested, I'll have some hard-to-find cuttings available in late fall.

Strawberry – 1600 ORAC – Who doesn't love strawberries throughout the year, from fresh berries with whipped cream, or on our morning yogurt, to Strawberry Shortcake. These antioxidant fruits are easy to grow in raised beds or even strawberry-specialized pots on the patio. Look for old fashion types to get some great tastes, and you might have to go online to find some of these types.

There are even some types that will produce throughout the year and are evergreen and fruiting. The small woodland berries in the forests are tiny but sweet and delicious and a joy to cultivate in the garden. Take the kids to some local "pick your own strawberries" farms if you don't have any planted in your garden.

Cane Berries – 2050 ORAC - boysenberry; 1250 ORAC - raspberry – Cane berries are vines with rhizome roots that will spread and should be supported by a trellis or a support system.

Cane berries need annual rejuvenation and, in fall, should be cut back to a few selected canes for next spring's growth. Feed a couple of times a year and mulch on tops of new canes to conserve water. I use worm castings and composted chicken manure on my berry plants to simulate healthy berries

Goji Berry – 20,000 or 25,00 ORAC: The Goji berry could be one of the highest sources of antioxidants in fruit to date. It originates from China and the Middle East and seems very drought tolerant. Caution is needed as it can become very invasive and needs some form of containment. It’s not picky about soils, but needs good drainage. I consider Goji as one of the sleepers and perhaps a new crop for our California farmers.

Stewardship for antioxidant crops: Proper tree and plant selection is vital to what you are growing for nutritious and wholesome foods for your health. The proper selection of types, water, feeding, pruning, and overall plant culture are some critical elements in any healthy plant care.

If you stage the progressive plantings, you could harvest some of the valuable antioxidant plants throughout your landscape. My motto is always to plan before you plant.

Roger Boddaert, horticulturist, landscape consultant, arborist, and garden coach, can be reached at 760-728-4297 or [email protected].


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