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Paleo Gardening No Matter the Color of Your Thumb

By Stephanie Vuolo, B.A.
August 5, 2015
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Are you looking to save money on your grocery bill while following the Paleo diet? One of the simplest ways to reduce food costs is to grow your own food!

Although, planting a garden wasn't something our hunter-gatherer ancestors had to do, it allows us to reconnect to our food source in modern times by foraging from our own environment.1 Further, having access to fresh vegetables allows you to round out your Paleo meals at a moment’s notice, so you can get dinner on the table quickly. Grilling chicken breasts? Why not pair it with a hearty green salad straight from the garden?

Even those with a black thumb and limited space can have success with gardening by utilizing crops that grow well in containers and don’t require a lot of sun to thrive. I actually began my own garden exclusively in containers with partial sun, focusing on low maintenance crops that demand minimal weeding, such as lettuces and herbs. As I gained confidence and knowledge, I have been able to expand my bounty to Swiss chard, carrots, beets, and cucumbers. By utilizing my small urban yard, I have been able to continuously grow food throughout the year, including hot summers and snowy winters.

Here’s why you should plant your own herb and lettuce filled Paleo garden.

Herbs are a superfood, packed with important antioxidants. They might even be a better source of dietary antioxidants than food groups such as berries and dark leafy vegetables. 2 Specifically herbs contain a wide variety of active phytochemicals, including the flavonoids, terpenoids, lignans, sulfides, polyphenolics, carotenoids, coumarins, saponins, plant sterols, curcumins, and phthalides that either inhibit nitrosation or the formation of DNA adducts or stimulate the activity of protective enzymes such as the Phase II enzyme glutathione transferase. 3

Herbs are typically expensive to purchase at the grocery store and tend not to last very long when picked. Therefore, cultivating your own herb garden can be beneficial to both your health and your wallet. Our favorite, easiest to grow herbs are thyme, rosemary, and chives.

Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) is derived from the wild plant Lactuca serriola and was considered a medicinal herb, useful as a sedative and analgesic. 4 Once you discover the pleasure of eating fresh picked lettuce, you won’t settle for prepackaged leaves ever again. Lettuce leaves are edible at any stage of its development before it goes to seed, and fresh picked, young lettuce is delicious. Lettuce also contains antioxidant compounds, polyphenols such as quercetin and luteolin rhamnosyl-hexosides, and vitamin C.

Growing your own lettuce allows you to experience a larger variety than what is available at your grocery store. Seek out the kinds with the darkest leaves, as they offer the most nutritional benefit. The loose leaf variety is the easiest to grow and can be harvested leaf by leaf, and the summer crisp variety is the most resistant to bolting during extreme summer heat.

High summer temperatures stimulates plants to bolt as well as make them taste bitter, and strong sun exposure can burn their leaves. You can create shade with taller plants like sunflower and raspberry, or use cloth covers, and planting in containers allows you to relocate them to more suitable conditions. Fortunately, if you find the leaves taste acrid, wash and store them in the refrigerator for a day or two and much of the bitterness will disappear. 5

Get started with your own Paleo garden to experience an abundance of fresh herbs and greens. Now is the time to plant to get ready for a fall harvest.


[1] O'Keefe, James H., and Loren Cordain. "Cardiovascular disease resulting from a diet and lifestyle at odds with our Paleolithic genome: how to become a 21st-century hunter-gatherer." Mayo Clinic Proceedings. Vol. 79. No. 1. Elsevier, 2004.

[2] Dragland, Steinar, et al. "Several culinary and medicinal herbs are important sources of dietary antioxidants." The Journal of nutrition 133.5 (2003): 1286-1290.

[3] Craig, Winston J. "Health-promoting properties of common herbs." The American journal of clinical nutrition 70.3 (1999): 491s-499s.

[4] Marks, Malcolm K., and Stephen D. Prince. "Seed physiology and seasonal emergence of wild lettuce Lactuca serriola." Oikos (1982): 242-249.

[5] Drost, Dan. "Lettuce in the Garden." US Department of Agriculture Retrieved from //extension. usu. edu/files/publications/publication/HG_Garden_2005-16. pdf (2010).

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