The Mediterranean diet has been shown to be great for your health. It is also fun and easy to grow! The diet is heavy in fruits, nuts, and vegetables — all things you can grow in your own back yard or patio. That is a triple win — the freshest produce is the highest in nutrition, growing your own is cost effective, and it tastes great.
You may think that you can’t grow what they can grow in the Mediterranean region, but Zone 6 is at the same latitude as France and Italy. Their temperatures are more moderate than ours so some things we can’t grow without taking indoors for the winter, but this is the exception. We can grow almost everything right here in the Midwest.
Beets and turnips
Dates (needs to winter indoors or heated greenhouse)
Beans-chickpeas, fava beans, green, navy beans
Grapes and grape leaves
Oranges, Lemons & Limes (need to winter indoors or heated greenhouse)
Lettuce, radicchio, spinach and other greens
Nuts-almonds, pine nuts, pistachios, walnuts
Olives (needs to winter indoors or heated greenhouse)
Onions, shallots & leeks
Peppers-sweet and spicy
Zucchini and other squashes
Marjoram & Oregano
Saffron (stamen from a crocus flower)
Dates, olives, pistachios, and citrus are the only things on this lengthy list that cannot be grown outdoors in our zone without bringing indoors for the winter or spending the winter in a heated green house.
The key to Mediterranean eating is eating lots of vegetables, to plan around what produce is in season, the liberal use of fresh herbs, cooking with olive oil, and very little red meat.
So what could a compact Mediterranean garden include if you only have a small space?
Herbs (1 each)-thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano, and flat leaf parsley
3 basil plants (for pesto and seasoning)
2 tomatoes-1 Roma type for sauces and 1 slicer type for salads
2 sweet pepper plants
8 red onions
8 garlic plants
Arugula, spinach and lettuce scatter sowed
If you also have room for pots on the patio, you could grow the spicy peppers, zucchini, eggplant, and cucumber in pots (only 1 plant in each pot) and add 3 bush or 6 pole bean plants in the garden bed. Traditional bush beans would be lentils, Romano, Capitano, Cannellini, fava; pole beans-Roma, Helda, Supermarconi. Personally, I would stick with the beans you eat whole as shelled beans you do not get as much food per plant.
If you have more room, you can add almonds (yes, they survive Midwest winters), beets, chard, fennel, chickpeas, figs (grows well in a pot), asparagus, cardoon, chicories, radicchio, endives, broccoli, cauliflower, or annual artichokes.
For more gardening ideas, see my blog at www.VictoryGardenOnTheGolfCourse.com.