Gardening can be thirsty work, so what could be better than sipping the fruits of your labours? We're planning to try to grow smoothie ingredients in our very own smoothie garden this summer. Plant pots with a range of fruits and leaves to start yourself on a homegrown smoothie adventure.
A truly versatile fruit tree, pears can be pot-grown as a standard (tree-shaped) or trained in elegant fans, espaliers or even 'step-overs' (just one branch high and low enough to step over), which make such a great edge to a vegetable patch. Making them especially tempting smoothie ingredients, homegrown pears have a thin skin compared to the tougher commercial varieties that have been bred not to bruise in transit. They'll add a distinctive flavour to your smoothie too.
These crimson-fleshed bulbs are easy to grow and delicious to eat fresh. Choose varieties wisely and you can have a supply almost all year round. Adding a deep red colour to a smoothie, their earthy flavour works well with sweeter fruits. Go for 'Boltardy' for an early crop (as its name suggests, it won't bolt either). 'Regala' is ideal for containers thanks to its small, golf-ball size even when mature. You can also use the young leaves in smoothies as a substitute for kale or spinach.
Don't be put off by the thought of slippery, tough green leaves that your granny might have served along with the soggy sprouts for Sunday lunch. For a start, the Italian variety 'Cavolo Nero' is not only delicious but tender, too. It has dark, almost black-green, spear-shaped leaves that look really striking.
Considered superfruits because they're extremely high in antioxidants, blueberries are best grown in their own containers as they need ericaceous (acid) soil. If you have space, grow several varieties to encourage a larger yield. If you go for an early variety like 'Earliblue' and a late one, such as the large-berried 'Chandler', you'll have a harvesting season stretching from July to September.
Romaine, also known as cos, is ideal fro smoothies. The juicy, crisp green leaves have a sweet flavour, and it's easy to grow, so try sowing thickly for a summer-long supply of baby cut-and-come-again leaves rather than allowing seedlings more room to bulk up into a heart. Direct sow from March and you can keep going until August. 'Jabeque', an organic variety, is a reliable cropper and slow to bolt, while 'Chartwell' is resistant to downy mildew and copes in hot, dry weather.
There are so many delicious varieties of mint, it seems a shame to limit yourself to just one. From pineapple mint to ginger mint, strongly-flavoured Moroccan mint to the more familiar spearmint, they're easy to grow and attract bees, butterflies and hoverflies. They're vigorous plants, so keep their growth under control by planting in a large plastic pot and sinking this in a border or within a container. Restricting mint's roots in this way will prevent it from overwhelming neighbouring plants.
For more information on the plants outlined above, and for our favourite homegrown smoothie recipes, turn to page 76 of May's issue of The Simple Things (on sale 29 April 2014 - buy here).