Seasonal Produce Led To Good Health For This Grower

Get inspired to grow your own food, even through the winter months, with a little help from Arkansas-based gardener Becky Porter.

by Phillip Mlynar
PHOTO: Becky Porter

Becky Porter is a staunch advocate for taking control of mealtime by growing seasonal produce. Based in Arkansas, she tends a more than 3000-square-foot garden that produces enough in the way of fruit and vegetables to feed her family throughout the year.

She also calls herself “a sucker for colorful produce.” You’ll find her plot brimming with purple Molly Magic potatoes, Chinese pink celery and black Nebula carrots—a vibrant selection of vegetables that she also turns into eye-catching food art on her Instagram account.

We spoke to Porter about why you should consider growing seasonal produce at home, how your garden can prosper through the winter months, and the inspiration behind her food art.

Grow Seasonal to Stay Healthy

Porter was inspired to begin growing her own produce after tasting some strawberries her mom grew. But it was the onset of chronic stomach pains and vicious acid reflux that she vowed to “take more responsibility for my health and ownership over what I was eating.” To that end, Porter vowed to cut out processed food and grow the majority of the vegetables her family ate.

“After a few years of living this way, the health issues I was dealing with almost entirely disappeared,” she says.

The Importance of Eating Seasonally

“Seasonal” has become a buzzword we hear all the time these days, but what are the genuine benefits of eating this way? According to Porter, seasonal produce has higher nutritional value and also packs way more punch in the way of flavor.

“Another important aspect to consider with seasonal eating is it allows you to eat locally and from your garden all year,” she adds. “Sourcing food closer to home is better for the environment, supports local farmers and reduces food waste.”

How to Embrace the Winter Months

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The pantry is officially at it’s peak! I still have a few more things to make but this is the tipping point where we start to empty shelves faster than I fill them. . Even though it may look like a lot, this will all be pretty much empty by spring. We try and eat as much from the garden as possible and don’t buy vegetables from the store anymore. . Most of this was grown in my garden which is less than a quarter acre! Apples, grapes, and pears came from local farmers and then was preserved. . I just say that because I want you to know it’s totally doable even on a small property. I hope it inspires others who want to homestead too! You can start homesteading even with just a small space!!?

A post shared by Becky Porter | Blogger??‍? (@theseasonalhomestead) on

Summer is a bountiful time for homegrown produce, but how can you stay committed to growing and eating seasonally during the frosty winter months?

According to Porter, it’s important to figure out what produce can thrive in your immediate environment and climate. In her case, sweet potatoes are a cold-month staple, as is butternut squash, which she stores through to spring.

“In addition to those, I have low tunnels filled with kale, bok choy, collards, Brussels sprouts, carrots and spinach,” she says. “Another important part of our winter diet is produce that was preserved all through the summer growing season. We preserve by canning, dehydrating, fermenting and freezing the garden bounty.”

Creating Food Art

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Taste the REAL food rainbow. I’m crazy passionate about real food, and no, that change didn’t happen overnight. I grew up on skittles, packaged bars, hot pockets, and artificial flavored junk. It wasn’t anybody’s fault, we just didn’t know any better. . As an adult it finally caught up with me. I was plagued with stomach problems, IBS, and acid reflux. Eating lots of plants, fermenting my food, and cooking 90% of my food from scratch helped me to start healing. . I was angry to be so duped by the food industry. What matters to many big name food conglomerates isn’t your health, it’s about ways they can hook the consumer into buying their product and making more money. . One way food companies hook us is to add artificial coloring to foods to deceive us. It cuts costs for them and lures people into buying it. . We naturally feel a pull towards brightly colored food because, in nature, edible plants which are brightly colored ARE healthy and full of nutrition. Our bodies crave nutrition, phytochemicals, antioxidants, and healthy benefits that come from colorful plants NOT the artificial stuff! . So my friends, (I’ll get off the soapbox now) just a little challenge to eat a little more of the Real food rainbow today, and everyday!

A post shared by Becky Porter | Blogger??‍? (@theseasonalhomestead) on

If you check out Porter’s Instagram account, you’ll see that it brims with colorful pictures of food art. As a professional oil painter with a Bachelor of Fine Art degree, Porter has always considered both gardening and art as “forms of relaxation and natural therapy.” Naturally, it wasn’t long before she fused her two passions together.

“When I create food art, I will usually go out and pick all the produce that is ready before I begin,” she explains. “That gives me an idea of what color scheme and shapes I’m working with, and then I create something out of it. After that, it usually takes about an hour to complete.”

Start Growing Seasonal Produce Today

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My photo isn’t even doing this pink celery justice it is so beautiful! . So the real question is : how does it compare to regular celery? . First it is way easier to grow! I had lots germinate, then I transplanted them and they did great. The pink celery was slow to get started but finally took off once we got cooler temperatures. . Taste is slightly different than the celery we are used to, not as meaty and juicy. The stalks don’t get as large and thick so it’s slightly tougher. . We’ve had them plain, in chicken salad, and on a veggie salads. When it’s with something I just think it tastes like normal celery. For how much easier they are to grow it’s definitely going in my 2020 garden too! Next time I’m going to grow more!

A post shared by Becky Porter | Blogger??‍? (@theseasonalhomestead) on

If you’ve considered starting a small produce garden but haven’t quite gotten around to it, Porter says the best motivation is to take the plunge and “just start!” She advises making a list of some favorite fruits and vegetables and doing some light research to learn how best to plant them.

“Plants by nature want to set fruit and seeds in order to ensure they go on another generation,” she says. “A beginning gardener can take comfort in that fact and know that no matter what they do—right or wrong—the plant has a natural propensity to want to grow and produce fruit.”

Follow Becky Porter over at Instagram.

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