5 Delicious Snack Veggies
Don’t we all love to snack?
It’s not always because we are hungry, say the behaviourists who have studied the psychology of snacking. We snack to improve our mood (boredom or comfort eating), as a convenient on-the-go meal or energy boost (school and work lunches), and when socialising, watching television or sport. Enter snack veggies to save the day!
Recent research has found that millennials are more frequent snackers and that habit will most likely be passed onto their children. The global consumer insight firm Canadean found that 41% of those aged 18 – 24 and 44% of those aged 25 – 34 regularly snack between meals. Despite our best intentions, snacking is here to stay! But what we snack on makes the difference to our health, weight and fitness. That’s why growing our own healthy snack veggies can help reduce (maybe even eliminate) the consumption of chips, chocolates and other delicious but diabolical treats.
Snack veggies meet all the criteria of snacks – they are crunchy, sweet or savoury, varied, interesting, and easy to eat. They also appeal to the eye, especially the new multi-coloured varieties.
Cherry tomatoes have always been popular as a snack food, but now there are ‘currant’ and ‘grape’ types that are even more ‘snackable’, being extra sweet and flavourful. Small-fruiting tomatoes are quicker to harvest than the large fruit varieties and most varieties are suitable for growing in containers and even in large hanging baskets. Try these ‘Candyland Red’ is a new currant-type tomato. The dark-red sweet fruit is smaller than the cherry tomato, ready to ‘pop’ into your mouth straight from the garden. The plant is tidier than other current-type tomatoes and the clusters of fruit are formed on the outside of the plant, making it easier to harvest.
‘Midnight Snack’ is a new indigo cherry tomato that ripens to red with a glossy black-purple overlay when exposed to sunlight. This coloration comes from the accumulation of anthocyanin pigments, the same reason blueberries are blue and contain healthy antioxidants. The vines should be staked (an obelisk is suitable), which will encourage it to bear plenty of fruit. It is a quick-maturing salad patio tomato.
‘Patio Choice Yellow’ and ‘Sweet ‘n Neat Scarlet’ are both cherry tomatoes in the Simply Delicious patio vegetable range, while ‘Tumbling Tom’ (red or yellow) is a novel choice for large hanging baskets. Patio tomatoes are hybrids that have been specially bred for growing in small spaces. Plants are strong and compact, with high yields of up to 50 or more tomatoes per plant.
Baby carrots are another super-crunchy snack, and they are ideal container veggies, especially if the garden soil is heavy. Direct-sow seed into troughs or pots that are at least 20cm deep. Thin to 10cm apart. Use regular, fine potting soil, keep moist during germination and water regularly. Try this ‘Parisian Round’ carrots are sweet and round, ideal for lunch boxes. They grow faster than normal carrots because of their shallow root system and are great for poor soil conditions. They can be sown all year round and are ready for harvesting within 50 – 70 days of sowing.
Radishes are the ultimate slimming vegetable because they contain lots of fibre, vitamin C and potassium, and very few calories. Snacking on radishes rather than high fat or sugary foods helps fight hunger pangs but keeps weight off. They have also become more colourful. ‘Rainbow Mix’ consists of purple, yellow, white and red radishes, and ‘Watermelon’ radish has a whitish-green outer skin, but when cut it resembles a small watermelon with bright pink flesh. The flavour is mild, nutty and slightly sweet. Sow thickly into compost-enriched soil or use a good quality, fast-draining potting soil for container-grown radishes. Keep the soil moist during germination. Use the thinned out small leaves in salads. They are as tasty, but not as peppery as the radish root. Water regularly because radishes need to grow quickly if they are to be plump and crunchy.
Baby marrows (zucchini/courgettes) eaten raw are crunchy and delicious, especially when served with a herbed cream-cheese dip. Being low in saturated fat and cholesterol this is an excellent vegetable for low-fat diets, although marrows do have a relatively high sodium content. They are a good source of B vitamins as well as dietary fibre, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K and minerals. These easy-to-grow veggies need space to grow (1m x 1m) and plenty of water, which should be given around the base of the plant. Wet leaves become susceptible to fungal diseases.
Zucchini ‘Easy Pick Gold’ is a compact variety that fits into small gardens and even containers. The leaves lack spines, making the golden yellow fruit easy to pick. Fruit is ready for harvest within 32 days of germination. Sugar snap peas are a spring or autumn crop because plants do best in cool but sunny weather. Sugar snaps are a cross between the ordinary garden pea and mangetout, which means they can be grown as an ordinary pea, but are sweetest, juiciest and crunchiest if the pods are eaten just as they start to swell. Plant in fertile soil that drains well and water regularly so that plants don’t dry out or the harvest will be affected. ‘Sugar Queen’ is a bushy variety that stays compact, with high yields, producing 10 – 12cm pods that are tender and stringless.
Raid the herb patch and use herbs to make savoury dips that can be eaten with the snack veggies. This will satisfy the craving for salt and adds a greater depth of flavour. Using fat-free cream or cottage cheese will keep the calorie-count down.
Creamy dill dip
This consists of 1 cup plain yoghurt, ½ cup mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 tablespoon milk, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, salt, pepper and sugar to taste. Whisk everything together and keep in a covered container in the fridge for at least three hours before serving.
Sage and cottage cheese dip
Snip sage (or any herb of your choice) into small pieces and combine 1 – 3 teaspoons with 250g cottage or cream cheese, 1 teaspoon mixed mustard, and milk or cream for texture.