Living Well with Nature

A Low Oxalate Garden

Since I began gardening seriously in 2013, I have always been focused on expansion. How can I grow the most diversity of foods? How can I incorporate perennials, fruit trees, shrubs, and unusual edibles into my landscape?

Crabtree, and view of the Uintah mountains.

It seemed silly to me that there were so many edible plants out there that were being overlooked and neglected. And in a way, I suppose it still does.

But that is a privileged point of view, one that relies on the luxury of being able to eat whatever you want.

I realize this sounds a tad melodramatic, but I no longer have that luxury.

A Low Oxalate, Low Histamine, Low Fermentable Diet

Since discovering my histamine intolerance and getting diagnosed with SIBO (Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth), my health journey led me to realize that I also have a serious problem with oxalates.

That means that in addition to avoiding leftovers, most canned foods, fermented foods, beans, and many grains, fruits, and vegetables, I also have to be aware of the oxalate content in different foods and make sure I keep my consumption low.

Every day, I write the estimated oxalate content of my foods in a food journal and try to aim for keeping my intake to below 50mg.

But What Are Oxalates Anyway?

Without knowing the name for these compounds, you may know that oxalates are dangerous thanks to the common garden perennial and pie ingredient, rhubarb.

Rhubarb plant.

If you’re familiar with rhubarb as a garden plant, you probably know that its leaves are toxic and should never be eaten. Guess what it is that make those leaves toxic? The answer is – extremely high concentrations of oxalates.

Oxalates are a natural pesticide produced by plants as a defense mechanism. They are sharp little crystals that can actually hurt insects. They are considered a poison, but the dose is what defines whether it does serious damage or not.

To the average person with a fully functioning gut, eating a rhubarb and strawberry pie occasionally may not cause any obvious reaction.

But to someone like myself with gut dysbiosis that dose of oxalates is a real problem. Remember how I said I have to keep my daily oxalate intake to 50 mg? A half cup serving of rhubarb contains somewhere between 500 and 1000 mg.

A Selection of Low Oxalate Veggies

So this year in my garden, my focus is on planting mostly low oxalate vegetables. There will still be a few beets, carrots, and tomatoes for my husband, but the majority of our garden crops can be shared by both of us.

Pea seedlings.

Here’s my selection of lower oxalate garden veggies and herbs:

  • lettuce
  • bok choy
  • radish
  • peas
  • lacinato kale
  • cilantro
  • mint
  • chives
  • basil
  • lemongrass
  • summer squash
  • winter squash
  • melon
  • cucumbers

All of these veggies are easy to grow from seed. Many of them are cool season crops, meaning I already have the seeds in the ground at this writing.

Bok Choy seedlings.

As for the cucurbits, they’ll get planted after our last frost, while the basil is coming up indoors in a terrarium, to be transplanted into the garden after our last spring frost.

Basil seedlings.

I have had to reduce my herb and spice palate enormously on my restrictive diet, so it’s with huge excitement that I can not only use lemongrass as a seasoning, but that my first attempt to grow it myself has been successful.

Lemongrass and other herb seedlings.

I will admit, planting my garden from this particular perspective is not at all what I had in mind last year at this time. It wasn’t even on my horizon at the beginning of the year. Embracing a low oxalate diet is still a new undertaking for me, but I’m determined to keep gardening, even if it means I have to reduce my options somewhat.

Lettuce seedlings.

And in addition to the approved lower oxalate choices I listed above, while I deal with this challenging transition, I’ll also be filling the garden with flowers, lots and lots of flowers.

While I wait for my annual flowers to mature and bloom, I’m enjoying the blossoms on our fruit trees.

Are you a low oxalate gardener too? Are you also struggling with complicated dietary restrictions? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear from you.

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