There are many advantages to growing your own food. Homegrown food is both healthy and delightful. Freshly picked vegetables have an unmatched aroma, crispness, and sweetness. When you cultivate your own produce, you eliminate the need for packaging and pesticides while contributing to increased local food supply.
What should you choose to grow?
For beginners, it’s wise to start with a few varieties. Some good basic categories include leafy greens, herbs, root vegetables, onions, cabbage, legumes, tomatoes, and cucurbits.
When you grow your own, you’ll discover varieties that are not commonly found in stores. Maybe you want to plant carrots but opt for a white or purple variety? Or you can complement your herb garden with purple basil? It’s worth exploring among the seeds to find something new and exciting.
Once you get started, a tip is to try at least one new plant each year. Perhaps baby corn, eggplant, or Asian leafy greens? Soon, you’ll find yourself with seventeen types of tomatoes and a smile on your face, ready to learn how to graft mushroom spores onto logs.
Extend the growing season
- Plan your kitchen garden with harvest in mind. Crops that develop quickly can be sown in multiple rounds, such as scallions, sugar snap peas, radishes, and leafy greens. So, sow both early and late varieties. “Thinning harvests” work well, meaning you can pick small beets, parsnips, and other vegetables to make room for the rest of the plants.
- With the help of a cold frame or greenhouse, you can sow earlier in the spring and harvest later in the fall. In late summer, it’s time to sow frost-tolerant crops like winter lettuce and Asian leafy greens. Some can withstand several degrees below freezing and provide harvest long after the rest of the garden has gone into winter dormancy.
- By sowing vegetables for next year’s harvest in the late fall and winter, the seeds get a head start in the spring. Consider spinach, lettuce, carrots, parsnips, or cabbage, for example.
Grow Edibles Indoors
There’s nothing more convenient than picking food directly from your windowsill. Surprisingly, you can harvest a significant amount of food from an indoor garden. A bonus is that your kitchen becomes an even more pleasant place when it’s green and thriving in every corner.
Microgreens like watercress, lettuce, and kale thrive on the windowsill. Herbs add a lot of flavor and nutrients. And a couple of garlic cloves in a pot produce aromatic greens to freshen up your meals.
Cucumbers are another kitchen plant worth trying indoors. We sow them on the windowsill in January and start harvesting in April. With additional lighting, the plants thrive even more.
Shoots and sprouts are delicious vitamin-packed additions to your diet. They just need some light at the end of their growth period. Some easy-to-grow shoots include sunflower, amaranth, buckwheat, and peas. Favorite sprouts include mung beans, lentils, broccoli, radish, and alfalfa.
Preserve Your Harvest
Store in a cool place
Fill your freezer with blanched vegetables, parsley, dill, and basil. Potatoes, root vegetables, onions, and cabbage can be stored in a cool cellar. Winter squash, with its compact flesh and hard skin, often lasts for several months. Many root vegetables can stay in the ground over winter until the frost subsides. Jerusalem artichokes, parsnips, and carrots hold up well, especially if you cover the soil surface with leaves or straw.
Beans and peas are easy to dry, as are tomatoes and herbs. Zucchini and kale make delicious chips. And dried apple rings are wonderfully tasty, especially with a generous dose of cinnamon.
Preserve, Juice & Ferment
Juices, preserves, and marmalades look beautiful lined up in jars and bottles in the pantry. Feel free to experiment with flavor additions like chili or ginger.
Fermentation has experienced a well-deserved renaissance. It’s a brilliant way to preserve cabbage, carrots, beets, and cucumbers. Plus, the lactic acid bacteria are a powerhouse for gut health.
Author: Johanna Damm
Fact checked by Erik Hoekstra
Latest updated 2023-12-30