Introduction – Vegetable Gardening
So it’s April here in England. Because I’ve been away from home a bit this year the vegetable garden isn’t up to where it would normally be, in particular I’m yet to start growing seedlings which I typically begin in February. But hey it’s April. You can plant just about anything in April if you put your mind to it. So it’s time to get your hands dirty and grow your own veg.
This begs the all important question . . . What are you going to grow?
You can grow things for lots of reasons. For the pleasure of growing them, to save you money, to play with your kids or to improve your diet . . . Personally one of my main criteria is to choose things that just taste far superior when home grown. I’ve got an upcycled greenhouse, three small raised beds and a home built salad tower. So I can’t be wasting space on things that aren’t delicious.
Here are seven of my favorite vegetables to grow for superior taste (pedantic warning: there are a couple of sneaky fruit and a grain in there). All of them can be successfully grown in a backyard garden, given the right conditions and care. They can give you a fantastic yield and the taste of fresh, homegrown produce is far superior to what you’d typically find in a supermarket.
7) Salad (and lettuce)
If you have never grown anything before start with salad. It is incredibly easy, cheap and fast, and it tastes just fabulous. Instead of perpetually buying (then wasting) bags of salad it’s just sitting there waiting for you. For me the key to it tasting amazing is to eat it quite early and let it come again. Really spicy home grown rocket is spectacular! Salad greens and zucchini below are probably the easiest. They’re hardy, grow quickly, and don’t have a lot of pest problems.
6) Zucchini (courgette)
Every year I grow too many zucchinis. You think two plants can’t be enough for a home . . and then you are wrong. You fry them, you dice them, you make courgette soup. Give them soil, sun and water and they just keep growing. I try to pick them a little bit smaller than most people as this way they are super sweet and soft, nothing like the leathery ones in the shops.
I was skeptical when we first planted carrot seed. They are so cheap in the shops and I just didn’t think it was a decent use of our limited space. I was wrong, my wife was right. Our carrots last year were amazing. Watching my three year old son dig them up was a joy. And every time I ate them I revelled in just how sweet they were. I’d go for a baby variety. Carrots and eggplants (below) are a bit trickier, but are still very doable for a beginner.
4) Eggplant (aubergine)
The only reason I planted aubergines in my greenhouse a few years ago was because everyone told me you couldn’t grow them here. That first year I had at least 40 fruit off two plants. For a shop bought eggplant they often recommend salting the skin to remove the bitterness. That is not the case for home grown ones. They are just wonderful, and the plant itself has the most beautiful leaves and spikes. I pick them small while they are still shiny, and let a few go huge later in the year.
Here in the UK you can buy strawberries all year. The out of season ones that come from Spain in winter are just a bit nothing. They taste all watery. When you start to get the UK ones around May the standard improves a lot. Of course they still aren’t a touch on the ones you grow yourself. Our strawberry season only lasts a month or two here, but it is so good. I like to eat them on warm days. A large number don’t even make it inside.
Strawberries is a seasonal treat that, while taking up a bit more space and requiring specific conditions, can provide a delicious return on your investment.
Tomatoes are often the reason people get into growing vegetables. Tomatoes turn out to be one of the plants that we identify as really great plant for beginner gardeners. This is a little strange in that they take daily care and some serious loving to get them through to fruit. But then again they are just so wonderful, they are my favourite thing to grow. I love the smell of them on my hands as I pinch them out throughout the year. And home grown tomatoes are just fabulous to eat. They are so sweet, you can eat them warm from the vine and if you get them right they literally do pop in your mouth. You can see some of mine in my food waste explainer video.
Fresh sweetcorn is just EPIC! (Yes, I dropped an allcaps on you, perhaps my first). If you have never eaten sweetcorn within an hour of harvesting you should try it some time. When corn is picked its sugars start turning to starch. Something like 30% of the sweetness goes within the first day. You need to have space so you can plant it in blocks and decent sun, but if you have that it’s easy. The taste is just a world away from anything you’ll get in a shop.
There you have it. That’s seven vegetables I think taste far better when you grow them yourself. I know most things taste better home grown, but these ones really pop for me. How about you?
What do you think tastes heavenly when home grown?
I’ll write more on this topic later as I just adore growing things. But if you are looking for inspiration go check out Mavis Butterfield’s wonderful blog OneHundredDollarsAMonth. I am literally green with envy at the size and majesty of her veg patch. Have problems with pests in the garden? Take a look at our article on organic ways to eliminate ants for ideas about other pests.
I founded Shrink That Footprint in November 2012, after a long period of research. For many years I have calculated, studied and worked with carbon footprints, and Shrink That Footprint is that interest come to life.
I have an Economics degree from UCL, have previously worked as an energy efficiency analyst at BNEF and continue to work as a strategy consultant at Maneas. I have consulted to numerous clients in energy and finance, as well as the World Economic Forum.
When I’m not crunching carbon footprints you’ll often find me helping my two year old son tend to the tomatoes, salad and peppers growing in our upcycled greenhouse.