Every winter I pour over gardening catalogs making my selections for the coming year’s growing season. I love finding new and unusual fruits, vegetables and herbs to try. There are, however, some edibles that I simple can’t be without and these make it into my garden every single year. Here are my top five favorite edibles to grow:
Zucchini. At some point every season I have so much zucchini I can hardly give it away because almost everyone that grows it has this problem. Prolific isn’t strong enough a word to describe the production you get from zucchini. A family of four can easily get by with only two zucchini plants. And it is this production that makes zucchini so awesome. I love being able to round out a meal simply by popping out to the garden and picking a squash. When picked young they are soft and tender and can be quickly sauteed with some onions for a delicious side dish. When they are older and their skin becomes thick they are wonderful roasted and stuffed. You can grate them and use them to add moisture to breads or press them into patties for some fried zucchini cakes. (Check out my zucchini recipe board on Pinterest for inspiration. If you grow it, you will need these). I truly miss this versatile vegetable when its growing season is over. My favorite variety to grow is Emerald Delight because of its disease resistance and our coastal climate’s problem with powdery mildew. It’s also a nice compact plant and doesn’t take up too much garden space.
Cherry/Sun Gold Tomatoes. There is nothing better than picking a ripe, juicy tomato directly off the vine and popping it into your mouth on a warm summer afternoon. Cherry tomatoes are my reward for getting outside and tackling those less-than-fun gardening chores like weeding or deadheading. Another prolific producer you won’t even mind sharing a few of these with resident birds. They ripen the earliest of all the tomatoes I grow and the harvest extends well into fall. I always have so many falling to the ground unharvested that there is a new crop of volunteers each and every spring. My favorite varieties to grow are Sweet Million, Rainbow Cherry and Sun Gold . It just wouldn’t be summer in my garden without them.
Basil. Like the smell of tomato plants, I truly miss the smell of fresh basil during the winter months. That strong, pungent aroma reminds me of sunny days and delicious meals with homemade pesto, spaghetti sauce or even pizza. I always freeze as much as I can but there is nothing better than a handful plucked straight from the garden. Of the many varieties to choose from my favorites are Genovese , Thai and lemon basil.
Cilantro. You either love cilantro or hate it and I can’t get enough of it. It’s odd almost soapy, pungent flavor works well in many cuisines. It is an absolute must for salsas and can even make morning scrambled eggs seem fancy. Its only problem is that it bolts quickly in warm weather, but the plus side of that is that the seeds it produces are the spice coriander. Successive sowing in the spring keep me well supplied so I always start with a large packet of Cilantro/Coriander Seed.
Radishes. The first thing I plant early in the spring are radishes. Why? Instant gratification. So many of the seedlings I plant can take days, even weeks to start to emerge. It can then be months before I reap any harvest from them. But with radishes you sow and within 3 days they are poking up above the ground. Less than a month after that, they are ready to be plucked from the ground and sliced into salads. Successive sowings every two weeks can keep me in radishes until mid-summer when I take a break. These are by far the easiest plants to start from seed and grow to maturity. Their quick germination and the variety of colors and shapes they grow in also make them the perfect vegetable to get children involved in gardening. My favorites to grow are French Breakfast, Easter Egg Blend and Cherry Belle.
Images used under Creative Commons licensing. Radishes