There are many choices available when deciding to plant a vegetable garden. Obtain seeds for the vegetables that you use most often as sides, in soups and stews, and in roasts and casseroles. The most important rules of thumb are:
- Choose vegetables you and your family normally eat, at least to start. Experimentation with new foods is fine later. Don’t forget to acquire seeds for vegetables that you will eat both fresh and cooked.
- Buy organic seeds, when possible, from a place such as HeirloomSeeds.com, to be sure you know what you’re getting.
- Compare prices from many places selling such seeds.
- Plant in organic soil.
- Remember that extra seeds can be saved if stored properly, so they should not go to waste.
My choice vegetables are able to be eaten either fresh or cooked. They can be stored for later use, if desired, and are versatile in nature.
My top 10 vegetable choices
- Carrots: Excellent eaten fresh, I prefer to grow short varieties. Try Thumbelina and Short n’ Sweet. Carrots may be frozen or canned for use during the winter months. They are delicious in a squash and carrot mash, in omelets, in fresh salads, these carrots are also tasty when added to a soup or roast. Carrots are also great in muffins and cakes. Plant these in spring, and at mid-summer for a double crop.
- Romaine Lettuce: This type of lettuce is great for using in fresh salads. It may also be used in wraps and sandwiches. Romaine prefers cool weather. Keep the soil moist where it is planted.
- Cabbage: Also good in salads, you can eat chunks off the heads for snacks and use cabbage in boiled dinners. The heads will last quite some time out of the refrigerator. Be sure to grow cabbage in fertile soil.
- Tomatoes: It’s recommended that tomatoes be stored outside the refrigerator. Use them to make sauces for rice, pasta, and pizza, dice them for chili, and can for later use. Great in salads, breakfast sandwiches, and scrambles, and many people enjoy eating tomatoes as they would a fresh apple. Tomatoes grow well with carrots or parsley.
- Zucchini: Given the right conditions, such as plenty of sun and water, these will grow huge. They are easily frozen by shredding and placing in freezer containers. No other preparation is necessary. You don’t even have to peel, simply cut off the ends. One of the best chocolate cakes ever has zucchini as an ingredient, and it also makes wonderful chocolate chip zucchini muffins and breads. This vegetable has a high water content.
- Celery: Celery is great fresh, in salads, and in roasts and stews. Nut butter stuffed celery is a healthy snack. It grows especially well and zones 5 and lower.
- Cucumber: The vines of this vegetable will take up little garden space when trellised, though there are also bush varieties. Eaten fresh or on salads, or in wraps and sandwiches, this vegetable does not need to be peeled. Just cut the ends off and you are good to go. Cucumber loves water.
- Peas: Another space saver, this vining vegetable can be planted along a fence for maximum space savings. Simply train them along the fence. Sugar snap peas are great placed, as is, into a salad or stew, and can even be used in smoothies. Peas will grow well in cool weather.
- Beans: This is another vegetable to train along a fence or up a trellis, or up bean poles. Use these in stews and stir fries. They will grow in a variety of climates.
- Rhubarb: Eat fresh with sugar. Make a rhubarb pie. Make rhubarb strawberry jam… need I say more? This is a perennial. My grandparents had a bed of rhubarb on their property when I was growing up. It was a treat to go out back and pick the rhubarb, and to bring it in and be given a small bowl of sugar to dip the rhubarb into as my siblings, cousins, and I were eating. (Update January 2017: Rhubarb dipped in sugar is a precious memory from my childhood. When we would visit our Nan and Gramps, Nan would sometimes send us out back to get our own rhubarb. We’d bring them inside and she’d give each of us a little plate of sugar so we could enjoy the rhubarb. I might try this with honey now that I’m eating healthier.)
- Know Your Vegetable Seeds: The Lowdown on Heirloom, Hybrid, and Organic Seeds (sustainablog.org)
- Quick-Growing Vegetables for the Impatient Gardener (treehugger.com)