25 Best Plants to Grow in the Veggie Garden

Wondering what the best plants to grow in your vegetable garden are? Sharon Astyk shares her best bets.

| November 2015

  • For those trying to grow a large portion of their own food, growing nutrient-rich plants is a must. Find 25 of the best and tastiest crops to add to your garden.
    Photo by Fotolia
  • Sharon Astyk shows readers how to turn the challenge of living with less into settling for more happiness, security and peace of mind in "Making Home."
    Cover courtesy New Society Publishers

In the face of ecological and economic crises, living more simply, cost-effectively and gracefully may be the most urgent project of all. Making Home (New Society Publishers, 2012) by Sharon Astyk demonstrates that the new good life is within reach, exploring how to save money and use fewer resources in every aspect of our lives, all while preserving more for future generations.

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Making Home.

There are a million gardening books out there to tell you how to grow perfect tomatoes and lettuces. And that’s important — in my house, salsa is a food group. For those of us attempting to grow a large portion of our calories ourselves, however, tomatoes and lettuce are not sufficient — we need to either get the most calories or the best possible nutrition out of our kitchen gardens and landscaping. So I’ve compiled a list of plants, both annual and perennial, that I think are an important addition to many home gardens.

1. Buckwheat. Buckwheat is the perfect multipurpose plant. Many of you have probably used it as a green manure, taking advantage of its remarkable capacity to shade out weeds and produce lots of green material to enrich the soil. But it is also one of the easiest grains to grow in the garden — simply let it mature and harvest the seed, and the leaves make a delicious and highly nutritious salad or cooking green. Although it won’t be quite as good at soil building if you do it this way, buckwheat  can be used as a triple-purpose crop — plant a few beds with it, harvest the greens steadily (but  lightly) for salad (it is particularly good during the heat of summer since it has a lightly nutty taste  not too far off lettuce and will grow in hot weather), cook some of the mature greens, harvest the  seeds, then cut the plants back to about an inch, leaving the plant material on the ground. The buckwheat will then grow back up again and you can harvest young salad greens and cut it back again for green manure.

2. Sweet potatoes. Think this is a southern crop? Not for me. I grow “Porto Rico” sweet potatoes in upstate New York. Garden writer Laura Simon grows them in cool, windy Nantucket. I’ve met people who grow them in Ontario and North Dakota. Sweet potatoes have quite a range if started indoors, and more northerners should grow them. They are enormously nutritious, unutterably delicious and store extremely well (some of my sweets last more than a year). They do need light, sandy soil and good drainage, so I grow them mostly in raised beds with heavily amended soil — my own heavy wet clay won’t do.

3. Blueberries. If there was ever an ornamental edible, this is it. A prettier shrub than privet or most common privacy hedge plants, it produces berries and turns as flaming red as any burning bush in the autumn. I have no idea why more people don’t landscape with blueberries. Add to that the fact that they have more antioxidants than most other foods and, unlike other good-for-you crops, will be eaten by the bucketful by kids. They do need acidic soil, but there are blueberries for all climates. They are definitely worth replacing your shrubs with if you can.

3/28/2016 8:35:51 PM

Thank you Sharon, I enjoyed your article and had a laugh about the rhubarb :-)

3/11/2016 6:23:49 PM

I thought that this was a great article. I love gardening and reading anything about gardening. Anyway, just to share with your readers you can get a FREE copy of "Our Survival Essentials " during our FREE Promo days March 12th, 13th, & 14th 2016, So remember to grab your free copy during the next three days http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00I87QPR4?

3/4/2016 8:23:20 AM

#24 Jerusalem artichokes would be perfect if they had a taste, and didn't generate copious amounts of methane. #25 collards have to be cooked for an hour until they're not the consistency of rubber. I've switched to tyfon holland greens which cook fast and are very prolific.



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