For most, a “kitchen garden” may mean a patch of tomatoes and cucumbers in the summer and that’s that.
While there’s nothing wrong with cultivating the more traditional garden parcel, I’ve included three categories of plants that bring the garden into the kitchen (remember that sunny, south-facing window that needs some sprucing up?) and in my opinion, are often either overlooked or underrated. Pick any one category to start or delve into all three for a literal kitchen garden that can sow a quick and easy bounty in any season!
Here Are the Top 3 Plants to Grow in Your Kitchen Garden:
This is a group of plants you may have noticed at your local farmer’s market with the realization, “oh, that’s what was on my sandwich last week.” Microgreens are essentially the beginning stages of some of your favorite veggies: the stem and cotyledons, or those tiny leaf-like structures that emerge before the first “true” leaves. My recommendation is kohlrabi, both for the fun of eating something your friends haven’t heard of and for its unique, creamy-spicy flavor. I should probably mention that they’re bright purple and you won’t get that from their broccoli cousins.
You may be wondering what the advantages are to eating microgreens over letting them sprout into a full-size plant in all its glory. By harvesting the plant at such an early stage, the nutritional content stays concentrated, giving you an extra nutritional punch for a relatively low volume. Not to mention, they are very easy to grow and take relatively little time, space, and effort.
Other microgreens to try: Radishes, Arugula, and Beets.
Sprouts are unique in that they don’t require any soil at all, and the ease of sprouting is what really makes them stand out on this list. All you need is a mason jar, some water, and (in my opinion) some cheesecloth. They’re as simple as measuring out the seeds recommended on the seed pack, soaking them in water overnight, and then rinsing them every day until they begin to form tiny leaves. It’s really that easy! I leave the jar right on my kitchen counter, so I don’t forget about them and I rubber band cheesecloth over the opening to make rinsing a breeze. I gravitate towards mung beans, which are excellent in a stir fry or fresh in salads to add a little crunch. They’re also a nutritional powerhouse boasting an array of nutrients, antioxidants, and amino acids.
Other sprouts to try: Alfalfa, Mustard, and Kale.
Edible Flowers –
While a good majority of these plants are usually grown outdoors, there’s no reason why you can’t pick a select few to fill in that extra space on your windowsill. For this situation, I particularly recommend Johnny Jump Ups, and not just because I envy those violet-topped cakes on Pinterest or want to have a pitcher of pansy ice cubes. These violets will germinate better under cooler temperatures; place seeds in a bright garage or basement area to get them going. As if their cheery faces brightening a bed of lettuce wasn’t enough, violets can assist in helping prevent the appearance of varicose veins.
Other edible flowers to try: Borage, Nasturtiums, and Calendula.
A Few Tips on Cultivation:
If you don’t have access to a windowsill or shelf in direct sunlight you may find some of these methods a bit tricky. Grow lights are an excellent solution to getting an extra boost of brightness to your plants and are available at most big box stores. They are sold as long bulbs that can bolt to the bottom of a shelf to a simple clip-on fixture. For microgreens and edible flowers, also consider a warming mat to aid in germination. These are placed under the seed trays for a cozy environment for the seeds to come to life.
I hope that you enjoy your venture into kitchen gardening and that you give one of these plants a try. Tell me how it works out for you in the comments below!