Monday, April 18, 2011

Homegrown - My top 5 favourite plants to grow

Liz, over at Eight Acres, got me thinking about what my favourite plants to grow in the vegetable garden are. You can read her top five vegetables for beginner gardeners here.

My top five has changed recently. Once upon a time I would have rated spinach and silverbeet right up there, but now that I've learned it's best not to eat them raw (my favourite way to eat them), I just don't have as much use for them. They're still handy for chucking into lasagnes and things, but not useful on a daily basis like I once thought they were.

So what did make my top five? As it happens, four of the five are shown in this next photograph:

 And here is the complete list, in no particular order:

1. Beans

Beans are great because you can plant them in spring and then again in summer to get a continuous supply over two or more seasons. They add a nice crunch to salads and stir-fries, but are also delicious boiled up and served with a little butter as an easy side dish that's toddler-friendly.

This year I planted a golden variety and a green variety, both from King Seeds. Both were nice, but the golden variety has lasted longer and produced more, so it's the winner in my books.

Green bean recipes

2. Carrots

One of the best things about carrots is that they have a nice long harvest period; You don't need to wait till they're the perfect size, just pick them whenever needed even if that means you only eat baby carrots at first.

I've said it before, but there really is something nice about knowing the carrots you're eating have come from pesticide-free earth. I don't even bother peeling mine, just scrub them down and eat them as is. And there is something satisfying about kneeling down into the dirt to dig up dinner, not knowing what size or shape of carrot you're going to get till it's above the surface.

This year I planted purple and orange carrots, and enjoyed them both although the orange ones seemed to do better health-wise. Most of my purple carrots have died off, while the orange ones are still going strong.

Carrot recipes
I find carrots useful for all the same meals as beans, as well as this easy Carrot and Apple Salad. They're also nice eaten raw with a creamy dip like guacamole or queso.

3. Cherry tomatoes

Cherry tomatoes are so expensive to buy, but so easy to grow. And they're popular with kids and adults alike. In fact, they're a great way to get kids interested in the garden. L was quick to learn where the yummy red tomatoes came from, and would help herself while I hung out washing or picked other produce from the garden.

This year I planted a number of Sweet 100s, bought from my local Palmers Garden Centre. I initially started growing a whole variety of plants from King Seeds packets, but we were too late moving to Wellington and I realised I was going to miss the season if I didn't plant store-bought seedlings instead.

Cherry tomato recipes
I usually throw my cherry tomatoes into salads, but if you've got plenty to spare they can also be used in cooked dishes such as:

4. Zucchinis

What a prolific producer the zucchini plant is. With one or more of these growing in your garden, you'll always having a vegetable to cook up for dinner.

I've yet to run into the problem that some of my gardening friends have had of growing too many zucchinis. If I have excess, I simply grate them up and freeze them for later use. When my zucchinis are growing well, I make sure I use them for baking as well as for dinners.

This year I planted two golden zucchinis and two green zucchinis, both from King Seeds. The green did a lot better than the gold for some reason, producing more, bigger and healthier zucchinis.

Zucchini recipes

5. Rosemary

If I could only grow one herb, it would be rosemary. That's because you plant it once, and it seems you've got it for life.

Rosemary recipes
I love the aroma of rosemary and often use it as a simple garnish on roast vegetables. I also use it to season roast chickens by simply placing a few sprigs inside the chicken along with a whole peeled onion or two lemon halves before cooking.

So that's my list of favourites. What are your top five must-grow plants? I'd love to hear from you.


  1. I know this is an old post, but I have to tell you that you've inspired me to grow zucchini this year. Must find room for it!

  2. Hey Gwen, zucchini is awesome. Give yourself a big spot on its own planted on a mound so the leaves can sprawl out. If you like you can plant 3 radishes at its base to help keep bugs away, but other than that it prefers to keep its own company.
    Good luck with the garden. Paul told me you're getting into it!


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