Over the past two weeks, we have been playing the favorites game. In part one, we focused on naming our top five favorite houseplants to grow, and in part two, we discussed favorite flowers. In this, the final week of our favorites game, we look towards edibles. As with the other two categories, choosing just five favorites proved difficult-I have so many varieties that I love to grow. I have grown edibles on our property for 15 years, and over those years, I have experimented with many types of fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Some have become beloved “must-grow” favorites; others were more of a novelty experiment that I wouldn’t choose to repeat. But, all of them were worth growing.
To help me with my decision, I considered several factors. I thought about reliability, ease of growth (are they high-maintenance divas or toss-it-on-the-soil-and-it-will-grow types), and of course, flavor. My choices were also a reflection of my growing zone, past growing experience, and growing environment. Who knows? If I lived in a more tropical locale, perhaps bananas would be at the top of my list!
So, here we go; the following are my top five favorite edibles to grow. As always, please feel free to play along and write your favorites in the comments below. I would love to hear about the varieties you enjoy growing!
Berries: If someone told me I could only grow one edible in my garden, I would laugh at the ridiculousness of that request. But, if pressed, I would choose berries. And, if I had to narrow it down even further, it would be blueberries, 100%. In my garden, I currently grow strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and of course, blueberries. I love them for their relative ease of growth, perennial habits, return on investment, and, above all, flavor. In my growing experience, I haven’t had any other edible pump out a harvest like my berries. This past season, I harvested 70lbs of blueberries from 12 bushes, which won the harvest record at my house. And with the cost of organic berries at the grocery store these days, growing these edibles in my garden is well worth the initial investment.
Beans: Second on my edibles list would be beans. There is so much to love with the thousands of varieties and colors available. I love them all, whether bush, pole or dried. They are easy to grow, have heavy yields, and taste excellent fresh from the garden. I am especially smitten with the Haudenosaunee Skunk Bean; it is as delicious as it is beautiful. Beans will always have a place in my garden.
Lettuce: Lettuce earned a spot on my list as it is one of the easiest vegetables I grow. You can practically throw the seed down on the soil, water and walk away. I especially love the cut and come again salad mixes that give you bowl upon bowl of leafy greens from a single seed packet. Lettuce is also one of the earliest vegetables you can harvest, and it tastes divine after a long winter without fresh produce from the garden.
Garlic: I have been growing garlic for years, and it is absolutely a favorite. Planted in the fall, it is one of the first to pop up in the garden in the spring. Hardneck garlic gives you delicious scapes in early summer and bulbs about a month later. By planting just one clove, you can harvest two crops! In addition, the bulbs store well and can be replanted in the fall, making them one of the easiest crops to save your own seed.
Pumpkins: I don’t always have the best luck growing pumpkins; powdery mildew, cucumber, and squash beetles are frequent afflictions of my plants. So, I hesitated to include pumpkins in my top five list. However, they are absolutely one of my favorites when I get an excellent harvest. I love the plethora of shapes, colors, and sizes available, and when they ripen toward the end of the season, they perfectly herald in fall. Plus, who doesn’t love pumpkin pie?
Honorable Mention: (did you expect anything less?)
Tomatoes: Were you surprised to see that tomatoes weren’t in my top five? So was I! After all, there truly is nothing like the taste of a homegrown tomato. But, in all the years that I’ve grown them, I’ve battled disease and pests, making them one of my higher maintenance crops. However, I’ll continue to grow them every season solely for their exquisite flavor.
Peas: Snap, snow, or shell, I love them all. They are an early-season crop that you can plant when you’ve been itching to get back into the garden after a long winter break. The flavor of fresh garden peas is a wake-up call to your taste buds, letting them know that more fresh produce is on its way.
Potatoes: Easy to grow and super fun to harvest; potatoes nearly made my top five. Gathering them at the end of the season is like a treasure hunt, unearthing hidden gems beneath the soil. It makes you feel like a kid again. What’s not to love?
Cucumbers: Crunchy, juicy cucumbers fresh from the garden are hard to beat. Whether pickled for future enjoyment or eaten fresh on a salad, they are always delicious. Again, beetles and mildew often thwart my efforts with this crop, but it makes it all worth the struggle when I taste the fruit.
So, there you have it! My top five favorite edibles that I grow in my garden (and some honorable mentions). I hope you have enjoyed playing along with the favorites game the past few weeks; I know I have. Thinking about growing all of these varieties has me longing for spring. I can’t wait to get out and start planting all of my favorites again. And, who knows, with all of the new varieties I plan to try, I may just be sowing a new favorite this season. Happy growing, gardeners!