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  • Writer's pictureBrian Wells

Grow What You Like To Eat

The most common question that new gardeners ask is, “What should I plant?” In my opinion, the best answer to that question is, “Plant what you and your family LIKE to eat, not what you THINK you should eat.” Obviously, there are some caveats to that answer.

First, we’re talking about growing fruits and vegetables here. There are no Twinkies trees, Butterfingers bushes or Snickers seeds (That I’m aware of. If you know of Snickers seeds, hook me up!!) If you’re used to eating lots of junk food, knowing what you and your family like to eat will take some research and experimentation. You can either try planting a variety of things to try (don’t plant a lot of any one thing) or you can visit a farmer’s market (or worse case scenario, the produce section at your grocery store) to sample new things. Just keep in mind that the vegetables at the grocery store aren’t the greatest examples of that produce. The commercial varieties many times have been bred for longevity of storage, looks and the ability to handle being transported. They haven’t been bred for taste. And even the produce at the farmer’s market that may have been selected for taste over looks can pale in comparison to what you can grow yourself.

Second, don’t be afraid to try things that you think you don’t like. Sometimes the issue with the vegetable isn’t the vegetable itself but the manner in which it was preserved or prepared. My Uncle Tom thought he hated asparagus. The only asparagus he had ever tasted was from a can. Once he had asparagus fresh from the garden, he was hooked!! Growing up, I wasn’t fond of radishes. The only way we ever ate them was raw and I just didn’t care for the bite. Last year, Barb, a member of the supporting listeners program informed me that they could be cooked. I grew some, added them to my roasted root vegetable medley and found that I LOVE them. However, that isn’t always what happens. And so my advice is that if you’re going to experiment with things you think you don’t like, do it sparingly. You may find out that you really, really, REALLY don’t like it (whatever it is).

Third, be willing to try new things. No matter how long you’ve been gardening, there’s always something new to try. Whether it’s a type of vegetable that is totally new to you or just a different variety, part of the joy of gardening for me is that experimentation. But, be careful that you don’t get too carried away. The new vegetable might end up being one that you don’t like. Or it might be one that produces less than you anticipated. Either way, it will not just be a waste of garden space but it will be a waste of your time, effort and energy in producing it.

Finally, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Several years ago I decided that we needed to eat more kale. Now, we like kale. But, I got carried away and planted almost a half of a bed of it. We didn’t eat that much kale. We’ll never eat that much kale. Thankfully, we had chickens. But, that kale really was a waste of space. I like to grow tomatoes. Several years ago, I had 48 plants in my garden. Two years ago, I promised myself I was going to cut back. But, then I installed the Ruth Stout bed and decided that I wanted to experiment with tomatoes there too. And I think I ended up with 75+ tomatoes that year. Last year, I cut back to 48ish. But, evidently I didn’t cut back enough because this year when we sat down as a family to discuss what we were going to grow Brian J said, “Dad, could you lay off the tomatoes?!!” I told him I’d try. But, I ain’t making any promises.

Whether you’re brand new to gardening or you’ve been gardening for a while, I do think it is very important to remind yourself to plant what you like to eat. But remember moderation in all things. Whether it’s tomatoes or kale, there’s always a temptation to get carried away with growing something. This year I’m fighting the temptation to grow a lot of varieties of squash. I’ve heard of some varieties that are very interesting to me. Dickinson, Seminole and Nanticoke are all varieties I really want to try. But, squash takes up a lot of room in the garden bed. And we don’t eat a lot of squash. So do I take my own advice and grow what I know we like to eat? Or will I give into my inner garden demons and in a few years will Brian J be begging me, “Dad, could you lay off the squash???!!” We’ll see!!!

Until next time folks, keep up the good work!!


PS: If you’re looking for a garden planning calculator to try, check out this one from Seeds for Generations!

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