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Having fresh herbs and vegetables at your fingertips is really convenient, and it’s also great for your health to cook with ingredients that are as close to their natural state as possible. But when it comes to choosing kitchen garden plants, it can be tough to know where to start. Here are some of my favorite plants for a kitchen garden, along with tips on how to care for them.
Lettuce is one of the easiest kitchen garden plants to grow, and it’s also one of the most versatile. You can use gourmet lettuce in salads, on sandwiches, or even as a healthy wrap alternative. I like to grow a mix of different varieties so that I always have something new to try.
Here are some gourmet lettuce varieties to include in your kitchen garden:
- Buttercrunch lettuce
- Marvel of four seasons lettuce
- Tom thumb lettuce
- Oak leaf lettuce
- Parris Island cos lettuce
Lettuce can be harvested all year in all but the coldest climates.
Tomatoes are another kitchen staple that is easy to grow at home. There are so many different varieties of tomatoes, from small and sweet cherry tomatoes to large and meaty heirloom varieties. You can even find purple varieties!
No matter what type of tomato you choose, be sure to give them plenty of room to grow. Tomatoes are heavy feeders, so they will need plenty of fertilizer, too.
Here are some of my favorite tomato varieties:
Tomatoes can be harvested from summer through early fall.
Basil is a fragrant culinary herb that is commonly used in Italian cooking. It’s easy to grow indoors or out, and it’s a great plant for beginning gardeners. Be sure to pinch off the basil leaves often to encourage new growth.
Here are some of my favorite basil varieties:
- Genovese basil
- Emerald towers basil
- Giant basil
Carrots are SO much better when they’re homegrown! They’re easy to care for and they don’t take up a lot of space, making them perfect for small kitchen gardens. Be sure to thin out the seedlings once they’ve germinated so that the carrots have enough room to grow.
Here are some of my favorite carrot varieties:
- Nantes carrots
- Danvers carrots
- Imperator carrots
- Paris market carrots
Peppers are a kitchen staple that can be used in so many different dishes. From sweet bell peppers to spicy jalapeños, there’s a pepper for everyone. Peppers are easy to grow, but they do need warm weather to thrive. Be sure to start them indoors if you live in a climate with cool summers.
Here are some of my favorite pepper varieties:
- Bell peppers
- Jalapeño peppers
- Serrano peppers
- Poblano peppers
Cucumbers are another kitchen garden staple. They’re perfect for salads, sandwiches, and snacks. Cucumbers need plenty of water, so be sure to water them regularly. They also benefit from being grown on a trellis or other support so that they don’t sprawl on the ground.
Here are some of my favorite cucumber varieties:
- Lemon cucumbers
- Bloomsdale cucumbers
- Armenian cucumbers
Scallions (green onions) are a kitchen staple that is often used as a flavor enhancer. They’re super easy to grow, and they don’t take up much space. Be sure to thin out the seedlings once they’ve germinated so that the scallions have enough room to grow.
Here are some of my favorite scallion varieties:
- Parade scallion
- Evergreen white scallions
- Candy onion scallions
8. Green beans
Green beans are easy to grow, and they don’t take up much space. Be sure to water them regularly, and pick the beans often to encourage more growth.
Here are some of my favorite green bean varieties:
- Kentucky wonder beans
- Blue Lake beans
- Contender beans
Radishes are a kitchen garden staple that is often used as a flavoring or garnish. They’re easy to grow, and they don’t take up much space. Be sure to thin out the seedlings once they’ve germinated so that the radishes have enough room to grow.
Here are some of my favorite radish varieties:
- Cherry Belle radishes
- French breakfast radishes
- Watermelon radishes
Kale is a cold-weather staple and can be grown year-round in most climates. Be sure to water it regularly and fertilize it often. Kale does best when it’s grown in full sun.
Here are some of my favorite kale varieties:
- Lacinato kale
- Redbor kale
- Toscano kale
Spinach is another cold-weather staple that can be grown year-round in most climates. Be sure to water it regularly and fertilize it often. Spinach does best in hotter weather when it’s grown in full sun or partial shade.
Here are some of my favorite spinach varieties:
- Bloomsdale spinach
- Space spinach
- Olympia spinach
12. Ginger root
Ginger root is surprisingly easy to grow at home! All you need is a piece of ginger root from the grocery store. Plant the ginger root in well-drained soil and water it regularly. Be sure to give it plenty of indirect sunlight.
Here are some of my favorite ginger root varieties:
- Thai ginger
- Chinese ginger
- Indonesian ginger
Chives are a kitchen garden staple that is often used as a flavoring or garnish. They’re easy to grow, and they don’t take up much space. Be sure to thin out the seedlings once they’ve germinated so that the individual plants have enough room to grow.
Here are some of my favorite chive varieties:
- Garlic chives
- Onion chives
- Dolores chives
Peas are a kitchen garden staple that can be used in so many different dishes. They’re easy to grow, but they do need cool weather to thrive. Be sure to start them indoors if you live in a climate with warm summers.
Here are some of my favorite pea varieties:
- Snow peas
- Sugar snap peas
- English peas
15. New Potatoes
Potatoes are a kitchen garden staple that can be used in so many different dishes. You can plant all sorts of gourmet varieties and harvest a few of the first “new” potatoes from each plant about 2 months after the seed potatoes are planted.
Here are some of my favorite potato varieties:
Garlic is a must-have crop in the kitchen garden. These plants grow best in full sun and in soil that drains well. Plant the cloves in the autumn and harvest the bulbs the following year in early summer. Be sure to water the plants regularly and fertilize them often.
Here are some of my favorite garlic varieties:
- Chesnok red garlic
- Music garlic
- Italian purple garlic
“There are two types of garlic to grow, each with its own advantages. Hardneck varieties produce flower stalks called scapes – a tasty bonus crop before the bulbs themselves mature. Softneck varieties, on the other hand, are better keepers, enabling you to dip into your store of garden-grown bulbs for longer”GrowVeg: The Beginner’s Guide to Easy Vegetable Gardening, by Benedict Vanheems
Zucchini is a prolific producer in the kitchen garden. It also has a host of uses in recipes, and can be used for everything from spiralized zoodles to grilled slices and even chocolate zucchini cake! Even the blossoms are edible (and can be grilled – yum!). Be sure to water the plants regularly and pick the squash often to encourage more growth.
Here are some of my favorite zucchini varieties:
- Black beauty zucchini
- Costata romanesco zucchini
- Golden zucchini
- Cue ball zucchini
Rosemary is a kitchen garden staple that is often used as a flavoring or garnish. They’re easy to grow, and they don’t take up much space. You can even grow rosemary as a topiary in a pot! Be sure to water the plants regularly and give them plenty of sunlight.
Here are some of my favorite culinary rosemary varieties:
- Tuscan blue rosemary
- Arp rosemary
- Hill hardy rosemary
Thyme is a kitchen garden staple that is often used as a flavoring or garnish. There are many different types of thyme, some of which are meant to be ornamental and others that have been selected for culinary use.
Here are some excellent culinary thyme plants to consider:
- English thyme
- French thyme
- German thyme
Wasabi plants are becoming more common in kitchen gardens as easier-to-grow varieties become available. These plants need rich, well-drained soil and plenty of moisture to thrive. They also prefer shady conditions.
Here are some of my favorite wasabi varieties:
- Miyama wasabi
- Saruka wasabi
- Oka wasabi
Cucamelon plants are a favorite in kids’ gardens! These tiny cucumbers really do look like mini watermelons growing in abundance all over rambling vines.
22. Culinary pumpkins
Culinary pumpkins, including most heirloom pumpkins, are excellent for those with larger kitchen gardens. The plants need sun, well-draining soil, and lots of nutrient-rich compost to thrive. Pumpkins make wonderful curries, soups, and of course, pumpkin pie!
Here are some excellent cultivars of culinary pumpkin:
23. Edible Flowers
Edible flowers are a beautiful and delicious addition to the kitchen garden. While many people think of roses as the only edible flower, there are actually many different types of edible flowers that can be used to garnish salads, desserts, and main dishes.
Some of my favorite edible flowers include:
Tree fruits like apples make excellent perimeter plantings around a kitchen garden. You can even espalier them along a fence or wall to save on space. Growing your own apples allows for many varieties that are hard to find at the grocery store and even at farmers’ markets. Here are some heirloom types of apples to consider growing:
- Jonathan apples
- Black oxford apples
- Cox’s orange pippin apples
- Hudson’s golden gem apples
- Grimes golden apples
25. Italian parsley
Italian parsley (flat-leaf parsley) is a mainstay in a potager. It’s often used as a garnish or to add flavor to dishes. It’s also a good source of vitamins A and C.
Here are some of my favorite Italian parsley cultivars:
- Giant of Italy parsley
- Fernleaf parsley
- Neapolitan parsley
Arugula is a gourmet green perfect for salads, pizzas, and other fresh summer meals. It has a peppery flavor that some people find to be too strong for eating raw. However, it’s delicious when cooked or added to cooked dishes.
Cilantro is a kitchen garden staple that can be used in salads, sandwiches, and as garnish. It has a unique, fresh, slightly citrus flavor that pairs well with many different dishes.
Here are some of my favorite cilantro varieties:
- Santo cilantro
- Calypso cilantro
- Caribe cilantro