30 March 2015

Three Best Small Space Edible Plants

When we bought most of our current seed collection, we had a large garden in mind, with room for everything we wanted.  We had no idea at the time we'd be moving to a place that, although it would have year-round growing possibilities, would be anything but spacious enough for everything we wanted.

In that sense, this list of the three best plants to grow small gardens in order to eat from your garden every day came from an unlikely large-space mentality.

In fact, I think that mentality is what has made our daily eating-from-our-garden goal possible day in and day out for the last seven months.  We just start the seeds and figure out where they'll be transplanted later!  There's always one more corner, or one more pot, where another plant will fit.

But even with that mentality, we did manage to stumble on a strategy that works well for bringing daily bounty onto our plates even in our small garden, and I think three of our plants have made it not only possible, but delicious. 

I love every plant in our garden, but these are the three that for the last seven months have been the most versatile, fitting easily into a wide variety of meals.


Since basil is good in several types of cuisine, we've found it to be one of our most versatile plants.  Last summer, I think we had twelve or thirteen plants for our household of two people.  Using a great pruning method, we had enough to use ourselves, to preserve, and to share with friends.

Dried:  I use dried basil in soups, home-made vegetarian chicken-like seasoning, and as a flavor for roasted vegetables, to name a few things.  Even when there's not much being harvested in the garden on a daily basis, the dried basil is so versatile that getting something into my mouth from the garden has been easy.

Pesto:  We happen to love pesto.  We eat it fresh, and we freeze extra batches to use for later.  And lest you think pasta is the only place for pesto?  Try it on toast, on potatoes, in stir fry, or even baked into a loaf of bread.

Fresh:  Bruschetta, chunky sphagetti sauce, and even as a salad tossed with sauteed garlic and onions and a bit of olive oil are just a few of the ways we've discovered to enjoy fresh basil.  It even works in green smoothies--as long as there are some other greens in there to help balance out the strong basil flavor.


It doesn't take too many parsley plants to supply the average person's need, but somehow we've ended up with, let me count, fifteen parsley plants in different stages of development.  Each plant can get huge, especially if your weather stays cool for a long time, which keeps them from going to seed, and you can just keep cutting from the same plant for quite a while.  Even though we've found ways to use a lot of fresh parsley ourselves, we've also been able to find friends to help us enjoy the garden bounty.

Fresh:  Parsley is an excellent garnish for hummus, it's great in scrambled tofu (or eggs) and hash browns, and in stir fries.  But one of our favorites has turned out to be using parsley as a salad green, especially in combination with cilantro (just use equal parts of each, and add whatever other salad fixings you love). 

Dried:  I don't use dried parsley nearly as often as I do dried basil (or even dill), but it's another versatile herb to use for seasoning all kinds of things, and therefore a great way to sneak in something from the garden at times when other fresh things might not be so readily available.

Red Sweet Peppers

Last spring we got some dried Guajillo peppers from the store.  They're a mild red pepper, and my husband wanted to try them in his home-made enchilada sauce (which is awesome, by the way).  He couldn't bear to let all the seeds from those dried peppers go to waste, so he tried sprouting some of them.

And that is how we ended up with a small Guajillo pepper forest in our front flower bed.  I'm sure they're all planted too close, but once you have all those plants you simply can't let any of them die.  So planted too close they are, and in an odd place at that.

Given the right conditions, pepper plants will produce loads of peppers even if they're grown in pots.  Last season, my father-in-law (who grows several varieties of hot peppers) harvested close to 1,000 peppers from one plant. 

Needless to say, you don't need a lot of space to accommodate a pepper plant or two if they're in a pot, especially with that kind of bounty coming from each plant!

Fresh:  These sweet peppers--or any other kind of red sweet pepper, I might add--fit easily into any salad, stir fry, salsa, taco, or vege platter.  

Dried:  When they're dried, any red pepper (in my opinion, at least) works well as a paprika substitute.  Talk about versatile!  Soups, sauces, home-made potato fries, and stir fries, not to mention enchilada sauce, are all great options for using a dried red pepper.

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