If you’ve ever picked a sun-ripened tomato off the vine, you’ll know what I mean when I say there’s no experience quite like it - it’s bright red, bursting with flavour and will tingle your tastebuds in all the right places. No tomato can quite compete once you’ve tried a home-grown one.
It’s crazy to think that only a few generations ago, most of the food we consumed was grown in the garden of our ancestors homes. Apart from cutting your grocery bills, turning your garden into your kitchen will change the way you think about food. There’s nothing that tastes better or is made with as much love as home-grown produce. Home-grown fruits and vegetables have proven to be full of more flavour and nutrient-value than their supermarket counterparts. If you’ve been thinking about growing your own garden, why not take the plunge and plant a few seeds in your backyard? There are so many incredible benefits of gardening.
Before starting, I recommend finding an open and sunny spot that receives enough light to help the vegetables grow. If you don’t have these kinds of conditions, some crops that tolerate the shade include cherries, blackberries and rhubarb.
When it comes to watering your little new best friends, your vegetables always appreciate moisture. If you're in a warm climate, they need at least some moisture - be sure to water your vegetables when the top inch of the soil is dry. If you have in-ground crops, they may need watering once or twice a week.
If you’re not quite convinced to start your garden in fear of weeding, trust me, I'm not about that life either. There are ways to prevent weeding including purchasing mulch. Buy organic mulch in the store as it can prevent most weed seeds from germinating. If weeds do start to grow, mulch makes it a lot easier to pull them out.
If you’re hanging on to the edge of your seat but just don’t know where to begin (yes, I know gardening can be very thrilling but hold your horses!) I’ve listed my garden gems below:
- I began my strawberry patch with small seedlings I picked up at a local nursery. They need full sun to grow and moist, well-drained soil. Instead of washing your strawberries and eating them mushy, I recommend wiping them with a paper towel. I use strawberries to top my Gutmeal, Strawberry Teacakesand Chia Berry Jam for my Sweet Potato Toast. I even use them in a few of my salads. In Australia, strawberries are around for two seasons – summer and winter.
- You’re looking as cute as a cute-cumber! I recently found some small cucumber plants and knew I had to get them as I'd heard from the gardening crew that they’re a good year-round plant. I decided to plant them inside my house and have created a wigwam-type trellis from bamboo canes, because they’re vines and like to do a spot of climbing. While I can admit they don’t look like they’re ready for their close-up photo-shoot, they make up for it with their beautiful taste. Make sure the area you choose to plant them does get some sun. I’ve put an automatic watering system because cucumbers do get thirsty (who knew?) and can become bitter with insufficient moisture. I’ve learnt that it’s best to grow cucumbers within 8-10 weeks and to cut off with secateurs or a sharp knife. I love them in my green juice, in my Cripsy Salmon Cutlets with a Pumpkin & Rocket Salad hereand as cucumber noodles (coodles) in this soup recipe here. Cucumber ages other fruit, so don’t store these guys next to other fruit. They can also dehydrate easily.
- Ahh, the one and only tomato. I love that these fruits (yes, I said fruit), can be found in a myriad of different shades. A new book title – fifty shades of tomato? Maybe not… anyway, these beautiful tomatoes can be ruby-red and orange, purple and even black, and in many different sizes, shapes and flavours. I’ve placed my roma (plum) tomatoes in a hanging basket; warm and under cover. These toms go well in salads, oven-roasted with herbs or made into a paste. If you’ve ever been described as a tomato after being out in the sun, there’s good reason! Tomatoes love the warmth – you can even grow them indoors if you don’t have access to a garden. If you want to ripen tomatoes, put them in a brown paper bag and leave them at room temperature until they’re ready. This process usually takes a day or two. Store these whole tomatoes in a cool place and they should stay ripe and ready for chewing for up to five days. Once you’ve cut them, the best place to store them is in the fridge. I love them in my Pan-fried Toasted Greens with Pomegranate and Cauliflower Rice Salad, and as replacement for tinned tomatoes in my Greened up Shakshuka.