4 edible plants you should add to your garden
Edible plants are, surprisingly, everywhere. Unfortunately, they aren’t everywhere in our grocery stores. There’s a simple solution, of course — grow them yourself! Here are a few edible plants from near and far you should try planting this spring.
A relative of curly kale, the type of kale you’ll find in most grocery stores, lacinato kale has long been used in Italian cuisine. You can use it much as you would curly kale — sautéed with garlic, as a braise for your meat dish, in a salad — the possibilities are endless.
Plant Lacinato Kale with six square inches of space per plant (this can be in the ground or in a pot/container). Give it full sunshine in the fall and partial shade in the spring. Avoid low, water-logged areas; a raised garden bed is best. Use healthy dark dirt soil — sandy or clay-like soil will hurt the plant. Water only once the top layer of soil is dry.
To harvest, pick off the outside leaves first (to do individual leaf-harvesting) or cut the stem to about two inches above the soil with one clean cut (when harvesting an entire plant).
This little seasonal treat comes from the high-altitude regions of Guatemala and Mexico. A member of the mint family, it is named after the pineapple aroma found in its leaves.
Pineapple sage has many uses: dried leaves and flowers give a delicate, fruity note to potpourri; dried stems are great for wreaths; flowers and leaves both go well in herbal teas, jams, smoothies and more; flowers make an excellent garnish or pop of colour in your salad.
Growing to be about three or four feet tall and nearly as wide, pineapple sage blooms cardinal-red flowers in the late summer and fall. It needs sandy soil — find a plot in the sun, preferably on the top of a rise. Space plants 24 to 36 inches apart, behind smaller plants. Water consistently for the first couple of weeks after planting, then leave them be unless there is a drought.
You can cut pineapple sage freely, from the buds on the lateral shoots (which grow in abundance) to the green aromatic leaves.
red rubin basil
A member of the sweet basil family, red rubin basil is a reddish-purple herb with a stronger flavour than the sweet basil found at the grocery store. It can be interchanged for common basil in most recipes, adding colour and richer flavour.
Red rubin basil is an easy herb to grow — give it a minimum of six hours a day in the full sun, with consistent warm temperatures and well-drained soil. Compact and vigorous, red rubin basil grows to be between 18 and 24 inches, staying healthy and vibrant year-round. It adds a nice pop of colour on your window sill or in your garden.
Harvest only the mature leaves; ensure you leave at the very least one-third of the foliage so the plant can recover between harvests. Adding nutrient-rich fertilizer will help it recover faster. Quick tip: pinch the tips of your plants and trim them up a bit so that it grows into a sturdier, bushier plant. You can use the trimmings while you wait for the leaves to grow.
Tiny green tomatoes about the size of a large cherry tomato, tomatillos are also known as the Mexican husk tomato or tomato verde. But they are actually related to the Cape gooseberry. Tart, refreshing fruits, they have a papery husk that should be removed before eating. Tomatillos are used in everything from salsa to chicken and more. They can be found in lots of Latin cuisine, including their starring role in salsa verde.
Tomatillos do best in a summer garden — choose a sunny location and enrich the soil with compost. Keep soil moist throughout the summer. Bury the two-thirds of the plants, spacing them about three feet apart. Don’t forget to give them a trellis or cage, as the vines will need a bit of support as they grow. The leaves are reminiscent of eggplant (so keep that in mind if you also have eggplants). You must plant two or more tomatillo plants in order for fruit to grow, and each plant will produce about a pound of fruit.
Harvest the tomatillo when the fruit is green and the husk filled out; if the husk is split and the fruit yellow or purple, it is overripe — you can still use them, but they aren’t as good as the perfectly ripe versions.