These days, this thing known as “micro-gardening” seems to be all the rage. I feel that this is a totally justifiable thing, as micro-gardening allows people with even the smallest of living spaces to grow their own food. The great thing is that there are a surprisingly large number of edible (and even decorative) plants that grow quite well indoors.
There are entirely too many people who seem to think that just because they don’t have a huge backyard or small farm, they can’t grow their own food and reap all of the benefits that doing so will bring. What they may not know is how simple it is to turn a simple window ledge or even sacrifice a wall that gets a lot of sun into a garden.
Even if we set aside the obvious truth that locally-grown produce is simply better for the environment, there are many reasons to grow your own food at home. What I think are the top reasons for this are simple: (1) it’s the absolute most local produce that you will ever find. Using local produce not only tastes better, but it also reduces resource consumption (packaging and fuel usage) and (2) you have complete control over what goes into and onto your plants, plus you can choose to opt for non-GMO heirloom varieties of crops (a heirloom food is a plant (vegetable, fruit) or animal (turkey, pig, chicken, etc.) that was commonly grown during earlier periods in human history, but which is not used in modern, large-scale agriculture[i], (3) you can achieve ultimate freshness by being able to just go out and pick the foods you want as you need them, (4) you can grow some seriously interesting plants, and (5) plants just add something to a home. They make it feel warmer somehow, and always make it seem more inviting. Growing edible plants is much easier than you might think, so don’t be intimidated! Give it a try. These 16 edible plants are easy to grow, plus they will offer fresh-tasting and healthy food for you all throughout the cold months:
- Avocados: avocadoes are chock full of healthy fats, plus vitamins E and B6 and carotenoids. The best idea to make growing this plant super easy is to purchase a dwarf avocado plant from a garden centre near you. The staff at the garden centre can also fill you in on the best growing tips. Green varieties of the fruit are ready to harvest when the fruits’ skin turns slightly yellow, while darker varieties are ready when their skins have turned almost black. Ripe fruits can be left hanging on the tree for a few weeks, but any longer than that and they’ll start to lose their flavor and texture
- Carrots: these are a great source of a variety of vitamins and minerals, including thiamin, niacin, folate, manganese, potassium and vitamins B6, A, C and K. They also supply carotenoids, which are a good boost for eye health. Carrot seeds are easy to find and even easier to grow; just follow the directions on the back of the packet. Carrots are ready to harvest when they have grown to about ¾” across the top
- Garlic greens: garlic is a member of the cancer-fighting allium family. It is also a superfood that has been linked to improvements in high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease and certain types of cancer. The best way to go about growing these pungent plants is to purchase a few garlic blubs with small cloves, plant them in a small (4”) pot with drainage holes in some potting soil, and water well. After that, just keep the soil moist, but not soggy. Green shoots will appear within about a week
- Lemons: lemons are packed with vitamin C and antioxidants. Though tart if eaten alone (which isn’t recommended in the first place), they are a great addition to drinks and foods. Purchasing a dwarf tree is the easiest way to grow these at home. The fruits will ripen in about 6 to 9 months.
- Micro-greens: munching out on a big bowl of leaves can be a stellar source for vitamins A, C, K and folate. Plus, micro-greens (seedlings of herbs and vegetables) may have even more nutrients than their fully-grown counterparts. They can be grown straight from seeds in window boxes, just make sure that you don’t let the soil get too wet OR too dry (the plants can be a tad finicky). You can harvest the leaves when they have grown to about 1 to 2 inches in height
- Tomatoes: tomatoes contain lycopene, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and may help prevent coronary heart disease. They can be grown at home in small pots from seedlings you can get at a garden centre. Tomatoes grown indoors will not get as large as their cousins outside in the garden, but they will still be yummy! The fruits are ready to eat when they are ripe and firm, but with a slight “give” to the touch
- Basil: with its anti-inflammatory properties, basil can block enzymes in the body that cause swelling. The plants can be grown from seeds or small seedlings. They like warm temperatures and lots of sunlight. They do need to be watered often, and the odd thing is that pruning the plants will boost your yield exponentially. Gently snip a few leaves from the plant as needed
- Cilantro: cilantro has high concentrations of carotenoids. Easy to grow from seeds, all you have to do is water the seedlings every day and make sure that the plants get a substantial amount of sunlight. Treat the plants the same as basil – snip leaves as needed, but don’t strip any one branch completely
- Ginger: this great superfood calms nausea and motion sickness, while reducing inflammation. All you have to do to grow it is buy a small knob of ginger from the grocery store and cover it with soil in a container. Make sure that it receives indirect sunlight and then just wait for new growth to poke out of the soil. To harvest, pull the entire plant out of the soil, cut off as much as you need, then replant the ginger using the same process described above
- Mint: this bright green herb aids digestion and may even help soothe hangovers. Though it can be grown from seeds, buying a small plant is usually the route that I take. You want to plant it in a large-ish container, as the plant WILL spread a fair bit. Make sure that it gets plenty of sunlight and water regularly. Gently snip a few leaves as needed
- Rosemary: I think that this herb has one of the nicest smells of all. It is rich in carnosic acid, an antioxidant that may help limit weight gain and improve cholesterol levels. Plant seeds in a well-drained container and water only when the top of the soil feels dry to the touch (without letting it dry out completely). Like the other herbs, just snip the leaves as needed
Whatever you decide to grow indoors this winter, make sure that you show your plants a little love and affection to boost their yields and always give thanks to Mother Nature for the yield. Stay healthy, my friends J
[i] http://eating-made-easy.com/2012/10/11/what-is-an-heirloom-food/ October 11, 2012