It’s not about growing unconventional crops for the sake of it. It’s about achieving delicious, high-yielding foods that are expensive to buy, yet easy to grow. Here are five of my top easy plants for beginners.
Before you even lift a finger, there is one delicious, über trendy, ‘superfood’ plant that almost everyone already has in their back garden. Popular in the regional cuisines of France and Italy, sold in farmers markets and on the menus of five star restaurants, they have recently undergone a re-branding as ‘Wild Tarasaco Greens’. That be dandelions to you and me! Closely related to chicory and radicchio, with a similar grown-up bitterness, these fresh leafy greens contain a whooping SEVEN times more antioxidants than lettuce, making them as good for you as they are tasty. A crop so easy, they literally plant themselves. A free farmers market on your doorstep? Boom!
If you have a sunny plot, with well drained soil, artichokes are an excellent choice. Super easy to grow, these plants can offer you years of crops in exchange for the 10 minutes it will take to plant one. They are super ornamental too, with great plumes of silvery grey foliage, which erupt from the centre with giant thistle like flowers heads. The easiest vegetable to grow but one of the most expensive to buy. What’s not to like?
I planted three black raspberry bushes two summers ago, and I am getting kilos of fruit every summer in exchange for next to no work. These quirky berries taste like bramble jelly laced with raspberry cordial, but are weirdly neither a blackberry nor a raspberry, but a third species from the Western coast of North America. Packing FIVE times the antioxidants of most supermarket berries (and impossible to buy in the shops) they pay back the 10 minutes a year it takes to prune them by a hundred fold.
Newbies seem to get terrified about planting fruit trees, which has always perplexed me. Is it the obscure pruning rules? Maybe about getting the perfect pollination partners? Well you know what? Most of this stuff is just unnecessary. If you plant an apple tree and water it well for the first six months after you plant it, you are pretty much guaranteed a supply of fruit each autumn for the next five decades. OK, fruit may be bigger and sweeter if you get your pruning right, but the tree is perfectly capable of surviving and producing fruit with zero help from you. The number of fruiting apple trees that line the M25 motorway from apple cores chucked out of car windows is testament to their resilience. If I had to choose one it would be the sweet/tart ‘RedLove‘ that is crimson right to the core. You’ll never see those in the shops!
These are very easy to grow and easy to harvest and eat because like the name suggests, you eat the whole pod. The mangetout is the creme de la creme when it comes to culinary gems, and very expensive to buy in shops. They are not all green and actually come in various colours from deep burgundy to golden yellow and are so simple to use – no fiddling around shelling with these guys! You don’t even need to sow seed, you can buy established plants ready to plant, online from Suttons Seeds – yellow ‘Golden Sweet’ and purple ‘Shiraz’.