Last Updated Dec 7, 2017 · Written by Craig Gibson
If you fancy yourself a foodie, and like to cook up a storm in your home kitchen, it makes sense to have some fresh ingredients to hand.
The satisfaction you get from using produce that you have planted and nurtured to life is second to none. It could be something as simple as a handful of herbs that transforms a dish from average to outstanding, or a fruit bursting with organic flavour and goodness. Having a backyard helps, though you will be surprised what you can produce on a balcony or window sill.
You can plant anything you want, but you should really check out these 8 we like to have growing out back...
Besides being a great evergreen tree to have in your backyard, lemons also add a certain Mediterranean aesthetic to any plate . Lemons are great to have on hand in your kitchen, for cooking with and consuming directly, either juiced or squeezed. Many people also swear by lemons for a range of conditions including high blood pressure, dandruff and relief from the symptoms of colds and flu. In terms of cooking or baking with lemons, they are versatile enough to add zest to sweet and savoury dishes; from lemon and lime tart to fettuccine al limone or even a lemon drizzle cake. You can also preserve them, and try your hand at a Moroccan dish - like lemon chicken with olives - which has their distinctive tang.
Grow it: Lemon trees need a few years to establish themselves, during which they should be watered and fed regularly, before you can begin to expect fruit from it.
If you love your food and/or cooking then you know that having fresh herbs is the only way to go. The great thing is that herbs are really easy to grow at home, and you don’t even need a garden - a windowsill or balcony will do just fine. Some standard herbs to start with include basil, coriander, rosemary, parsley, mint and dill. Or you could try lemon grass or Thai basil if you like to cook Asian dishes.
Grow them: From seed or from cuttings, then water regularly, and ensure generous sunlight and well drained soil.
Did you know that the flowers of some plants are edible? With top chefs like Copenhagen’s Rene Redzepi adding flowers to their culinary creations, get on-trend by exploring the floral inhabitants in your backyard. You can add pansies, geranium, nasturtiums, dandelion, honeysuckle and many more varieties to your dishes. And if you have hibiscus, rose and jasmine in your garden then a delightfully flavoured cup of tea is only a handful of petals away. Be warned though, make sure the petals you pick are not poisonous!
Grow them: You may already have one or more of these species in your backyard, so get exploring.
If kale is not on your food radar yet, it should be. Kale is low in calories, high in fibre, has no fat and is high in Vitamins A, K, C and B6. Like its leafy green cousins kale is also high in antioxidants, including beta-carotene, flavonoids and polyphenols. And if you need some recipes to get you going, then how do kale and quinoa patties, kale pesto or stir-fried curly kale with chilli & garlic sound? You can also make a killer smoothie - try blending kale, pineapple and almond milk - or toss some leaves into any salad.
Grow it: Kale is not that fussy, but it does need full sun, well drained soil and high nitrogen compost to really thrive. The leaves will also be sweeter if temperatures are cool, so look to sow in late summer for a winter harvest. Grow from seedlings and water young plants well to have plants ready to harvest in a couple of months.
TV chef Jamie Oliver likes asparagus so much he has listed all the ways you can cook it, including blanched, griddles, steamed, roasted, stir-fried and raw. Yes, serve it raw with feta cheese and radish, or with pomegranate in a salad. And if you are wondering if it is good for you, asparagus is high in Vitamin B1 and reported to be an effective anti-inflammatory and natural diuretic.
Grow it: You need to be patient - 2 years - to savour your asparagus, but the wait will be worth it. Plant from seed in part sun, well drained soil in spring, or plant the crown of the plant in winter. Then harvest when the spears are pencil thick.
Pomegranates vibrant, tart red seeds have been used in Middle Eastern cuisine for thousands of years, and are perfect for adding colour to a wide range of dishes. How about cucumber and pomegranate salsa, or Greek yoghurt with pomegranate and cinnamon or mozzarella with basil, orange and pomegranate? Pomegranate juice is also really good for you, being rich in Vitamin C and phytochemicals - which make it great for immune prevention and is reputed to reduce inflammation and improve digestion.
Grow it: Pomegranate plants are a tough species, so can take a little neglect though do need and like full sun and well-drained soil. Look to source plants at a nursery, water well over summer and prune over winter before the growth season.
If you like snacking on edamame before wolfing down your sushi then you will be glad to know these little crunchy legumes are fairly easy to grow. And what better way to impress your guest, than by serving your homegrown variety, which are high in fibre, protein, and Vitamins A, B1, B2, and C. Besides steaming them or eating them raw, you can add also edamame to any salad, risotto or spaghetti dish.
Grow it: Buy the seeds online and sow them while it is still warm, in a full sun location. Like all legumes they like plenty of nitrogen in the soil, as well as moist rich soil. They should be ready to harvest in just under three months.
If you like some heat with your food then you really should be growing your own chilli. With a ton of varieties to choose from - habanero, bird’s eye, jalapeno, cayenne - it really depends on how much heat you like. And you are spoilt for choice when it comes to how you use chillies, from stir-fries to sambals, dips and salads to classic curries.
Grow it: If you want maximum satisfaction source some heirloom chilli seeds online. Plant these in full sun in shallow seed trays until they germinate (1 week), then transfer to larger pot when they are taller. Water to keep the soil moist but not overly so. When the plant flowers and fruits harvest these to stimulate more to grow.