The Simplest Summer Veggies To Grow At Home
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The Simplest Summer Veggies To Grow At Home

Jun 15, 2023

For creative home cooks, the garden-to-table concept has an undeniable allure; harvesting garden vegetables and using them in your kitchen is thoroughly fulfilling. In an exclusive conversation, Forts Ferry Farm co-owner John Barker offers Tasting Table practical insights for those looking to tap into this exciting journey.

"Peppers and bush beans are quite easy to cultivate," Barker offers, providing a list of beginner-friendly vegetables perfect for the home cook.

He also recommends scallions, a staple in many dishes, and squash for those with more gardening space. Rich in flavors and nutrients, these vegetables can enhance any meal. Barker also points to the resilient, nutrient-dense kale, chard, and collards in the realm of leafy greens. "They are quite easy to grow," he explains, "and can be harvested from summer into fall."

For those with limited space, Barker suggests container gardening. "Microgreens, sprouts, and herbs are always great to grow near a sunny window," he reasons. "If you have a planter, cherry tomatoes or peppers can thrive in them."

For larger planters, Barker recommends cultivating cutting lettuces like arugula, mesclun mix, and even edible flowers. Each plant adds flavor and freshness to dishes, and brings the joy of gardening into your kitchen — regardless of space constraints.

Successful gardening extends beyond merely planting seeds; it involves understanding the critical role of quality soil and seeds. Barker, with his vast farming experience, agrees.

"The soil is where it all starts," he says. "It is where nutrients come from, and more nutrients always mean more flavor."

His keen focus on organic practices and soil health is evident as he advises avoiding pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, instead encouraging cooks to "start with the best soil and seek out a good manure-based compost."

Seed selection, another cornerstone of successful gardening, also plays a critical role. "Having a good seed source is also very important," Barker says, underscoring the point. "Whether you are buying a packet of seeds or a baby plant, it is always important to get them from a reputable place for the best results. Seeking these things out from smaller companies will give you much more growing support too because they will interact with you more than a large corporation would."

According to Barker, such personalized interaction and dedicated support can be invaluable for beginners. "Do the research and choose the seeds that grow well in your planting zone," he adds. "A cucumber seed from Thailand might not be the best choice for your garden if you live in Ontario."

Once a garden starts brimming with fresh produce, it's time for the real fun to begin in the kitchen.

"The joy of eating what you've grown is unparalleled, Barker explains. "A salad of crisp, cutting lettuces like arugula or a mesclun mix straight from your garden can be a refreshing, nutrient-packed summer meal."

He encourages home cooks to explore simple dishes, including salads that add freshness to the meal and a personal touch that comes from homegrown ingredients.

"Grilled peppers and squash make for a quick and easy side dish," he says. These vegetable dishes can complement various main courses, and showcase the bounty of the home garden. He also suggests creative uses for homegrown herbs, such as infusing oils, making pesto, or simply garnishing dishes for added flavor.

"Try stir-frying your fresh bush beans and scallions with a dash of soy sauce and a sprinkle of your homegrown herbs," he explains. "[The result is] a quick, delicious stir-fry."

If all this has sparked your interest in garden-to-table cooking, visit Forts Ferry Farm. There you can dive deeper into farming, buy quality seeds and plants, and experience firsthand the joys of farm-to-table cuisine.