13 Easy-to-Grow Vegetables and Herbs
Homegrown vegetables and herbs bring fresh flavors to summertime meals. Growing vegetables might seem like a lot of work if you got a late start on your garden this year, but many of the following easy-to-grow varieties can be sown after the last spring frost and thrive throughout the growing season. You can enjoy these herbs and vegetables freshly picked from the garden or cook them up using some of our recipes. Either way, you know you'll be getting an abundance of nutrients to keep you happy and healthy.
Why we love them: Green beans are a healthy summer favorite, both for their fresh crunch and flavor. They also add a bright shot of green to your dinner plate.
What you get: Green beans provide a bounty of nutrients: vitamins A, C and K, manganese, potassium, folate and iron, as well as fiber.
In your garden: Plant seeds for your beans in well-drained soil where they'll receive full sun so they're easier to grow. Sow seeds every few weeks to enjoy a continual harvest through the summer.
Related: Fresh Recipes for Green Beans
Why we love them:
Beets are an earthy, sweet treat. And don't forget to eat the beet greens too–baby ones are delicious raw in a salad; cook more mature ones as you would chard or kale.
What you get: 1/2 cup of cooked beets has a mere 29 calories but boasts 2 grams of fiber and provides 19 percent of the daily value for folate, a B vitamin needed for the growth of healthy new cells. Beets' beautiful color comes from betanin, a phytochemical that's thought to bolster immunity.
In your garden: You can plant your beets as soon as the soil in your vegetable garden soil can be worked in the spring.
Related: Our Best Beet Recipes
Why we love them: Carrots are a perennial favorite-delicious raw or cooked, and they can be prepared in a variety of ways.
What you get: The pigment that makes carrots orange-beta carotene-is the same compound the body converts to vitamin A, a vitamin essential for vision, healthy skin and the immune system.
In your garden: Plant carrots as soon as the soil can be worked. They thrive in fertile sandy loam.
Related: Easy Carrot Recipes
Why we love them: Cucumbers are a tasty addition to salads, add crunch to your crudit's plate and even taste good cooked.
What you get: While the cucumber isn't known as a nutrition powerhouse, it does provide refreshment: at 95 percent water content, a cup of cucumber slices is nearly as thirst-quenching as a glass of water.
In your garden: Give your cucumber plants generous amounts of organic matter and good fertilization and they will respond with lots of crunchy cucumbers; harvest them regularly to increase production.
Related: Fresh Cucumber Recipes
Why we love them: Lettuce is one of the easiest vegetables to grow, making it a great choice for raised bed gardens and container gardening. This mix of greens tastes great in a salad or on a sandwich.
What you get: Although nutrients differ with each variety of lettuce, leafy greens are a great start to any meal, supplying vitamins A, C, K and folate.
In your garden: Lettuce thrives in cooler weather so plant it in the spring and fall, sowing every few weeks for a continuous harvest.
Why we love them: These sweet peas with edible pods make a great snack on their own and are just as welcome cooked up into a satisfying side dish.
What you get: With one-third of your daily value of vitamin C and 3 grams of fiber in every cup, these vegetables are a healthy choice.
In your garden: If you're starting from seeds, snap peas are hardy legumes that germinate in soil temperatures as low as 40℉, but don't do so well in hot and dry weather. Plant your peas so that they can mature as early as your planting schedule allows and sow more seeds when cooler fall days return.
Related: Healthy Snap Pea Recipes
Why we love them: These spicy, crunchy globes are packed with flavor. And radishes are more versatile than you may think: add them to a salad or temper their heat by cooking them in your favorite veggie stir-fry.
What you get: Bonus! One radish has just 1 calorie.
In your garden: Even if you don't have a green thumb, radishes are easy to grow in containers and gardens; spring radish varieties are often ready in just three weeks and are more mild in flavor–warm soil produces spicier radishes.
Related: Delicious Ways to Use Radishes
Mild Mustard Salad Mix
Why we love them: Peppery and spicy mustard greens, like mizuna and pac choi, add great zing to salads. Try them when your recipe calls for Asian salad mix.
What you get: Dark leafy greens are particularly rich in vitamins A, C and K. Mustard greens are also an excellent source of folate, important for women of child-bearing age.
In your garden: You can sow salad greens in your garden from early spring to midsummer.
Related: Massaged Mustard Greens Salad
Why we love it: No other herb epitomizes the taste of summer like basil. Whirl up a batch of pesto or sprinkle basil on your favorite pasta dish.
In your garden: Plant basil in rich, moist soil where it can enjoy full sun. Sow your basil every few weeks for continual harvest.
Related: Tasty Basil Recipes
Why we love it: With both the leaves and seeds used for seasoning, dill is a very versatile herb. The leaves are soft and sweet, whereas the seeds have a sweet and citrusy taste that is slightly bitter.
In your garden: The herb can be used both fresh and dried. Plant your dill seeds in warmer temperatures: it thrives in soil around 75 to 80øF.
Related: Delicious Dill Recipes
Why we love it: Cilantro is a flavorful herb prominent in Mexican and Southeast Asian cookery. Try it as an alternative to basil in pesto to top fish or stir it into your favorite salsa recipe. The stems are as flavorful as the leaves-just discard any that are tough.
In your garden: Plant cilantro early in the season and sow seeds regularly for a continued harvest.
Why we love it: Often parsley is used as a garnish, leaving its delicious flavor underappreciated. Not only does it have a great aromatic quality, but parsley also contains vitamins A and C.
In your garden: Plant parsley in fertile soil with good amounts of organic matter and moisture.
Why we love it: Best known as a background flavoring for stews and soups, thyme is one of the most versatile herbs. Although typically paired with savory robust foods, such as red meat, poultry and root vegetables, it is also good with apples and pears.
In your garden: Grow thyme in an area that will receive full sunlight.