If there was one thing I grew up knowing, it was that I had to eat something green. For my mother, this translated to basically any vegetable, be it steamed broccoli (a childhood favorite) or one of her deftly elaborate mixed salads. Nowadays, a small piece of me, the plant-based eater that has come to be, thanks her every time I eat. Knowing she instilled this virtue early, I didn’t become an adult who recoiled at vegetables. I also have some effortless sense of what healthy food is: my mother taught me that green is good.
I still stand by that today: green is good. And, what’s more, greens—from now on we’ll be talking specifically about those dark, leafy things—have become so easily available in such massive variety. Salads used to be iceberg lettuce, but in today’s market, there are all of these different options at our disposal. There is hearty stuff like kale and chard. There are dainty leaves like arugula and spinach. We’re even coming to recognize secondary crops like the greens of beets and radishes.
Another thing that is exciting about the up-and-coming enthusiasm over greens is the multitude of ways in which we are using them. It’s not just salads anymore. There health-boosting green smoothies; there are snack-alicious kale chips. The list of gorgeous green dishes has just exploded into spinach dips and funky recipes. It just seems the list of greens is forever increasing, with more and more ways to prepare them.
Even better news: greens are super easy to grow. Everything from watercress to mustard to bok choy can either be grown in the house or garden, on the patio or balcony, in hanging baskets, or scattered in pots. Some can even be grown from chopping board scraps. It just takes a little push to get started, and soon enough — like, really quickly—we can all be enjoying our own, homegrown organic greens.
A Material List
Getting started can be as easy as prepping a bed out in the garden or as fastidious as carefully selecting individual, size-appropriate pots for a lovely lettuce display under the kitchen window. But, in essence, all that is needed is somewhere to plant some organic seeds.
Really, it’s all about finding the way that best suits the individual and the environment. Some of us like getting outside and a little bit dirty, so a bit of a leafy green patch in the yard would work (Tip: Do it as close to the kitchen as possible so that it’s easier to harvest daily). Others like decorative (but edible) houseplants, so growing them in pots all around the house works just fine. Or, things could get experimental, with hanging gardens.
You can also just pot plants as they can work just about everywhere – inside, outside, cold or hot climates. You’ll need a pot (matching the size of the green), some loose soil (or even just straw) and seeds (follow the instructions on the packet regarding depth of planting).
Things to Know
Not only are greens easy to cultivate, but they are also amongst the quickest yielding vegetables to grow. For many varieties, within a month (or as soon as a few leaves appear), it’s possible to start harvesting. Just keep in mind that greens do have a few quirks to be aware of for best results:
- Most greens are not tremendous fans of scorching sun. They are a cool-weather crop and the general rule is that the looser the leaf — think mesculine mix — the more heat-tolerant the plant, meaning the clumpier—heads of cabbage, iceberg — the less it likes being hot.
- Most are thirsty, which is why they work so well as hydroponic crops. Greens will likely need a good source of water, so put them where they are apparent (such that you remember) and easy to water (like near an outdoor faucet or kitchen sink).
- When hungry, simply pick only what’s needed at that time, and let the rest remain on the plant until the next salad, dip or whatever. The fresher the leaves, the richer the nutrients and thus, the more vibrant the taste. There is no need to wait for a fully mature plant to start eating.
- The leaves will keep appearing until the plant reaches flower, at which time (after the flower dries) the seeds can be harvested for the next plant. The seeds from one flower are probably sufficient for an entire new crop. In other words, after the initial set-up cost, fresh greens are free.
And there you have it, some of the most common things to be aware of when growing greens. Not a complicated process, growing greens is easier than you think. Give it a try. Besides, what could be better than enjoying your own homemade leafy veggies? Less cost, better taste, and overall, better for you too.
Lead Image Source: Tim Sackton/Flickr