Growing in a small space means you not only have to decide carefully what you want to grow, you also need to make the most of it come harvest time. There are very simple choices you can make such as growing cut and come again lettuces rather than ones which are cropped in a single cut. Harvesting just a few leaves at a time will prevent the lettuce from bolting as it will take longer to receive enough energy to do so – giving you a lot more to eat than one single cut.
However some crops will also have dual uses, or parts of the plant you may not consider as food can be eaten rather than wasted. For example any vegetable scrap can be used in a stock pot for soups and stews, including leek tops, onion skins and the tough stalks and ribs of cabbages. I’ve put together some more uses of common plants, some of which you may have heard of and some you may not – if you have any more then please do leave a comment below.
- Both male and female flowers of the courgette can be eaten. You can serve them in a salad or stuff with a cheese (ricotta, mozzarella) and herb filling, then coat in batter and deep fry.
- A useful plant for attracting beneficial insects. The flowers and leaves can be eaten in salads, put in vinegar or oil for flavour and colour. The buds can be blanched, pickled then used like capers. Finally the stems can be used in soups.
Broad beans and Peas
- You can eat young broad beans like mange tout, early in the season, which should encourage the plant to produce more pods. To prevent both beans and peas from growing upwards usually the tops are pinched out – on both plants this is quite edible and can be lightly fried or used in salads.
Broccoli and Brussel sprout leaves, Turnip tops
- Most plants of the cabbage family have edible leaves. The young leaves of the turnip can be eaten and are even seen as a delicacy in some parts of the world.
- You can also harvest the leaves of broccoli plants as they are growing, only take a few at a time as taking too many will rob them of the energy to produce good florets.
- Sprout tops make excellent early spring greens, once you’ve harvested the sprouts just let the tops grow for a little longer and use like any other spring green or cabbage.
- Beetroot is related to chard and perpetual spinach and all have edible leaves. The younger leaves can be used in salads and the older leaves can be cooked. You can also eat the leaf stems, chop them up finely and add them to a warm salad, soup, stew or casserole.
Article written by Dave Hamilton. Dave has now left Selfsufficientish but you can catch up with him on davehamilton.me.uk or on twitter @davewildish