01. April 2020

Grow your own fast food

You don't have to be an expert to grow food at home. Here are some tips on eight mixed vegetables that you can grow to get a quick harvest.

Närbild på bladgrönsaker i olika färger.

This is what it might look like at home when you grow your own food. These are some of my leafy greens I grow indoors in winter. Five varieties, all of them sown in January 2020.

 

In times like these, I feel even more grateful for being able to grow my own food. I never really thought of self-sufficiency as a way to make it through times of crises though. My motivation has always been the pure joy and challenge of it all. But these last few months made me think; What if our society can't provide us with basic necessities like food?

My family absolutely depends on some essential products like grains, flour, and dairy. But except for that, we have enough food in our freezers to last us a good while without having to lower our standards. The reason is of course that a large portion of what we eat here at home comes from our own garden. I can grow everything from root vegetables to alliums and leafy greens all year round even here in zone 3. There is always plenty of food here, no matter the season.

In times of need, you might want to grow your own food as quickly and easily as possible. And you can! Here are some of my favorite easy and fast-growing vegetables in my own garden:

 

Sprouting

This is probably one of the fastest methods out there! It only takes 3-4 days to get a nice batch of broccoli sprouts, for example. You can sprout legumes, cabbage seeds, alliums, and beets. Plenty of options! Sprouts are as healthy as they are tasty and you can use them in lots of dishes. Try it! It's very easy. You don't even need a special container to do it. A simple strainer works just fine. Just pour the seeds into the strainer and put it on top of a large bowl. Rinse a few times a day. When the sprouts develop, all you need to do is eat!

A big trough of pea sprouts

 

Pea shoots

You can grow pea shoots really easily by simply scattering regular yellow peas on top of damp soil. It takes around ten days (depending on how warm your spot is) from germination to harvest. Simply cut the shoots and wait for them to grow back up. Pea shoots are healthy and especially fun for kids to grow. Most children love them and they taste best fresh. Sow large batches so that you can harvest new pea shoots every now and then.

Guide: Grow pea shoots indoors
Growing snow peas in pots

 

Fava bean shoots

Did you know that you can sprout fava beans? It's delicious! Just put the large seeds in tight rows and cut the sprouts at around 1 decimeter (4 inches.) They taste wonderful! Kids usually enjoy fava bean shoots too, just like regular pea shoots.

Growing fava beans early
Fava bean mash
Pre-planting fava beans

 

A tray with green shoots.

Here's a tray with fresh fava bean shoots. They taste lovely!

Radish 'De dix-huit jours'

Radishes take around 4-6 weeks from sowing to harvest. If you are anything like me, a bit impatient that is, then you might want to pick something a bit faster though. This variety grows in only 18 days if the soil is warm. I tried it and can attest to that it works! This might just be one of the best options out there if you want a quick harvest of vegetables. Don't forget to water them though. They taste so nice and mild if you water them properly. I like eating them fresh with a splash of olive oil and some herbal salt. Delicious!

 

Microgreens

Growing microgreens (or baby leaves) is a surefire way to get plenty of food fast. You can sow them in regular pots, milk cartons that you cut the top off or regular troughs too for that matter. Add a layer of soil, around an inch (a few centimeters or so) and scatter plenty of mixed seeds. For example lettuce, spinach, arugula, and napa cabbage. These vegetables take around the same time to grow and you can mix the seeds in the same container or separate them of course. Microgreens are great for salads or as a topping on sandwiches or your cooked meals.

Growing leafy greens
My favorite leaves: Growing baby spinach

 

Napa cabbage/Chinese cabbage

If you want a bit more substance, I would start growing cabbage. For example napa cabbage, bok choy, komatsuna or Chinese broccoli. These vegetables grow quickly and you get new plants relatively easily. They might be a bit trickier in spring though since they might bolt if you are not careful. But you can get a nice harvest before that happens too of course. Sow the seeds in small pots and then transplant them to larger containers that you can keep in your greenhouse. You can start harvesting little napa leaves and tiny cabbage heads around 4-6 weeks after sowing. The same goes for many other similar varieties.

How to grow baby bok choy
10 cabbage varieties and how to use them
Pink napa cabbage Scarvita

 

Potatoes

This is, of course, one of the staples in many people's gardens, especially if you want to grow your own food all year round. I know that we would make good use of potatoes if we had to rely on our homegrown vegetables for a while. There are plenty of great early potato varieties out there. I recommend going online to find the varieties that work for you, even if you don't normally buy your seeding potatoes online. Your local garden center usually focuses on the most popular varieties, and you might not find the early ones here. Orla, Rocket, and Arielle are a few good varieties to try.

You can start harvesting the early potatoes around three months after planting them. But you get an even earlier harvest if you chit your potatoes indoors first. Click on the links below to learn more about potatoes. I also recommend growing your potatoes in large pots in your greenhouse.

Chitting potatoes indoors
Why should I transplant potato plants?

 

Snow peas

Legumes like peas and beans are a wonderful source of protein. And if you want fast-growing vegetables, I really recommend growing snow peas. You can even germinate them in pots if you don't have that much space at home, and then move them outside to the patio or the greenhouse. Make sure to find the right variety though! Try to go for fast-growing and preferably small varieties. Sow again in a few weeks to have plenty of snow peas to harvest over a longer stretch of time.

Growing snow peas in pots
Tips: Harvest snow peas often

 

Snow pea, Tom thumb, growing nicely in a pot in my polytunnel.

Green beans

I definitely think you should go for early green beans, for the same reason you should grow snow peas. You can even grow them in your window sill. I usually sow low-growing varieties with smaller pods indoors in March, and then I put them in my greenhouse a few weeks later. They are quite sensitive to cold though, so it's a bit of a gamble. I can start harvesting them in May though if we get a nice and warm spring. My favorite is the dwarf French variety Nautica. It grows really quickly and tastes amazing.

How to store dried beans long-term

 

En form i rostfritt full med gröna och lila brytbönor.

Newly harvested beans in purple and green colors.

 

There are of course plenty of vegetables that you can grow indoors as well as outside, but these are some of my fastest favorites that you can use in many different dishes. Plenty of us who grow a lot of vegetables try to find systems to grow these vegetables regularly around the year. This is mostly a fun challenge for me, but you might want to grow your own food as a way to prepare for harder times too. Take care!
/Sara Bäckmo

 

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