Forget potatoes, plant bok choy — plus the other veggies worth growing at home

Don’t worry about…

sweetcorn. A corn on the cob is a nice thing in the summer, and they can be expensive at the grocery store. Sweetcorn (primarily canned and bought frozen) is in the top 10 most popular vegetables in the UK. But still, corn is quite difficult to grow and probably not worth the effort.”

From the pantry to the fresh harvest

Mark Ridsdill Smith, founder of Vertical Veg, says there’s no need to buy expensive seeds from a garden center — they might already be in your pantry without you realizing it. Dried Chickpeas, Broad Beans, and Marrow Peas can all be planted to grow your own crops. The sprouts of all three can be used raw in salads.

There are also plenty of spice seeds you can grow, he says. “Microgreens, grown from store-bought seeds, are a really inexpensive way to grow herbs. Cooks pay an absolute fortune for things like micro cilantro. (Micro herbs are harvested as seedlings).

“You can grow micro cilantro, which is absolutely delicious just from the cilantro seeds in spice packs.”

A handful of microherbs would probably cost you around £5, but although a packet of cilantro is closer to £1.25 in the supermarket, it will inevitably wilt in the fridge, only giving you enough for a meal or two. Growing your own stash from whatever seeds you happen to have lying around could be a nice cheap alternative.

“Fenugreek seeds are very easy to grow. Mustard seeds, basil…” says Ridsdill Smith, who grows his in an old fruit box.

There are also clever ways in which fresh herbs from the supermarket are worthwhile. A packet of rosemary costs around 47p, while a small plant can cost around £7 and a mature plant can cost well more. But you can use that 47p pack to grow your own, says Nex. “You can use them for cuttings. Just cut off the ends and sprinkle in some compost and you have a rosemary bush that will nourish you for years.”

A pot of basil from the supermarket is likely to be cheaper than a potted herb from a garden center, but it won’t last long. However, it can be “potted” and kept alive much longer than it was in its original pot and then transplanted into the garden.

Chili plants are also a great investment. “You can get 100 chilies or more from one plant if you have a sunny spot,” says Ridsdill Smith. Which is handy as supermarket packs aren’t cheap (£1.20 for a mixed pack in Waitrose) and don’t last as long.

Don’t worry about…

Pepper. Chili plants might work well, but unless you have a greenhouse (and are willing to put in a lot of energy watering them), peppers aren’t worth it, Dunnett says, especially if you can get through a few a week.

Jerusalem artichoke and pak choi from our own cultivation

The Jerusalem artichoke is a good home growing option. “These vegetables are nutritious, high-yielding, and once established, they keep coming back,” says Dunnett.

Bok choy and other mustard-colored Asian vegetables also make for surprise money-saving winners. Pak choi plants are fast-growing and hardy. They cost around £1.60 for two at the supermarket, while a pack of 150 seeds is 69p at Thompson Morgan. They need some space – they’re better in the garden or on an allotment – but they last from July to winter.

Don’t worry about…

Common or garden vegetables like onions, potatoes, and cauliflower. “Onions are still cheap, and the taste of a home-grown onion isn’t much better, so it’s not worth the effort,” says Nex. “Quite a lot of effort goes into growing cauliflower and the plants don’t give you a harvest, so it’s a waste of your time, money and garden space.”

Beans, lovely beans

Short-season produce, which tends to be expensive, is worth growing yourself. “Be sure to plant things like strawberries, asparagus and herbs, runner beans and green beans,” says Brown. Ridsdill Smith agrees. “I get between five and ten kilograms from a container of runner beans.”

Berries like gooseberries, blackcurrants and raspberries are also cheaper to grow than to buy, Brown says.

The “thing about fruit,” says Ridsdill Smith, though, is that you have to play for the long haul. “It takes quite a long time to get established, but once it gets going you can get a very good yield.”

Don’t worry about…

cabbage. “They’re just not worth it,” says Ridsdill Smith. “Cabbage is slow, difficult to grow, and fairly cheap to buy.”


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