I've always loved the image of heading out into the garden -- or reaching into an apartment window box -- to pluck fresh herbs or cherry tomatoes from their stalks and throw them into a bowl of whatever. Growing up, my mother had a basil plant that we couldn't devour quickly enough. Living alone, however, the gardening gene seems to have left me behind. Be it an herb garden out my apartment window or a jasmine plant on my balcony, I seem to be forever black-thumbed.
If you're like me, without the time or talent to make things grow, you're in luck! Here are three easy plants to grow, even for the gardening-challenged.
Tomatoes are one of the most versatile fruits. Easily used in salads, stews, soups and sauces, tomatoes are a definite favorite. Tomatoes are also quite easy to grow at home, even if you live in an apartment, as they can easily be grown in containers, and the only requirement is that they be kept in full sunlight and at a temperature between about 60 and 70 degrees (ideally). A south-facing windowbox works perfectly, or even perched on a table near a window.
One plant per pot is the best way to go, as tomatoes sprout like weeds and can quickly become tangled. Use small rocks to cover the bottom of the pot, then plant tomatoes 1 inch deep in organic potting soil, and water every few days, or every day if the soil is easily dried out. Don't be worried if your tomato takes awhile to start producing fruit; that's normal. But once it does, you won't know what to do with all of it, especially given the fact that normal garden pests won't be bothering you six stories up!
You'll probably have to prune or stalk your tomatoes: Simply cut the plant's stalks if they're getting too out of hand, or use a long stick to train the tomatoes to grow up around the window. You can use bread ties to hold the stems to the sticks.
As for what do do with your tomatoes, try some of these recipes:
- Organic Heirloom Tomato and Red Ruffle Basil Salad
- Chilled Organic Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho
- Herb-Baked Tomatoes
Chives are a member of the onion family, with a mild oniony taste. They make a beautiful garnish and are also a welcome addition in salads, soups and sauces. Best of all, chives grow like grass. Plant them in 12-inch by 12-inch pots with organic potting soil, and water them when they get dry. That's all it takes!
When harvesting chives, use scissors to clip just what you need (if you pull chives up, they'll stop growing, but just trimming them allows them to continue to grow).
Herbs like chives can also be planted around other plants, to save space in an apartment kitchen. Most herbs are nearly as easy to grow as chives. Experiment with what you use most in your kitchen, to save yourself the cost of expensive supermarket herbs and the pesticides that come with non-organic herbs.
Use chives in any of the following recipes:
- Deviled Eggs
- Smashed Potatoes and Celery Root with Chives
- Cherry Tomato Salad with Tarragon and Chives
Small breakfast radishes grow just under the soil, and they grow quickly! Now is the time to be planting them, as radishes grow best in the spring or the fall. Simply plant about a dozen radish seeds 1/4 to 1/2 inches deep in an 8 inch pot with small rocks at the bottom, as with the tomatoes. Leave your radishes alone, except for watering every day or two, and in about a month, you'll have edible radishes!
Radishes can be a bit spicy, which makes them a welcome addition to salads. You can also roast radishes to bring out their sweet notes. Try them in the following recipes: