Growing a garden is equal parts challenging, rewarding, mystifying and uplifting. There’s a lot to learn, but we’re here to help. Don’t make the same mistakes we did! In this short video we’ll share our top 10 tips to help you grow a successful garden. If you love growing your own food, why not take a look at our online Garden Planner which is available from several major websites and seed suppliers: http://www.GrowVeg.com
There’s a lot of talk these days about GMOs and trying to eat more natural foods, but the concept of manipulating crops has been around since ancient times. Of course, the type of genetic modification practiced to transform wild organisms into domesticated crops is quite different than the genetic engineering of today. But still, you’d be surprised by how different many of the common fruits and vegetables we take for granted today are the product of selective genetics.
Early farmers weren’t modifying their crops to resist pesticides, but rather selectively growing them to highlight their most desirable attributes. That often meant bigger and juicier produce, some of which is impossible to find in the wild. So while today a ripe, plump peach is the norm, the reality is that they were once salty and small, with very little flesh. Tomatoes and cucumbers are two other common produce items that have seen exponential growth in size and variety over time.
Common fruits and veggies have undergone a makeover over the centuries. Check out some interesting examples of just how different undomesticated produce can look.
The modern peach has origins in China dating back to the neolithic period, with evidence pointing to their domestication around 6000 BCE. Australian chemistry teacher James Kennedy created an eye-opening infographic highlighting some of the differences between the original, natural peach and the one we find today. Not only were peaches much smaller, but their skin was waxy and the pit took up most of the space within the fruit. Over time, the best peaches were selected to create the soft, fleshy skin and succulent flesh we now associate with the refreshing fruit.
Yet another crop that’s undergone an amazing transformation is corn. First domesticated by the indigenous people of Mexico about 10,000 years ago, wild corn bears little resemblance to what we now see in the produce aisle. Corn’s origins have been linked to a grassy flowering plant called teosinte. Only one cob sprouted per teosinte plant, growing around one inch long. Unlike the hundreds of kernels found today on a cob, a teosinte has only 5 to 10 individually encased kernels on its cob. The taste was also much more starchy, like a potato. Over time, farmers worked the plant to become much longer, easier to peel, and with more plentiful and sweeter kernels. This infographic helps explain corn’s evolution into today’s popular food item.
Packed with nutrients and covered with a peel-able flesh, the conveniently shaped banana may seem like the perfect fruit. But the reality is that the banana as we now know it is the product of hard work. Cultivation began sometime between 5000 BCE and 8000 BCE thanks to farmers in Southeast Asia and Papua New Guinea. One wild ancestor, the Musa acuminata, has slender fruit, which are berries, and contain between 15 to 62 seeds. Another Musa balbisiana has a more substantial looking fruit that is filled with hard, inedible seeds. It’s thought that these two plants were bred to produce a hearty fruit that, over time, contained just the edible pulp, eliminating the seeds.
A wide variety of different cultivators are used to produce eggplant to local tastes. The purple eggplant, with its long and ovoid shape, is most common to Europe and North America. Across Asia and India, a huge variety of sizes and colors—including white, yellow, and green—are readily available. As part of the nightshade family, it’s believed to have its origins in the Solanum incanum. Also known as bitter apple or thorn apple, this plant still grows in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East.
Most are familiar with the 20th-century advent of the seedless watermelon, but this is just the latest development in a long line of changes to the fruit. 17th-century still life paintings demonstrate just how different ripe watermelons looked, with a segmented interior that contained much less flesh. It even appears much paler in comparison to what we see today. The classic watermelon red that’s synonymous with the fruit is due to the presence of lycopene. Natural watermelons were selectively bred to increase the amount of lycopene in the fruit’s placenta—the part we eat. Check out this infographic to see even more differences between the watermelons of yesterday and today.
“Pineapple, watermelons and other fruits” by Albert Eckhout, 17th century. (Brazilian fruits) (Photo: Public domain via Wikimedia Commons)
If you’ve ever seen Queen Anne’s Lace growing wild on the side of the road, you may not have realized that this flowering plant is the forerunner of the domesticated carrot. Daucus carota is the scientific name of this plant, and while its root is edible when young, it soon becomes too woody to be consumed. Its leaves may also cause a skin inflammation known as phytophotodermatitis.
The modern carrot is a subspecies of Daucus carota that most likely originated in Persia. Over time it was selectively bred to reduce woodiness and bitterness. Interestingly, they were first used more for their leaves than the root. By the 11th century, they were already being described as red or yellow and their popularity had spread around the globe.
Brassica oleracea. (Photo: Kulac [CC BY-SA 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons)Did you know that a whole host of green veggies found on your dinner plate can’t actually be found in the wild? Broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, and cauliflower are just some of the delicious vegetables that can be traced back to one plant—Brassica oleracea. Known as wild cabbage or wild mustard, this cultivator is native to coastal southern and western Europe. It was used as a cultivator because of its nutrient-rich leaves and hardy constitution. By focusing on different parts of the plant, many common vegetables were produced over time.
Now is the time to learn about what are the BEST Vegetables to Grow with Kids this year in your garden. We are excited to share with you the our top picks of vegetables for gardening with kids.
Becky of Kid World citizen, master teacher, talented writer and expert in Global Education is our guest writer today. She has a fabulous backyard garden and her kids are willing to try new vegetables for dinner because of it.
It’s just about that time of year to end this miserable cold (finally) and start enjoying spring weather and thinking about what vegetables to grow with kids in our gardens! Gardening is the ideal outdoor learning experience: playing in the mud, learning about underground ecosystems, watching our plants grow with sunlight and rain and some tender care, and getting the gratification of growing a food that we can eat at the end of the process (and maybe even trying something new!). If you’d like to get your kids more involved this year, here are our best veggies to grow with kids.
VEGETABLES TO GROW WITH KIDS: FASTEST GROWING FOR (ALMOST) INSTANT GRATIFICATION
Kids want it, and want it NOW! All of these choices will germinate from seed in just days when you add water and sunlight, giving kids a chance to see how crooked or straight their seed lines were! What about spreading the seeds in the form of their initial? What’s great about these three choices is that you can pick and eat them while they are still young, shortening growing time even more.
VEGETABLES TO GROW WITH KIDS: MOST PROLIFIC VEGGIE FOR RAW MUNCHERS
3. Herbs (try mint, lemon balm, parsley, or chives)
One of the best part of gardening is being able to eat raw veggies straight from the plant. To be honest, I don’t remember ever being able to pick enough snap peas to actually make them because my kids eat the entire harvest from the vine before I even get to snap a picture. Cherry tomatoes are a given, because varieties nowadays produce fruit the entire growing season (65-85 F during the day, and nights should be above 55). As for herbs, mint grows, and grows, and if you’re not careful it can take over your herb garden! That being said my kids think it’s cool that they can walk by and grab a leaf to eat. If your kids don’t like mint, try parsley or chives, or even lemon balm for a sensory blast every time you walk past it.
VEGETABLES TO GROW WITH KIDS: BEST CHOICE FOR THOSE WITHOUT A GREEN THUMB
If you are looking for the absolute easiest to grow- meaning you forget that you even have a garden- look no further. My green beans have been re-seeding themselves for years and grow like a jungle with little care. Asparagus sounds challenging, but it is incredibly simple. From the snowy Midwest to tropical Houston, plant it once, and it will grow in the same spot every growing season for 20 years! Potatoes are so easy it is almost a joke. I once sent my 5 year old out to the garden with a container of forgotten purple potatoes from Whole Foods that had gone bad, forgotten in the back of our pantry. I told Ricky to plant them and I honestly forgot he had done so for a couple of months. We went out to prepare our garden in the spring and found the ground peppered with TONS of purple potatoes that had grown during our mild winter!
Pickling is a handy skill to have, especially when SHTF – and you don’t need expensive equipment or a large work area to start pickling. Pickling can easily extend the shelf life of many perishable food items like fruits or vegetables. (h/t to ApartmentPrepper.com.)
Pickling, one of the oldest methods of food preservation, involves submerging your food of choice in either a salt or vinegar brine to keep it from spoiling.
Here are some of the many benefits of pickling your own food:
Consuming pickled foods regularly is good for your overall well-being.
It’s a cost-effective way of preserving food.
Pickling food helps prevent bad bacteria from growing.
You can pickle the same food in different ways.
Brine and vinegar pickling
Controlled fermentation is encouraged in brine pickling, like when you make kimchi or sauerkraut. This allows beneficial bacteria to grow in the mixture and crowd out any bad bacteria that can make the food spoil. With brine pickling, you may notice that the flavor, look, and texture of the food changes. (Related: How to quickly pickle a variety of veggies.)
When you use vinegar to make pickles, its high acidity prevents most bacteria from growing in the food. Food pickled in vinegar remains preserved as long as it is submerged in the solution.
Kosher pickles are cucumbers preserved in a vinegar solution. Meanwhile, most dill pickles are preserved in brine. Dill pickles may include vinegar, but it is preserved in a mixture that includes dill and other pickling spices and salt.