Brassica oleraceae - Capitata group
Cabbage is a very versatile vegetable and can be pickled, eaten raw or cooked, used in stir-fries and even added to a health-giving green smoothies. Sure, soggy overcooked cabbage and fast food coleslaw aren't the greatest, but don't let childhood food traumas prevent you from appreciating the potential of this fine plant. With it's slight mustardy and sulphurous flavours, sliced finely it makes for a fine salad ingredient, or contribution to an excellent stew. The brassicas are renowned for their antioxidants and anti-cancer properties.
Pisum sativum var. macrocarpon
The Fabaceae family is the third largest family of flowering plants in the world. These delicious peas are a vegetable very much worth growing at home as the sugars in them convert to starches once picked. Half of the sugars are gone within one hour of picking, so it can truly be said you have never tasted a snow pea unless you have picked it yourself.
Onions are used in countless ways from crunchy onions rings to pickles and stir fries. They form an important basis of most cooking traditions of the world. The poor onion is often a neglected home produce crop and we would love to see our friends growing them at home chemical free. They keep so well and one less thing to put in the fridge means a smaller fridge, or a fridge that can be shared, fridge pooling - the way of the future!
If you haven't ever tried to grow food for yourself here is your new best friend. Radishes grow very quickly and are one of the best ways to get your salad garden started. They are so easy to grow, can be planted any time of year and you'll be eating them in 4-6 weeks. Don't throw out the leaf tops unless your compost is begging for bulk because they are more nutritional than the root and quite edible as a leafy green, either in a stir fry or a salad. The seeds are also a spicy addition to salads - Germans even eat them as an accompaniment to beer.
Beta Vulgaris sub species maitima
Basically a multi-coloured relative of beetroot and silverbeet, this plant is one of the easiest to grow in the garden and you wont have to force yourself to drink wheatgrass juice, this plant is packed with chlorophyll! Just be sure to steam or cook as the cellular structure and oxalates need a little breaking down to get to that goodness. Alternatively only eat the young leaves for salads.
Before we can relax and get into the details about this plant, let us first say that we love the broad bean so much, some may deem it almost inappropriate. But tell me, what else grows so vigorously, so tall and strong in the winter garden? What bean has such culinary versatility? What plant is steeped so pungently in history and culture?
I tell you there is nothing like the broad bean. Also known as the fava bean, it is a delicious and abundant food crop, but is also extremely useful as a soil improver, capturing the elusive nitrogen from the atmosphere with its specialised root nodules.
Ah the red in red-blooded, the wonderful ubiquitous tomato. How on earth did the Italians identify as true Italians before Africans gave them wheat for their pasta and the South Americans, tomato for their sauce?! Most tomatoes on the shelves in supermarkets are picked unripe and are sprayed with ethylene in storage to force ripening and as a result are less juicy and more mealy with much less sweetness and flavour, so tomatoes grown at home are far better than you can buy. Growing tomatoes at home is a must.