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Love to Cook? Here's What to Grow!

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If you love to cook, there is one sure way to get the best, freshest organic veggies imaginable: grow them yourself! Having your own herbs and edible flowers on hand makes it easy to make really delicious, healthy meals.

With that in mind, here are a few foods all cooks should grow in their gardens.

Peppers

Many different cuisines depend on peppers for their signature flavors. Whether you prefer Mexican, Thai, or Italian food (or all of them!), chances are good that you use a lot of peppers. And even when the gardening season is over, if you grow plenty of your own, you can have peppers stored in your freezer. Or, you can dry your peppers. Once dry, you can grind them into pepper flakes or pack them in oil.

Culinary Herbs

If you love to cook, an herb garden is a must. You can grow a few pots of your favorite herbs, or grow an entire herb garden, full of variety. Having fresh herbs makes a huge difference in the flavor of your food. Being able to head out to the garden and snip some chives or thyme whenever you need it makes cooking a lot of fun, too.

Leafy Greens

Leafy greens such as Swiss chard, arugula, or Asian greens such as Pak Choi, are perfect additions to a kitchen garden. Most of these greens are at their best when harvested young. They're more tender and sweet, and look so pretty on a plate. They can be cooked, or, when harvested small, eaten raw in a salad or on a sandwich.

Heirloom Potatoes

There is so much to the world of potatoes -- it's not just 'Yukon Gold'! 'Rose Finn Apple,' 'Purple Peruvian,' 'Banana,' -- there are so many beautiful, tasty, unique varieties of potatoes out there to try.

Tomatoes

The variety of flavors and colors available to you when you grow your own tomatoes is astounding. Red, yellow, orange, green, maroon, purple, white, and traditional red varieties are available from many seed vendors. You can also tailor your garden to your cooking. Do you make a lot of dishes that use tomato sauce? Grow paste tomatoes such as 'Roma,' 'San Marzano,' or 'Polish Linguisa' and can, freeze, or dry your own tomatoes.

If you love fresh tomatoes in salad or just eaten out of hand like an apple, you'll enjoy sampling the many delicious heirlooms out there, such as 'Brandywine,' 'Japanese Black Trifele,' or 'Aunt Ruby's German Green.' Try a couple of new varieties each year, and save the seeds from the ones you like the best.

Garlic

Some cooks can't imagine cooking without garlic. If this sounds like you, time to consider growing your own. When you grow your own garlic, you have more variety available to you than what's available at your local grocery store.

Garlic, when grown in your own garden, is another double-duty crop. In addition to being able to harvest the garlic, you can also harvest the garlic scapes in early summer. They are delicious in pasta dishes, on pizza, or made into pesto.

Edible Flowers

Edible flowers aren't a necessity, but they just add such a special touch to a meal they're worth growing and adding to your cooking. Stuffed squash blossoms, a salad sprinkled with peppery nasturtium blossoms, or a drink served with borage blossom ice cubes are just a few ways to use edible flowers in the kitchen.

Popular edible flowers include nasturtiums, roses, borage, lavender, calendula, and scented geraniums.

Peas

It's not possible to buy pea pods that are as delicous as the ones you grow yourself and harvest right before serving them. They are so crisp, tender, and sweet that you'll find yourself snacking on them right out in the garden.

Peas are also a double-duty crop; in addition to the peas themselves, when you grow your own peas you get an additional harvest of pea shoots. Pea shoots are wonderful in salad or added to s stir-fry.

If you enjoy cooking, you'll enjoy it even more when you're cooking with your own garden-fresh herbs and vegetables!

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