When I first started growing food, I was impatient to have something to show for my hard work and so I grew the following crops that I knew that I could harvest quickly. I was so excited about eating homegrown food that I just couldn’t wait. I still, however grow these crops regularly as there are lots of other reasons to grow vegetables and salad that can be harvested in a short time.
- It might be coming to the end of the growing season and I want something that I can harvest before winter.
- I have a small growing space and so want to double my harvest by being able to harvest a plant that grows quickly before another plant matures and needs the space.
- I may need an activity for the grand children that shows results quickly.
- I will often plant successional crops so that I have a longer season and more food
- I am trying to save money and need organic food quickly.
- I want to fill the hunger gap in Spring when food preserved from the year before has run low.
- I am just impatient.
Whatever the reason, these are 8 crops that I grow quickly, that can be eaten in no time after sowing. They are an easy way to add variety to meals, save money and provide me with organic, healthy produce.
Most of us remember the days of growing cress at school as an activity. It grows so fast that it can be ready to eat in less than a week. It doesn’t even need to soil to grow but can be grown on a window sill on damp cotton wool. To grow it outside you just sow the seeds close together in a pot or in the ground. Egg and cress sandwiches might have gone out of fashion but they taste so good and are a healthy lunch.
This can be ready to eat in about 3 weeks if eaten young. Lettuce seeds can be sown close together in a container to have a crop that you constantly harvest the individual leaves from (only take a couple from each individual plant), or they can be sown about 20cm apart to grow into a full lettuce. By sowing seeds every 2 to 3 weeks you will ensure a constant supply of lettuce all season. Lettuce is not only lovely in salads, but if you have too much, or it starts to wilt, it can make a lovely soup too. I tend to grow some lettuce in a big box so that become larger, but I also grow some in a catering sized mushroom box that I use at cut and come again throughout most of winter.
Radishes take between 28 and 36 days until they can be harvested and they can be grown either in the ground or in containers. Try to sow them a few cm apart from each other to give them room to grow. Radishes are not just nice in a salad, but are great pickled, or sliced in a stir fry too. I grow lots and slice them and freeze them to put in a winter stir fry.
Spinach is usually ready in a month. It is best grown in a shady area to stop it bolting, or to stop the leaves going bitter. Spinach is great for adding nutrition to any meal and is lovely cooked with eggs for breakfast, thrown in a curry, or eaten when young in a salad. I sowed some perpetual spinach in autumn this year, kept it in an unheated greenhouse, it froze during early in the new year and so I thought that I had lost it, but it then recovered and is still producing now in March.
Peas take about 12 to 14 weeks to grow but you don’t have to wait that long to eat them. Pea shoots taste great in salad or stir fries. All the pea plant is edible and so you can grow them to use as shoots or let them pod. The pods can make a great soup. A pot can take 2 or 3 climbing peas, or I plant them closer together if just wanting shoots.
These are usually ready for picking in 8 to 10 weeks. They can be planted in containers or in the ground. The easiest way to sow them is by grouping 5 or 6 seeds together so that they grow like a bunch and can be picked that way. They have a milder flavour than other onions but they can be used in the same way, or in a salad or stir fry.
This takes about 8 to 10 weeks to mature, but young leaves can be harvested from about 5 weeks. They are great in salad or for bulking out a stir fry, and can be grown in the ground or a container. I think that this was my most useful crop last year as I was able to harvest it quite quickly and it really filled the hunger gap when not much of substance was growing. It does not like heat or it will bolt, but I grew mine in spring and then again in autumn
This takes about 6 weeks to grow but can be picked young for salads (only take 2 to 3 leaves from each plant). It has a peppery taste that is great with pizza and gives salads an extra kick. Rocket can become bitter if left to mature for too long.
These are all crops that will grow quickly but any harvest lots of crops quickly when grown as microgreens. They are the same seeds that you would normally use but I harvest them as seedlings when they get the first set of true leaves. They are best sown in containers, sown densely, and can be ready in under 3 weeks. They are full of nutrition and flavour. This is a great way to use up seeds at the end of the season so that they don’t go out of date and waste. Broccoli, kale, chard, cabbage, basil and coriander all make great microgreens. The taste is intensified and so only sow crops you like.
What are your favourite crops that you grow and harvest quickly?