THE KITCHEN GARDEN
We have several kitchen gardens. A kitchen garden is “Land appropriated to the raising of culinary herbs and roots for domestic use,” (Webster’s 1828 Dictionary). The great thing about growing for domestic purposes is you do not need a lot a land and a tractor to have a great garden; your garden can merely be a pot or two on the patio. Many methods such as square-foot gardening and vertical gardening take very little space and produce a surprising amount of produce. My family is pretty big, so we need a little more land (but still less than half an acre) for our plants.
If you are just starting, or If you want larger, consistent, and generally more disease resistance plants, I recommend hybrid varieties. You will more easily produce giant, symmetric, beefsteak tomatoes; your watermelon will have less seeds; and your corn will have consistent size ears. Watch out, however, for GM (Genetically Modified) produce, such as many corn hybrids. GM plants have genes from other organisms infused in their own plant genome to make them insect or chemical (pesticide) resistant. More than 85% of the corn in the US is now GM. This author, and numerous others do not think these mutated plants are healthy.
Many people grow heirlooms for the deeper flavor they bring. Your heirloom tomato may not be quite as big and look rather lopsided compared to one of the hybrids, but what it lacks in size it makes up in flavor and texture. Your watermelon may have seeds but it will be a lot sweeter. And, your corn may have erratic ears, but you know (as with all heirlooms) you will have its seeds for next year, staying clear of the growing GM trend.
Aside from the flavor of heirlooms, it is humbling to know that your ancestors grew their own vegetables from year to year, developing their own strains best suited for their climate and soil (or preserving the varieties made generations earlier), and finally passing the “Heirlooms” down to you, gathering history with every harvest. The crookneck squash you have in the garden, for example, has grown on this soil well before this nation was founded. We have a vegetable, Bonnie’s Best Tomato, which was developed generations ago right down the road.
As with anything, it takes a little time at your kitchen garden to keep it growing, but the results are well worth it. You save economically and are eating much more healthy, plus the fresh, crisp flavors you get from your garden, hybrid or heirloom, cannot be bought at any super markets! Check out the Roasted Vegetables recipe.