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Edible plants for a leafy green garden.

Edible plants for a leafy green garden.

For so many years, people felt that their flower garden and kitchen veggie garden had to be separate. However, with so many beautiful vegetable types available these days, mixing them up has become the way to go. Especially for those that don't have a lot of space.

Let’s be honest. Everything tastes better when you grow your own. Following the journey from fork to fork is well worth the effort. Many people wonder what, when and where they should grow their veggie gardens.

The colourful foliage of leafy greens looks equally as good in a flower bed as in a veggie garden. The rising demand for delicious vegetable has inspired an array of colours to become available too. This gives you a great choice when it comes to designing your colour scheme and garden. Fortunately, leafy greens aren’t just lettuce and kale – they’re so much more than that. Ranging from the foliage of turnips and beetroot, to leek and carrot tops (which you can make delicious pesto from), growing greens is really easy and will add to your diet and your garden space

Many of our cool season crops like leeks and onions are grown for their bulbs or as root crops with the foliage and leaves being thrown out. However, they are just as valuable when it comes to nutrition. If you have plants early enough (before they get tough) all parts of he plants can be used. One need only think of traditional African spinach, ‘marogo’, which is not just spinach as we think of it but three dark green leafy vegetables – amaranth, spider flower and cow pea, as well as the leaves of pumpkins and other squashes which are used instead. Did you know that you can eat the leaves of your sweet potato crop all season long? Just toss them into soups, stews, sauté them or use them like you would spinach in a stir fry and you’ll have healthy food happening in no time at all.  

One we’re all so familiar with is Swiss chard, especially Bright Lights which heaps up the colours of red, yellow and green. This plant, which passes for ‘spinach’ in South Africa, is a must have for any veggie garden. It serves a multitude of purposes and grows so easily almost all year long.

These are not the only type of leafy green you can introduce to your backyard. Winter is a great time to grow lettuce and there are hundreds of hybrids which will add colour to winter salads. Deep purple/burgundy Asian Mustard greens – although they may not be to your taste with their spicy flavour – grow large and bushy, adding a dramatic dimension to your garden beds.

There are also some ornamentals that can be incorporated – frilly kale, ornamental cabbage – really pretty plants that you wouldn’t necessarily eat. If you want to keep with the edibles, plant in silvery artichokes (and get rewarded with their electric purple flowers in spring), bright lime green or purple cauliflower, red cabbage, dark purple basil, Chinese mustard, borage with beautiful sky blue flowers, black or scarlet kale, maroon red raddichio, glorious sunflowers, and come warmer weather, Turmeric which bears gloriously scented pale pink or white flowers nestled in amongst great big lime green leaves.

Plant scraps shouldn’t be headed for the bin or the compost heap. With a little bit of innovation, and a change in thoughts surrounding what can and can’t be used, you could also go 'zero waste' in the kitchen while finding out more about tantalising your taste buds.

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