Gourmet dinners with fresh veggies and no more plastic herb packets are in your future
What's better than having an indoor plant baby? How about one that gives you food? Since we are all spending more time at home these days and making less trips to the grocery store, it's a perfect time to try your hand at some indoor veggies that you can grow in your windowsill. Plus this is a great project to do with kids if you are homeschooling them due to COVID-19 school closures. Some ideas include helping plant and water the seeds, writing down weekly observations, measuring and drawing the vegetables as they grow, and finally learning to cook with them. Here are our suggestions for 9 veggies and herbs that are easy to grow inside and are useful to have on hand.
Not only is growing your own food a fun thing to do while sheltering in place, but it's also good for your health and the environment! Have you ever cooked a dish that calls for a sprig of thyme or a garnish of basil leaves and bought one of those plastic herb packets at the store, only to use a small bit and have the rest wasted? Well, both that plastic packaging and the wasted food is not great for climate change. Actually growing a bit of your own food is a great way to do your part against climate change and feel a connection to the food that we eat. Plus, it's just nice and calming to have plants to look at inside! So find a windowsill that gets at least a few hours of sunlight (south and west facing are the best), and you can order some seeds online and get started! Some of our favorite online seed suppliers are Johnny's Selected Seeds, Seed Savers Exchange, and High Mowing Organic Seeds.
Adding a few basil leaves to basically any pasta dish and many Asian dishes is just the sweet brightness that can take your meal to the next level. Having a basil plant where you can snip a few leaves off at a time is a great way to ensure you always have it on hand. Plus, basil pretty much always comes in a plastic clamshell at the grocery store (unless it's the farmers market in the summer), so you'll be avoiding some plastic waste as well. Basil needs a sunny window with about 6 hours of sunlight. It is easy to grow from seeds or you can find transplants at your local nursery in the springtime. Here's more info on how to grow basil indoors.
2. Cherry tomatoes
What's better than a couple of cherry tomatoes on top of a salad or as part of a caprese omelette? They are also great additions to pasta salads and just by themselves as a snack. Cherry tomatoes can be grown indoors if you have a window with good sunlight. For beginners, it might be easiest to get a transplant at a nursery, but it's pretty straightforward to plant them from seed as well. Just remember that tomato plants need a bigger container and potentially a wire cage to support them as they grow, so make sure you find a place in front of a window with enough space.
3. Green onions
Green onions might be the easiest on this list. Having a continuous supply of green onions is an easy way to add flavor to any dish. You can use them in anything from a breakfast scramble to a stir-fry, or a garnish for a soup. The easiest way to get started is to buy some at the grocery store, and cut off and use the green parts, saving the white parts and roots. Plant the white parts (roots down) in soil about 1/2 inch down and they will regrow in a couple of weeks. You can also do this in a glass jar of water, but planting them in soil tends to yield a stronger tasting plant. When you're ready to harvest, either pull up the entire plant and cook the whole thing, or just snip off the green part and it will regrow again!
Having lettuce on tap is great for salads and sandwiches. Growing lettuce indoors is actually quite easy as long as you have some good sunlight. It doesn't need a lot of room, so it's great for windowsills. And it's a great one to do with kids because the wait between stages (seeds, sprouts, ready to eat) is fairly quick. Here are some step by step instructions.
Mint has so many uses. You can make your own tea, use it in smoothies, mojitos and other cocktails, as a garnish on a bowl of fruit, or it's called for in a lot of Mediterranean recipes. And it's a pretty forgiving plant to grow, so beginners listen up! Mint doesn't need as much sun as let's say tomatoes or basil, so it's a good one if you have a windowsill that gets a little less light. Once the plant starts going, you'll be surprised at how much mint you can harvest weekly. Here's a great guide to get you started.
Microgreens are the shoots of vegetables that are picked right at the beginning stages (between the sprouting stage and the mature stage). They are super nutrient packed when they are in this young stage, up to nine times more minerals than mature veggies (1). They pack a big flavor punch, usually spicy, bright, fresh, and a bit bitter. Microgreens are a great addition to salads or sandwiches and a great garnish on top of basically any dish. If you start growing microgreens from seed today, you could be harvesting some tasty micro greens in as little as two to three weeks!
Parsley is quite easy to grow indoors and is a super versatile herb to have on hand. Many times it's exactly what takes a dish from good to great because of it's bright and fresh flavor. Fortunately, having a parsley plant will mean that you can snip off just as much as you need whenever you want. Curly leaf varieties look really good as house plants and flat leaf versions are great for Italian dishes like meatballs. Get started with this guide.
Radishes are little peppery balls of joy that are thankfully very easy and fast to grow. They are great as garnishes for tacos and a nice addition to any salad. They are also a great snack served raw with butter and a surprisingly amazing roasted veggie side dish. Radishes, like many root veggies, become sweeter as they caramelize when roasted so it's a great way to prepare them if you're uncertain about what to do with them. Here's a quick guide on how to grow them indoors.
Thyme is necessary for just about any roasted dish, any meat or poultry dish, and is yummy in just about anything from salad dressing to cocktails. You won't regret having some of this fresh herb around at all times. Thyme is also naturally drought resistant, so if you're someone who forgets to water your plants, this might be a good starter plant for you. You can either get started from a transplant or from seed. Happy thyme growing!