Moss' Kitchen Garden Plants

By William Moss

Summer is the season for growing edibles. Producing your own food lifts the spirits and keeps you in touch with nature. On the practical side, growing your own food boosts your nutrition and sharpens your culinary skills.

Most of us can't expect to be self-sufficient with our gardening. That's okay, we enjoy visiting the friendly folks at the farmer's market. But sometimes you need a sprig of fresh parsley, some thyme clippings, or a vine-ripened tomato. That's where the kitchen garden can save the day.

Whether you have a large space or just a few balcony containers, all you need is sunshine, clean soil, and healthy plants and seeds. The list below features some easy-to-grow plants. You only need a plant or two of each to keep you happy all summer.

Basil  |  Hyssop  |  Okra  |  Parsley  |  Pepper  |  Sage  |  Squash  |  Sweet Potato  |  Thyme  |  Tomato


Bushy annual with fragrant leaves. Purple Thai basil is less pungent with a hint of anise.

Culture: Sunny location in rich soil. Prune flower stalks to focus energy into leaves. Extremely frost sensitive. Cover on cool autumn nights to prolong harvest. Few pests or diseases. Can be grown in containers.

Harvest time: All growing season
Uses: Pesto, seasoning
Storage: Dried, frozen in ice cubes


hyssop in barrel

Hardy sub-shrub with aromatic leaves. Flowers all summer. Fantastic for attracting pollinators to the garden. Cut back after flowering to promote bushiness and limit volunteers.

Culture: Sunny location in average to dry soil. Drought tolerant. Deadhead or shear frequently. Few pests or diseases. Great for containers.

Harvest time: All growing season, best before flowering
Uses: Salads, seasoning
Storage: Dried, frozen


peace rose

Large annual with bright flowers that last a day. Pick pods when they are less than 6" to avoid toughness. Drought tolerant. "Burgundy" is a colorful cultivar. "Louisiana Green Velvet" can grow to over 9'.

Culture: Sunny location in rich soil. Drought tolerant, but harvest will be reduced. Few pests or diseases. Best to direct sow in the garden.


Harvest time: Midsummer through frost. Pick when young to promote more pods.
Uses: Raw, fried, gumbos, thickener in soup, fried okra seedlings
Storage: Pickled, frozen in gumbos/soups


jerusalem sage flowers

Biennial ground cover with fragrant leaves. Drought tolerant. Attracts swallowtail butterflies.

Culture: Sunny to part sun location in deep, rich soil. Drought tolerant. Protect from rabbits that eat the leaves and voles that munch the roots. Can grow in deep containers.

Harvest time: All growing season; second-year plants quickly flower and die. Replace yearly.
Uses: Seasoning, garnish, breath freshener, digestive aid
Storage: Dried, frozen


bumbleebee flying towards solomon's seal cluster

Subtropical perennial often grown as an annual. Banana peppers and chili peppers usually produce more for the home gardener than bell types.

Culture: Sunny location and rich soil promote highest yields. Tolerates drought but will produce fewer fruits.

Harvest time: All growing season; peppers can be picked when young and green, but flavor intensifies as color develops.
Uses: Raw, salads, stuffed, grilled, sauces, seasoning
Storage: Dried, canned, pickled


maroon martagon lily

Hardy sub-shrub with aromatic leaves. Flowers in late spring. Prune out old woody stems to promote new, fresh growth. Drought tolerant. Clipped stems can be used fresh or dried. Great seasoning in sausage.

Culture: Sunny location in well-drained soil. Drought tolerant. Prune out older, woody stems to encourage new growth.

Harvest time: All growing season; flavor is best before flowering in late spring.
Uses: Seasoning, sauces, incense, medicinal,
making sausage
Storage: Dried, frozen, in olive oil


iris black gamecock

Large, annual, creeping plant. A couple of plants may be needed to ensure pollination. Winter squash can also be used like summer squash if harvested early.

Culture: Sunny location in rich soil. Squash bugs are a common pest. Protect with row covers, and remove orange egg masses on undersides of leaves. Susceptible to powdery mildew.

Harvest time: Summer through frost
Uses: Soups, roasted, steamed, casseroles, salads
Storage: Frozen, canned

Sweet Potato

butterfly weed

Subtropical vine that produces roots and tubers from leaf axils. Tubers can be harvested early by "robbing" developing roots; these do not store well. Drought tolerant.

Culture: Full sun in loose, well-drained soil. Drought tolerant. In northern climates start plants indoors in spring and set out once low temps are above 50 degrees. Protect from rabbits and voles.

Harvest time: Mid-autumn well before frost. Tubers are damaged below 50 degrees. Gently lift tubers with garden fork or hands. Damaged tubers will not keep.
Uses: Soups, dishes, souffles, pies, candied, fries
Storage: Allow freshly dug tubers to dry. Then cure and store in dark, dry place.


blue globe onion

Hardy, low-growing, aromatic ground cover.

Culture: Sun to part sun in well-drained soil. Drought tolerant. Prune back old stems in spring to encourage new growth.

Harvest time: All growing season; best flavor in spring before flowering
Uses: Seasoning, sauces
Storage: Dried, frozen


aztec lily

Subtropical perennial grown as an annual in temperate climates. Weak stems require support. Cherry tomatoes, like 'Sun Gold', are great choices for urban gardeners.

Culture: Sun to part sun in fertile, well-drained soil. Keep soil moisture even to avoid blossom end rot and splitting.

Harvest time: Summer to frost. Pick all tomatoes before frost. Green tomatoes can be cooked, preserved, or allowed to ripen on a kitchen counter.
Uses: Raw, salads, sauces, dishes, roasted, soups
Storage: Dried, frozen, pastes, preserves

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