If you have never tasted homegrown vegetables, there’s no better time than the present to do so. As most of us are required to work from home due to the surge in Covid-19 cases, why not give home gardening or farming a go?
Gardening is a healthy, stimulating and incredibly rewarding hobby to get into, especially if you’re thinking of growing your own vegetables. You get to literally reap what you sow and enjoy eating the fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs that you planted and nurtured yourself.
Plus, eating healthy will no longer be expensive if you’re growing the ingredients yourself!
Here are some of the easiest, bountiful and most beneficial vegetables to grow at home.
Dubbed the ‘Miracle Tree’, moringa is known as one of the most prolific superfoods to exist today due to its highly-beneficial properties. Its leaves, fruits, seeds and flowers are jam-packed with nutrients, proteins and minerals, but every part of this plant is edible and offers some form of nutrition or another.
In fact, studies show that moringa contains 25 times more iron than spinach, 17 times more calcium than milk and 15 times more potassium than bananas.
The moringa has a slightly bitter, pungent and earthy flavour but the taste goes away when it is cooked.
One of the perks of growing this plant at home is that it is a low maintenance plant that can grow and survive in harsh conditions.
They grow easily from seeds or cuttings, so make the cut at least one inch in diameter and at least six feet long in length.
Dig a hole that’s at least three feet deep to place the cuttings in and fill it with a mixture of soil, sand and composted manure. Pack firmly around the base and form a cone-like shape that slants down away from the cutting.
Tip: It will be better if water doesn’t touch the stem of the new tree, so water generously but do not drown the cutting.
Often confused with spinach, which also stems from the Amaranthaceae family, amaranth comes in a few varieties of colour such as purple, red and green. This power-packed leafy vegetable contains the highest amount of vitamin K, which supports good bone health and reduces the risk of osteoporosis.
Another low maintenance plant, amaranth can grow in any soil condition and needs only water and sunlight.
Make several holes in the soil bed, leaving a distance of three centimetres between each hole.
Place two amaranth seeds in each hole, cover them with a thin layer of compost and sprinkle water to keep the soil moist.
Tip: Fertilise the plant once a week and you can harvest 25 to 26 days later.
Chilli is a staple ingredient in Malaysian cuisine, often used in fried rice, curry and other favourites to add a fiery punch.
If you’re only just beginning to delve into the world of gardening, chilli might be the perfect way to start, as it requires very little maintenance. However, one can admit that they are aesthetically pleasing and pretty to look at.
Decorative elements aside, you can always rely on chilli to add another dimension of flavour to your dish when needed.
The next time you find yourself cutting up some chilli, don’t throw the seeds away. Instead, gather them into a pot with soil.
Water them once a day and remember to add fertilisers.
Tip: Dried chillies also make quite a festive addition to the kitchen decoration.
Kangkong, or water spinach, is one of the most economically-friendly vegetables out there. Although they aren’t that expensive to purchase, you can also try planting them at home.
Perfect for the forgetful gardener, kangkong is one plant that would never spoil or go bad if you miss a watering session or two, as they can last for days or even weeks without water.
Choose between a basket or a pot to grow your kangkong in, and decide on whether you will be growing seeds or cuttings.
If you are sowing the seeds in fresh potting soil, sow about 0.5 centimetres deep.
Ensure that you keep the seeds moist at all times.
If you are opting to grow the cuttings, which happens to be the easiest way to propagate the plant, cut just about 30 to 40 centimetres off a young growth and plant 15 centimeters deep in a potting mix.
Tip: When harvesting four to six weeks later, cut only a few leaves. Otherwise, cut the entire plant with leaves and stems, but leave three inches of growth so the plant will regrow.
5. Curry Leaf
Curry leaf is a must-have in Indian cuisine. Although not a dominant taste in cooking, their subtle flavour is unmistakable, giving meals a citrusy aroma.
Studies show that curry leaves may have the ability to promote heart health, reduce triglycerides and cholesterol, and improve antioxidant defence in your body.
Sow the seeds in potting soil and keep them damp, but not wet. They will need a warm area to germinate.
If you’re growing them from cuttings, just take a leaf or a set of leaves with the stem attached. If you can cut from a curry tree yourself, make sure to take a stem that is at least three inches long with leaves attached.
When planting, remove the leaves from the bottom inch and insert the stem into a soilless potting mix and bury just an inch of the bare stem with soil. Mist the cutting immediately after, and keep the plant moist for the next three weeks until it takes root.
Tip: Remember to fertilise your curry leaf plant weekly and trim the leaves if needed.
High in nutrients as well as plant compounds, cucumbers deserve more credit than for just being an extra decorative element in our dishes.
Cucumbers have the ability to boost hydration levels in our body and contain antioxidants that prevent the accumulation of harmful free radicals and reduce the risks of chronic diseases.
On top of that, cucumbers are low in calories, making them an ideal snack for those looking to shed some weight.
Cucumbers need a lot of warmth and sunlight, so be sure to pick a spot where the full sun hits.
Then, mix in compost and/or aged manure before planting to a depth of two inches. Work into fertile soil about six to eight inches deep, making sure that the soil is moist and well-drained.
Plant the cucumber seeds one inch deep and about two to three feet apart in a row.
Tip: Aside from eating them, you can also keep a couple of fresh slices in the refrigerator to put over your eyes to treat any puffiness or inflammation.
Most of us are familiar with how okra is used to thicken sauces, but this essential crop is known for being a nutritional powerhouse as it contains a good source of minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and fibre.
Loved and consumed by all, okra aids digestion and improves bowel movement. It is also a heart-healthy option for those with heart issues as it promotes good cholesterol. On top of that, its mucilage is also said to help remove toxins from the body.
Just like cucumbers, okra needs the full sun. It can grow in ordinary soil but will do better in well-drained and fertile conditions.
Plant the seeds about half to one inch deep. As okra plants tend to grow as tall as six feet, make sure you give the seedlings enough room between them.
Seeds will normally germinate after 12 days, so be sure to water them constantly.
Tip: When the okras reach maturity after 50 to 65 days, remember to use gloves when picking the pods to protect your hands from the spines.