“I don’t have a short attention span, I just….hey, is that a broccoflower?”
Gardeners generally take the looonnnnng view, at least by the standards of today’s soundbite culture. And while it’s probably true that, “a society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit,” at a day-to-day level, sometimes you just have to hustle, ya know?
The Speedy Vegetable Garden promises crops perfect for Short Attention Span Gardeners, including bean sprouts, microgreens and rapid-maturation varietals of more traditional crops like tomatoes and potatoes. The idea is, with minimal space and minimal time, anyone can harvest a “crop” of something. I love this concept.
The Speedy Vegetable Garden is divided into five sections: soaks and sprouts, micro greens, edible flowers, cut and come again salad leaves and quick harvest vegetables. While there is a lot I like about this book, the first sections of the book are, to me, more compelling than the quick harvest veg section. I’ll lay out the Pros and Cons as I see them and you can decide for yourself.
Excellent for encouraging early and frequent harvest, something that gardeners can have trouble with (“You mean I have to actually cut my beautiful lettuce?!? No, don’t make me kill my veggie baby!”)
Introduces and promotes unusual greens and herbs, including claytonia, sorrel, erbette, mibuna, komatsuna, gai lan, red amaranth and fennel sprouts.
Many techniques and crops are very appropriate for year-round indoor culture and no space gardeners – you could live on the north side of a no-balcony apartment in the middle of the city and still enjoy winter harvests of home-grown “crops” like sprouts, soaked nuts and microgreens. With a small investment in a grow light, the CCA lettuces would be within reach too.
Encourages the use of edible flowers, and offers a small but rather bullet-proof selection of great flowers for eating and kitchen use.
The book is dotted with several very good tips, like, in the summer, sow your lettuce in the cool of the evening so the seed has several hours of cooler soil in which to start its germination. I also liked a suggestion to sow microgreens in lengths of guttering (I do peas this way) at 10 day intervals, resowing as you harvest, to ensure a consistent batch of greens.
This book was written by British gardening experts and, frankly, it feels like it wasn’t fully adapted for an American audience. This is most problematic in the Quick-harvest Vegetable chapter, where terms like cordon tomato, courgette, and mange tout pea may be unfamiliar to many US gardeners.
My biggest concern is that many of the speedy seed varieties recommended appear to be UK specific. There are options for US seed purchasers, but (and just call this a feeling from someone who reads a lot of seed catalogs) I suspect many of the varieties in this book are far more readily available in the UK than over here in ‘Murica. For example, The Speedy Vegetable Garden directs US readers to Burpee Seeds and Johnny’s Seeds. It also recommends seven types of courgette/zucchini seed. I searched both Burpee and Johnny’s for each zucchini variety. Burpee carried none, Johnny’s carried one, ‘Raven’.
Does this mean you couldn’t follow The Speedy Vegetable Garden’s suggestions for fast maturing vegetable varieties? Of course not. In this age of the internet, you surely can get these seeds if you want them badly enough. Keep your Baker Creek Rare Seeds catalog handy (never a bad idea anyway, actually), don’t count on finding these varieties off your neighborhood seed rack, and be prepared to make substitutions based on listed days to maturity.
Who This Book Is Great For
This book is absolutely spot-on perfect for flat dwellers in London. Every Londoner frustrated by their lack of a proper allotment should run out and buy The Speedy Vegetable Garden and start growing basil microgreens right now.
For those us in the US, if you can get over the lack of Amero-centrism in this book (maybe think of it as practice for a changing world?) the information itself is good, and the combination of information is unique among gardening books. I’d particularly recommend this book to small space or no space gardeners interested more in the potential of year-round flavor boosts from sprouts, soaked seeds and microgreens than in total garden yield.
While not specifically targeted as a year-round growing book, I think it’s biggest appeal will be to people (like me) who like a fresh harvest year-round, and are willing to grow indoors to get it. Basil microgreens on your counter in late August? Who cares, when there are basil macrogreens in the garden? Basil microgreens in January? Now that’s cool.
The Speedy Vegetable Garden is also a great choice for gardeners interested in raw food-type preparations of legumes and nuts, as techniques for soaking and sprouting are very well described.
The section on soaked nuts was my favorite part of the book. Following the general instructions in the Soaks and Sprouts chapter, I soaked raw peanuts and they were totally transformed. I’d never soaked nuts before, and I was quite taken with the flavor change between the unsoaked and soaked nuts.
I made a salad of chopped hothouse cucumbers, grilled chicken, feta and soaked peanuts and it was fabulous. The soaked peanuts added a juicy crunchy component that worked very well with the cucumbers and salty feta.
Timber Press, publisher of many, many awesome books including this one, is sponsoring a giveaway of The Speedy Vegetable Garden.
To enter to win your own copy, leave a comment below answering the following question: What is your favorite fast turn-around crop to grow and why?
Giveaway open February 18th, 6 pm PST. Winner will be notified by email. Only entry per person, please, additional entries will be disqualified from the drawing. Good luck!0
laura h says
Sugar snap peas, for sure. Fast and you can grow staggered crops.
Sprouts are super-fast and instant gratification! I’d love this book! 🙂
So, for super fast – you can’t beat sunflower seed sprouts in three days. They are super tasty – especially with a wee bit of olive oil and sea salt. As for actual grown in the ground – I haven’t had a lot of success – so I’m going to go with rosemary and zuchinni – cause they taste so good together. Once they get big enough to produce – you get one a day – so while maybe not fast to grow they are quick replenishing.
My favorite fast crop is lettuce. I am always so pleasantly surprised in the spring when I go out to my garden and I find tiny little lettuce leaves peeking up through the snow. I still can’t get over how amazing that is: that a plant or two that I missed can set seed and it can survive through the winter, and then germinate and grow even as winter is just relinquishing its hold.
Sprouts – especially for sprouted bread!
Out in the garden, radishes. It always amazes me how quick they are.
Kaitlin Jenkins says
Sprouts have become a quick favorite, we love them on salads and sandwiches alike! Mmmm.
Any fresh herb, but especially cilantro!
I grew lettuces for the first time last year on my balcony! Lovely to have fresh greens right here. The dip of a toe into apartment gardening. My favourite crop though has to be the strawberries–I planted one years ago and have paid not a whit of attention to them except to eat the berries. And now I get a bumper crop from the groundcover that’s spread to every pot!
My favorite quick crop is spicy mesclun blend lettuce. I can seed and start munching within a week or so!
I look forward to reading this book as our weather varies so much and so quickly that being able to get food from seed to plate is a challenge!
Mary Ann Baclawski says
The fastest crop I grow is definitely sprouts indoors. Outdoors it would have to be lettuce or a perennial that’s just there. Not very imaginative. I obviously need this book. 🙂
Radishes, they are always one if the firsts to sprout, and those first sprouts in the spring are always exciting for me!
John Danks says
This is quite timely for me as I just started two trays of microgreens as an experiment with some leftover potting soil and seeds. I put in Tatsoi mustard, Arugula, Tres fine endive and a gourmet lettuce mix.
I always recommend radishes as a fast crop. They are especially great for young kids because the seeds are large and easily to handle.
Samantha M. says
Mesclun lettuces. I love spicy blends and am a big fan of rocket/arugula too.
Also in regard to the book being based on living in the UK, try living in sunny Northern Australia where pretty much very gardening book is based in the UK or US and deals with frost dates and other mysterious things. Now I’m living in the US converting a UK based book into Americanese is a piece of cake.
Nancy Devine says
Radishes and greens are my favorites.
Rosemary Edgar says
I like haruki turnips as a fast crop. Not such a fan of radishes, but the fruity, crunchy turnips are ready almost before you know it.
Sprouts, without a doubt. Greens in the middle of winter and no bugs to contend with. 🙂
Arugula is my favorite fast growing crop, as long as you keep cutting it, it keeps coming back.
Mary Hickman says
Falled planted greens,like kale, lettuce and arugula. Timing them when its still warm to rush the germination but cool at night. Also radishes for the children’s gardens I develop, because nothing is more fun than watching a child pick a radish and be amazed.
Lettuce is what I’ve had the most success with growing in succession and growing both indoors and outdoors, although it’s not my favorite. The favorite would have to be sugar snap peas, but I can only get them in spring and later fall (depending on the weather and rainfall). I love to grow radishes and watch them sprout, leaf, and produce so quickly, but I’m only a partial radish lover, so also have to find radish-loving friends to share with.
Sprouts–they are so tasty on sandwiches!
Kelly McMichael says
definitely radishes. So fast and that’s so gratifying while I’m waiting for other things to sprout, grow, and then bloom!
I am just getting started building my raised beds. Quick gratification would be a benefit.
I am sad to say that I don’t have a favorite fast crop as I don’t actually garden…yet.
Anne F. says
My favorite quick turn-around crop is sprouts…broccoli sprouts in particular. I love their crunchy broccoli taste. The fact that each sprout is a nutritional powerhouse is a nice side benefit.
Your review got me excited about using my grow light year round…fresh basil in December. Yum! Yum!
Arugula is my favorite at the moment, followed by an Asian green called misome. The bad news is that my husband doesn’t care for either. The good news is that because he doesn’t, I get to eat most of the earliest harvest myself.
No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to grow anything other than rosemary…everything else dies. SO, I’ll say that my most favoritist speedy crop to grow is something I buy – albeit it will probably kill me.
Maybe one day I can be a super gardner, but til then I will wallow in my saddened soggy pots of dead herbs
Garden Girl says
Radishes are a great quick crop, but my all time favorite are glacier tomatoes. I planted 30 varieties of tomatoes 2 summers ago (most of which I grew from seed indoors on my super-duper grow stand my Dad built me using his own trees for lumber), and these were my first to ripen. They are sweet and acidic, as well as the perfect size for salads. I was pregnant with our first baby that summer and between harvesting tomatoes and lots of other garden veggies, I learned to squat like a pro, as my stomach was so huge I couldn’t bend. The last month of my pregnancy I spent canning tomato products…. 5 kinds of salsa, 3 kinds of spaghetti sauce, and kick ass chipotle chutney that my midwife gave me the recipe for. I also picked all of the last of green tomatoes before the first hard frost and had them lined up in boxes throughout our living room. Our daughter came home to tomato madness. It was all worth it!
I love to grow lettuce..nothing beats fresh lettuce from the garden fro salads and sandwiches!
First favorite fast crop is radish. The colorful root always surprises me with how big it is under the tiny top ( which is also edible). The second is arugula. The baby greens are so tasty and early and it just keeps growing and growing. I throw the bigger, spicier leaves in pasta and stir fries. The third has to be dill. I put the baby leaves in everything…..egg salad, salmon, baby potatoes… The flavour is spring to me.
sprouts, easy fast and crunchy!
Radishes. Tells me spring is almost here & gardening can begin.
definitely arugula! so delicious and easy to grow year round in the PNW. it livens up anything I put it on!
Ien in the Kootenays says
I don’t consider sprouts a crop. In the garden, it is mesclun mix but in particular arugula.
Marilyn Shinyei says
tatsoi – a wonderful salad green I just discovered last year
Lettuce – all kinds and colors. Spring radishes next.
My favorite “fast” turn-around crop is herbs. One little plant keeps giving and giving and giving..
Peas are our family’s favorite fast crop!
At my parents’ house, peas all the way because we have the space, the season starts in February (my least favorite month, except for the peas), and it’s something my mom and I do together. At school, spinach or little lettuces because I have the space for them on my windowsill and greens are hard to keep fresh in the weeks between grocery shopping trips. They’re also expensive.
I’d have to say sprouts, because they are so very fast, grow indoors and need almost no room. And there is such a huge variety of things we can sprout.
Margot C says
Lettuce, lettuce and more types of lettuce (also arugula); so simple, so satisfying and so easy to accomplish.
Lentil sprouts inside, arugula and mesclun outside. I always have lentil sprouts going on the kitchen counter — a jar for me, and a jar for the chickens.
Like many others it seems, we love to grow arugula as our fast turn around crop. It is delicious with a lemon dressing and also makes great pesto. It also grows whether you want it to or not — at least here in KY.
Kay Bradley says
I’m “seed-challenged” (they never work for me from seed – so frustrating!) so I buy the micro-greens at Whole Foods that come with the roots and a bit of dirt still attached. I place these in a squarish low-sided vase, and water, then harvest for a couple weeks. I’ve put the living basil sold everywhere (Fred Meyer, Safeway, et al) into a vase proper and had basil for 4-6 weeks – sometimes 8 weeks. To be fair – I have two at all times because I love fresh basil on everything. Anyway – it looks pretty, lasts long enough to grow (freebie herb) and doesn’t make me crazy like seed start herb gardens (indoors).
Kay Bradley says
So my favorite fast-turnaround crop is pre-grown basil (that I continue to grow).
I’ve gotta say it’s red chard. It’s beautiful, fast-growing, oh-so healthy and oh-so hardy here in Nor Cal. Extra bonus for the lazy gardener: it’s one of the few crops that remains in my garden year-round, with little to no attention from me. And even if my attention is elsewhere and it gets raggedly thanks to slug attacks, the chickens still adore it.
Ooo I love the soaks and sprouts topic! This sounds like great diversification.
Amanda Heigel says
Sugar snap peas do it for me. I always get overly excited for spring planting and getting the garden all ready, but once the seeds are in the excitement drops off and changes into impatience. I love sugar snap peas because they provide nearly instant gratification and they grow so quickly that it seems like I’m being productive somehow. Sure the dishes aren’t done and the house is a mess, but the peas grew a whole inch!
Oh, but I forgot to say radishes! Love them on every salad and they are so quick and pretty. Also, I love them on crostini!