One of the major reasons people like to grow their own vegetables is the taste. Home grown is supposed to blow you away after a lifetime of eating worn out store bought vegetables. And I must confess that sometimes it does – but sometimes it doesn’t.
I got thinking about what’s better and what’s not when I harvested the first sweet corn on Sunday. I had no idea if the corn was ripe or not but figured the best way to find out was to pick a couple of ears. The verdict? Yep, it’s ripe and golly-gee-willakers, it’s much better than store bought. So sweet, so tender, so really, really good.
Cucumbers are now ripening – first one today. MUCH better than store bought, both in flavour and texture.
I’m now getting a steady stream of tomatoes – they can be a lot better than store bought, but they have to be harvested and eaten at the right time. Leaving them on the kitchen counter until they get a bit mushy doesn’t yield the best results. (I know, I know.)
Broccoli is definitely better home grown than store bought; young, old, tight bunch or gone to flowers, it’s all better. Even the stems are really good. Tender and sweet and just yummy. Potatoes ditto. So much more flavoursome if you eat them out of your own dirt. Strawberries – my oh my – yes, these are better home grown (unless you let them rot on the vine or in the fridge). Beans, somewhat better.
But some food isn’t noticeably better if it’s home grown (IMHO). Greens are pretty much the same if I buy them in a plastic bag or pick them from my garden. This includes spinach, silverbeet and lettuces. It’s nice that they stay fresh on the plant rather than wilting in the fridge and I bet the nutritional value is better but the taste difference doesn’t rock my world. Asian Greens are fantastic from my back garden but since I’ve never bought many of them I can’t in all honestly judge.
Onions taste like onions to me. Store bought and home grown have some variety in heat and sweetness, but neither outshines the other.
There are a few veggies that it’s nice to harvest from my backyard but that aren’t as good as those I buy at the shops. Kohlrabi and radishes fall in this category. I think there are a couple of reasons for this. I don’t water enough for these so they get woody. Also, I like to harvest when I’m ready to eat, not when the food is at its peak. Kolhrabi and radishes take affront at this attitude and get tough and hot if I ignore them for too long. Rather temperamental little things.
I suppose I could go on with other food I’m harvesting now (or in the future/past) but I don’t think specifics matter too much. The point is, those items that taste a lot better will keep getting plot space dedicated to them. If they aren’t better it’s more about convenience: if they keep for a long time in the ground (like greens) and I can harvest them whenever I am in the mood, they’ll also get plot space. Those veggies that don’t taste a lot better and put pressure on me to harvest or else! might find themselves squeezed out over time.
Gardening’s a ruthless business – space is not unlimited so I’m going to explain to my plants that it’s either perform or make way for the next guy and see if they raise their game or take a back seat next season.