The original motivation for cultivating plants was to produce food for survival and social stability. Humans and their gardens have come a long way since then. Throughout history, edible plants have woven in and out of the ornamental garden in different times and cultures. For most of us in the US today, aesthetics are the driving force in design, and we don't even consider edible plants unless we put them in a designated vegetable garden in the corner of the back yard. Yet edible plants - whether placed in a separate spot or incorporated into the landscape as productive ornamental plants - are coming back in style, and there are several good reasons to embrace the trend. After some reading and reflection, I have come up with what I consider my top 6 reasons to grow edibles.
Growing your own food can save money.
Fresh produce isn't always cheap, but seeds are. Even if you start from a small plant instead of seeds, you'll probably pay about the same amount for one potted herb that will keep producing more as you would for a cut bundle at the grocery store.
Maintaining the plants connects you to nature.
Any gardening can connect you to nature, but with the current trend towards minimal maintenance landscaping, many people miss out on this. Harvesting and monitoring your edible plants gets you outside, and more and more research is supporting the physiological and psychological value of time spent outdoors (Read more here).
You can control how your food is raised.
If you are interested in organic food or any other kind of specialized food production practice, when you grow your own food you can meet your own standards without wondering what goes on behind the scenes with commercial growers.
Producing something usable can create a sense of pride and accomplishment.
When you bake a cobbler from your own berries or make a salad from your own vegetables, you gain a sense of pride in knowing that you can produce something valuable with your own hands. They don't have to be pretty, blemish-free, tomatoes, but they're your tomatoes, and that feels good.
Fresh produce is healthy.
Maybe you already eat the recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables every day, but most Americans do not. Experimenting with growing foods will have you experimenting with cooking them, and you can discover new ways to cook with healthy produce.
There's something about eating what you've grown that makes it taste better - I don't know why. In working with a community garden at an after-school program, I got to see kids excited about eating radishes because they were their radishes that they had grown. You can discover new tastes or enjoy old ones even more when you garden with edibles.
Have I convinced you yet? If you like the idea of growing food, but don't like the stereotypical aesthetic of a produce garden, tune in next week when I share some edible plants that work excellently in the designed landscape. If you already grow your own food and have some of your own benefits to add to the list, please share them in the comments!