Skip to main content

Eat what you grow, or grow what you eat?

Most conventional garden planning advice says to "grow what you eat", to look in your fridge for ideas of what to grow in your garden, otherwise your veges will sit out there in the garden untouched and your efforts will be wasted.  I tried this the first year in my new garden, I planted big tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, corn, broccoli and celery, which were all things we liked to eat.  The tomatoes were attacked by fruit fly and grubs, the carrots were short and fat with many "legs", the potatoes didn't grow in our heavy clay soil, the broccoli and corn were eaten by grubs, the celery never grew either - if I'd stuck to that advice I would have given up after the first year!

This loose leaf lettuce is easy to grow and save seeds from.
Luckily I also planted some other veges that we didn't normally buy, and many of those were very successful, and have proven to be useful in meals as alternatives to our old favourites.  This has made me more adventurous and interested in trying different veges.  I think its important to find out what grows well in your area, particularly if you are trying to grow organically, plants that can't cope without chemicals will just be hard work.  Then you need to work out how to eat them, and if you like them, you're onto a winner.  This is all part of the fun!  I believe that you should both eat what you grow and grow what you eat.

I love silver beet from my garden, but I never used to eat it.
When you think about which veges you buy regularly, many are either cheap (carrots and potato compared to eggplant or herbs), or long lasting (broccoli and corn compared to things like silver beet, spring onions and lettuce, which quickly go limp in the fridge).  Before we had the garden, I never bought silver beet, because I knew it wouldn't last long in the fridge, and I never bought eggplant unless if happened to be less that $6/kg, which is pretty much never.  Honestly I NEVER ate silver beet until I grew it myself (even when my mum grew it, sorry mum!).  There's something about putting in that effort to produce food that makes me find a way to eat it.

This mini capsicum resists fruit fly better than the full sized ones.
Having a vege garden means that you can grow veges that you wouldn't normally buy, either because they are expensive or because they don't keep well.  For me this includes:
  • silver beet
  • lettuce
  • radishes
  • beet root
  • rocket and salad greens
  • spring onions
  • herbs
  • eggplant
  • chillies
  • pickling cucumbers
Yes, we had a pretty limited range of veges that we used to buy!  Sad isn't it!

Growing our own also means compromising on things that I used to buy, but find difficult to grow.  For example, I find it very difficult to grow large tomatoes, as they are attacked by pests (big and small, from bandicoots to fruit flies!), so I grow cherry tomatoes instead.  I had the same trouble with capsicums until I grew the mini ones that seem to survive better.  I haven't had any success with under-ground onions, but spring onions are fine.

Button squash do better than zucchinis and taste pretty much the same.
Of the veges that we used to buy, I think the only ones that I've been able to grow are zucchini and green beans, with the occasional broccoli!  We still buy corn, carrots, sometimes a cabbage, but the garden has certainly reduced the amount we spend on veges, without replacing them directly, just changing and adding variety to what we enjoy eating.

The Poor Man's Bean took over my garden fence last year and produced more beans that we could eat!
I still have that list of favourite veges in the back of my mind though, I really want to master carrots, corn, celery and potatoes, but I also need to focus on the veges that do well without much attention, because they are the ones we could live off if we had to and they produce a nice continuous supply of veges, even if the rest of my experiments don't work out.  I especially like to find varieties that grow well and produce seeds that I can save for the future, as this creates a truly sustainable garden.  I love that tomatoes now sprout from the compost, its like instead tomato seedlings without any effort! 

How have your eating habits changed since you started gardening?  Do you grow what you eat or eat what you grow?

My tiny broccoli, at least the grubs didn't get them :)


  1. I'm like you and carrots do not grow well here, but since they are so cheap compared to other vegies I am happy to buy them. I have purchased some seeds for new things like Daikon so now I just have to give them a go, then if they grow I lean how to cook them.

  2. Great post. I have become a bit obsessed with silverbeet and tend to use it whenever I could use spinach or cabbage.I never used to buy it at all. I am also about to try Stephanie Alexander's Silverbeet,pinenut and olive tart. I have also cooked with sorrel and tuscan kale which were new for me. I have just bought some kolhrabi seeds and I will be pretty impressed if I get a crop from them! Embarrassingly I don't think I have ever eaten a radish but I just planted some.

  3. Great, I'm glad other people are enjoying the fun of growing and eating weird and wonderful veges too!

  4. Love this post, Liz! I was going to do a similiar post on why I probaby won't grow corn & potatoes again.

  5. We call silver beet, swiss chard but your name describes it better as it is a beet. I like to chop up stems and leaves to cook with soy sauce, ginger and garlic. Good stuff. We have had to grow new things as like you, a lot of our favorites won't grow or are eaten by pests that I can't control. I just have to keep our own chickens and the wild animals out of the garden.

  6. I agree with you. We eat more of a variety now that we have a garden. I tend to think of being willing to eat what you grow as a survival skill. My tastes were pretty picky before but I've actually been able to appreciate cooks greens now that we can grow them. For awhile we were only growing tomatoes and peppers and only eating what you grow in that case isn't good either.

  7. even though we are a little apart, looks like we have a little garden interest in common. I stopped of the hop and really have enjoyed. I am having a give away of seeds, if you are interested. Blessing!

  8. I too grow what I can save seeds from .... so if you want anymore seeds just ask.
    We have changed the way we eat, since having the room to have a huge garden mostly stir fry and soups in winter. The biggest thing is you know its fresh and organic.

  9. I'm funny about buy veges now. I don't like buying the ones I know I can grow, even if I don't have them in my garden now. I buy way less veges than I used to, thanks to the garden, and just try to use what I've got. Tonight we had roast carrots and beetroot from the garden, plus mashed potato from the garden.

    I was just thinking today, it would be cool to join a fruit only CSA, as I would hate to join a fruit and vege one and be sent veges I've already got in the garden. I wonder if fruit only CSAs exist. Another thing to investigate. There's always something.


Post a Comment

Thanks, I appreciate all your comments, suggestions and questions, but I don't always get time to reply right away. If you need me to reply personally to a question, please leave your email address in the comment or in your profile, or email me directly on eight.acres.liz at

Popular posts from this blog

The new Eight Acres website is live!

Very soon this blogspot address will automatically redirect to the new Eight Acres site, but in the meantime, you can check it out here.  You will find all my soaps, ebooks and beeswax/honey products there, as well as the blog (needs a tidy up, but its all there!).  I will be gradually updating all my social media links and updating and sharing blog posts over the next few months.  I'm very excited to share this new website with you!

Worm farm maintenance

I have had the worm farm for over a year now, and I have to say it’s the easiest and most convenient way I have found to make compost and to dispose of vege scraps and other organic waste. I have not had much success with putting everything in a compost bin, I find that the food scraps go all sloppy and don’t really compost properly. I have found that my current system works much better, all food scraps go to the worms and the compost bin is for weeds and manure. The worms are able to eat all our food scraps and convert it to compost and worm tea, and there is still plenty for the compost bin, but now its not full of sloppy food scraps. People often ask if its necessary or possible to have both a worm farm and a compost bin, and I think it actually works better for us.

The worm farm really requires very little maintenance.  All I have to do is tip in more food scraps every few days, drain the tea once a week or so, check that the top tray is damp (if not, tip in half a bucket of …

Getting started with chickens - Tanya from Lovely Greens

Sign up for my weekly email updates here, you will find out more about soap and our farmlife, straight to your inbox, never miss a post!  New soap website and shop opening soon....

Farmer Liz: You will remember Tanya from Lovely Greens from the first series, she lives on the Isle of Mann and added chickens to her garden about a year ago.  You can leave comments for this post on Tanya's blog.

How many chickens (and other fowl) do you keep, what breed and what do you use them for (meat, eggs, slug control etc)?
Tanya: Around the same time that we were initially thinking about having hens another friend beat us to the punch. She went to the local pet store and bought a flat-pack hen house and chicken run combo and found a local farmer who had dozens of semi-feral chickens running around his property. One night he pulled three down from the trees and my friend took them home in a pet carrier. She named them Miracel, Carmen, and Geraldine and though they’re probably related they were all…