3/11/2021 | By Kari Smith

Growing edible plants has many health benefits: gardening can be great exercise, plus the food that you grow in a garden is all natural, healthy, and preservative-free. These are all good reasons to garden, but for me, one of the greatest benefits is the satisfaction of growing something yourself – literally “getting back to your roots” and seeing the process from seed to table! So I always try to consider the best edible plants to grow in my garden.

When I consider what to grow for the year, I think about what vegetables and I herbs I frequently use. It is sometimes easy to stand in front of a seed display and just start grabbing all the pretty envelopes (am I right?) but at the end of the season, when you have three dozen jack-o-lantern pumpkins, you may wonder why you chose to plant them! Do you eat salads often? Do you like spicy food? Do you cook with herbs?


Who doesn’t love a fresh tomato? These summer-loving plants are capable of producing beautiful tomatoes with that fresh flavor that you can’t buy in a store. Don’t have enough space for huge tomato plants? Some tomato plants can tower over six feet tall, so try a bushier variety, like Roma tomato. The possibilities are endless – beefsteak tomatoes that go perfectly sliced on a hamburger, colorful cherry tomatoes that add a sweet bite on a salad, or flavorful heirloom tomatoes that are as gorgeous as they are delicious.


Basil is one of the best edible plants to grow, and a great companion plant for tomatoes. There are several varieties – including my favorites sweet Italian basil and Thai basil. Pro tip: skip the wait on sowing seeds and a trip to the greenhouse by purchasing a basil plant from the grocery store. Especially during spring and summer months, most grocery stores carry a variety of fresh herbs in small disposable pots. For best results, transplant to a larger pot and add potting soil, and place in a window with partial to full sunlight. You will have fresh basil available readily available for months – fresh and ready whenever you need it! How about a Caprese salad with those tomatoes you grew? Yum!


If you like to eat healthy salads, lettuces – as well as kale and spinach – are a convenient option to grow. Because lettuce is a cool-weather plant, plant it in early spring or in the fall while temperatures are still cool but not cold. Lettuce is easy to grow from seeds, and can even be grown indoors. If you prefer lettuce mixes, consider a lettuce blend seed to get several varieties in the same planting. Pro tip: Do not discard unused seeds! Seed share with a friend, or save your seeds for next year. I have planted hundreds of seeds that were past their “expiration date” with great results.

7 Tips for Gardening with Arthritis


Even if you don’t like spicy peppers like jalapeno or Serrano peppers, mild varieties such as bell peppers or tri-colored miniature sweet peppers are easy to grow. Unlike lettuce and spinach – peppers need summer heat and direct sunlight to grow. If you can’t wait to get started growing, start your seeds indoors a month before you plant them outside, and place them in direct sunlight in a window. Once all threat of frost has passed – I recommend the second week of May – carefully transplant your peppers into your garden. Pro tip: Don’t buy these seeds! Simply preserve them from produce that you have purchased from the grocery store. One pepper has enough seeds to grow dozens of plants!


It really doesn’t get any easier than this! Sure, scallions can be grown from seeds. However, these are some of the best edible plants to grow because you can simply buy a bunch of scallions from your grocery store’s produce department! Use the scallions until you get to within an inch of the white part on the bulb end. Plant directly in your garden, or fill a pot with soil, and using the back end of a butter knife, make a hole for the bulb to sit down below the surface of the dirt. Put the pot in the sun, and wait for the scallions to regrow! Pro tip: Do not pull the bulb out of the dirt in order to use your regrown scallions. Simply cut off what you need, and the scallions will regrow – again! Slice up and add to omelets, rice dishes, stir-fries, and more.

Even if you don’t have a large green space – or any space – for a garden, many plants can be grown in windowsills or on patios. Good luck and happy growing!

Kari Smith

Kari Smith is a frequent contributor to Seniors Guide, helping to keep those in the senior industry informed and up-to-date. She's a Virginia native whose love of writing began as a songwriter recording her own music. In addition to teaching music and performing in the Richmond area, Kari also enjoys riding horses and farming.

Kari Smith