This month's top ten list is the top ten crops (not just vegetables) to grow in your garden. For this month's list, I decided to expand the pool of contributors, so it's now three of my co-workers and I making the list, rather than just one. Thanks to them for participating, it made for some fun debate!
Our criteria was a weighted average between taste, versatility, and cost effectiveness. All three were rated on a five point scale.
10. Carrots: Versatility - 3.25 Taste - 4 Value - 3
I consume more carrots than any other vegetable. I'm not a huge fan of cooked carrots, but I do enjoy raw baby carrots. I have them every day with my lunch (which is peanut butter and jelly with chips).
9. Green Beans: Versatility - 3 Taste - 4.5 Value - 3
Green beans are pretty tasty. They do especially well in Asian stir-fries because they take on a little bit of soy sauce flavor without being overwhelmed.
8. Potatoes: Versatility - 4.75 Taste - 3.5 Value - 2
Potatoes are one of the most versatile crops you can grow. They can be baked, boiled, steamed, fried, and deep fried. They absorb other flavors well making them the perfect compliment for strong tasting foods.
7. Lettuce: Versatility - 3 Taste - 3.75 Value - 5
Apparently, growing lettuce gives you a lot of bang for the buck. It's versatility is often underrated too. It can be eaten in salads (obviously) and also on almost any sandwich. What's often overlooked is that it can be used as a wrap for meat dishes (especially Korean BBQ Yum!).
6. Jalapeno Peppers: Versatility - 3 Taste - 4.25 Value - 4
It seems that everybody on my list likes moderately spicy food (Jalapenos aren't that spicy). It's a staple of Mexican cooking, but I also like to use jalapeno, and other spicy peppers on sandwiches.
5. Garlic: Versatility - 5 Taste - 4 Value - 2
Garlic is the only food to receive a perfect score in either versatility or taste (although our #1 choice should have also received a 5 in versatility). Whether you're cooking Chinese, Italian, or American your recipe very well may call for garlic. It's downside is that garlic is relatively cheap to buy, and also is supposed to be difficult to grow. One of my favorite ways to eat from the garlic plant is to eat the stem. We don't really consume it in the US, but Koreans do, calling it 'manul jong.'
4. Bell Peppers: Versatility - 4.25 Taste - 4.25 Value - 4
I eat these more than any other cooked vegetable. Usually I steam them, but they can also be consumed raw and in a number of prepared dishes. The key is to select the right one for your meal. For saltier meals I often like the sweetness of a yellow bell pepper.
3. Basil: Versatility - 4.5 Taste - 4.5 Value - 4
Basil is often a key spice for much of your finer Italian and French cuisine, but I most commonly eat it on grilled cheese sandwiches. One thing I do have to say is that freshly grown basil is light years better than dried basil.
2. Tomatoes: Versatility - 4.75 Taste - 4 Value - 5
Most people would have expected tomatoes to come out on top, but they have to settle for number 2. That's probably because I don't like tomatoes all that much. They're great in sauces and on the occasional sandwich, but besides that I don't eat them that much. My wife, on the other hand, loves tomatoes. She often just eats them like an apple.
1. Bulb Onions: Versatility - 4.75 Taste - 4.5 Value - 4
Nothing is more versatile than bulb onions. They go in nearly every meal I cook. They top sandwiches, are a critical element of good red sauces, and Asian cooking would never be the same without them. But let's not leave out omelets, salads, and most importantly onion rings. Life would not be the same without onions, and hence they win the award for top crop to grow in your garden.