A few weeks ago I wrote in the weekly NZ Gardener eNewsletter grow that I believed it was possible and – controversially – not even that hard to grow some of your own food and help stretch your food budget.
I’m not saying you would be self-sufficient or anything like that. Just that some crops are easy to grow and/or store and preserve to help bulk up your meals or add a splash of flavor to budget-friendly ingredients.
We got a huge response from readers: mostly in agreement, often suggesting the economic crops they grew. So I thought I’d ask a few of my expert gardening friends what they’ve found best to grow at home to save money and here are their suggestions, along with some that I recommend myself.
There are of course many reasons to grow your own, and saving money is just one of them. But with the cost of living rising (and rising!), it would be great to see more Kiwis grow up.
* What vegetables are you growing this season?
* Cultivating a Food Community: Is cultivating your own the way to beat food prices?
* No land, no skills? Here’s how you can learn to grow food
* Tenant’s Vegetable Garden: The best edibles to grow when it’s not your garden
Grow prolific producing vegetables
Director of Auckland Botanic Gardens and Best Planter Jack Hobbs find cucumber be a brilliant harvest to boost the budget for the summer. “I grow Lebanese varieties such as ‘Manny’ (F1 hybrid) which produce a prolonged harvest of smooth, flavorful fruit, ideal for salads, dipped in white wine vinegar or for making tzatziki. I also pickle some like pickles,” he says.
To save space and keep the fruit off the ground, Hobbs grows it on a support, but the plants can also be allowed to run through the garden. “Regular harvesting and watering keeps the vines fruiting for months until I get tired of eating them.”
These prolific, nutty-tasting tubers are almost too easy to grow, says Auckland permaculturist Ellen Schindler. “They will take advantage of this though and colonize any available garden area!” But they make delicious fries and soups and can be added to stir fries. “The main reason Jerusalem artichokes less popular than other basic root crops is that they give you wind,” admits Schindler. “It seems that only some connoisseurs can tolerate their body becoming a wind turbine for a while after eating!”
New Zealand gardener Barbara Smith, staff writer, sustains her little house with beans year-round by planting 12 seeds of “Blue Lake Runner” each year against a climbing frame. “When the beans reach the top of the 2m frame, I drag them on ropes across the aisle,” she says. “They still go 4m. They produce from scratch and all the way through. She eats them fresh all season and freezes the excess for the rest of the year.
Schindler says mushrooms are much easier to grow yourself than many people think and incredibly productive for the space they take up (you grow them indoors so they don’t need outdoor space at all). You can buy a mushroom kit, she says, but you can also easily make your own. “The humble oyster mushroom is an easy DIY start. There are plenty of YouTube videos that give you a basic idea of what to do.
This is a great harvest to stretch your food budget because you can use mushrooms in cooking the same way you would use meat, she says. “Plus, you can add them to soups and sauces, marinate or ferment them, and if you have too much, dry them and use them later.”
Shark fin melon
This wonderful climber is often confused with watermelon, says Schindler. “But it’s actually an incredibly vigorous squash that keeps well. I still have four from last year. My single plant spanned three trees and produced 15 watermelon-sized melons. They grow until frost comes.
Melon has a vegetable sweetness and a mild taste, she says. “You can eat them young like a zucchini. Once mature, use a saw and cut them into 4-5 rings, then the iron bark can be removed in one piece. Heat oil, add 2-3 diced onions, fry for a while, add melon pieces and water and boil. Chinese recipes suggest mashing a salted duck egg for seasoning. I use our own hard-boiled chicken eggs and salt or soy sauce. You can also add mushrooms, ground meat, vegetables or whatever you have on hand, but we like to let the melon shine.
I like peppers and it’s no wonder – ridiculously productive, easy to store (whole fruit caps in the freezer) and perfectly happy growing in pots. Plus, in the kitchen, they add pizzazz to budget-friendly meals and can be used to make your own pickles, marinades and oils.
Grow vegetables that keep well
Canterbury egrow-your-own enthusiast Candice Harris is also growing up pumpkin because good varieties keep so well. She uses pumpkins to make hummus, scones, jam, pie, soup, muffins, curry, and kebabs, plus it’s steamed, roasted, and added to smoothies and burgers. . “Heck, we even add it to oats overnight and make pancakes with pumpkin in it.”
Butternuts are his favorite. “Whether it’s the flavor, the fact that they’re easy to peel, or just the shape that looks like mine!” But the bigger cousins - crown and blues – are a better choice for longer storage times.
Harris also says spuds can help stretch the food bill. “Potatoes earn versatility points, right? ” she says. “Plus, you could live on them and them alone in terms of nutritional value. I always sow a second round of potatoes in late summer to dig up wedges or leek and pumpkin soup in the winter. potatoes.
Tākaka permaculturist Sol Morgan grows purple ‘Urenika’ maori potato variety all year round in Tākaka. “They grow well under many of our fruit trees which are regularly mulched. These are lifted throughout the year and do not turn green, as they are purple! Being a floury potato, they make delicious roasted fries, with rosemary leaves.
New Zealand gardener deputy editor Mei Leng Wong cultivates kūmara for the nutritious tubers and leaves. As soon as the seedlings are established and send up a few vines, she begins picking the tender leaves for cooking. “In my native Malaysia, we often use the tubers in desserts and treat the sweet potato leaves like spinach, using them in stir fries and soups. My favorite is to heat a tablespoon of groundnut oil in a hot wok, add chopped garlic and chilli, then toss the leaves and fry until they wilt, maybe add soy sauce,” she says “So even though it takes months before I can harvest the tubers, I get value from the plant in weeks and for months. That must count as a budget booster.”
Learn more about how gardening can save you money:
- Nine Fruits Worth Growing
- Herbs and leafy greens worth growing
Jo McCarroll has edited NZ Gardener since 2010. She lives in a central suburb of Auckland in a section filled with vegetable beds, fruit trees and flowers.