Tomatoes have long been my favorite thing to come out of the garden. It seems they take ages to reach just the right amount of ripe, but Oh! The flavor! Since instant gratification is my super-power, I find that I have to have some extra things around the garden that keep me from nattering over the other veggies that take longer to come into their own. I’ve put together some ideas for veggies that you can start harvesting in a few weeks – in fact, eight weeks or so. These fast-growing veggies are ones that you have to keep your eye on; they come ready for harvest so quick that if you don’t watch them, they’ll turn bitter and inedible.
Broccoli Raab (Rapini) – This is one that I remember my grandmother growing in her kitchen garden. Also, rapini is what Rapunzel’s father stole out of the witch’s garden in the fairy tale. It might look like broccoli, but it’s more closely related to the turnip. With this one, you have to be careful to harvest RIGHT AWAY. If you see flower buds, harvest. Tomorrow will likely be too late. With this veggie, you can eat the stems, leaves and flower buds. They are excellent lightly sautéed in olive oil with caramelized onions and garlic.
Cress – This is a green that is a welcome and spicy addition to any summer salad. Like arugula (more on arugula later), this green has a piquant and peppery flavor that is a nice change from “plain” salad greens. This one is super easy to grow and can be grown throughout the season, from very early to very late. This one you can direct-sow seeds into the garden or into a container. Watch out, though…Cress tends to increase its spice factor with the increasing heat of the summer.
Arugula – The thing with arugula is that it grows FAST; thus the nickname “rocket”. This is another direct-sow veggie. Keep an eye on it, the same as you would cress, and harvest the leaves when they are large enough for a salad, but not too large. During the summer, consider moving your arugula to a nutrient dense container in a shadier area; otherwise your rocket will bolt.
Turnips – This ancient veggie grow super fast, are not the least bit finicky and you can eat both the leaves and the roots. In summer, you will want to harvest these when the roots are less than two inches in diameter; otherwise they get “woody”. You can eat them raw and sliced in salads to add an interesting “crunch” factor, pickled, roasted with other root veggies or steamed. When turnips are small like this, their flavor is quite mild and very nice.
Radishes – Everyone loves radishes and they are usually THE veggie that is the first one we hand to kids who want to participate in gardening. They are colorful, fast-growing and are easy to grow. Direct-sow into your garden or a large container at least 6 inches deep. A favorite variety at our house is the French Breakfast radish as well as the Easter egg radish (because this variety comes in a range of colors from pink to red to purple, all in the same package!)
Kale – Kale has gained in popularity both as a “superfood” and a garden veggie that is easy to grow and can be grown just about hear round (with the assistance of a cold-frame). During the hotter months, kale will require a lot of water. A LOT of water; otherwise it will go bitter on you. There are a number of varieties of kale and some are quite attractive grown in a container, direct-sown, on your patio. Harvest the outside leaves and enjoy several weeks of delicious kale, lightly steamed or sautéed with a bit of olive oil. You can make a delicious snack, too, by chopping or tearing the kale leaves into two inch pieces and drying them in a dehydrator or in a slow oven. Sprinkled with sea salt and perhaps a bit of garlic…Yum!
Many gardeners view all of these as “cool season only” … but it doesn’t have to be that way. You’re going for the quick fix here. Succession plantings will keep you knee-deep in these “instant gratification” veggies just about year round. For those new to gardening or if you’re gardening with kids, the encouragement gained from growing any of these quick to harvest veggies is priceless! For those with a bunch of experience under their belts, it’s a way to get the “quick fix” without a lot of hovering and nattering. If you’re physically challenged in any way and gardening has become more difficult for you, taller containers offer you the opportunity to pull up a chair and garden on your balcony or patio with this quick-growing, quick to harvest lovelies.
Now get out there and grow something!