For those looking to get out of the house without wandering away from their property, cultivating a home garden can provide a welcome escape. As an added bonus, you can incorporate the vegetables you grow into your next home-cooked meals. There are many options for Midwest gardeners to choose from to grow at home.
One of the easiest choices, and one that will spice up the look of your garden, is Swiss chard. TheSpruce.com lists swiss chard at No.1 on its list of 12 Easiest Vegetables to Grow.
Swiss chard is one of the most dramatic-looking greens, featuring brightly colored stalks and broad foliage. The Spruce advises gardeners to grow chard for its quick color and easy care, then “learn to enjoy it sauteed and stir-fried in the kitchen.”
Tomatoes are a classic home garden selection, and Family Handyman includes them on its list of 10 Vegetables Every Midwest Gardener Should Grow.
“We all know that freshly-picked garden tomatoes best store-bought varieties in taste, hands down, it states on FamilyHandyman.com.
In advising gardeners on maintaining their tomato plants, Family Handyman says the most important thing is to provide fertile, well-drained soil and keep plants evenly-watered, so the fruits don’t split open. “A sturdy frame or support will keep plants from sprawling on the ground and exposing fruit to soil,” it states.
The Spruce also suggests tomatoes as an easy option, citing the flexibility the plant presents to a gardener, regardless of what space is available to them.
“Grow tomatoes just about anywhere,” The Spruce suggests. “In beds, on the porch, in hanging containers, with little to no maintenance or worry.”
There are several varieties of peppers that can be grown in a home garden, including different types of sweet and hot peppers.
Family Handyman says, “believe it or not, pepper plants are easy to grow,” and suggests banana peppers as an attractive option.
Banana peppers are a strong choice for Midwest gardeners worried about shifts in temperature in the spring or summer.
While many versions of peppers plants struggle to produce fruit when the temperature is cooler than 65 degrees or warmer than 85, according to Family Handman, banana peppers “are an exception, and they bear a crop even when temperatures fluctuate above or below the optimum level.”
Sweet and hot banana pepper varieties are available, so gardeners can try multiple options and find which ones best match their tastes.
Cucumbers are another safe bet for gardeners, as the plants are famous for their productivity. Family Handman suggests doing two plantings, one in the spring and one early in the summer, to extend the harvesting season.
The Spruce says gardeners should “experiment with different kinds of cucumber to enjoy cucumbers for slicing, pickling, and refreshing summer cucumber mint water.”
If you are worried about a cool spring delaying your garden production, VeggieGardener.com recommends getting started with cabbage before the weather heats up.
“The typical long, cool springs of the Midwest favor growing cabbage, which prefers cooler temperatures,” it states on VeggieGardener.com. “Cabbage should be grown in fertile soil with a pH around 6.5.”
The Spruce suggests cabbage, as well, advising novice gardeners not to overlook the plant based on reputation.
“Cabbage gets a bad rap for being difficult, but it’s really very easy and rewarding,” The Spruce says. “Cabbage plants look like giant, colorful flowers as they form, making them a spotlight feature in the edible landscape.”
Other options on The Spruce’s list include summer and winter squash, beans, lettuce, rosemary and mint.
Family Handyman also suggests lettuce, along with zucchini, kale, eggplant, broccoli and onion.
Garden-Fresh Rainbow Chard
From Taste of Home ( https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/garden-fresh-rainbow-chard/)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium red onion, halved and sliced
3 garlic cloves, sliced
1/4 cup chicken broth
2 bunches rainbow Swiss chard, coarsely chopped (about 16 cups)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1. In a 6-qt. stockpot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion; cook and stir until tender, 2-3 minutes. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer.
2. Add broth and chard; cook and stir until chard is tender, 5-6 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in lemon juice, salt and pepper.
1/2 cup: 115 calories, 7g fat (1g saturated fat), 0 cholesterol, 631 mg sodium, 11g carbohydrate (4g sugars, 4g fiber), 4g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 2 vegetable, 1-1/2 fat.
Cucumber Tomato Salad
From Country Living (https://www.countryliving.com/food-drinks/recipes/a43556/cucumber-tomato-salad-recipe/)
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 tsp. coriander seeds
2 tsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 c. cider vinegar
1 tbsp. sugar
3 large tomatoes, sliced 1/2” thick
1 English cucumber, sliced
Olive oil, for serving
1/3 c. fresh cilantro
1. Place onion in a glass or ceramic bowl. Cook coriander and mustard seeds in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until seeds begin to pop, 1 to 2 minutes. Add cumin seeds and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 10 seconds. Add vinegar, sugar, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 cup water. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until sugar and salt are dissolved, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour vinegar mixture over onion. Let stand until room temperature. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 2 days. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup pickling liquid.
2. To serve, arrange tomatoes, cucumber, and onion on a platter. Drizzle with oil and reserved pickling liquid. Top with cilantro.
Bob’s Stuffed Banana Peppers
(Original recipe yields 8 servings)
8 banana peppers
2 tablespoons butter
½ cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped celery
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 ½ teaspoons salt, divided
½ teaspoon ground black pepper, divided
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound hot Italian sausage
1 pound mild Italian sausage
1 ½ cups bread crumbs
1. Cut off tops of peppers, and remove ribs and seeds. Chop edible portions of tops; set aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add peppers, reduce heat, and simmer until tender but still firm, about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
2. Heat butter in a medium skillet. Saute reserved chopped pepper, onion and celery until tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce and garlic. Season with basil, oregano, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
3. Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, combine egg, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, Worcestershire sauce and Parmesan. Mix in hot sausage, mild sausage, bread crumbs and 1 cup of the tomato sauce mixture.
4. Using a piping bag or sausage stuffer, fill each pepper with the meat mixture. Place in a 3 quart casserole dish, and pour remaining tomato sauce mixture over peppers.
5. Bake uncovered in preheated oven for 1 hour.
593 calories; 42.5 g total fat; 123 mg cholesterol; 2125 mg sodium. 28.5 g carbohydrates; 25.1 g protein.
Fresh Homemade Salsa
From Tastes Better From Scratch (https://tastesbetterfromscratch.com/fresh-homemade-salsa/)
6 medium-size tomatoes (Roma work well), chopped
1/2 red onion or sweet onion
3-4 fresh jalapeño peppers , I leave 1 with seeds and the rest without seeds, for a medium spice salsa, or use 1-2 peppers and remove all seeds and veins for mild salsa
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro
3 cloves garlic
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice (about 1 large lime)
1 1/4 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon Sea salt
1. Add all ingredients to the bowl of a food processor.
2. Pulse about 5-10 times, or just until the ingredients are finely diced, but stop before they’re soupy.
3. Pour contents into a fine mesh strainer to remove excess liquid.
4. For best flavor, refrigerate at least 2-3 hours before serving
5. Keeps in the fridge for up to 1 week
Calories: 78 kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Fat: 3g | Sodium: 292mg | Potassium: 28mg | Vitamin A: 95 IU | Vitamin C: 5.3mg | Calcium: 7mg | Iron: 0.1mg