Silverbeet and other vegetables

August 26, 2009

Picked some more silverbeet today. Cost for seedlings, $3. Labour input: minimal, and gratifying.

Silverbeet is hard to kill, easy to grow, free of most pests and diseases, and can be picked without killing the plant. I know vegetable gardening isn’t for everyone, and you need some basic kit which costs a bit, but certainly if you’re getting into it silverbeet must qualify as one of the best possible plants to grow.

As long as you like silverbeet. Which I do. Just don’t boil the crap out of it as we did in the 70s. Wash it and shred it, and sweat it in olive oil with a little garlic and salt and pepper until it’s well wilted but still green. Nom.

My Dad is a terrific fruit and vegetable gardener. He always reckons that he won’t grow things that he can buy really cheaply, unless the home-grown version is obviously superior. So Dad doesn’t do onions, but he does do tomatoes. That makes sense to me. There’s an economics of home vegetable gardening, and there’s no sense in investing a lot of effort and resources unless we know it’s worth it.

Soon I’m going to plant beans. Fresh beans are always expensive, the plants fix nitrogen in the soil for your next crop, and if you save a few pods the seeds are free. What a winner. I’d plan even more except that we’re probably moving soon…

Nominations for the frugal vege patch, anyone?



  1. I am growing red onions this year because they are hideously expensive here. Also I have herbs by the back door. Italian parsley is very hardy and adds to many dishes but I have quite a big herb garden. Most herbs are really easy to grow from cuttings or dividing existing plants.

    I think lettuce might be cheaper to buy “up north” (not here tho) but nothing beats fresh out of the garden in my book.

    I liek to add a bit of balsamic to my silverbeet and sort of braise it.

  2. Herbs, obviously. I’ve always grown herbs, even when I’ve grown nothing else. This year, having finally set up vegie gardens for my girls, we are growing peas and lettuce and sunflowers from seed (so far). As long as you’re prepared for a high failure rate while you are learning, it’s very cost effective.

  3. Radishes are good for kids to grow.

    Butter beans are much better grown yourself rather than bought.

    And fresh peas because they;re tasty – though they take up rooom.

    Basil? I find that you can buy one of the basil in a pot from the super market and repot it to about 4 pots and wait you end up with about 6-8 times as much basil as the pot from the supermarket gives you. And substituing cashews for pinenuts makes the homemade pesto cheaper though sometimes shelling out for pinenuts is nice.

  4. Perpetual rocket is another goodie, hard to kill, have to eat it to get more. Ours has lasted the winter through with loads eaten. Don’t think we have purchased salad greens, other than for large gatherings, for about 6 months.

  5. I had spectacular results last year with thyme and oregano (as well as the usual suspects, mint, chives and parsley) in relatively poor soil, outdoors, in Wellington. Probably my herb garden gave the most value and satisfaction, because having an abundance of fresh herbs makes any budget meal (tinned tomatoes on pasta, anyone?) better.

    After last year’s fiasco, I won’t be bothering with brassicas for a while – too many white moths, and I’m not inclined to use heaps of Derris because of the cats and toddler.

    Spinach is also eerily unkillable and there are pick-as-you-need-it varieties.

  6. Our pumpkin vine paid off, even though we only got one viable pumpkin off it. It’s a fine specimen, but the five-year-old won’t let me chop it up for soup because she wants to enter it in a competition. However it’s given great service as a prop in Cinderella reenactments, as a footstool, step. Anyone know how to dry out a pumpkin so it turns into a gourd-type-thing?
    Snow peas are good: you can grow them in winter and preschoolers love stripping them for pods.

  7. Spinach and silverbeet are great. They go very well in pies, quiches and pastries too.

    The good thing about herbs is that they can be grown in a planter indoors – good for the perpetual movers and those without gardens.

    Pumpkins are oh so easy too, as Heather notes.

  8. am thinking of putting in rhubarb as soon as we hit the burbs. it’s always costly, soaks up water out of damp ground (apparently), and is just plain delicious.

  9. rhubarb grows really well too, is hard to kill, and no matter how much of it you pick it just grows some more…

  10. It has taken me three or four years to turn flat leaf (Italian) parsley into a weed. I visited a friend’s place where it proliferated out of every crevice in paths and edgings, especially where concrete was involved, so I got a packet of seeds and tucked them away in the most likely places. For the last year I have had a continual supply to use like a vegetable, including over winter.

  11. Cara – I think it was the NZ Gardener email that was talking about the brassica problem, they say to not bother planting your brassicas until autumn after the moths have done their dash. That way you have greens over winter and you also avoid the problem with the white moth decimation – when you think about it, brussel sprouts etc only really come into the market late winter, which means the professionals don’t bother with them during the rest of the year, probably for the above reason. Providing the seedlings in late spring early summer is a big have on the part of the garden centres methinks :).

    I’m having to start all over again with my herbs, but definitely worth it – I came over all funny when I had to buy fresh herbs at $3.50+ a pop at the supermarket the other week when I used to just pop outside my back door. I would definitely recommend rosemary and a bay tree (both which can be very pretty), thyme, oregano, parsley (both curly and italian), mint (in a separate pot – it spreads voraciously – and it likes warm roots). Last year I tried a variety called basil mint as well, very hardy and copes with damp conditions and a great substitute for basil esp in the cold climate of Dunedin. Though plain old mint is also an interesting substitute for basil in pasta sauces, esp the longer cooked ones, do try it :). As well as that, perpetual spinach and rocket are definitely good, silverbeet is rockin’, it just keeps on coming!

    Will have to try Southernrata’s tip with the italian parsley, you just can’t really have enough…:)

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