PHOTOGRAPHS BY JESSICA WALLISER
Patience may be a virtue, but let’s face it: Sometimes I don’t want to wait months between sowing a seed and harvesting something yummy. I want my homegrown veggies, and I want them now! In the spirit of rapid gratification, here are five of my favorite fast-growing vegetables, each ready to eat in 30 days or less. To sweeten the deal, all of them are easy to grow and delicious, too.
Kale is a super-nutritious vegetable, and in its immature or “baby” form, it’s especially tender and tasty. Seeds sown directly into the garden in early spring or late summer are ready to harvest in just four weeks. (Related: The World’s Most Nutritious Green) When kale is to be harvested as a baby green, the seeds can be sown thickly, making for a prolific harvest from small square footage. Plus, each planting can be harvested multiple times in cut-and-come-again fashion. Excellent varieties to grow this way include Red Ruffled, Bolshoi, Dwarf Siberian, and White Russian.
Swiss chard takes as much as two months to reach full size, but you can harvest it as a baby green just a few weeks after planting. The young leaves are tender and flavorful, and they’re delicious both raw and cooked. Their colorful stems are gorgeous in the garden and the salad bowl. Sow Swiss chard seeds anytime during the growing season. For baby chard production, plant Rubarb, Bright Lights, Golden, Peppermint, or any of the other beautiful varieties available from your favorite seed company.
Once you’ve tried this underutilized and underappreciated green in salads and sandwiches, you’ll always crave its peppery zing. Cress is easily grown from seed sown into the garden in early spring or in the fall. Like other cool-season greens, it’s tolerant of light frosts. The quick-to-mature leaves can be harvested when they reach two to three inches in height; snip them individually to keep the plants producing. Cress’ flavor turns very pungent in warm weather, so earlier harvests are best.
This spicy green is a classic quick-growing vegetable. Young leaves can be harvested in as little as 21 days. There are a few arugula cultivars on the market, in addition to the wild form, each offering a slightly different flavor and bite. Arugula is fairly intolerant of heat; sow seeds in early spring or fall, when the crop can mature during cooler weather. Allow the plants to set flower and drop seed if you’d like to start a self-perpetuating stand of arugula in your garden.
The stunning purple leaves of this Asian vegetable contrast with their green undersides. Crispy, nutritious baby pac choi, ready in 30 days from seed, can be used fresh in salads, braised, sautéed, or stir-fried. Sow seeds outdoors in spring or early fall, or give seedlings a head start under lights indoors, three to four weeks before transplanting to the garden. Violetta is quick to bolt if exposed to hot temperatures or frosts.