Gardening Jones

13 Edibles to Grow Incognito

Gardening Jonesokra flower

You may have a reason you want to grow food without everyone knowing about it. Perhaps you live in a Housing Association that takes what you grow, and more importantly, how it looks, seriously. Maybe you just want to keep your business to yourself.

Or perhaps you just want to incorporate edibles into your landscape for a little more return on your investment.

Whatever your reason, there are a number of foods you can grow pretty much in disguise.

1. Sweet potatoes are related to morning glories and look pretty much like ground cover. They have a lush vine like top growth of edible beautiful leaves. Yes, those leaves are tasty and healthy, just cook like you would spinach. The tubers themselves store well, can be used to replant, and are highly nutritious. Sweet potatoes are not only a good source of vitamin A, they also have a lot of vitamin C.

2. Dry beans most often have a pole growth habit. On a pole they may be obvious, but on a trellis or arbor, much less so. Their gorgeous flowers also help hide the fact that they are producing a high protein food source. Of course save some to replant.

3. Flax is a lovely flowering plant grown for its seed, which is high in fiber and can be used as a substitute for oil and eggs in many recipes. It would blend in well in the landscape and not be seen as a food source by most people. Can it get any better? Yep, bees love them.

4. Quinoa, a relative of spinach, is grown for its high protein grains. It stores well, can be added to almost any recipe, and you can replant the seeds.

5. Unless you are a gardener, you probably wouldn’t recognize a potato growing if you saw one. The russet varieties store the best, and you can replant the following season. What we really like about potatoes besides their ability to store is the versatility of use. May as well keep things interesting.

6. Garlic is said to have some antibiotic properties, can be replanted not long after harvest, and stores well. It takes up very little room yet can make a world of difference in your food.

7. Amaranth, like the gorgeous red Love Lies Bleeding or the green Emerald Tassels are most often listed as flowers. They have gorgeous tall stems with cascading blooms. And guess what, those flowers go to seed and become a very nutritious and quite tasty addition to your diet.

8. Okra is an easy edible to incorporate into a landscape. You can cook it a variety of ways, plus you can dehydrate it to grind and use as a food thickening agent. Be sure to let 1 or 2 pods grow big to save the seeds. Many ornamental gardeners grow okra purely for its aesthetic appeal.

9. Walking onions grow as a perennial scallion type onion with an increased harvest each year. Dry the tops to use throughout the winter months.

10. Hot peppers are a good idea even if you don’t eat them. They can be used to make a pepper spray which works well as a pest deterrent. Many ornamental varieties, like 5 Color Chinese are both pretty to look at, edible, and useful.

11. Tomatoes would be hard to hide, except that you can actually grow them, as well as other edibles, indoors. Stagger a few plantings of heirloom varieties to have a fresh vitamin C source year round. Lightly brush the flowering plants with your hands or use a tuning fork to help promote pollination.

12. I’ll just group all Herbs together, as there are far too many to mention. For starts, consider chives, mints inc. oregano, and basil. These can be grown outdoors or in. Just be careful of the mint family as they can become invasive. They do well in containers. Basil can be started outdoors, then potted up and brought inside for fresh basil all winter.

13. Lettuce and many other fresh greens are easy enough to grow in the house, or to blend into your landscape. Consider smaller varieties, like Tom Thumb lettuce, in hanging baskets.

Well, there you have it. Hopefully growing your own food incognito never becomes an absolute necessity. Even if you don’t consider yourself a survivalist, it never hurts to have the information, just in case.

If nothing else, it’s fun. And that’s a good thing.

How to Make Flavored Extracts

Gardening Joneshomemade extracts

You can easily make your own extracts for cooking and baking by soaking herbs in alcohol. Vodka works the best we think, because it has little flavor on its own.

Simply add the fruit or herb to the alcohol, cover, and let it sit. The alcohol is actually a preservative, so no need to worry about anything going bad as long as it is submerged.

Keep it at least four weeks in a cool dark place, the longer the better. We like to make small fresh batches every year. We make ours over the course of the summer as the produce comes in, and it is ready for holiday baking. When you can’t wait any longer, strain out any particles or unwanted pieces using cheesecloth or even a coffee filter. Store your extract in a dark place away from heat for a longer shelf life. You can buy amber bottles for storing. We just keep ours in the cabinet.

Be sure of course to always use sterilized food grade containers. Glass is best. We use 1/2 pint canning jars. These do make wonderful gifts as the flavor is so much better than what you find in the stores. Also, you may want to adjust your recipes, as we found we didn’t need to add as much to get great flavor.

Here are a few extracts to try:

Mint: Place a few sprigs of freshly cut and washed mint in the jar and fill with alcohol. There are a number of mints that can be used. We like the Silver Mint and Peppermint the best.

Anise: You can use Anise seeds or fennel bulbs and seeds to make anise extract. For a minty anise flavor, try Anise Hyssop.

Citrus: Use the grated outer peel and juice of a lemon or orange. You can also try using the bulb from Lemongrass, or Lemon Balm leaves. These we haven’t tried yet, but will be this summer.

Vanilla: Add a few vanilla beans to the alcohol. They are expensive to buy, but the extract is so worth it if you like to bake a lot.

Lavender: Add some fresh flowers to the alcohol. The extract is good in lemon cookies. My friends say it also makes a great martini.

Use your imagination based on what extracts you have been purchasing. I have seen recipes for coconut, coconut lime, chocolate, nuts and berry extracts. These aren’t flavors we use, but perhaps you do.