10 Must-Grow Plants for Your Vegetable Garden and Kitchen

pepper plant growing in garden
Photo: Jamie Hadley

Make the most of your growing space by planting easy-to-grow veggies that will give you a reliable harvest of delicious produce. Of course, the best vegetables to grow in your garden are the ones that you enjoy eating. This collection of edible plants will fill your plate with fresh flavors and colors all season long.

01 of 10

Heirloom Tomatoes

bumper crop of tomatoes and okra overhead
Ryann Ford

No store-bought tomato could ever compare to a big, juicy heirloom tomato plucked fresh from your garden. Heirloom varieties tend to have irregular shapes and thinner skin than mass-market tomatoes. That means heirlooms don't ship as well and can be hard to find in your produce aisle. Ensure your own supply by growing these tasty yet delicate tomatoes yourself. Choose from a colorful range of heirloom slicing, cherry, and sauce types to enjoy all the delicious flavors and textures these tomatoes have to offer.

02 of 10

Summer Squash

zucchini and yellow squash
Harland Schuster

Prolific is possibly the best word to describe summer squash. Although the plants can hog a lot of space, just a single plant will give you an ample harvest. There's a good reason we have a National Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor's Porch Day! And in the kitchen, few veggies are as versatile as summer squash, which can be grated into baked goods, made into "zoodles," stuffed and roasted, pickled, grilled, stir-fried, and more.

03 of 10

Peppers

pepper plant growing in garden
Jamie Hadley

Pepper plants don't take up much space, and will keep producing a harvest for weeks at a time. Plus, by growing peppers in your own garden, you can experience much more of this group of plants than you're likely to find at the grocery store. Both sweet and hot peppers come in lots of shapes, sizes, and colors. Chili types run the gamut from mild to off the charts when it comes to Scoville units (used to measure their heat), so you can choose the varieties with the amount of fieriness you prefer.

04 of 10

Garlic

box full of garlic cloves from garden
Jeff Kauck

A health and flavor powerhouse, garlic is a must for cooks and so should be a must for growing in your garden. This bulbous plant takes up very little space, and is easy to grow. And when growing garlic yourself, you can enjoy the bonus of garlic scapes, which are the edible flowering stems that appear before the heads are ready to be harvested. These green stems have a milder garlic flavor, perfect for zinging up stir fries, egg dishes, and even pesto.

05 of 10

Cucumbers

'Marketer' cucumber
Jay Wilde

A couple of cucumber plants will easily produce enough for a family of four. And you might even have some extra bounty to share with friends and neighbors, making cukes one of the best veggies to include in your garden. Easy to grow and vigorous, cucumber vines can sprawl across the garden, or they can be trained onto a sturdy trellis. Bush types such as 'Marketmore 76' or 'Salad Bush' are excellent for small-space vegetable gardens and containers. Try starting cucumber seeds indoors to get a jump on the growing season.

06 of 10

Peas

Indian-Spiced Roasted Peas
Blaine Moats

Garden-fresh peas are the ultimate springtime treat, and so sweet you could eat them right off the plant. Best eaten soon after harvest, some peas convert as much as 40 percent of their sugar to starch in just a few hours in the refrigerator. Snow peas (shown here roasted with Indian spices), and their close relative snap peas, can be eaten pod, seeds, and all, no time-consuming shelling required. This cool-season crop thrives in the cooler months of spring and fall, but will stop producing in warm temperatures.

07 of 10

Mesclun Mix

Mesclun mix green and purple leafing plant
Marty Baldwin

The word "mesclun" is French and originally referred to a mixture of tender greens that were wild-harvested in early spring. Today mesclun is cultivated in gardens and containers to make harvesting perfectly tender baby salad greens as easy as stepping out the door. Many flavor-rich mixes are available, making them a tasty addition to your vegetable garden. They often contain greens such as arugula, chard, lettuce, and kale. Mesclun is easy to grow from seed planted in early spring.

08 of 10

Spinach

Spinach Spinacia oleracea
Scott Little

While spinach may be included in a mesclun mix, it's worth growing on its own, too. This fast-growing, cool-season crop has so many uses, both fresh and cooked. Plant ribbons of spinach through a perennial border, or use it as a tidy little hedge around a plot of spring vegetables. Spinach is easy to grow from seed in early spring. The plants will bolt (flower and make seeds instead of leaves) in hot weather, but you can seed a late summer crop for harvest in fall.

09 of 10

Beans

derby green beans hanging from vine
Scott Little

Beans are among the easiest vegetables to grow. Perfect for a first-time gardener or a child's vegetable garden, beans quickly germinate and thrive in a warm, sunny spot. They are available in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes; some plants produce colorful flowers, pods, and seeds. From snap beans to edamame, you can grow them all in your backyard. Bush-type beans fit well into smaller gardens, while pole type beans will need supports to climb.

10 of 10

Basil

close-up shot of african blue basil plant
Peter Krumhardt

If you can only grow one herb in your vegetable garden, it should be basil. It's one of the easiest herbs to grow, and it's tomato's perfect partner. Basil's flavorful leaves elevate everyday sauces, soups, and salads into gourmet fare. The myriad varieties, such as lemon basil and Thai basil, have flavors ranging from citrusy to spicy with a touch of anise. Basil grows equally well in the garden and in containers. Its textured foliage makes it a pretty plant to have in the edible landscape, too.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles