Planning a vegetable garden is a creative endeavor. Choosing which vegetables to grow and enjoy takes careful planning and forethought. The rewards of vegetable gardening are similar to all gardening--both watching the plants grow and enjoying the fruits of your labor. The best vegetables to grow are the ones that you and your friends and family will eat and enjoy. Each vegetable has its own distinct advantage, but there are a few popular choices easily available to intrepid gardeners.
While the juicy, red seed-filled tomato is technically a fruit, it is often used as a vegetable in an appetizer or the main course of a meal. Many gardeners consider the tomato plant (Solanum lycopersicum) one of the best vegetables to grow. Tomatoes are perennials in their native South America, but they are cultivated in temperate climates as annuals. The nearly 8000 cultivars make it easy to find a tomato for any soil, climate and space requirement. Tomatoes come into season during mid to late summer. In addition to culinary delights, tomatoes provide health benefits also. Tomatoes are high in vitamins E, C and A. They also contain a substance known as lycopene, which has alleged antioxidant properties.
Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) is a leafy annual that provides the base for most salads. This easy-to-grow vegetable prefers temperate climates and is particularly fond of conditions found in zone 6 on the USDA hardiness zone chart. Preferring light, sandy soil and moist conditions, lettuce goes to seed early if left to dry. Low in calories and high in water, dark-leafed lettuce types like Romaine provide more nutrients than those with lighter green leaves, like Iceberg. Lettuce leaves are harvested soon after planting, but they may take on a bitter taste if grown in conditions that are too warm.
Carrots (Daucus carota sativus) are crisp root crops that range in color from orange to purple, red, white or yellow. This easy-to-cultivate vegetable puts out tiny rosette leaflets in early spring and summer. A taproot develops below the surface of the soil to seek out water and nutrients as the plant grows. This taproot is the vegetable that we eat. Carrots are easy to grow and produce a crop almost without exception. Carrots are rich in beta carotene, vitamin A, fiber and antioxidants, making them one of the best home-grown vegetables for health-conscious individuals.