spring carrot recipes
All featured products are curated independently by our editors. When you buy something through our retail links, we may receive a commission.

Growing your own food earns gobs of cool points in our book. Many of us start with basil or mint plants, in an indoor herb garden or in pots on the patio. When that works, we try more. Eventually, if we have the space, we plant full-on vegetable gardens. But some food isn’t worth growing yourself. The investment in time, money, and trouble is too high, and the return too low. You might as well grab some veggies at the market.

Why Garden at All?

So, why grow in the first place? We reap so many benefits from planting, nurturing, and tending vegetables and fruits in the yard or outdoor containers.

Way More Than a HobbyRon Finley's Gardening Masterclass Might Just Change Your LifeIt saves you money; provides you with fresher, better tasting, more nutritious meals; gives you control over the way your food is grown including chemicals used; and helps the ecosystem, air, and environment in general. Plus, if you’re into the whole locavore movement, it doesn’t get any more local than a few steps from your door. (Unless you sleep with your plants, but that’s another issue.)

And of course, in the time of coronavirus, it gives you a measure of extra security and self-sufficiency—though in truth, it’s extremely difficult for a home gardener to grow enough to supplement buying any/all produce from the store. Still, it’s well worth doing if you can! And the benefits go far beyond just growing your own food.

Related Reading: 9 Produce Subscriptions You Should Know About

What Food Should You Grow?

how to grow beans

Maximilian Stock Ltd. / Getty Images

There are lots of vegetables worth growing at home. For just a few examples, these plants can be cheaper to grow than to buy: Fruit trees, leaf lettuce, herbs, vine vegetables, and bell peppers. Check out a few ingredient-specific guides (with more to come), and general pointers for beginners:

Millwood Pines Azucena Wood Raised Garden with Trellis, $394.99 from Wayfair

Raised beds are handy for tidy garden plots.
Buy Now

What Food Isn’t Worth Growing at Home?

Naturally, it all depends on specific tastes and preferences, but many home growers, including some of us here at Chowhound, have discovered it’s not worth the effort with the following edible plants:

Cauliflower

cauliflower

Pixabay

This erratic plant has a long growing season before it matures, so that can take patience. But cauliflower also likes it cool, according to Linsey Knerl on Wise Bread. So you may have a hard time with this vegetable if you live in a part of the country that gets hot early. Cauliflower wants to be pampered: For instance, the outer leaves have to be grown so they can cover the cauliflower’s head and be tied. Even if you do all that, beetles and other insects love to do damage on on the head’s florets, which is even more of a pain than normal because that head is hiding behind those outer leaves. The final yield—assuming you did everything right—is just one head. Eh. Get one from the store, and then get our cauliflower recipes for ideas on what to do with it.

Corn

how to cook corn on the cob

Shutterstock

You have to cover a lot of ground to grow enough corn for it to pollinate, and the average backyard gardener doesn’t possess that much space. Corn pollinates through the wind, so you have to plant your corn crop in a square shape, using at least 20 plants or so. Also, be careful about planting different varieties together, for the same wind and cross-pollination reasons. When the wrong varieties mix together, the corn can taste off. Unless you have a bunch of rows, the tall, spindly stalks can blow over in high winds or other bad weather. You also only get about two ears per stalk. Pick it up fresh from the farmers’ market in season, and get our corn recipes.

Carrots

spring carrot recipes

Pixabay

Carrots require soil with the perfect pH level that’s been prepared specially and is well tended. You need at least six inches of soil that’s been tilled and loosened, with no pebbles. Any obstructions can stunt the root’s growth or cause it to branch off and create a gnarly looking carrot or split carrot. Clay soil is bad for carrots, mineral soil is okay, and humus (not to be confused with hummus) is the best, according to How Stuff Works: Home & Garden. Carrots are just too cheap at the store to bother with all this trouble for the average home gardener. So get a bunch and check out our carrot recipes.

Celery

Is celery worth growing?

Pixabay

Celery needs a bunch of moisture, so your soil must be able to hold its water. You also have to be a gardener devoted to consistent watering. The growing season of 120 to 180 days from seed to harvest is pretty long, which can be a bummer. During the growth period, celery needs cool weather, so you can’t grow it well in the summer in the South or Midwest. Pick it up at the store instead, and make one of our celery recipes (or just whip up a batch of ranch).

Eggplants

Is eggplant worth growing?

Pixabay

Eggplants are very sensitive to temperature fluctuations for one thing, but their main problem is pests. That’s not an issue if you can grow row cover crops or you’re fine with using pesticides. Most of us who grow at home though, do it to avoid potentially toxic chemicals on our food. If you want to eat eggplant, buy organic from the store, and then give one of our eggplant recipes a whirl.

If we haven’t discouraged you too much (or you want to challenge our warnings), get out there and grow. Prove us wrong. And don’t forget about your flowers—which you can also eat!

Start From the Ground Up

How to Start a Garden: 5 Tips for Beginners

Header image courtesy of Pixabay

Amy Sowder is a writer and editor based in NYC, covering food and wellness in publications such as Bon Appétit, Women's Health, Eat This, Not That!, Upworthy/GOOD, Brooklyn Magazine, and Westchester Magazine. She loves to run races, but her favorite finish lines are gelato shops. Learn more at AmySowder.com.
See more articles