What exactly is a kitchen or potager garden? In essence, these trendy terms basically describe a garden filled with vegetables, herbs and fruits. All food gardens are technically kitchen gardens, but this term is often used for a garden planned for beauty as well as function.
Kitchen gardens have been around for hundreds of years. The French call it a potager garden, coming from the word potage for soup. Faced with usually small garden spaces, they have learned to grow enough vegetables to feed their families. And flowers to cut for the table.
British cottage gardens include ornamental plants combined with all manner of vegetables, fruits and herbs. They’re filled with lettuce, chard, sweet peas supported on twig trellises, and plump cabbages that are beautiful in their own right. Add the herbs such as purple leaf basil, lemon thyme and garden sage for cooking delectable dinners.
A kitchen garden can be precise and orderly, blowsy and tangled, or even a garden made up only of containers. But the effect is the same – vegetables and fruits grown with flowers and herbs, limited only by your imagination.
This type of garden is not used so much for large-scale production, canning and putting away for the winter, but more for immediate use in the kitchen. It can range from a small hanging basket of oregano and lettuce outside the back door to a full garden with roses, shrubs and perennials coupled with vegetables and herbs. Fruits and edible flowers certainly have a place here as well.
Why plant a kitchen garden?
We are usually inspired to start a kitchen garden because we want to taste fresh food that’s not available at the market. There is nothing quite like picking and tasting your own ripe, perfumed melon or warm raspberries right off the shrub. Greens such as arugula, radiccio and mesclun are rarely available from the grocery or farmers market, but are amazingly simple to grow. Heirloom squash and beans are easily be grown in the home garden.
The freshest food
We all love having beauty around us – that’s generally why we garden in the first place. Edible plants can be artistically combined with ornamental plants to create a beautiful garden that pleases eye and palate.
Some vegetables that lend themselves to a smaller space garden:
Green beans – Come in green, purple and yellow types, in bush or pole types which produce later in the season. Plant scarlet runners, purple and yellow wax beans together on a trellis for all spectacular accent.
Eggplant – These delicious fruits come in every color and shape imaginable, from white to yellow to striped lilac to red to black, and in oblong, round and cherry-tomato sized. The compact plants make beautiful accents with striking purple flowers, dusky green-purple leaves and jewel-like fruits.
Kale – This nutritious vegetable comes in a myriad of sizes, colors and leaf textures. Unlike the familiar flowering kale, the new varieties are sweet and tender, and come in all shades of blue, purple, pink and red. Best of all, they produce all summer.
Lettuce – there is no end to the colors and textures, not to mention the countless types of greens mixes. These make beautiful bed edging and thrive in baskets.
Pepper – Peppers come in all colors, shapes and sizes, jewel-like fruits hung on ornamental plants. Choose orange, red, white, purple or brown bell peppers, scarlet cayennes or jalapenos, tiny upright mirasols, rich golden bananas and cubanelles or even tiny but potent maroon scotch bonnets.
Tomatoes – Grow cherries on trellises or patio tomatoes in the ground or in containers. There are methods to prune and pinch and train them onto a single stake, taking up much less room than in a tomato cage.
Classic Salad Niçoise
This salad is a classic French dish and can be adapted to any seasonal vegetables and your favorite vinaigrette. Add edible flowers like calendula petals, nasturtiums or violets to make it pop.
Your choice of vegetables:
sliced steamed baby potatoes
small cooking onions or scallions
hard boiled eggs
sliced sweet peppers
Set in rows on a bed of bibb; drizzle with vinaigrette of choice.
You can also add seared tuna or grilled flank steak.