16 Healthy and Edible Indoor Plants To Start Growing
More and more people in America are embracing farm-fresh and homegrown produce. The reasons for this are extensive, and include environmental friendliness, saving money, and enjoying better quality of products than those available in modern mega-stores. By growing food at home, many people also can take heart in knowing exactly where their food originates and what chemicals and processes went into making it.
If you have a few sunny windows and a little time, it turns out your capable of growing some very healthy and tasty crops in the comfort of your own home. Following is a guide to 16 easy and healthy plants you can grow indoors to improve the quality of your family’s diet.
Before you start planting and potting, though, here are a few tips to keep in mind no matter which of the following plants you choose to grow:
1. All of the following plants require adequate drainage, so either use a pot with holes in the bottom or pile up some stones in the bottom of your pot before adding soil. If you choose to use a pot with holes, be sure to put a shallow container under the pot to prevent drainage onto your floor or windowsill.
2. For each plant, you can start with a general potting mix available from a local garden center or experiment with your own. Each plant grows in slightly different conditions, so be mindful of your individual plant requirements when choosing a soil.
3. Many of the plants featured grow best in areas that receive lots of direct sunlight and remain warm throughout the day. Sunny windows are the best way to assure adequate growing, but if you don’t have much available you can also use indoor growing lights as they help maintain optimum light and temperature conditions for plants regardless of surrounding conditions.
Fruits and Vegetables
Jam-packed with healthy fats, vitamins E, B6, and A, Avocados have been shown to reduce the risk of such diseases as cancer, heart disease, and eye degeneration.
For best results, start with a dwarf avocado plant. Put some sand in the bottom of a large, well-draining pot before topping it with potting mix and planting the tree. Water regularly but keep the soil from getting overly soggy as avocado roots are sensitive to over-watering. Prune the tree’s shoots regularly and make sure to have adequate space available for growth as even dwarf avocado trees can grow up to around 10 feet tall.
Green varieties of avocados are ready to harvest when the skin of the fruits turns slightly yellow. Darker varieties of avocados are ready to pick when the skins turn dark and nearly black. Ripe fruits can be left on the tree for a few weeks until ready to use, but over-ripening will lead to loss of flavor and texture.
Carrots are a great source of vitamins and minerals like thiamin, niacin, folate, potassium, manganese, and vitamins B6, A, C, and K. Carrots are also rich in carotenoids which are beneficial to healthy eyesight.
To start, plant carrot seeds in a pot that is at least 18 inches in depth and width. Fill the pot with an inch from the top with a humus-rich soil mix. Water the soil then plant the seeds by pressing gently into the soil and covering them an inch apart from each other and in rows that are spaced at least six inches. Keep the soil moist, but not soaked, and make sure the container gets plenty of light. Sprouting occurs in approximately two weeks.
Harvest time for carrots is when they’ve grown to about ¾ of an inch in diameter at the base of the stem. If you’re having trouble seeing the carrots, you can size them by simply brushing the soil away from the stem. Keep in mind that when overgrown, carrots will start to lose their flavor and sweetness, so harvest appropriately. To pick the carrots, grab them firmly by the stem and wiggle them until you can pluck them straight up. Immediately after harvest, remove the greens, wash off excess dirt, and let dry before storing in the refrigerator.
3. Garlic Greens
Garlic is a member of the cancer-fighting allium family of vegetables. Garlic is also linked to improvements in blood pressure, heart disease, and high cholesterol. While growing garlic bulbs indoors is rather difficult, garlic greens have all the same health benefits and can be used in recipes as you would scallions.
To get started, plant garlic bulbs with small cloves in a 4-inch pot with drainage holes or a simple quart-sized yogurt or cottage cheese container with holes in the bottom. Fill the pot with soil to about a half an inch of the top. Break the bulbs into individual cloves and, with the peel intact, push the cloves about an inch into the soil with the pointy end up. You can plant about 12 cloves close together and water regularly making sure the soil stays moist but not soggy. Green shoots should pop up within a week or so if left in a sunny spot.
Once the garlic greens are 8-10 inches tall, just trim off the quantities you need with scissors. Each clove will only provide one harvest of good greens, so when the cloves start putting up fresh sprouts, you will need to keep replanting to maintain a constant supply.
Lemons are very rich in vitamin C and antioxidants, in addition to being a natural anti-inflammatory. Lemons are shown to decrease the risk of heart disease and fight some cancers.
If you are interested in having fruit to harvest right way, start with a 2-3 year-old dwarf tree from a nursery. Select a pot slightly larger than the root ball of your tree. Fill the drainage dish of your pot with stones to allow air to circulate and be sure to use a potting soil specifically made for citrus trees. Place the plant in an area that will get 8-12 hours of light each day and will maintain a temperature between 55-85 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep soil moist but not overly wet. Citrus plants respond well to moist air, so misting the leaves regularly will help the plant stay perky.
Most lemons will ripen in 6-9 months. Full yellow color and a slight give to a gently squeezed lemon rind will indicate ripeness.
5. Mandarin Oranges
Sweet and useful in a lot of various recipes, mandarin oranges are a good source of natural antioxidants, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, and fiber.
For best results, start with dwarf mandarin orange trees. The trees will grow best in large pots, rich soil, and sunny locations. Light should be regulated by regular turning, and the soil should be watered regularly, but allowed to dry slightly before adding more. These trees can grow up to six feet tall and have very aggressive roots. If the roots of your plant begin to grow back on themselves or through the drainage holes in your pot, transfer the plant to a container at least 2 inches larger in diameter.
Mandarin oranges need to be harvested as soon as they turn orange for flavor preservation. Simply clip or carefully twist and pull the fruit from the tree, taking care to keep the “button” of the orange remains intact.
Essentially the seedlings of various herbs and vegetables, microgreens are believed to have even more nutrients than full-grown plants and are a great source of vitamins A, C, K, and folate.
Begin with a variety of seeds, such as radishes, kale, Swiss chard, beets, basil, and dill. Fill a shallow seedling tray or shallow pot to the top with potting mix. Moisten the soil then sprinkle the seeds over the top so they are close but not touching each other. Then cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil. Keep in a sunny area and mist or lightly water the soil so that it remains moist. In less than a week, the seeds should begin to sprout and will then require a constant temperature of 60-70 degrees and approximately 12-14 hours of light per day. Keep the roots moist, but avoid soaking the greens which can cause wilting.
Once the seedlings have grown to 1-2 inches tall, they’re ready to eat! Hold the stem of the greens and use a pair of scissors to cut off the leaves, making sure not to damage the roots. Left intact, multiple harvests can be taken from the same crop. Microgreens can be eaten immediately or refrigerated in a plastic bag for up to 5 days.
More than just being tasty, mushrooms are also a good source of fiber and vitamin C as well as antioxidants and cancer-fighting elements.
The best and easiest way to grow your own mushrooms is in a laundry basket or with a purchased kit. Those kits are relatively cheap and available online.
8. Salad Greens
As with microgreens, salad greens like iceberg, spinach, romaine, red leaf, and arugula are jam-packed with vitamins A, C, and K, and also folate and iron.
To grow salad greens, start with seeds or starter plants from a local nursery. Choose a well-draining planter box and fill it with potting soil. Then poke holes into the soil with your finger approximately 4 inches apart.
If using seeds: Sprinkle a few seeds into each hole, then pat the soil to cover them.
If using starter plants: Use your hands to loosen the roots of each plant before placing in a hole then fill in around them with potting soil.
After planting: Water the soil. If growing from seed, pull all but the largest and healthiest shoots. Keep the soil moist to the touch.
Salad greens will produce multiple crops, so to harvest, pull only the outer leaves and try not to harm the roots or interfere with the plant’s ability to keep growing.
See the other 8 healthy and edible indoor plants on the next page…