“Oh you simply have to grow it”. The cliched phrase from every kitchen gardener. Perhaps even a “oh heavens, the stuff you buy in the supermarket doesn’t even compare to the home grown version” from the more sanctimonious. And yes, most home grown produce tastes far better than shop bought. But how much of that is the taste of smugness at having created such beauty rather than a genuine improvement on shop bought? What really is worth a cook growing themselves?

I attempted, very subjectively and unscientifically I’ll admit, to answer this question when I gave a talk at the first Witney Food and Drink Festival last weekend and I thought I’d share it. So here’s my Top 10. Pay attention. Quiz and debate (heated I imagine) at the end:

10Hardy. Strong. Good doers over winter. Gorgeous as cheesy leeks on toast.

9Instant gratification: seed to feed in 4 weeks. Pretty. Fun for kids to grow. My favourite use for them is a Radish Slammer (like tequila but without the headache): line up bowls of radishes, flakey salt and butter; bite the end of the radish, dunk in salt, then butter, then scoff.

8Every allotment has them anyway, so why not use them. See this previous post for handling advice.

7Can be cultivated in a patch, but best in pots as it’s mighty invasive. Perfect in quiche.

6I’m a recent convert to lovage. One plant is all you need – they can turn into monsters. Quite punchy so go easy and pair with milder flavours such as these.

5Bliss. A sod to grow (you need space, patience and a passion for weeding) but when they’re fresh from the patch they don’t even need cooking. Just chomp away and thank God for May.

4Juicy, sweet loveliness. I will follow the cliche here and say that the supermarket cob is a shriveled weed in comparison to a fresh one. For maximum flavour, have the water boiling before you pick the sweetcorn, then dash to the patch to pick and plunge into water within a minute.

3Sunny evening. G&T. Strawberry patch. Freshly plucked, warm, rip strawberry. Died and gone to heaven. Grow them now. Even if it’s just a hanging basket full. Do it.

2Well yes, you know my feelings about rhubarb. See here if not. And here.

And in at number one….


Nothing but nothing betters the broad bean. Easy to grow. Prolific. Lousy when bought from the supermarket. Good for you. Tasty. If I could come back as a vegetable, it would be a broad bean. So cosy all tucked up in the jackets and velvety pods. Even the shelling process (which, yes alright, can take time) is calming and meditative when done in the garden with a G&T.

So there we go, that’s my Top 10. I await virtual heckling and dissent (but in a constructive way please – I’d love to know what your Top 10 would be, then we can vote on it).