Linton Hopkins knows a thing or two about gardening. Three years ago, the 2009 Best New Chef took over the Atlanta Botanical Garden in Georgia, and last April he opened a brand new restaurant with a "plant-to-plate" mentality. A half-acre garden supplies the new spot, dubbed Longleaf in tribute to the state’s native tree.
Want to try growing your own produce this year? Here, Hopkins recommends eight easy-to-grow fruits and vegetables. Stock up on seeds now.
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Microgreens. “They're easy to grow. Use them like an herb and they add a quick lift to a dish,” he says.
Hot and sweet peppers. “From Jalapeño and habanero to shishito and Italian frying peppers, there is a wide variety beyond bell peppers,” says Hopkins. “They’re excellent in your garden because they grow all summer into the fall.”
Okra. “These keep giving all summer long and have beautiful edible blossoms,” he says.
Persian cucumbers. “The smaller varieties don't need the trestle larger cucumbers rely on, so growing them requires less space,” says Hopkins. “Plus, their flavor packs a punch, perfect alone or in salads.”
Lettuces. “Get a mix,” he says. “Then you can harvest multiple leaf types to create your own mesclun.”
Japanese and Thai eggplants. “These have great flavor, are easy to grow, have multiple harvests and, added bonus, look beautiful in the garden,” says Hopkins.
Rosemary. “This super hearty herb can be a year-round outside plant, depending on where you live, and is incredibly versatile,” he says.