The general advice gardeners give to people is grow what they like to eat, but the problem with that advice is that inexperienced growers tend to be constrained by what the supermarkets provide and also what you like is only one of the several criteria that we need to consider.

My approach in this chapter is to offer up an approach to thinking about what to grow and how much of it to grow. I keep a database of all the varieties that we grow and I've added three attributes to that database for most of my varieties: taste, health and value; let's take a look.

My bias, or informal ranking criteria

In the chapter that follows you will see my bias coming through. Not only do I rank what I grow by taste, health and value, but I also have in mind a few other biases. I much prefer to grow crops that provide a long harvest period, which saves on sowing, planting and growing time. I also like plants that are flexible, for example salad onions that also make good bulbing onions. I like crops that don't have too many pest/disease issues and that look beautiful. I also like crops that fit into my successional timings, for example beetroot, following broad beans.

All of these biases are factored into my ranks in one way or another.

<aside> 💡 For the planting plan that goes with this video go to my chapter on sample planting plans


The formal ranking criteria

<aside> 💡 A special note about pesticide use. I used to include pesticide use in my criteria, ie how much commercial alternatives to home grown, had pesticide residues. However this data is very hard to find and seems very unreliable as a tool for decision making. I’ve written an extra section in this book all about pesticides, which you can find here.



I've rated everything we grow by taste, which is more challenging than you might think. It's proven very difficult to compare the taste of brassicas like kale, with the taste of cherries and as a result the ratings end up being extremely subjective. I've also tried to take into account how much better home grown tastes than supermarket, which is also very subjective and of course I have a sweet tooth, so sweet things top my list.

So far as I can hold all of the information in my mind, I've tried to score varieties not just within the families I use (fruits, roots, brassicas, salad leaves ...) but also across families. So there are lots of caveats!

I have however tried to take into account the feedback from my friends and family, so the results should be useful, if not definitive.

Fruit and veg ranked by taste

Fruit and veg ranked by taste

<aside> 💡 To use these embedded databases, click "view larger version" in the bottom right corner



Health is in theory slightly less subjective, since there is published data on the health benefits of different types of fruit and veg. Unfortunately there's no really objective way to compare these benefits across different families. To complicate matters even more some of the healthiest plants have short seasons and might also be eaten in small quantities (very hot peppers for example) and so I've rated these a little lower than might otherwise be the case.

I've also taken into consideration how long the harvest period is and when it is, so I rate things that are harvested in winter (when it's difficult to grow a wide range of healthy food) a little more than those harvested in summer (when it's easy).

I have tried to take account published research and decades of studying nutrition as well as actual eating habits to come up with a useful, albeit debatable list.