Engaging sense of taste veg garden
Growing our own fruit, vegetables and herbs provides the perfect opportunity for us to enjoy the sensory experience of taste in our gardens.

Since medieval times gardeners have engaged all of our five senses: touch, sound, sight, smell and taste by growing vegetables, fruits, flowers and herbs side by side. An excellent example of this is the French kitchen garden or potager. These gardens also provide a safe haven for local fauna to feel at home in, including birds, insects and reptiles.

Even if space is limited, you can still create a garden that tastes as good as it looks. Many varieties of fruit, vegetables, and herbs can be grown in small outdoor areas or in pots, hanging baskets, leftover containers or on windowsills. There are even plants that can be grown without soil, such as cress or pea shoots.

Engaging sense of taste white cabbage

There are many fruit and vegetable options we can grow to stimulate our sense of taste. Many of these plants produce not only great tasting fruits that attract insects and animals who, in turn, disperse their seeds but they also produce edible seeds, roots and leaves.

When considering which fruit and vegetables to grow, choose those you regularly enjoy eating, which can be expensive to buy in the shops or are easy to grow. Plants can be grown from seed or purchased ready to plant.

The following are examples of those that grow well and don’t take up much space:

  • Runner beans
  • Broad beans
  • French beans
  • Peas
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Chillies

Engaging sense of taste chillies

Dwarf varieties of fruit and vegetables grow well in containers, whereas climbing ones make excellent use of vertical spaces (such as walls and fences) whilst also looking attractive. Consider growing plants such as beetroot, chives, shallots or herbs to maximise soil space and to add colour and texture.

Many salad leaves, such as lettuce and rocket, are expensive to buy and lose their taste after being packed and left on a supermarket shelf. The leaves are easy to grow and take up very little space

You can inspire children to learn about the food they eat. Give them a corner of the garden to call their own to grow fruit and vegetables in various situations, from open ground to pots and containers. Choose containers with drainage holes and large enough so plants will have room to grow. Fill with fresh, peat-free, multi-purpose compost. Crops in pots need feeding more regularly. A slow-release fertiliser is ideal.

Encourage the children to sow seeds of easy-to-grow plants such as lettuce, radish, peas and beans or plant strawberry runners in containers or baskets. Tending the young plants as they grow, then harvesting and eating the food they have grown are a great way of engaging children’s sense of taste in the garden.

Engaging sense of taste children planting

Herbs and some of the flowering plants are particularly significant as they are multi-sensory. A continuous medley of aromatic, flavoursome fresh herbs are easy to grow and harvest, adding vibrant flavours and texture to any meal.

Common culinary herbs

The commonly used culinary herbs can easily be grown in traditional herb or vegetable gardens, raised beds, containers or mixed borders and include:

  • Popular annuals: Basil, coriander and dill
  • Biennials: Caraway, chervil and parsley
  • Perennials: Borage, chives, fennel, marjoram, mint, sage, tarragon and thyme

Most herbs originate from the Mediterranean and require a sunny position.

Edible flowers

You might also like to grow edible flowers for a variety of textures and tastes:

  • Cornflower: A sweet-to-spicy clove-like flavour.
  • Dahlia: Flavours range from water chestnut and spicy apple to carrot.
  • Hibiscus: Great addition to fruit salads or to make a citrus-flavoured tea.
  • Honeysuckle: Enjoy the nectar fresh, or use petals to make a syrup, pudding, or a tea.
  • Magnolia: The young flowers can be pickled or used fresh in salads.
  • Nasturtium: Tasting peppery, like watercress, these make a lovely salad addition.
  • Pansy: Mild and fresh-tasting, they are great in a green salad or as a garnish.
  • Rose: Lovely in drinks, fruit dishes, jams, and jellies, thanks to its delicate fragrance.
  • Scented geraniums: Flavours range from citrussy to a hint of nutmeg.
  • Borage – Tastes like cucumber. Flowers can be used as a garnish and the leaves are good in salads, yoghurt or cream cheese mixtures or served with shellfish.

Please note: When planting edible flowers, take care to differentiate them from other non-edible flowers. This is of particular importance when the garden is for children.

Engaging sense of taste honeysuckle

Useful herbs to plant in the kitchen garden include:

  • Oregano: An excellent companion to all vegetables, especially those most susceptible to sap-sucking insects like aphids. Plant near peppers, aubergines, beans, cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower and turnips, as well as strawberries.
  • Chives: Believed to repel aphids, beetles, slugs, and carrot flies, plant with tomatoes, carrots and sunflowers.
  • Thyme: Plant near cabbage and other brassicas, as well as strawberries. Deters whiteflies and cabbage maggots.
  • Basil: Thought to repel whiteflies, mosquitoes, spider mites and aphids. Good companion plant to tomatoes, peppers, and lettuce.
  • Sage: Deters cabbage moth and carrot fly. Plant near lettuce and beans.
  • Parsley: Plant near carrots, chives, asparagus and tomatoes. It attracts beneficial insects such as parasitic wasps, ladybugs and damselflies.
  • Mint: Plant near tomatoes, brassicas and peas. Deters white cabbage moths and aphids.

The brassica family – chard, kale, cabbage, turnips, broccoli, cauliflower, purple sprouting and brussels sprouts - can be grown and harvested over the winter months. Root vegetables such as carrots and beetroot can be harvested in late autumn and stored carefully for several months.

Perennial herbs like bay, rosemary, sage and thyme are hardy enough to survive the winter but may need protection against the harshest weather. If you have a sunny windowsill in your kitchen, you can, with the right care, grow annual herbs such as parsley, basil and thyme.

You can change lives with gardening

Rebecca H potting up Charlie Garner 2019 3