10 Nutritious Plants Everyone Can Grow in Their Backyard

organic gardeningWhat’s the best way to ensure you’re getting healthy, organically grown foods? Grow them yourself! Of course, I understand that producing all the foods you eat isn’t a realistic goal for everyone. Some people lack the time. Others lack the space. And some people swear they don’t have a green thumb. Still, even the most reluctant gardener can benefit from growing one or two things themselves, promoting a healthy digestive probiotic within. Even if you only have a bright windowsill, a lanai, or a front porch, you can grow some of your own healthy, organic foods and really have fun doing it. My apt in the West Village of NY is a small one-bedroom, but I do have a small (but precious!) private backyard where I grow things, as well as a windowsill in my living room.

So, whether you have an entire sunny backyard for a garden or you only have a small patch of sun on a windowsill, you can grow your own organic foods!

Not sure what to grow? Here are my top ten favorites:

1. Mint


Mint is a super hardy herb that can grow just about anywhere. It’s one of my backyard staples to grow all summer. Along with freshening your breath, mint is great for promoting healthy digestion. Why? Because it activates your salivary glands, helping you to begin digesting as soon as foods hit your mouth.

Mint grows indoors and outdoors. It needs two things: sunlight and water, so a sunny windowsill or tabletop is an ideal location if you’re growing it indoors. To grow mint, purchase a plant and transplant it into a larger container, or ask a friend for a sprig. My acupuncturist Yvonne always gives me sprigs. Place the sprig in a glass of full water, and allow it to grow roots – about two weeks. Next, you can plant the mint in a new pot and place it in somewhere sunny. If you do this a few times, you’ll have several mint plants growing around your house.

What can you do with mint? Make mint tea! Here’s how:

  • Place several sprigs of fresh mint leaves in a small tea pot or tea cup.
  • Add hot water (below boiling), and steep for five minutes.
  • Sweeten with stevia, if desired.

2. Basil


Fresh basil is one of the most delicious things to add to dishes. With a sweet, fresh flavor and wonderful aroma, basil can spice up simple foods while providing healthy anti-inflammatory properties, while also being high in vitamin K. Try sprinkling a little chopped fresh basil on sliced tomatoes and avocado, or blend it into a dressing, as in my Oil-Free Basil Lover’s Dressing. Basil is at its most flavorful and aromatic raw, so if you use it in cooking, add fresh basil at the end after you’ve removed your dish from heat.

You can grow basil on a sunny countertop, or in an herb box on your front porch or lanai. It also grows well in a full garden, if you’ve got the space to grow one. Buy a basil plant and put it in a large pot. You can trim sprigs and sprout them in a glass of water, just as you can with mint.

3. Sprouts


Sprouts are crunch, flavorful, and packed with amazing enzymes. They are also high in antioxidants and other vitamins. Sprouts are really easy to grow, and you can find sprout kits at many supermarkets and natural foods stores. They grow quickly and plentifully, and require very little space. To learn the basics of sprouting, visit SproutPeople.org or purchase a sprout kit and follow the instructions.

If you don’t want to buy a kit, all you really need are sprout bags, or a jar with a mesh covering you can put over the top, so you can rinse the seeds and tip the jar sideways into a bowl, and the water can drain out while keeping the sprouts moist. Growing sprouts involves a lot of rinsing and draining- it couldn’t be more easy. After the tails have grown (which takes varying amounts of time, depending on your sprouts) hang the sprout bags in the sunlight for an hour or so to excite the chlorophyll and activate photosynthesis, which will make the sprouts green.

4. Tomatoes


When I think of tomatoes, I think of my favorite taco salad recipe! Rich in lycopene, tomatoes require fertile soil, water, sunlight, and warmth. There’s just no comparison between a supermarket tomato and a freshly picked, vine ripened, home-grown tomato. If all you’ve ever had are supermarket tomatoes, then you are in for a real treat.

To grow tomatoes in limited space, such as on a deck, opt for an inverted tomato planter, which supports the tomato plant by hanging it upside down. Plant during the warm season in full sunlight and water at the roots deeply. Then slice your sun-ripened tomato and eat it raw. You’ll never look at tomatoes the same way again!

5. Rosemary


This culinary herb is drought resistant, meaning it can put up with quite a bit of neglect from forgetful owners and still thrive. Planting rosemary outdoors allows it to grow into a large bush that will meet all of your culinary needs. If you want to grow it indoors, all it needs is a bright windowsill that gets the morning sunlight. Because it is slow to grow, it’s best to buy an existing plant and cultivate it rather than starting rosemary from seed.

The fragrant herb stimulates the immune system and promotes digestion. You can chop it and add it to salad dressings, soup, or anything else where you’d like a little bit of flavor. Best, a little goes a long way so you don’t need to add very much to get great flavor and aroma. Try my East-West Baked Vegetables recipe.

6. Greens

You can grow a salad in a pot! It’s easy to start salad greens like lettuce and arugula from seeds. All you’ll need is a sunny outdoor spot on a deck, porch, or lanai. Greens are really healthy and loaded with nutrients (some of the best foods to eat while pregnant), and there’s nothing that tastes better than a tender, freshly picked batch of greens. To grow greens in a planter or pot, choose a spot that gets about four hours of sunlight each day. Greens need a lot of drainage, so make sure the planter drains well. Sprinkle seeds evenly across damp soil, and cover with about 1/8 of an inch of soil. Keep the soil evenly moist as greens grow. You can harvest your greens when they are 4-5 inches tall, and the greens should re-propagate.

7. Chili peppers

chili peppers

Hot pepper is cleansing and anti-inflammatory. You can add them to all kinds of foods, or steep them in some hot water with lemon juice and ginger to make Detox Tea. They are also relatively easy to grow both indoors and out. Keep them in a warm, sunny spot outdoors, and bring them indoors before the first frost. Once indoors, they will continue to thrive and produce peppers if you place them in a sunny spot or under a fluorescent light.

8. Summer squash

summer squash

If you’ve ever known anyone that has planted zucchini or yellow summer squash in your garden, then you’ve probably been the recipient of the gift of squash during harvest season. Squash grows quickly and plentifully, and most outdoor gardeners discover they have so much yield they don’t know what to do with it all other than leave it on people’s doorsteps.

One squash plant in a container, however, will yield a reasonable harvest for you and your family without burying you under a pile of squash. Plant it in an 18” deep pot – just a single plant – and place it in a sunny outdoor location. Keep soil moist.

9. Parsley


Parsley makes a great addition to the GGS, and you can grow it indoors or outdoors. Because it has a fairly deep root system, you’ll need a pot that is about 10” deep. It needs a sunny window or a warm sunny spot outdoors. It also needs moist soil and quite a bit of sunlight. A south-facing windowsill or lanai would be best if you’re limited for outdoor space. In the winter, keep it back from the window a bit so it doesn’t freeze.

10. Cilantro


Birds love to eat tender cilantro when it first sprouts, but you can start it inside or even grow it there. Cilantro is wonderful in a GGS, or to add flavor to salads, dressings, and other foods. Grow it in a terra cotta pot in a sunny windowsill and water it thoroughly a few times per week. Make sure it gets about 4-5 hours of sunlight per day. You can also move it outdoors on a porch or lanai after the plants have taken root and started to grow. If it gets spindly, gently pinch it back.



Last updated: Friday, June 19, 2015
  • http://happybellyhealth.com Happy Belly Health

    great post! yes, herbs are a must have. they help us digest other foods and they make our food taste so good. i like to make pestos out of them.

    • Kimberly Snyder

      Me too! I love fresh herbs so much. Dried herbs are good in a pinch, but don’t compare.

  • http://www.joanneedham.com Joan B. Needham

    Dear Kimberly,

    I live in Hopewell, NJ (close to Princeton). I have been growing a garden for over 36
    years and I grow everything. I have sooo many heirloom tomato plants and cilantro, peppers,green and yellow squash,cucumbers, sugar snap peas that grow on a fence,
    dill, basil,every herb you can imagine, plus mint and this is so exciting, chocolate mint.
    I have to be careful with mint, because it will take over the entire garden..
    I picked my Swiss chard this morning and made my green smoothie. I also grow Nasturtiums and the flowers are just blooming. I put one in each bowl of fresh Zucchini soup. The green soup with an orange edible flower. What more could you ask for!
    Zucchini is not ready in my garden, so I go to Whole Foods.
    Have fun,

    • Kimberly Snyder

      Hi Joan, you’re garden sounds like a paradise! How fortunate you are to have the space to create such a beautiful oasis.
      I know what you mean about the mint- it goes crazy!
      That is so wonderful that you get to put your own greens in your GGS. I hope to be able to do the same one day from my own garden.
      Come visit again, Kimberly

      • joy

        They say if you Plant mint in a flower pot and put the flower pot under ground in the soil it will keep the mint more under control……..havent tried it but just a tip I was given :)

    • Kristin

      Hi Joan,

      Do you sell your heirloom seeds?? You never know what you are getting in the market place these days – GMO, yuck ;( Or do have a website that you would recommend ordering from? Thanks for your help!

  • Kathy

    I am raising most of these items now. I am also sprouting – alfalfa, mung, brocolli and trying mixed salad seeds. Does it matter what kind of seed you sprout? Can’t you sprout any seed that will grow in dirt?

    • Kimberly Snyder

      Hi Kathy, you can sprout a lot of seeds, but I don’t think ones like sesame. Have you tried sprouting quinoa or buckwheat? They don’t get green like the others, but they are fantastically nutritious and delicious. :)

      • Kathy

        Thanks Kimberly, I haven’t tried quinoa or buckwheat but will. I have a 4 level sprouter and it is busy…have even mixed seeds to sprout more.

  • Gigi

    Hi Kimberly,

    Love your book! I’ve read the section on sprouts a few times now, and just wanting to clarify that the ‘bean sprouts’ are ok to have regularly? I particularly like soy beans, lentils, & chick pea sprouts, and these seem to be readily available where I live at the moment. I know you don’t recommend eating ‘beans’ regularly, but I have assumed the ‘bean sprouts’ are ok? Can you also pair all kinds of sprouts with pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds etc. in your recipes?

    I was also wondering if you still use grapeseed oil – I know you use it in some of your recipes in the book, but I only seem to read recently about your use of coconut oil. I have tried it once, but I didn’t enjoy the coconut flavour penetrating the veggies – do you recommend a particular brand?

    I have also found a 53% raw cacao chocolate. It is new and contains organic raw cacao nibs, organic evaporated coconut nectar, organic coconut & organic raw cacao butter. I know you recommend at least 72%, but sometimes I find this a little strong.

    Thank you so much! Gigi xo

    • Kimberly Snyder

      Hi Gigi!
      The bean sprouts are far, far easier to digest than the mature varieties, so you can certainly incorporate them if they work for you. And yes, you can pair all the sprouts you want with the recipes.

      I don’t use grapeseed oil anymore at all. If you don’t like the coconut flavor, try turning down the heat and cooking with a little bit of vegetable broth. You may not need as much oil as you think!
      Your cacao sounds okay for now- just don’t overdo it!
      Love, Kimberly

    • http://www.talk2deb.towergarden.com Deborah Jackson

      I have tried a lot of chocolate in my life. Here is a 72% that you can love. I had a long talk with the owner. I don’t know where he gets it but he searched high and low and swears it’s the best out there. By taste alone I have to agree. Our own Cleveland Clinic has included it in their diet programs.

  • Allison

    Hey Kim! Best place to buy sprouts online? They are super expensive in the store.

  • Ly

    Hi Kimberly,

    Thank you for having this blog and your great book!! Because I’m from Europe, it’s not always so easy to find the products you recommend unfortunately. I recently started using Bio Kult Probiotics. Do you know if this is a good alternative brand of probiotics to use? I hope you can let me know this and thanks again for writing your book and blog. I can’t wait for your next book to come out here!

    Have a nice day :) Ly

  • Mona-Lisa

    Hi Kimberly! :)

    I’m so happy I found your book. I couldn’t put it down and I really feel like I understand now even better why my family tried to push me to eat organic foods. I wish there would be a german version though so my mom could read it too :) Since I live in the US I ended up translating passages out of the book via Skype haha … 😉

    Anyway I can’t really eat in the morning (I feel like throwing up) but I’m starving at noon/afternoon. I love your green smoothie (its so yummy) but I feel like I can’t really drink it in the morning without having a grumbly stomach and the feeling of throwing up :/. If I just eat salad at noon/afternoon I feel lightheaded and since I faint easily I often times end up eating things I don’t really want to eat but just because they keep me “awake”.
    Any tips or suggestions for me?

    Thank you! :))


  • http://www.plusshe.com Moe

    I started growing jalapenos a few years ago and they are seriously my favorite. I have them mixed in with my flower gardens and they produce all summer long. I would really like to try some tomatoes but have a fear for some reason that it would be hard. Your pro-grow your own has really tempted me to try though.

  • Brieana-Leigh

    Hey Kimberly,

    Just wanted to say, I loved reading this – all ten things are growing in our garden (:
    I’m so excited to try some natural mint tea!

  • http://www.talk2deb.towergarden.com Deborah Jackson

    Kimberly and readers,
    If you haven’t seen or heard of the Tower Garden I think you are going to love it. Kimberly, your email started off with a preface about how some people may not have the time, space, or green thumb to grow a garden – a traditional soil garden that is. The Tower Garden overcomes all those issues because it is a vertical aeroponic growing system. Two feet of space for 20-28 plants that delivers the best tasting and healthy food. 10% of the water and easier than soil gardening…no weeding, bending, getting dirty in the soil and the speed of growth and yields will make any veg ecstatic. I am having a ball with my Tower Garden and I am outside of Cleveland, Ohio. Find out more at towergarden.com and you can watch this short video from a cable show which presents two systems with fully grown plants. If anybody has any questions please email or call me via the website. Following the Beauty Detox Solution takes on a whole different life and experience when the produce is top notch vs. the blah stuff at too many stores. Good produce is like gold! Thanks for letting me post this.

  • LA

    Hi Kim,

    I’m having surgery next month and will have to have general anesthesia. Should I be worried about cleansing after? Thanks!

  • http://www.kimberlysnyder.net MJ

    Need some help with the wheat info/questions. Love your book. Mine looks like a worn, tatered old bible with so many sticky notes and highlighted paragraphs. I drink the green drink at least 4 days out of 7. Have eliminated all wheat, corn and GMO products. I have, however, found a site that has organic, non GMO wheat, barley and alfalfa, and I am interested in trying. Do you see a problem with adding this to my green drink? Would appreciate any info…good, bad or indifferent.

  • Jessica

    Just a question…..not ripe plantains are very starchy….steamed would they be considered a starch or fruit….is it ok to combine with cooked vegetables?????

  • Alex F

    Hi Kim, I absolutely love that you are so helpful with everyone!

    I was wondering, if I grow chia seeds for about 2 weeks, do I need to eat the full sprout to get the most benefit, or could I just snip the plant at its base and place the leaves and stems in my salads. Would I lose out on a lot of nutrition?


  • ashley

    ButHello Kimberly!
    concerning sprouts, can you tell me if you are supposed to eat the entire.sprout including the pea, or are you supposed to dispose of the pea?
    i purchased your book, and i see that you dont particularly like to eat legumes, but im a bit confused on wether or not you are suggesting to eat the legjme after it has sprouted, or if you are.saying it is better to sprout it first, and then cut.the legume off eating only the sprout?


    I love what you have provided but please try to explain food values in details.

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