Radish 'French Breakfast'

Zero waste crops

We highlight some veg and herb plants that you can eat every part of.

Growing your own veg means that you have plenty of fresh, homegrown produce to choose from – but are you using all of the parts of the plant that you could?

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Discover money-saving crops to grow.

Some crops can be eaten in their entirety – even though we might usually discard parts of them. Many root veg, for example, have tasty tops that are often thrown away or chucked to the recycling bin. And leafy herbs often have tasty roots or seeds that can be enjoyed, too.

These multi-use crops are particularly useful in small spaces, when each crop needs to give you big returns.

Here are nine crops that you can use every part of, meaning less waste in your kitchen and tasty, nutritious meals, too.

Some crops can be eaten in their entirety - even though we might usually discard parts of them.

Garlic

Freshly harvested garlic
Freshly harvested garlic

The pungent cloves of garlic need no introduction, but the ‘scapes’ – flower heads thrown up by hardneck varieties before they are fully mature – are also edible. Snip them off when they appear to enable the garlic bulb to increase in size and use in salads, pasta dishes, risottos, pesto and garlic butter – they have a milder garlic flavour.


Carrots

Harvesting carrots
Harvesting carrots

Carrots are of course delicious steamed or roasted, grated raw into salads, slaw and cakes. The feathery dark green tops have a mild carrot flavour – add them to a leafy salad or use them to make a pesto, which can be drizzled over roasted carrots or stirred through pasta.


Beetroot

Different varieties of beetroot
Different varieties of beetroot

Beetroot is easy to grow from seed – harvest them when they are golf ball size. The veined, leafy tops taste very similar to Swiss chard, and can be used in the same way. Use them in a stir-fry, steam them so that they wilt, or chop them and use raw in salads.


Hamburg parsley

Hamburg parsley
Hamburg parsley

Hamburg parsley is widely grown as a winter vegetable in many parts of Europe. Not only can its fresh-tasting leaves be harvested in the depths of winter and used just as you would parsley, but its long tap root, which looks rather like a parsnip, is edible, too. With a taste that is a mix of parsley, carrot and celeriac, it can be used in soups or stews and can be steamed, mashed or pureed.


Radish

Radish 'French Breakfast'
Radish ‘French Breakfast’

Radishes are easy and quick to grow and add a colourful, peppery kick to salads. The leaves have a peppery taste, too, not dissimilar to rocket, and can be used in the same way – in salads and pesto, plus stir-fries, tarts and quiches and even soups. If you leave a radish to bolt, it will produce flowers and seed pods that are also edible. Rat’s tail radishes are grown specifically for their pods.


Coriander

Coriander leaves
Coriander leaves

The fragrant leaves of coriander are widely used in curries and stews, while the toasted and ground seeds are a favourite in Indian curries. The roots are edible, too. They have a mild coriander taste and can be used in Thai curry pastes, marinades and dipping sauces. If you don’t get around to using them straightaway, they can be frozen.


Turnip

Freshly harvested turnips
Freshly harvested turnips

Turnips are best harvested when golf-ball size, when the roots have a sweet, nutty flavour. But don’t forget the leafy tops, which can provide a welcome crop in the winter months. Harvest when around 10cm tall – covering the crop with a cloche will keep them tender – and cook as you would spinach.


Celery

Harvesting celery
Harvesting celery

Celery is grown for its roots but be sure to make use of the stalks and leaves as well. They have a stronger flavour than the roots and are a useful addition to soups and stocks.


Horseradish

Storing horseradish
Storing horseradish

Horseradish is grown mainly for its long tap root, used to make the popular horseradish sauce, the leaves are also edible. They have a peppery taste, similar to rocket. The younger leaves are milder and can be used in salads, salad dressings and pesto. The older leaves can be steamed, sauteed or stir fried or added to soups.


Edible flowers

The flowers of some of your veg and herb plants are edible, too – including courgettes, chives and borage. Read more about edible flowers to grow.

Secateurs

Tips for zero waste growing

Fruit vinegars
Fruit vinegars
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  • Grow only what you like to eat
  • Sow little and often to avoid gluts
  • Eat the thinnings of carrots and salads
  • Preserve your harvests by storing, drying, freezing
  • Make pickles, jams, chutney and vinegars with excess fruit and veg
  • Leave crops such as parsnips in the ground until you are ready to harvest them