Keeping a vegetable garden can be challenging, significantly so if you’re growing indoors. And for those of us in urban and suburban areas, a short walk or drive away can get us as many veggies as we need. If you’re short on patience and lacking long-term skills, adding fast-growing vegetables to your garden is the best way to get fresh produce as quickly as possible.
Even the convenience of a grocery store can’t beat the flavors and aroma harvested at home, and the list we’ve written will be ready for eating in just about a month! Surely the almost-instant-gratification found in these fastest-growing vegetables is enough to justify a spot on your windowsill.
1. Radishes: A radish’s green sprouts show up in a few days, with most growing only three days after planting the seeds. For continual growth, plant some seeds every week to maintain a steady supply of this red vegetable. Heirloom radishes have various colors and flavors and are an easy starter veggie for small children to grow.
2. Turnips: Turnips are simple, and you can use every part of them. The tender roots have a mild flavor when harvested early, about 30 days after planting. If you let the plant reach maturity at 60 days, the turnip greens are also edible. Let the bulbs grow to a diameter of about three inches before plucking.
3. Beets: If you don’t like the beet’s taste, you may enjoy the leafy greens that come from the plant. Plant your beets at the end of late summer to avoid intense heat and bitter cold. Harvest the root at around 50 days, or you can harvest the greens at only 30 days.
4. Baby Carrots: Baby carrots are a delicious snack and don’t take nearly as long to grow as full-sized carrots. Plant these root vegetables in the ground or an indoor container, and in about 30 days, you’ll have your first harvest. Don’t mistake these for baby-cut-carrots!
5. Lettuce: Lettuce varieties are among the easiest early spring veggies to plant, each offering a subtly different flavor, color, texture, and shape. Seeds can be sown directly into your garden as early as eight weeks before the last frost before spring. For a continual crop of lettuce, sow more seeds every two to four weeks until summer temperatures arrive.
6. Arugula: As a famous salad green, arugula grows quickly and easily. Its slightly peppery taste adds a boost of flavor to any salad, and the rapid growth provides a sizable harvest in around 20 days. Plant in the early spring, cut the leaves when they are large enough, and continue to enjoy fresh arugula all summer long.
7. Kale: Baby Kale plants will be ready to pick and enjoy in 25 to 30 days from sowing. Often called a superfood for its nutritional punch, full-size kale is a great early spring vegetable. It isn’t bothered by cold temperatures and will produce edible leaves just a month after planting. Kale leaves can be eaten raw in salads or cooked in stir-fries and soups.
8. Spinach: As your spinach grows, harvest the outer leaves to encourage new leaf production, pulling the plants before they bloom. Once the flowering process begins, spinach quickly turns bitter, so don’t wait to harvest. You can eat baby Spinach less than a month after planting!
9. Swiss Chard: If you want baby leaves, this leafy green is ready for picking 30 days after sowing. For a more mature plant, wait 45 to 60 days after sowing to get full-sized leaves with a thick stalk. Swiss Chard is ready for harvest when the leaves are tender and big enough for your cooking preferences.
10. Bok Choy: Baby Bok Choy (or Pak Choi) is ready to harvest in 30 days. An Asian green, this plant not only tastes good but is beautiful to grow. Harvest the leaves individually, or use the entire plant with the bulb included. Stagger seed-planting through the spring for a year-round harvest of this exotic lettuce.
11. Tatsoi: This mustard green is perfect for soups and salads. Tatsoi is becoming popular in North American cuisine but is now grown throughout the world. Harvest when the leaves are four-inches tall, or wait until they reach full maturity at 40 days. Grow your own from seed packets.
12. Mustard Greens: Mustard greens more generally are ready to harvest relatively quickly. Certain varieties can grow to maturity in about three weeks. Both the leaves and stalks of mustard greens are edible, but they will become tough and bitter-tasting as the weather warms.
13. Asian Greens: In addition to Bok Choy, other Asian greens include Purple Mizuna, Giant Red, Ruby Streaks, and Komatsuna. They each take no more than 20 to 30 days to harvest, offering a wide range of foliage colors, textures, and flavors–– from mild to slightly spicy to savory. The bold-colored varieties are stunning in salads and stir-fries with lime green, maroon, or purple leaves.
14. Chinese Cabbage: A unique garden variety, this plant does best in cool weather, so plant in a shady area of your home garden. Harvest the entire head of greens in 30 days for a delicious addition to your salads. In much of the world, “napa cabbage” is the vegetable referred to as Chinese cabbage.
15. Zucchini: Also known as Summer Squash, this vegetable is best when harvested young, just after a month from planting. For best results, sow the seeds directly in quality soil and water regularly. As an added tip, “sweat” your Zucchini 20 minutes before cooking by letting the moisture evaporate after slicing and salting.
16. Cucumbers: Eat them on their own or add fresh cucumbers to salads. If you want to make little pickles, you can harvest baby cucumbers only 50 days after planting. But beware: cucumbers like to spread out, so either place them on a DIY trellis or give them plenty of space to grow in a wide pot.
17. Okra: Okra germination only takes about 50 days to produce a ripe harvest. This green is known for its seeds and likes the cool-season but can’t tolerate the frost, so an indoor garden is a great environment. Okra isn’t too common among indoor growers, but we think it should be, especially if you like Louisiana-style cuisine!
18. Broccoli: You can plant broccoli and have it ready for harvest in under 60 days. That’s how long it takes to grow mature heads, though you can enjoy smaller heads of broccoli even sooner than that. Broccolini is often mistaken for broccoli’s baby greens, though it is an entirely different variety with a similar grow time.
19. Broccoli Rabe: This leafy green is only a distant cousin to the traditional broccoli and is more closely related to turnips and mustard greens. The thick stem, leafy shoots, and green buds are all edible, whether raw or cooked. Broccoli Rabe is ready for harvest in about 40 days. The Quarantina and Sessantina varieties are the quickest.
20. Snow Peas: Snow Peas are cold-weather veggies that germinate best when soil temperatures are between 50º and 60º F. Sow the seeds directly into your garden, four to six weeks before the last spring frost. Pick Snow Peas young when the pods are still flat and the peas inside have just started to swell. Most bush varieties are ready to harvest only 60 days after planting.
21. Garden Peas: The most common varieties grown are English Peas (or shell peas) and Sugar Snap Peas. Home gardeners can sow seeds directly in the soil, and the seeds can survive extreme cold. Provide a trellis or verticle garden for garden peas to climb on. Most varieties are ready to harvest in about 60 days.
22. Bush Beans: The most famous bush beans are classic green beans, and they can be grown right at home. Sow the seeds directly into a quality potting mix and provide plenty of sunlight and water. Many varieties of bush beans, green beans included, can be harvested at 40 days.
23. Petite Snap-Greens: This newer variety is grown for its dense clusters of edible leaflets, not for the pods or peas themselves. Sow seeds in pots or beds and begin harvesting the leafy offshoots 30 days after sprouting. The pleasant crunch of the leaflets adds a bright flavor to any dish.
24. Dill: Herbs are an excellent option for quick, low-maintenance indoor gardening. Dill is among the fastest, ready to harvest in about 40 days. It grows best in homes kept around 65ºF. Pair some dill with the fast-growing cucumbers found on this list for delicious DIY pickles.
25. Green Onions: Sometimes called scallions, these easy-to-grow onion sprouts are ready for harvest in 21 days. Snip the green shoots when they reach about six inches tall. Leave the onion bulb planted for a continuous supply of greens through the entire growing season.
26. Garden Cress: This plant is technically an herb closely related to mustard. Sow Garden Cress in early spring and harvest in only two weeks. The leaves like to spread out, and while it is space-effective for an outdoor garden, you may need a couple of square feet free inside to properly grow Garden Cress.
27. Sunflower Shoots: Presoak the seeds overnight and place them close together on trays to germinate. These microgreens are ready for harvest in about 12 days, when the stem has two leaves. They are an excellent addition to salads and are full of nutrients as a healthy “fast food.”
28. Microgreens: Beyond sunflowers, many plants’ baby leaves make a great addition to your garden and kitchen. Even though they’re small in size, they’re big on flavor. Harvest time is as little as two weeks! Microgreens from mint, quinoa, and alfalfa are some of our favorites.
29. Loose-Leaf Tea: Chamomile, lavender, and peppermint are three herbal tea ingredients that are easy to grow indoors. Each needs about 60 days until harvest. Coriander, lemon bergamot, lemon balm, and jasmine are also popular. These take a bit longer to grow (besides coriander) but add delicious complexity to a warmly brewed beverage.
If you’re willing to make the investment, each of these crops become quicker and easier when using a hydroponic system. Not only will they be ready for harvest in a few short weeks, but the lighting, watering, and nutrients will be almost entirely automated. However, remember that these fast-growers are not the only edible houseplants you can add to your home garden, whether in front of a sunny window or through your hydroponic unit. Though it’ll take a bit longer, garlic is among several veggies you can grow indoors to flavor your food. Sauté some fresh ginger and garlic alongside potatoes and kale from your garden, top with freshly sliced tomatoes and avocados, and finish with some basil and flaky salt for a delicious veggie bowl, all homegrown and organic! The combinations are endless, and you don’t have to wait long at all to try out new recipes.