Cooking Gardening Vegetables

Eat Your Thinnings!

As your spring vegetable garden begins to fill in, you soon reach the stage where you’ll need to thin the plants. Recommended distances for sowing always include extra seed for those years when germination just isn’t perfect, but when most do come up, you have to space your plants correctly by removing the superfluous seedlings. This is called thinning.

Great! But did you know you can eat your thinnings? 

Yes, you can eat itsy bitsy carrots, leaves and all. Photo:

Just about every vegetable has leaves that are perfectly edible, especially when young… and thinnings are very young. Most are just delicious, although some, like pepper, cucumber and eggplant seedlings, are on the ordinary side, the sort you might want to lightly cook and mix in with something else. Herb thinnings are edible too. 

The following are just examples of vegetables with edible seedlings. 

  1. Amaranth
  2. Beets
  3. Bok choy
  4. Broccoli
  5. Cabbage
  6. Carrot
  7. Cauliflower
  8. Celery
  9. Corn
  10. Cucumber
  11. Eggplant
  12. Endive
  13. Kale
  14. Kohlrabi
  15. Leek
  16. Lettuce
  17. Lima bean
  18. Melon
  19. Okra
  20. Onion
  21. Parsley
  22. Pea
  23. Pepper
  24. Quinoa
  25. Radish
  26. Snap bean
  27. Spinach
  28. Squash
  29. Swiss chard
  30. Tomato
  31. Turnip
  32. Watermelon

There are just two vegetables I can think of whose thinnings aren’t edible: ground cherries and rhubarb. Both are, in fact, a bit poisonous. And of course, potato sprouts too are poisonous, but they aren’t really seedlings, are they, nor do we thin them. (For beginners, know that gardeners don’t usually grow potatoes from actual seeds, but rather seed potatoes, which are tiny tubers, so the stems that rise above the ground are not seedlings.)

So, this gardening season, make a habit of eating your thinnings. Munch them in the garden, add them to soups, sandwiches and salads, cook up a side-dish of “mixed greens”, but just don’t throw good food away.

Imagine, your first crop ready to nibble on after only a few weeks!

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

3 comments on “Eat Your Thinnings!

  1. Pingback: Can I Compost That? 100+ Things You Can & Should Compost – Buz

  2. Pingback: Can I Compost That? 100+ Things You Can & Should Compost – Daryl Shatto

  3. Or just sneak them into the rest of the landscape when no one is looking.

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