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!

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. After studies at the University of Toronto and Laval University where he obtained his B.A. in modern languages in 1978, he succeeded in combining his language skills with his passion for gardening in a novel career as a garden writer and lecturer. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He is a regular contributor to and horticultural consultant for Fleurs, Plantes, Jardins garden magazine and has written for many other garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening, Rebecca’s Garden and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 50 other titles in English and French. He can be seen in Quebec on French-language television and was notably a regular collaborator for 7 years on the TV shows Fleurs et Jardins and Salut Bonjour Weekend. He is the President of the Garden Writers Association Foundation and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. An avid proponent of garden tourism, he has lead garden tours throughout Canada and to the gardens of over 30 countries over the last 30 years. He presently resides in Quebec City, Quebec.

2 comments on “Eat Your Thinnings!

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

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

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