Stir frying home grown greens - celery stem taro, okinawa spinach, green beans, choko tips.

How to Make Home Grown Food Simpler and Easier

About a 6-7 minute read
Published January, 2022; links updated December 2023

I'm convinced that the best way to get more effective at producing home grown food is to make it as easy and simple as possible to eat something--anything--directly from your garden on a daily basis. Here are 5 categories of low-maintenance food plants (or plant parts) you might have been overlooking, along with strategies for using them to build more food sovereignty into your life.


Do you have anything like "eat more from the garden" or "eat more home grown food" in your planning for 2024 or on your list of New Years Resolutions?

In this essay I’ll share:

  • what “one serve or one meal per day from the garden” can look like
  • why it's much better to go for "small and often" than trying to jump into growing food in a big way, especially if you're just starting out
  • a long list of abundant, low-maintenance, easy-to-grow plants you could use in this "small and frequent" way, with links to further info and a section on how I use them, and
  • how a consistent habit of just one small garden serveat a time could help you transform your gardening, your grocery shopping and budget, your health, and your impact on our one and only Earth.

Let's begin.

What "garden greens for breakfast" could look like

(Of course, this doesn’t have to be breakfast. That’s just the meal for which this was working well in our household when I first published this essay.)

Boiled eggs and toast make a pretty good breakfast, especially if the eggs come from your own backyard.

Now, imagine that yesterday afternoon on the way back from collecting the eggs you filled the front of your shirt with tender greens tips of things you found between the chook pen (chicken pen for non-Australians) and the kitchen door. When you got to the kitchen you put them in a re-used plastic bag and tucked them into the fridge.

(You know that feeling when you put food that grew at your place into the fridge, rather than taking food that came from the supermarket out of the fridge?)

Those greens are now sitting there in the fridge waiting to be eaten, and adding a quick stir-fry of tender greens to your eggs'n'toast will turn it into a much more nutritious meal. It will also give you a reason to be outside with the plants for at least 10 minutes (with or without chooks) each day.

Below is my basket from the day I wrote this essay. Approximately clockwise from the top left, you can see okinawah spinach,  feathery yarrow tips1, chokos (the small tender ones got chopped up for breakfast and we saved the large ones for dinner), a few sweet potato tips, tender young green beans, two celery stem taro stalks, and choko tips (hiding under the beans).

On another morning (below) we had surinam spinach, sweet leaf shoots (yum, also sometimes called "tropical asparagus"), and a few pumpkin vine tips. 

A long list of garden breakfast candidates

So those were some examples from two different mornings at our house. Below, in no particular order, are some more suggestions.

  • Growing tips of any edible plant; ones that spring to mind are pumpkin vines, zucchini/squashes, sweet potato (the tips and leaves of sweet potato vines are very nutritious), choko vines, and climbing bean or pea vines. My favorite is sweet leaf (Sauropus androgynus) which I mentioned in "7 Easy Substitutes for When Lettuce Won't Grow."
  • Edible flowers. Hand pollinate your female pumpkin and squash flowers, then eat the male flower. Also consider nasturtiums, day lilies, and marigolds. And there are lots more ideas in this video, this article, and in this one
  • Tropical "spinaches" (many of which will grow in subtropical areas or indoors). Surinam spinach, okinawah spinach, kangkong, brazilian spinach, and malabar spinach (visit the links to find the scientific names) are all nutritious, low maintenance, perennial staples in our garden. I also just learned about a new one that I haven't seen yet: Longevity spinach (Gynura procumbens)
  • Tender young things, picked early. Green beans, winged beans (Psophocarpus tetragonolobus)2, chokos, squashes, loofahs3, and anything else you can think of that's edible and can be picked early and tender. So long as your soil is fertile and growing conditions are right, the more of these you pick the more your plants will produce. 
  • Weeds. Not even fertile soil is necessary for this category. You will not find deeper, wilder, more real nutrition anywhere than in weeds like dandelion greens, nettle tips, plantain leaves and seeds, chickweed (don't cook the chickweed, just stir it in right before serving). There are lots more. Look up the nutritional benefits of edible weeds, if you haven't already 🙂

Learn about 7 easy, nutritious food plants that you can harvest from for years without replanting

Growing and processing your own food is a huge task. In One Small Serve, I show you a smaller, simpler approach to fit into a busy life. Establish a "one-serve-at-a-time" home-grown food habit you can maintain.

Establish a "one-serve-at-a-time" home-grown food habit that's easy to maintain

Includes a series of free extra tips + free email support

How I prepare our garden breakfasts 

This is about making a meal from home grown food that you'll want to make every day because it's so easy, quick, and delicious. So the key word when you're out with your basket, gathering, is tender.

If it will take more than a few minutes to soften in a pan of hot oil, you should still put it in your basket, but when you get to the kitchen put it aside for a different meal.

Back to the tender things. Chop them roughly and in the order you'll be cooking them. Dense things like green beans or baby chokos first; deeply nutritious but tougher, more bitter greens like dandelion greens, nettle tips, yarrow tips, and sweet potato tips next; then your quick-cooking tropical spinaches, and finally the delicate things like flowers or chickweed that you will stir in right before serving.

Heat a pan (cast iron or stainless steel, not non-stick; they're lined with very toxic materials) and healthy cooking fat of your choice. 

At all costs, avoid hydrogenated vegetable oils!!  (Healthy fats and oils is too big a topic for here, but if you haven't done your research on it yet please make a note to do it soon.)

Add your ingredients to your pan, stir-frying as you go, till all is done to your liking. It will only take a few minutes and I suggest you stand right there until it's done. If you get distracted, your beautiful, crunchy, textured breakfast will over cook and go soggy.

Top with a fried or boiled egg for a complete protein source and a wide range of other critical nutrients, add a piece of toast for extra crunch, dress with a dash of apple cider vinegar to add some tang and to augment your digestive juices, and enjoy.

Let me count the benefits of home grown food

A habit of visiting your garden frequently with your harvest basket on your arm and the needs of a specific meal in mind has the potential to transform your gardening, your grocery shopping and budget, your health, and your impact on our one and only Earth.

That's a big claim, yes, but I think I can back it up. Here are some of the (very obvious, but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded) things I'd back it with.

  • Contact with nature builds and supports our mental, emotional, and physical health (and for many of us, it's one of the things most lacking in our modern lives). Whether your garden is a collection of pots in a courtyard or an acreage, getting out into it daily will do you good. 

  • Variety and nutrition. Only a few of the plants I mentioned in the list above are found in supermarkets. As well as the health benefits of getting outside and communing with plants daily, there's the variety of nutrition available in your harvest basket. You won't find this kind of nourishment in pills or on supermarket shelves.

    One meal won't make a difference, but a consistent habit of eating one meal per day, or a few meals per week, directly from your garden can help you build deep, abiding health over time. 

  • Frequent harvesting = more growth, as well as tidier gardens. Home or community-scaled gardening works best with plantings that are designed for frequent harvesting rather than long growing periods and short, intense harvest windows. All of the plants I listed above will produce more, the more you harvest from them. And most of them, climate permitting, will grow and produce all year round. In some cases year after year. (These are frost tender plants, but they can all come indoors in pots for year-round production.)

  • "The best fertilizer is the gardener's shadow." This proverb (or something like it) was shared with me by a reader recently, and it's totally true. If you can find ways to be drawn into your garden habitually, effortlessly, and frequently, your garden (and you and your family) will thrive.

    Instead of being overwhelmed by neglected areas that need chunks of time and herculean efforts to get them back on track, as you go about your daily rounds you'll notice what needs attention and address it bit by bit. At first, you just find yourself weeding here, pruning there, jobs that don't require more than spare two minutes and a pair of secateurs in your back pocket.

    Then as you get in the swing of it, you might remember to have a wheelbarrow load of extra mulch or compost nearby for areas that need a top up.

    And your awareness and intuition expand as you spend that pleasant relaxing 10 minutes per day picking off tips into your basket; you start realizing that this plant would do better over there and that plant would be easier to harvest and tend if you moved it here. If you keep this habit up, your whole garden may transform itself before your eyes as the weeks and months roll by.

  • Abundance. Supermarket eating conditions us to overlook valuable nutrition sources and to throw away parts of plants that are perfectly edible. When you widen your definition of what's edible and useful, you might be amazed at how much more abundant your garden appears. Sprawling pumpkin and choko vines become a valuable source of food rather than a pain in the butt. Edible ground covers stop being leggy and messy and become bushier and more beautiful, giving more food the more you take. Weeds become valued allies in your efforts to obtain a wider range of nutrients directly from Nature, right outside your doorstep.  

  • Harvesting for other meals. You can use your daily harvesting round for more than just this quick stir fry meal that you have in mind right now. While I'm passing by the choko vine, for example, I take big chokos for the pigs, medium ones for dinner, and baby ones for my breakfast stir-fry.

    This is about slowly but surely shifting your mindset so that you make more and stronger connections between your garden and the rest of your life. You want to retrain your brain so that when you're in meal planning mode, you think "garden" instead of "supermarket" as your first option. Because this habit has you out in the garden daily (or as many times per week as is possible for you),  you'll know what's ready in the garden, what's nearly ready, and things you could do so that more things would be ready, more often.

  • Food sovereignty. I intend for my grandkids to wonder what on earth we were thinking when they learn about the destructive monocultures, global supply chains, and supermarkets that we relied upon.

    Food sovereignty won’t be rebuilt over-night, but by a million small initiatives and shifts in our thinking, values, and habits … one harvest basket at a time. Your simple habit of filling eating home grown food from your garden daily instead of once in a while will steadily bring more food sovereignty into your own life, and will help speed the collective change along


One Small Serve

Growing and processing your own food is a huge task. In One Small Serve, I show you a smaller, simpler approach. Learn how to grow and use 7 food plants that are

  • easy and very low-maintenance
  • productive for two or more years without replanting
  • deeply nutritious

Establish a "one-serve-at-a-time" home-grown food habit that's easy to maintain

Includes a series of free extra tips + free email support


  1. Yes, yarrow is a super useful medicinal herb; I've written before about using it for wound care and for oral health. But it's also a nutritious culinary herb, too.
  2. Scroll all the way to the bottom of this page for winged bean info
  3. the very small ones are a bit like zucchini; save some to get big, to use as sponges
  • Chelsey Reis says:

    Hi Kate
    At the moment, our main every day green is Parsley – which is great as we all enjoy eating it and I love the fact that I can add it to almost anything raw or cooked that is on the menu. We also had spring onion, garlic chives and rosemary on tap pre-sizing down to relocate, and again these were easy to find a place for in many daily meals. The thing I love most about Parsley is that it is almost always available and self-sows so it minimal maintenance (Pat collects the seeds too)! We recently had a meal where 3 of the veggies came from our garden and it was a defining moment for me, giving me confidence that we will continue to increase our food production in small increments!

    • I love those defining moments, Chelsey. Like a nudge from the Universe, or God, or Gaia, Nature or whatever higher guidance you believe in, those moments say “You can do this. You’re on the right path.” They affirm to you that you’re on a path to normalizing for you what previously felt like a pipe dream.

      I love parsley and the other herbs you mentioned too, for all the same reasons (although parsley doesn’t survive our wet season long enough to self seed and rosemary is impossible without a very specific niche spot out of the rain). The value of nutritious herbs and greens that grow easily in your climate and can be added to any meal is impossible to overstate!

  • Brett Townsend says:

    Hi Kate, thanks for your post. I’ve got to move house soon so I don’t have anything growing here. I did have a few pumpkin vines that went wild and I was able to harvest at least a dozen which was awesome. I had originally put all of my veggie scraps including pumpkin seeds from store bought pumpkins into my compost bin. Rats got in, dug them out and hey presto 🙂 I’m friends with a farmer nearby, I may be moving there. He’s been happy for me to experiment with cover crops on a small patch, about 30m2. In winter last year I put in about 12 different species of seeds, also greenharvest’s Clucker tucker mix of greens. Some of the seeds germinated, many didn’t go well. But the greens have gone ballistic, so I take some home for dinner most times. I’ve got so much that I will give some to the pigs and sheep on the property, and the neighbours chooks. Happy days 🙂

    • Abundant greens for everyone 🙂 Thanks for commenting, Brett!

  • You forgot that being outside helps reset our circadian rhythm, modulates our moods, and contributes to better eyesight and overall health (we’re learning all the time about more and more benefits from natural (vs. artificial) light.)

    I get most of my greens from my garden and love it! One surprising benefit is the sense of accomplishment I get…even if it’s only one or two leaves from multiple, tiny plants. I think many people lose a sense of accomplishment these days, since much work is no longer things we do and make with our hands, or that we have to “work” for.

    I have a suggestion for a future post(s): links and blurbs about your favorite gardening books, videos, people to follow…for gardening as well as regenerative farming, homesteading, health in general.

    Glad to connect with someone who can grow similar things as we can here.

    The longevity spinach is sort of like a green version of Okinawan spinach, but it seems easier to grow here, not as fussy, so it becomes (along with katuk…you call it sweetleaf…) my greens/salad summer staples…also with moringa!

    • Hi Alina, I completely agree with you. Thank you for commenting, and thanks for the post topic suggestion.

  • Thank you for the article, Kate. I appreciate the reminder that making big changes really can be as simple as altering one meal at a time. I have spurts of serving sautéed greens with a friend egg on top for breakfast but really should try to make it a more consistent habit.

    I find that my kids are more accepting of eating ‘Mum’s random collection of green stuff’ if I sauté some mushrooms in loads of butter, pepper and salt first before adding the greens at the end. Maybe it’s because we all love mushrooms, maybe it’s because the mushrooms feel ‘meatier’ than just the greens, I’m not sure. Maybe it’s even the butter? For us mushrooms come from the supermarket, or sometimes the local market when we can, so it’s not a meal served purely from the garden. The habit of harvesting the greens and tending the garden whilst breathing in nature, are still there though.

    Than you also for the proverb, “The best fertilizer is the gardener’s shadow.” Such a valuable though to keep at the forefront of my mind. I love it!!

    • Thanks for commenting, Melita. I think if all you added to your breakfast from your garden was a sprig of parsley, the magic would still be there. The point is to get ourselves onto a trajectory of getting out into the garden and eating from it more and more consistently over time, not to change the entire world by lunchtime xxx

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