Growing your own fruits and vegetables is incredibly satisfying, and naturally pushes us in the direction of a healthier and more balanced diet. But what to do about that nagging sweet tooth? Most us have got one and, for me at least, it demands considerable restraint! But what if you could satisfy that craving with what you can grow in your own garden?
Read on or watch our video to discover seven naturally sweet fruits and vegetables that are sure to keep even the sweetest tooth happy!
Sweetcorn is a good place to start, with modern varieties bred for exceptional sweetness. Grow it in a sunny position in rich, fertile soil to get the very sweetest cobs. You can check whether they’re ready to pick once the tassels have turned brown. Peel back the husk and sink a nail into one of the kernels. If it’s ripe, it will exude a milky juice. The fresher the cob, the sweeter it will be, so pick it just before you plan to eat it.
Peas also benefit from being picked and eaten promptly. Look for a variety with ‘sweet’ or ‘sugar’ in its name – a good clue to its taste! As well as sweet varieties of pea, try sugarsnap and mangetout types. You can sow peas outdoors from spring right through to summer, giving you a long cropping period of delicious pods.
Some tomato varieties are sweeter than others and, as a rule, the smaller the sweeter, so opt for cherry tomatoes. To encourage a higher concentration of natural sugars in the fruits, apply a liquid tomato fertiliser regularly but avoid overwatering because this will dilute the flavour compounds.
Beetroot may be sown from spring right through to summer to offer a steady supply of roots. Enjoy them liberally doused in oil and balsamic vinegar, then slowly roasted with other sweet-tasting roots such as carrots and parsnips. Miniature, or baby beets are ready to pick just two months after sowing. Harvest them before they get too big – no bigger than golf ball sized for the sweetest roots.
Like beetroot, carrots may be sown over a long season. And like beetroot, smaller roots are the sweetest. Select varieties that produce pencil-sized roots, or try the Chantenay types beloved by chefs. Some varieties are bred specifically with sweetness in mind, so look out for any described as sweet tasting.
We grow more strawberries in our gardens than any other fruit. Ripe, sun-warmed strawberries are one of the most satisfying experiences any gardener can enjoy, and kids love helping seek out and pick the fruits. Extend your harvest by planting a range of early, mid and late-season varieties. Alpine or wild strawberries are tiny but have a remarkable fragrance and flavour.
Nothing compares to the sweetness of a perfectly ripe melon. Melons need a long, warm summer to succeed, so in temperate regions it’s usually safest to grow them in a greenhouse or tunnel. Honeydew melons are the sweetest, while cantaloupe types are the most reliable, so go for these if you’re unsure. Pick them at their prime for the best flavour. The stalk should be cracked, while one end of the fruit will be slightly soft. And you won’t be able to miss its truly dreamy scent.
It’s such a treat to be able to grow crops like these! If you have any fruits or vegetables you prize for their sweetness, or perhaps a specific variety you grow for your sugar fix, then please tell us about it in the comments section below.