Grow Unique, Delicious Veggies, Fruit, and Herbs for Gorgeous Gardens—and Meals!
Savoring delicious homegrown veggies, fruits, and herbs fresh from your garden makes mealtime a pleasure. After all, there’s nothing tastier than just-picked, sun-warmed tomatoes or the sweet flavor of a juicy melon on a hot summer day. While traditionally gardeners relegated the veggie garden to a sunny backyard corner, tucked out of sight, today’s top veggies not only taste great—they add a burst of beauty to any sunny space! With breeders developing edibles that look as good as they taste, you can show off the prettiest peppers, tantalizing tomatoes, or luscious lettuce anywhere in your garden: foodscaping a front bed, filling a patio container, or creating gorgeous raised beds packed with beautiful, bountiful produce.
Want to add some tasty beauties to your garden? We’ve picked a few of our favorites for you to try!
When growing veggies, fruits, and herbs, remember that most edible plants need full sun, rich, well-drained soil, and adequate water (about an inch per week) to produce well. Tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant produce best with supplemental nutrients: feed them throughout the growing season with rich compost or a well-balanced fertilizer (follow directions on the label).
Top Contenders for Prettiest Produce (That Taste Great, Too!)
While there are thousands of veggie, fruit, and herb varieties available to fill your garden, we’ve focused on some popular categories—and then shared a few eye-popping varieties that look great in the garden and gorgeous on your plate. Naturally, these pretty plants produce harvests that taste great, too!
Lovely, Luscious Tomatoes
What’s a summer garden without tomatoes? Whether you crave them sliced in BLTs, diced for bruschetta, or popped in your mouth straight from the vine as a garden snack, tomatoes make a terrific addition to garden-to-table meals.
Unfortunately, while tomatoes taste delicious, unwieldy, 7-foot-tall indeterminate vines can make a garden look messy. But with new introductions of compact plants, as well as beautiful, bountiful fruit that outshines the traditional, red globes, you’ll want to consider giving these AAS winning tomato varieties a starring role in your garden:
- Midnight Snack. A unique, indigo-type cherry tomato that ripens to red with a beautiful glossy black-purple overlay when exposed to sunlight. While lovely to look at, the pretty purple color, which comes from the accumulation of anthocyanin pigments, also adds a boost of healthy antioxidants to your favorite meal.
- Chef’s Choice Black. Add this stunning dark green/brown/black-hued beefsteak-type tomato to Caprese salad and savor its delicious flavor and pretty presentation. This hybrid boasts a prolific yield of 8-ounce fruits grown on strong, disease-resistant, 5-foot indeterminate vines.
- Purple Zebra. A scrumptious, striped addition to your garden that’s highly disease-resistant. Dark red 3-4 oz. fruits with green stripes and a deep mahogany-red interior taste sweet with a hint of acidity. Plants are 5-6′ tall.
- Sunset Torch. With the 6′ plant’s pretty, open habit, you can enjoy this adorable, eye-catching tomato before it hits the plate! The sunset-colored 2″ fruits add a pop of brightness to the garden, with strong striping from stem to tip. High yields, a sweet, fruity flavor, and good disease resistance makes this a must-have for your garden.
- Apple Yellow. An adorable, unique, dimpled apple-shaped tomato that tastes as good as it looks! These 1 oz. bright yellow, deliciously sweet, citrusy fruits boast a firm, meaty texture. The 5-foot-tall indeterminate plant produces prolifically all season long—up to 1,000 darling, tasty tomatoes per plant!
- Buffalosun. Add a sunny pop of color to your garden! The unique yellow fruit with red/orange flame coloration looks lovely on the outside—and inside, too, with a pretty, marbled, fleshy interior for a gorgeous addition to Caprese salads. The beefsteak-sized tomato delivers a delicious heirloom-like flavor but with better texture, higher yield, and less cracking, plus the 6′ plant also resists late blight.
It’s always a great idea to test your soil to ensure the soil provides the pH and nutrients your veggies, fruits, and herbs need. You can find DIY soil test kits at garden centers or online. Most university extension offices also provide soil testing services.
Perfectly Pretty Peppers
Sweet and crunchy or five-alarm-fire hot? Whichever you prefer, peppers make a terrific addition to garden spaces, especially with their rising cost at the grocery store. And, with gorgeous new introductions that focus on both fruit and foliage, you’ll love the pretty presentation both in the garden and on your plate. Give these varieties a try:
- Candy Cane Chocolate Cherry. A feast for the eyes, as well as your taste buds! Not only does the fruit add interest to your garden, maturing from green with white stripes to orange-green striping and finally full chocolate-cherry red, the variegated foliage of the plant creates a lovely focal point in the garden. Naturally, the sweet, crisp peppers taste delicious, too. (Not an AAS Winner but a Green Thumb Award Winner)
- Dragonfly. Pick a peck of purple peppers with this stunning plant. With fruits that taste great harvested early and green or even fully mature and red, you’ll love snipping these gorgeous 4-lobed fruits at their shiny, purple stage to dress up your favorite charcuterie board or to use for a burst of beauty in meals. The gorgeous color, thick walls, and sweet flavor make this a great choice for your garden.
- Sweetie Pie. A miniature bell pepper that is easy to grow with an excellent fruit set even under hot and humid conditions. An attractive plant that is well-adapted to a container and small garden growing. Fruits can be harvested 60 to 70 days from transplanting either in green or red.
If presentation is your goal and don’t need additional pepper fruits, try these ornamental peppers:
- Ornamental NuMex Easter. Another ornamental pepper that looks gorgeous in the garden—while spicing up your recipes! This compact, well-branched beauty displays small clusters of 4 to 6 fruit on top of the plant, with colors ranging from lavender to light yellow and light orange (when fully mature). The pastel palette and easy-care plant looks lovely all summer long until frost.
- Ornamental Onyx Red. Onyx Red is one of those stunning double-take plants that steal the show! This breeding work has resulted in an unprecedented compact, well-branched ornamental pepper adorned with eye-catching dark black foliage. The contrast between the diminutive black foliage and tons of shiny red fruits is striking and makes a bold statement in the garden.
Who can resist the beauty herbs add to the garden? From lovely lavender flower spikes that scent the air to fragrant, flavorful basil that belongs in every summer meal, herbs add gorgeous color to the garden, fabulous flavor to meals, and many even look fantastic in homegrown bouquets. Plus, when allowed to flower, pollinators adore their blooms, while the fragrance of many herbs help deter pests from the garden. As one of the summer’s most popular herbs, you’ll love the unique look of these basil varieties:
- Dark Opal Basil. Stunning violet-purple leaves and pink flowers make this variety perfect to show off in flower beds and containers. While the unique color adds interest to the garden, you’ll still enjoy the delicious, traditional sweet basil flavor in your favorite meals.
- Purple Ruffles Basil. If you love basil, you’ll adore the fabulous, ruffled, purple foliage of Purple Ruffles. With the same sweet, licorice basil flavor as traditional Genovese, the fringed foliage looks gorgeous in garden beds and containers.
- Siam Queen Basil. If you enjoy Thai-inspired recipes, it’s time to add this beautiful, late-flowering variety to your garden. Prized both for its culinary use, as well as its ornamental value, the 2-foot-tall plant looks lovely in containers and garden beds. Pretty dark purple flowers attract pollinators.
If you think eggplant means a big, bulbous, blackish-purple fruit filled with seeds atop spiny stems that make harvesting hazardous, you’re in for a treat with adorable, unique introductions perfect for adding interest to your garden and meals. Take a look at these varieties:
- Icicle. The cylindrical, white fruit hangs from the plant, like, well, icicles! With fewer spines than most eggplants and larger fruit than many other white varieties, the plant looks gorgeous in the garden dripping with white fruits. The eggplant tastes great in meals, with fewer seeds than many other varieties. The pure-white skin doesn’t turn yellow, like many other white eggplants, plus the vigorous plant holds up well to insects and the environment. If you think you don’t like eggplant, give Icicle a try—we’re confident you’ll change your mind.
- Fairy Tale. This adorable, petite plant produces the prettiest fruit. White with violet-purple stripes, this sweet, non-bitter eggplant with a thin skin and few seeds is perfect for anyone who shuns traditional eggplant varieties. Plus, the long harvest window makes this a terrific addition for homegrown meals: the fruits can be picked small at 1 to 2 ounces or left on the plant until they double in size: they’ll taste just as delicious and tender. At only 2.5 feet tall, this is a perfect addition for containers.
Grocery store greens can’t compare to the delicious, fresh flavor of homegrown lettuce, kale, arugula, and Swiss chard. Plus, with many garden-grown greens featuring a cut-and-come-again harvest, you’ll enjoy an endless supply of tasty, healthy greens. While many greens look attractive planted in the garden, you’ll love some of the more unique varieties that add interest to beds and bowls:
- Bauer Lettuce. Oakleaf lettuce is a delicious and versatile edible that is super easy (and fast) to grow in the garden. Harvest at the baby leaf stage or grow into the rosette-shaped full-sized head. Bauer will please with its darker green color and nicely uniform compact size that can be grown almost anywhere…in-ground, containers, or window boxes.
- Red Sails Lettuce. For a beautiful presentation in the garden, this bronze-leafed beauty can’t be beat! The pretty crinkled texture and colorful leaves look lovely as a decorative—but nutritious—border along a garden path. You’ll adore the fresh, sweet flavor in salads and wraps.
- Bright Lights Swiss Chard. Grow a rainbow in your garden! The colorful stems in shades of yellow, gold, orange, pink, violet, red, white, or even striped add a stunning pop of color to garden beds and containers. Not only is this a gorgeous ornamental plant, but Swiss chard tastes great in your favorite recipes. Pair this beauty with cool-season flowers, like pansies, for a perfect patio pot.
The Best of the Rest
With so many beautiful, unique, delicious veggies available, you’ll find amazing options that taste delicious—and look fabulous in the garden and on the plate. When choosing varieties, don’t miss the special Creme Brulee Echalion. It’s a keeper and oh so easy to grow! Continuing on the pink-purple theme, give Purple Haze Carrots a place in your garden. While they aren’t as showy in the garden (obviously, since they’re root crops), they look stunning in your garden-to-table meals.
For an over-the-top pop of beauty, try Candle Fire Okra. A unique red okra with pods that are round, not ribbed, this bright red okra is unlike any variety on the market. It’s highly productive, deliciously tender, and heat- and disease-resistant. No wonder it’s an AAS Winner!
If you love homegrown pumpkins for fall holiday decorations and autumn treats, give Pepitas Pumpkin a try. Named for its hull-less or naked seeds (pepitas) that lack the tough outer hull, these seeds are the perfect nutritious, slow-roasted treats. Each high-yield plant produces numerous medium-sized (9-12 pounds) pumpkins on healthy, disease-resistant vines. The pretty orange fruit decorated with green stripes looks gorgeous in the garden or decorating your porch.
Summer’s not complete without the sweet goodness of homegrown melons, and you’ll love these magical varieties. Gold in Gold Watermelon adds a burst of brightness to the garden, with a golden-yellow, striped exterior and a sweet inner flesh that’s a lovely orange-gold. The crisp texture and high sugar content makes this an all-around winner.
Orange SilverWave is an exotic melon bred in South Korea with an extremely sweet, orange flesh and unique rind color: white to light green, with pretty dark green “speckling’ adorning the melon. The attractive 5-inch oval melons grow on vigorous vines, producing up to six melons per plant. If you’re short on space, try growing this melon in a large container with a trellis to support the vine and bracing the fruit.