Let’s simplify food security by discussing the vegetables you should grow now and why.
Many of us know that we should be growing our food or at least entertaining the idea because food is expensive and not getting cheaper. And even if it was cheaper, would they pass the savings on to the consumer? Probably not.
You can have a garden with sunlight, water, a container, seeds, and soil.
But why lettuce and onions? There are three huge reasons and some other reasons, but the top three below are the biggest.
Reason Number One to Grow Lettuce & Onions: We Eat Them Almost Every Day
Number one, those two items are in almost everything we eat; we will encounter lettuce or onions in almost anything we eat in an American diet every day. Whether it’s on burgers, in a side salad, or on sandwiches, you’ll find lettuce.
Onions are used to flavor things, you chop them up and put them in ground meat, and you chop them up and cook them in the sauces that start so many recipes. If I think about it, most recipes I cook start with oil, onions, and garlic.
So I’m focused on lettuce and onions because they’re in everything. That means if you can grow them successfully, you’ll save a lot of money because you use them a lot.
Reason Number Two to Grow Lettuce & Onions: They are Easy to Grow
The barrier to entry to growing these is low. To start growing lettuce and onions in a vegetable garden, you’ll need the following:
That’s it. Seriously. These items are such easy foods to grow; it will compound your confidence and will compel you to grow even more of your diet.
Reason Number Three to Grow Lettuce & Onions: They Taste Better Homegrown
When you grow your food, it tastes so much better. Homegrown onions taste better, and homegrown lettuce tastes better.
When you grow your food, you can pick these items at the height of their flavor, and you can’t do that with food at the grocery store. Food at the grocery store is engineered to last for weeks during transit. Food at the grocery store is NOT grown for taste.
The Exact Onion Variety You Should Grow for Success
Let’s zero in on onions because onions do get a bad rap. Onions can be difficult to understand.
Onions are the only common seed that I know that only grows well in a particular area of the country based on latitude.
You can’t just pick up and grow any pack of onion seeds. It depends on what your latitude is. You would think that when you go to the grocery store and see a pack of seeds, you could grow that seed where you are. But that’s not the case with onions.
You won’t grow big Walla Walla onions if you’re in North Carolina. And they should never have sold you those if you’re standing in a Walmart in North Carolina. If it’s Springtime, they should have sold you Candy onion seeds. If it’s wintertime or fall, they could have sold you short-day onions like Savannah Sweet or Plethora.
But they should never sell you Walla Walla onions in North Carolina if they expect you to have these big beautiful onions on the package, right?
Three Onion Varieties I Recommend Based on Where You Live
Depending on your latitude, I have distilled down the three onion varieties you should grow. You will only pick one of these, but these three will cover all the areas of the continental US.
Don’t think about other varieties right now- pick one of these three.
Short Day Variety for Southern Gardeners: Savannah Sweet
So if you are below North Carolina when looking at a map of the United States, I want you to grow a Savannah Sweet onion.
You can look them up online, type the name in Savannah Sweet, and grow those plants or seeds for your onion variety.
Intermediate Day Variety for Mid-Lattitude Gardeners: Candy
You can grow Intermediate Day varieties if you are in North Carolina, Virginia, or even South Carolina. Look for candy onion plants or seeds if you’re in that swath in the middle of the country.
Long Day Variety for Northern Gardeners: Walla Walla
And finally, if you’re in the northern region above Virginia, you will look for Walla Walla onion seeds or plants. I prefer to grow seeds because they’re the most economical.
But if you don’t want to do that, and you’re unsure if you can handle it, or maybe you don’t have time to start seeds, you can get plants. The Walla Walla onion is the single onion variety that I want you to focus on.
Following these guidelines will give you success based on where you live. See how weird this is? Kale is not like this, or lettuce is not like this. Certain plants don’t like the heat. We know that. But that is it’s not a latitude thing. It’s a temperature thing. It is a latitude thing for onions because they have to have a certain amount of daylight, which is dictated by your latitude.
Onion Chioices Summarized
If you are south of North Carolina, grow the Savannah Sweet variety.
If you are in the middle swath of the country from South Carolina to North Carolina and Virginia, to all the way left along that band in the country, grow the Candy onion.
And if you are above Virginia, try the Walla Walla onion.
These are the varieties you should focus on to keep this simple. Look for them online if you can’t find them in any local stores. There are a lot of reputable companies that will tell you what to grow for where you are. One is Johnny’s Selected Seeds, and another is Hoss Tools. You will also find that information at places like Territorial seeds.
Lettuce Varieties to Buy (Hint: Any of them)
When it comes to lettuce, you will buy whatever you like. I’m growing iceberg lettuce and romaine lettuce right now. Because it’s before early spring and I’m growing at a cooler time, Iceberg lettuce will do well for me right now. You will sow lettuce seeds directly in the soil. The seeds germinate in about 5-6 days, and I’ll have baby lettuce that I can start harvesting within 4 weeks.
Iceberg and Romaine are Working for Me Right Now
Iceberg does not really like hot weather. That’s why you don’t see many people growing Iceberg lettuce in the summertime in warmer areas because it doesn’t like it.
In hot temperatures, it bolts and gets bitter. Since it is mid-February right now, I can get away with it. My cool temperatures are still cool enough that I can pull off iceberg lettuce.
The Lettuce Varieties You Can Grow Are Almost Endless
There are varieties of lettuce that will withstand below-freezing temperatures, so don’t hold back. Take a look. Investigate. get fancy with your lettuces. Make a custom lettuce mix by mixing several varieties you love. It’s super fun. Growing lettuce is very affordable. A single seed packet will last you all season.
As I’ve outlined above, you’ll have a high likelihood of success if you start with lettuce and onions. You can be all in for these for $15 or less. You’ll be so happy growing your lettuce and onions this year. Get growing, and let me know about it in the comments!