The general advice gardeners give to people is grow what they like to eat, but the problem with that advice is that inexperienced growers tend to be constrained by what the supermarkets provide and also what you like is only one of the three criteria that we need to consider.
My approach in this chapter is to offer up an approach to thinking about what to grow and how much of it to grow. I keep a database of all the varieties that we grow and I've added three attributes to that database for most of my varieties: taste, health and value; let's take a look.
In the chapter that follows you will see my bias coming through. Not only do I rank what I grow by taste, health and value, but I also have in mind a few other biases. I much prefer to grow crops that provide a long harvest period, which saves on sowing, planting and growing time. I also like plants that are flexible, for example salad onions that also make good bulbing onions. I like crops that don't have too many pest/disease issues and that look beautiful. I also like crops that fit into my successional timings, for example beetroot, following broad beans.
All of these biases are factored into my ranks in one way or another.
I've rated everything we grow by taste, which is more challenging than you might think. It's proved very difficult to compare the taste of brassicas like kale, with the taste of cherries and as a result the ratings end up being extremely subjective. I've also tried to take into account how much better home grown tastes than super-market, which is also very subjective and of course I have a sweet tooth, so sweet things top my list.
So far as I can hold all of the information in my mind, I've tried to score varieties not just within the families I use (fruits, roots, brassicas, salad leaves ...) but also across families. So there are lots of caveats!
I have however tried to take into account the feedback from my friends and family, so the results should be useful, if not definitive.
Fruit and veg ranked by taste
Health is in theory slightly less subjective, since there is published data on the health benefits of different types of fruit and veg. Unfortunately there's no really objective way to compare these benefits across different families. To complicate matters even more some of the healthiest plants have short seasons and might also be eaten in small quantities (very hot peppers for example) and so I've rated these a little lower than might otherwise be the case.
I've also taken into consideration how long the harvest period is and when it is, so I rate things that are harvested in winter (when it's difficult to get a wide range of healthy food) a little more than those harvested in summer (when it's easy).
I have tried to take account published research and decades of studying nutrition as well as actual eating habits to come up with a useful, albeit debatable list.
Fruit and veg ranked by health