Produce the healthiest summer vegetables with these combinations.
Certain vegetable and herb combinations are natural companions. Whether planted in containers or in the vegetable patch, these combinations work together to produce the healthiest summer vegetables in the neighborhood. These pairings of vegetables and herbs are symbiotic because the smaller, herb flowers might actually increase the number of pollinators that visit your vegetables. Bees can be your best friends. They are the real heroes of the most successful vegetable and flower gardens. We, gardeners, recognize the fuzzy, yellow-and-black bumblebees, solitary bees and the gentle honeybees that visit our backyards but there are over 4,000 species of native bees in the United States alone. Everyone can encourage a healthy pollinator population by planting bee-friendly plants and doing without harmful pesticides. What is good for the bees is good for us.
PAIRING TOMATOES with BASIL and BORAGE
TOMATOES: Gather a few tough hybrids, a couple of early fruiting plants and a medley of heirloom favorites in exciting colors or shapes. And, most importantly, provide your plants with large helpings of sun, heat and consistent water to make sure that your tomatoes will become the best kind¬—ripened on the vine.
Better Boy: This popular hybrid is a flavorful, slicer with bright red fruit. It bears heavily in mid-season but continues fruiting until frost. Plants grow from 6 to 10 feet in height so they need staking or a strong cage. Harvest: 78 days.
Super Sweet 100: High yield, cherry-sized tomatoes are produced in clusters that are high in sugar and vitamin C. Grows super tall until frost—8- to 12-feet in height. Give them tall supports. Early harvest: 65 days.
Celebrity: A mouth-watering, flavorful tomato—a good basic tomato for sandwiches, slicing, salsa and bruschetta. Resistant to disease. Grows only to 3- to 4-feet tall but continues to produce tomatoes until frost. Early harvest: 65 days.
BASIL: This annual herb is a summer necessity. As well as being tasty and fragrant, the oils in basil leaves tend to keep flies and mosquitoes away. Place a container near the patio or back door.
Sweet Basil: It’s the classic, spicy basil flavor on 6” stems. Small, white flowers attract bees.
Lemon Basil: Add a lemon-y taste to salads, fish dishes and even ice tea. Plant matures from 20-24” tall with 2.5” bright green leaves.
Sweet Thai Basil: This Asian variety has a spicy, anise-clove flavor. Beautiful purple stems and flowers look pretty in the garden or container. Plant matures to 12-6” tall with green leaves.
BORAGE or Starflower: This annual herb has vivid, blue flowers and fuzzy leaves that taste like cucumbers. Often grown in vegetable gardens where it attracts a wide assortment of pollinating bees, borage is a good companion for tomatoes because it deters tomato hornworms and can improve the flavor of tomatoes when planted nearby.
TIPS: All these plants thrive in full sun with consistent watering. Bees also need water in addition to nectar. A wet leaf or a shallow bowl offers a nice sip.
PAIRING GREENS WITH CHIVES
GREENS or Mesclun Mix: ‘Mesclun’ originally a French word for a mixture of tender salads, also known in the U.S. as any mixture of young salad greens. Tender, baby lettuces grow best in the cooler seasons of spring and fall. Simply grow and snip to make the freshest salads—toss with a bit of dressing.
Romaine lettuce: Sweet flavor and crisp texture. Slow bolting and heat tolerant.
CHIVES: This hardy, perennial herb is recognized for its clumping, grass-like leaves with a mild, onion taste. The edible, lilac-pink blossoms attract bees in late spring and summer while the onion fragrance keeps many pests away. Snip and use in summer salads, on baked potatoes with sour cream and in any dish that calls for onion.
TIPS: All these plants thrive in the cooler spring, early summer and fall months with full sun and consistent watering. Chives like moisture but not a super strong, summer sun. These greens are more heat tolerant but generally start to bolt and turn bitter when temperatures get too hot.
PAIRING HOT PEPPERS with CILANTRO
CHILE PEPPERS ‘Jalapeno’: This ‘go to’ hot pepper is a player in spicy salsas or any recipe that needs some heat. Harvest peppers when the fruits are glossy-green or wait until they are red. Peppers love warm soil, full sun, even moisture and a rich, composted soil. Harvest: 72 days.
CILANTRO: This quick-growing, annual herb has a spicy-sharp taste—adds a ‘zip’ to salads, guacamole, salsas, Thai, Mexican and Indian dishes. Re-seed cilantro every 2-3 weeks through early summer so you can enjoy it nonstop. Keep leaves fresh and tasty by keeping plants well watered. Allow some mature plants to flower because the blossoms attract beneficial insects and pollinating bees. Reseed again in autumn, as plants prefer the cooler weather.