In the depths of a long cold winter, or in a small apartment with no yard space, you can still grow food indoors. Lighting and pollination are the limiting factors to growing fruits and vegetables indoors. The best foods to grow indoors are those that thrive in artificial light and do not require pollination to produce an edible crop.
Microgreens and Sprouts
Sprouts and microgreens are highly nutritious young plants that add more crunch to salads, sandwiches and stirfrys all year round. Sprouts and microgreens are ideal for indoor food production as they require only a tiny amount of growing space, have a very short growth cycle and have minimal lighting requirements. Sprouts are grown without soil, inside a glass jar or damp canvas bag, and are ready to eat in just a few days. Alfalfa, lentil, sunflower and buckwheat make good sprouting choices.
Microgreens grow densely in small trays of soil and are harvested by shearing the stems off at ground level before their first pair of true leaves appear, about 2 to 3 weeks after planting. Beets, radish, broccoli and popcorn produce flavorful microgreen shoots.
Lettuce and Greens
Lettuce, spinach, arugula, mache, Italian dandelions and other salad greens take just a bit longer than microgreens to grow indoors -- about 3 to 4 weeks until the early harvest stage. A fast harvest of lettuce and other greens grow well near a bright window, but artificial lights make the plants fuller and darker green. Leafy greens work well indoors as you eat the vegetation, so the plant does not require full sun or pollination necessary to produce a vegetable harvest like tomatoes or peppers.
Citrus Fruit and Figs
Citrus fruit is typically a crop grown in tropical environments, but development of container-sized citrus trees that do not require pollination has made it possible for gardeners in cold climates or in tiny apartments to grow their own fresh fruit. Ponderosa and Meyer lemons are both suitable for growing as houseplants, according to the University of Minnesota Cooperative Extension. Dwarf varieties of tangerine, calmondin orange, and satsuma oranges grow successfully indoors. Figs do well in containers indoors, or moved outdoors for the summer and wintered over inside. Prune the fig tree back frequently to encourage branching and enhance fruit production.
Belgian endive, also known as witloof, is a tender green-leafed plant eaten raw as lettuce or cooked like cabbage all through the winter months. Belgian endive requires two stages of growing to produce the soft, pale chicons or heads that fetch a fortune in the grocery store in January, according to Kitchen Gardeners. First, grow the plant outdoors through the summer, creating a thick, parsnip-like root stock. Dig the roots in autumn, cut off the bitter summer foliage, and stuff the roots vertically in a bucket. Store in a dark cool indoor place without watering until 3 to 4 weeks before your desired harvest, then move the bucket to a warm indoor location in the dark (such as under the kitchen sink) and water it regularly. Cut the soft white-green chicons near the top of the root, and keep watering the roots for a second, smaller harvest.
- The Christian Science Monitor; Sprouts and Microgreens; Dean Fosdick; February 5, 2009
- University of Minnesota Cooperative Extension; Growing Citrus Indoors in Minnesota; Deborah L. Brown; January 1999
- Alabama Cooperative Extension Service; Fig Production Guide; David Himelrich; April 1999
- Mother Earth News; Grow a Quick Crop of Lettuce Indoors; Barbara Pleasant; January 2009
- Kitchen Gardeners; Growing Belgian Endive
- Bowood Farms; Growing Figs in Containers; Ellen Barredo
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