It’s easy to tell a new gardener to grow things they already eat but I’m not sure that’s the best strategy. You probably have some favorites, and if they work for your zone of course you should grow them. You’ll be stoked that they came from your plot and often times surprised at how much better they are than store bought versions. My advice is to make some space for things you eat rarely, if ever. I’m sure it helps that I’m not a very picky eater, but I found that once I started growing beets, leeks, brussel sprouts, turnips, and I’m sure a few others, they found a permanent spot in my gardens. I’ll be honest, the same cannot be said for eggplant; If its not good deep fried, slathered in marinara and topped with cheese I don’t think I need to force the issue
Especially in areas not so forgiving as Santa Barbara, the bigger your bag of tricks, the better your chances of cranking out some legitimate food. Honestly, if you’re open-palated enough, my advice is don’t even look up a recipe before planting something unfamiliar. Make sure it grows in your zone, check the planting dates, spacing, watering and light requirements and plant away. You’ll be left with a pile of food and dozens if not hundreds of recipes to choose from at your fingertips.
That’s exactly where I found myself when I decided to dedicate a single square foot to radishes in my current garden. I’ll eat radishes if they show up on a salad, and sometimes throw some of the pickled radishes and carrots from Mexican joints on my plate, but I’m pretty sure I’ve never purchased a radish in my life. I do radishes at 16 per square foot, but will probably do a side by side yield test at 25 per square foot down the road. A few days before July 4th I pulled 16 French Breakfast radishes figuring I’d try and work them into the festivities
After some quick reading, I found out they do well roasted, my favorite way of cooking root vegetables. Despite the skepticism of everyone present, I combined the radishes, a few carrots chopped to roughly the same size, garlic, onion, some garden thyme, salt pepper and oil and baked them around 400 until fork tender and slightly carmelized. I’m not in blog-writing mode yet, so no pics, but they were gone in minutes and skeptics became believers. The spicy bite of the raw radish was gone, leaving something in between a roasted potato and roasted onion. Because of their ridiculously quick turnover, I will from this day forward dedicate a square foot or two to radishes, even if the only way I ever eat them is roasted.