Like peanut butter and jam, some things just taste better together. Melding flavors by pairing foods elevates the taste experience to new heights. Gardeners have discovered that the taste blending usually performed in the kitchen can also be accomplished in the garden. Planting vegetables with complementary herbs in the same garden bed not only augments the flavor of the vegetables, it can have the added benefit of warding off problematic insects. Called companion planting, the tried-and-true gardening method is gaining new attention from organic gardeners and home gardeners concerned about pesticide use.
When grown together, aromatic herbs like basil or rosemary and savory vegetables like onions or garlic impart their flavor to the vegetables with which they are paired. For example, planting basil in a bed of tomatoes yields a sweeter, more flavorful tomato. Onions planted with lettuce will give your next salad a deliciously piquant taste.
Boosting vegetable flavor with paired plantings is an inexact science that is fun to play around with, but the insect control benefits of companion planting is well documented. When planted together, certain plants will repel insects that regularly attack their garden mates. Plant pairing may not provide complete protection from insect pests, particularly when large infestations occur; but it can discourage insects and provide enough natural protection to make the effort worthwhile.
Try these plant pairings:
- Basil (Ocimum) planted with tomatoes or peppers improves flavor while repelling fruit flies and mosquitoes.
- Onions planted with carrots deter carrot rust flies.
- Planted near beets, strawberries or lettuce, onions discourage ants and slugs.
- Dill, rosemary and mint protect broccoli from cabbage moths.
- Planted with cabbage, dill improves cabbage growth and attracts beneficial insects.
- Rosemary deters bean beetles and carrot flies when planted with those vegetables.