There are a lot of great vegetables to grow in a beginning garden. But my favorites are the ones that yield ridiculous amounts. You know, where you end up with bagfuls of produce and have to go around begging your neighbors to take some. Most of my life I've been at least a little anxious about whether I'll have enough to go around, and there's nothing to give you that feel like a mountain of cukes.
Here are my faves:
1. Green beans
They start yielding early -- like under two months after you plant them -- and will keep yielding till first frost. And every plant will give you a handful of beans in a remarkably short time. I have a plot about eight feet by four feet and I end up with more than enough to feed our family . . . every other day. This is too often to eat green beans, but I'm not complaining: after all, you can freeze them, can them, or pickle them.
Nothing says "embarrassment of produce" like zucchini. All the squash are pretty productive, but the advantage of zukes is that they're picked green, so you get a constant, rolling harvest. Just pick them when they're small! The big baseball bats are not very tasty. (Though I always try to nab a few every summer, for zucchini bread!)
These are great for all the reasons zucchini are . . . plus they actually taste good. (Sorry, zucchini.) And you can eat them raw in the garden. I like to rub the spines off on my jeans, snap them in half, and give them to the kids. Which means I don't have as many to bring inside, but as long as vegetables get inside the children one way or the other, I don't care at all.
Another rolling-harvest crop, though these ones are a lot slower because they have to get ripe. Still, one plant can give you quite a few tomatoes. And tomatoes are just the best. Cherry tomato plants are perfect IF you have children who want to help harvest. If you don't, you'll never stay caught up on picking them and next year you'll have lots of little volunteers.
Chard is the only green I plant, because lettuce and spinach both bolt way too fast in this heat. It does have to be cooked, and isn't any good for salad, but it sure does produce. I have a little patch and can still harvest a double handful at least twice a week. I like ripping it up small and putting it in spaghetti.
Honorable mention: herbs
Okay, herbs don't produce that well (except that one time I got a laundry basket full of basil) but because you don't need a lot, they're always plenty of bang for your buck. That is, if they're something you use a lot. I currently have more cilantro than I can shake a stick at and am kind of at a loss, especially with no tomatoes to make pico de gallo with. But if you harvest them often (herbs need to be harvested often to keep them from bolting anyway) you will have what you need all summer.