People new to gardening or those without the time or inclination to fuss with plants often choose self-pollinating vegetables due to their ease of propagation compared to those that require insect, wind or artificial pollination by a human. Largely grown as annuals, self-pollinating vegetables are grown in all U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones. With self-pollinating plants, gardeners can count on a true plant from year to year and often save seeds from high-yielding plants.
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Greens, such as spinach (Spinacia oleracea) and lettuce (Lactuca sativa var. capitata), are self-pollinating vegetables. Gardeners in northern climates often plant two rounds of greens each year, the first in the spring and a second in the fall. The male reproductive cells, or anthers are fused together and completely surround the female cells, or the stigma and style. As the flower grows, the style grows through the anther cone and is self-pollinated. Most varieties of lettuce will still produce seeds that can be saved for the next gardening season, even as the gardener harvests the leaves for eating.
Some herbaceous plants, such as chicory (Cichorium intybus) and its relative endive (Cichorium endivia), are self-pollinating plants found in the wild as well as cultivated in the garden. Gardeners grow chicory to eat the leaves in salads. The buds and roots are are often brewed as a substitute for coffee, especially in times of economic difficulty. Due to the bitterness of endive and chicory, these vegetables are usually eaten as a mixture with other greens if consumed raw, although cooking the greens in a soup, stew or sauce helps to mellow the flavor.
Legumes, including peas (Pisum sativum), lima beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) and green beans (Vigna spp) , including bush and climbing varieties, are self-pollinators. These vegetables grow well when sown directly in the ground as opposed to starting in a container indoors and then transplanted. These plants self-fertilize even before the flowers open, which prevents any cross-pollination by insects or the wind. The seeds of legumes are easily collected and stored for future use and are true to the parent variety from year to year.
Varieties of peppers (Capsicum spp.) are usually self-pollinating. Peppers that self-pollinate include hot peppers such as jalapenos (Capsicum annuum var. jalapeno) as well as sweet bell types (Capsicum annuum). If saving seeds, wear gloves as the capsaicin -- the chemical that gives peppers heat -- can linger on the seeds and cause a reaction on the fingers and hands. In addition, if planting both hot and sweet varieties, keep plants caged or at least 500 feet apart. Insects can cross-pollinate peppers, and dominant hot genes overtake sweetness in plants grown from the new seeds.
Jessica Lietz has been writing about health-related topics since 2009. She has several years of experience in genetics research, survey design, analysis and epidemiology, working on both infectious and chronic diseases. Lietz holds a Master of Public Health in epidemiology from The Ohio State University.