Are you getting bored of growing the same things year after year? Why not spice up your garden by trying one of these uncommon but easy-to-grow vegetables? You likely won’t find them at the grocery store, so planting them in the garden may be the only way you’ll get to try these culinary delights.
Photo licensed via Creative Commons via Flickr member martinlehnberg
This interesting root vegetable looks like a white carrot but tastes like an oyster. It’s very easy to grow in almost any climate. The root, leaves and flowers of this plant can be eaten.
Matures in: 120-150 days
Plant time: Salsify is a cool weather crop; plant it 2 weeks before the last frost.
Plant placement: Grow in full sun, in rich soil free of roots and rocks.
Care: Keep it moist throughout its growth with consistent watering. Watering unevenly can cause the roots to split. Use compost or fertilizer midway through the season to give it a boost. This slow growing crop is easily overwhelmed by weeds, so make sure to mulch around it or remove weeds weekly.
Harvest: Salsify is ready when the root is 12 inches or longer. Check one plant after 120 days, if it’s not big enough, give it longer.
Cook: Peel off the brown outer layer and coat the white root in a water/lemon juice mixture to keep it from browning. Chop it up and add it to soups or stews, boil and mash it as you would potatoes, or roast it with olive oil and herbs
Photo licensed via Creative Commons by Flickr member Charlotta Wasteson
2. Jerusalem artichoke (aka sunchoke)
Despite the name, this vegetable is not an artichoke nor from Jerusalem. It’s a member of the sunflower family, and the resulting stem and flower, which will grow 5-10 feet, very much resembles the sunflower. The edible part of the sunchoke is the root, which tastes to some like an artichoke, and others like water chestnuts.
Days to maturity: 110-150
Plant time: Direct sow seeds 2-3 weeks before last frost.
Plant placement: Full sun, in well drained soil that is loose and enriched with compost or aged manure.
Care: Thrives on even and consistent watering, but can withstand long periods of drought. Cut off the flowers as they emerge to encourage root development.
Harvest: When leaves die back, dig up the root.
Cook: You can eat sunchokes raw in a salad, made into slaw or cook them in a variety of ways. They are delicious roasted, sautéed, boiled and mashed, or made into soup.
Photo licensed via Creative Commons by Flickr member Skånska Matupplevelser
Celeriac is a variety of celery that is grown for the root. The plant is easier to grow than conventional celery and the resulting tuber is nutty in flavor.
Plant time: Start seeds indoors 8-10 weeks before the last frost date, then transplant into the garden around the last frost date.
Plant placement: Place in full sun in rich, well draining soil.
Care: Water consistently and fertilize frequently for this heavy feeder.
Harvest: You can harvest celeriac when the roots are 3-4 inches around but the flavor improves if you wait until after the first frost.
Cook: Remove the peel and coat with lemon juice mixed with water, as it will brown when exposed to the air.
Photo licensed via Creative Commons by Flickr member Emily G. Round
This bizarre plant looks like it came straight from an alien planet. Kohlrabi looks like a mix between a cabbage and a turnip and tastes like a sweet radish with the texture of a broccoli stem.
Plant time: Direct sow 4-6 weeks before the last frost.
Plant placement: Place in full sun, in rich, well draining soil.
Care: Water evenly and consistently, fertilize mid-season.
Harvest: Dig the plant up when roots are 2-3 inches around.
Cook: Kohlrabi is tasty served raw, thinly sliced and dressed, or cooked by roasting, stir-frying, or cubed and tossed into soup.
Photo licensed via Creative Commons by Flickr member timlewismn
This strange plant is part of the tomato family and is very popular in Mexican dishes. It looks like a green tomato wrapped in thin, vein-y paper and tastes like a citrus-y sweet tomato.
Plant time: Start indoors 6-8 weeks before last frost date and transplant at the same time as tomatoes.
Plant placement: Place in full sun, in rich soil that drains well.
Care: Water evenly and consistently, and fertilize regularly, the same as you would tomatoes.
Harvest: When the paper husks start to split, it’s time to harvest the tomatillo.
Cook: Use your tomatillos to make salsa verde, hot sauce, or bread them and fry them in oil.
Since these vegetables are hard to come by, you may not be able to find seeds or seedlings at your local garden center. Most major seed catalogs and online plant stores carry these veggies in several different varieties. Try something new in the garden this year, and impress your friends and family with your eclectic culinary skills!
What’s the most unusual fruit or vegetable you’ve grown in your garden?
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