Thursday, February 28, 2013

Growing Uncommon Vegetables in Your Garden

If you stroll through the majority of supermarkets, you will see remarkably similar vegetable types and varieties wherever you live.  We sure do love our lettuce, orange carrots, white potatoes, broccoli and other staple vegetables.  It’s not surprising that when we set off to plan and plant our own gardens, we often stick with many of the standard crops we purchase in the grocery store.  While many of these staples are wonderful fresh from the garden, growing your own vegetables provides a special opportunity to try some of the less commonly known crops.  Even some of the more commonly grown vegetable come in an array of colors and varieties that you can’t find in the store.

Here are some less common vegetables to consider trying in your garden.  If you’ve never tried some of these crops, I suggest planting one or two each year and deciding which ones you like best, it’s no fun having a whole row full of something your family won’t eat!

Kohlrabi is related to cabbage and is a vegetable that can be eaten raw or cooked in stir fries or other dihes.  You can plant in the fall for a spring harvest, or transplant outside in the spring for harvesting in the fall.

Beets are a new favorite around our home.  They are sweet, can be canned, baked, added to salads, frozen, used as a natural dye, and you can even eat the green tops.  Plant them starting in the spring and throughout the growing season for continuous harvest.

Jerusalem Artichokes
Jerusalem artichokes, also called sunchokes, are related to sunflowers and grow beautiful flowers in addition to edible roots.  They can be eaten raw or cooked like other root vegetables and have a nice earthy flavor.   

Celeriac is related to celery and is grown for its roots and tops.   It is generally used much the same as potatoes, but can also be eaten raw, and has a nice mild taste.  While it does take a long time to grow, celeriac stores well.

Seakale is a mulit-faceted perennial vegetable with edible shoots, roots, and tops.  It is also a beautiful plant that can be used among flowers in your favorite garden.  Like asparagus, seakale thrives after several years and the same plant can be divided and enjoyed for years to come.

Tomatillas/Ground Cherries
Both tomatillos and ground cherries form and grow inside husks.  When removed from the husk, they can both be used in a variety of ways such as salsas, chilies, jellies, or eaten raw.

Bok Choy
Bok Choy is a mildly flavored vegetable perfect for stir fries.  It can be grown in the spring or for a fall crop and is not only delicious but beautiful.

Different Varieties
If you’re not ready to try some of these more unusual vegetables, consider trying some of the less common varieties of vegetables you already enjoy.  While only a few tomato varieties make it to the store, there are hundreds to choose from for your garden.  Even vegetables like carrots come in a multitude of colors, so don’t get caught up in planting a traditional vegetable, spice it up by growing interesting vegetables and fantastic varieties.

Do you grow anything unusual in your vegetable garden?


  1. I've been hearing a lot about kohlrabi lately but I've never even tried it. I bet I would like it, though.

    This year we got purple tomatillo seeds. I've never grown them before. I'm so excited! We are going to roast the tomatillos to make some yummy salsa. I can taste it now :)

  2. This year I am going to try and grow Brussel Sprouts and Lima Beans along with the usual tomatoes, beans (many different kinds) peas, corn, cauliflower, broccoli, cucmber and squash.. Also going to plant herbs that will keep the bugs away and plant herb to attract butterflies. Pumpkins, melons, strawberries, lettuce are new this year. All my seeds are heirloom seeds. I forgot about the potatoes, white potatoes and this year sweet potatoes.

    I plan on doing a lot of campionion plantsing this year.

    I can't wait to get out there and start planting. The last frost days here in Delaware are in the middle of April but I have started some of my plants in the house.

  3. We are planting Easter egg radishes this year. I think my son will enjoy the show! We also plan to plant purple carrots, and an assortment of non-traditional pumpkins, to include white ones and flat-ish ones. Great post! Why grow common stuff, when you can have fun!

  4. We started growing beets this year. I love that we can eat the entire plant. We most often chop the tops and add them to whatever other greeens we're having. I like to grate the bulb like a carrot and add it to our salads. Not everyone appreciates a pink salad, but really you can't even taste it.

  5. We enjoy growing many varieties of potatoes for different tastes, textures and colors. We love roasting a variety of red, white and blue (yellow too!) spuds with homegrown shallots and garlic. Yum!

  6. I have always added something "unusual" to get the kids interested in the garden. Sometimes it is rainbow carrots, last year we tried peanuts, we have tried tomatillos, popcorn, sugar beets to name a few. This year we will be planting edamame, daikon radish as well as some unusual tomatoes (purple and green zebra). The kids in the neighbourhood love to see the unusual vegetables growing, and are always willing to sample a few...and sometimes even the parents come along to see what is new for the season. It's a great way to get kids eating their vegetables, and to have a friendly chat with the neighbours.

  7. I would love to grow tomatillos so I could can some spicy green salsa. :)

    Thanks for sharing at the Farm Girl Blog Fest--always a was a pleasure to find your posts in the list!

    ~Kristi@Let This Mind Be in You

  8. I'm growing artichokes - which I've never eaten in any way other than pickled. So this is a great way to try something new. I'm also growing purple potatoes; I tried them in Peru and thought they were great. Speaking of Peru, I am growing two types of Peruvian peppers: Rocoto (hot as a habanero - had in Peru) and Lemon Drop (hot pepper with lemon taste - can't wait to try it). This will be my first time growing tomatillos, so I'm looking forward to homemade salsa! And, I love growing several varieties of a crop: two spinaches, two beets, two turnips, two carrots, several types of tomatoes and peppers. It's interesting to note which varieties I think taste better, which produce better in my climate, etc. I love experimenting!