Unusual Vegetables

zeedman Zone 5 WisconsinSeptember 2, 2006

One of the joys of gardening is being able to grow something "off the beaten path". It could be an exotic species, or just a very unusual heirloom variety of a popular vegetable.

For example, I grew several unusual members of the gourd family this year (Mexican Sour Gherkin, West India Gherkin, and Bitter Melon) and two unusual tomatoes (Red House Free Standing [needs no support] and Elfin [almost leafless, with hundreds of fruit]).

What is the most unusual "edible" in your garden this year?

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I don't know how unusual it is but this year I'm growing celeriac for the first time. Last year I tried parsley root, bulb fennel and daikon radish. I like to grow cornichons and a few years ago tried West Indian gherkins. I try to attempt something new every year just to keep things interesting.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2006 at 2:52AM
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Was RHfreestanding quite freestanding? How did you like the fruits?

    Bookmark   September 3, 2006 at 5:19AM
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feldon30(N Houston (8))


If you're in the Great Lakes area then you're probably already growing this underrated vegetable, but if not, parsnips!!

I steam them until just starting to get tender and then pan-fry with some butter and olive oil. I've also boiled sliced, peeled parsnips along with whole potatoes to make mashed potatoes and parsnips.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2006 at 5:53PM
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I'm sure these are not highly unusual, but it was my first time with growing the delightful and delicious lemon cucumbers. They are such a kick, so cute and such a great flavor. I also grew Pattypan(or paddypan??) squash, they look so neat, like little flying saucers.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2006 at 8:49PM
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pepperhead212(6b / S Jersey)

The oddball thing I grew this year is the serpent melon, AKA snake melon/snake cucumber. Grows to about 18-20", and 1 1/2 - 2" thick. Even when small they are hollow, so picking small doesn't help - best to leave until full grown. I cut lengthwise, scrape the seeds out, then the halves into 1/4" slices, and use in stir-fries or Thai curries, and they stay very crunchy, even when cooked for a long while. I will definitely plant again.


    Bookmark   September 3, 2006 at 9:18PM
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hi yo'all...unusual veggies..moving to fla. from dixon,il several years ago to the deeep south i have learned and am learning a bunch! plant collards(3 types),mustard (2 types)yellow crooked neck squash,okra,sweet potatoes,peanuts,pole beans,kale,swiss chard,basil. never grew these up north in dixon as they were not that poplar there and these do well in hot weather. future rare plants i'd like to plant are garlic,parsnips celery avacado artichoke,mango,papaya,to name a few. living here in fla. is great since i am a vegan we can have a garden 365/24/7 here,thank god! take care all!

    Bookmark   September 3, 2006 at 10:24PM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

Pnbrown, the "Red House" does indeed hold the tomatoes off the ground without support. The stem is very thick, and the mature plants are only a foot tall. The foliage is potato-leaved, dark green, very dense, and the tomatoes are borne under the canopy - fully shielded from sunscald. A major windstorm only tipped them (with a full load of tomatoes) but did not knock them over.

They were planted in new ground just turned over this spring, and have done well while many other vegetables in the same plot (including other tomatoes) languished. The tomatoes are red & about 8 ounces. Haven't tasted them yet (will in the next few days), I sure hope the flavor makes them more than just a curiosity.

Feldon, I was forced to relocate my garden recently, to an area with silt over heavy clay. Very fertile soil, but hard to work deep... still haven't gotten it as loose as I want it for the deeper root crops. :-( Have been adding a lot of organic matter, hopefully at least one side of the garden will be ready next year. There are wild parsnips in my area, so the cultivated forms should do well.

Pepperhead, I tried snake melon (A.K.A. "Armenian Cucumber") several years back. It is _outstanding_ eaten green as a cuke, and makes an excellent relish. Never tried cooking it though, I'll have to check that out. The ripe melon, to me, was nothing special, more of a novelty.

Lunaflowers, I'm green with envy... or maybe it's just grass stains? ;-) You can grow all the tropical veggies that are impossible for me here in Wisconsin. Winged beans, rice beans, Malabar gourd, chayote squash, perennial peppers, etc. And mangos... (drooling).

    Bookmark   September 4, 2006 at 4:44AM
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fliptx(Houston 9)

I haven't grown anything particularly unusual in the larger scheme of things, but I've grown things that I am unlikely to find at th Kroger down the street. I grew wax beans, yardlong beans, and Ichiban eggplant. I can find fresh green beans and the big, round eggplant easily in stores, so I decided to grow things I'd otherwise have to go to a more "upscale" or specialty market for. I also grow red scallions, which were beautiful.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2006 at 7:14AM
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jimster(z7a MA)

I am growing some oriental vegetables -- edamame (soy beans), daikon (large white radish), yu choy (mustard with big tender stems) and gai lan (broccoli with tender stems). These aren't unusual in an oriental garden, but in most American gardens they would be.

Likewise, vegetables which are common in the South are considered quite strange around here. I grow collards, turnip greens, mustard greens, various cow peas and butter beans.


    Bookmark   September 4, 2006 at 8:27AM
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Don't know if this is considered unusual or not, but kohlrabi, both spring and fall.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2006 at 9:46AM
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How were the Mexican Sour Gherkins and the West India Gherkin? Did you get lots of fruits? Were they tasty?
I grew Speckled Annelino(Shrimp) beans. They are pretty with red striping on them, but the curling is not very uniform, some are very curled, some hardly at all. They taste good though, very meaty.
I always grow unusual tomatoes. I grew a few not commercially available like Polish Pastel. It is a bi-color paste. My husband who likes sweet tomatoes really liked it, and asked me to grow it again. I also got seeds for St. Remy Perfit. I had to grow them having my name: ) They are perfect little red globes. Unfortunately, they are thick skinned and on the mild side, so I probably won't grow again. Another oddball tomato I grew was Silver Fir Tree. It is a dwarf with very lacy foliage. They reminded me of Cousin Its, lol. I planted them along my walk in with the flowers. It worked out well. They have made tons of juicy tomatoes too.
I grow lots of peppers but probably the oddest one I grow is Korean Dark Green. The dark green refers to the foliage. It is a hot Kim Chee pepper. The plants have a nice little rounded tree appearance. The peppers hang down like Christmas ornaments.
I have ground cherries growing too. I don't think too many people grow them. I never have. The plant are big and loaded with blossoms that look like they are becoming fruit. I hope they mature soon!
Oh and sort of odd for here, I'm growing heirloom sweet potatoes in large pots. This is a first time experience for me. I hope something is developing. To eat my own sweet potato would be very exciting! Lol, the things that make me happy!

    Bookmark   September 4, 2006 at 10:55PM
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emilyg(z5 Chicago)

I've grown salsify before (old timey vegetable often called the vegetable oyster).

Anyone out there growing skirret?

    Bookmark   September 5, 2006 at 9:56AM
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This year I do not have anything really unusual, like last year when I grew the purple yard long beans. My friends still think that my garden is quite unusual with 20 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, over 50 varieties of peppers (hot and sweet), eight varieties of cucumbers (including lemon and apple cuces) and seven different types of potatoes.

I like to try something new each year. This year's experiment is sweet potatoes, which may not be anything unusual for southern states, but here in WI it is not a common crop.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2006 at 11:25AM
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Every year I like to try some new plant. This year I tried Italian squash, a few new varities of eggplant (green giant, little fingers, neon, kyoto), long sweet pepper, and corn.

I am completely enthralled by the Italian squash. I will definitely grow them next year. A steady producer of fruit. They had a little more firm texture than zucchini when cooked.
Eggplant: The surprise was green giant...I've never had eggplant like that. The little fingers were a little bitter. Neon had a wonderful color and taste. And kyoto was simply marvellous, sweet, tender and no seeds at all.
I will definitely try the long sweet pepper...it kept producing and producing..
Corn was nice, except that some animal (maybe squirrel) ripped open the covers and ate up the corns before I could get them. So the score was 1 corn for me and 9 for the animal....But my 4 year old loved watch it grow.
This year I'm also trying to grow Chayote squash....I think this is 5th time I'm trying to grow it. Somehow haven't lost hopes for it yet.


    Bookmark   September 5, 2006 at 1:39PM
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The corn theif may be a raccoon , tape the ear tips shut with masking tape . If you want to grow unique veggys and fruits cross breed your own ! Crossing Doc Merton lima X Greek Giant lima for instance . I can send you some Giant kernal corn seed at cost plus postage. It takes a full six months to reach maturity though so you will have to start them indoors. Cross giant strains with early maturing strains cross them with resistant strains to:pests, disease, drought, flood, high winds, cold ,heat . virus mold , varmint pests or anything else you can think of .

    Bookmark   September 5, 2006 at 5:18PM
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jimster(z7a MA)

"Anyone out there growing skirret?"

I had to look it up. Some good things are said about it. But if it's so good, why don't people grow it?


    Bookmark   September 5, 2006 at 5:30PM
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I'm thinking of planting sorrel. I read good things about it. But I was wondering if anyone has grown it and what your experiences are with it.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2006 at 5:53PM
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jimster(z7a MA)

"I'm thinking of planting sorrel. I read good things about it."

I encourage you to do it. I grew it from seed with no problems. Sorrel is a perennial, IIRC. It's a nice herb/vegetable to have. So far as I know, it is mostly used in a creamy soup. It's good in a sauce for fish also. It has a lemony sort of taste and adds bright green color.

I'm glad you mentioned it. I'm planning a new herb bed and that's one I must include. Lovage is another useful herb. It has the flavor of celery and is easily grown from seed.


Here is a link that might be useful: Sorrel Soup Recipes

    Bookmark   September 5, 2006 at 6:35PM
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lolly gardener, you might want to be a little careful with the sorrel and keep the seed heads cut off. In my garden it will spread like crazy if I let it go. I just carry a pair of garden scissors with me and trim it every other day or so. But it makes an excellent soup and I use it in German Grunesosse on fish and potatoes. Makes it well worthwhile to grow.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2006 at 1:19AM
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aka_peggy(Central Md 6b)

I don't know how "unusual" they are but I grew "garden peach" tomato this year and I'm very pleased that I did. They're a pretty small tomato, some being no larger than a golf ball, but they're very tasty, and somewhat sweet. They hold up well and as I understand it, they store well when picked green. They really do resemble a small peach.

Also growing sorrel but I haven't made sorrel soup yet. I intend to soon. I enjoy the lemony taste and I generally snack on the leaves while working in the garden. Sometimes I include the young leaves in a salad. It makes an excellent sauce for fish too. I collect the seed heads to keep it from spreading.

Got a small plant of lovage this spring from a friend. It has an interesting taste, a bit stronger than celery.

I stumbled upon some interesting chile peppers this summer at an unlikely place, the hardware store. They are; Bahamian, Congo Trinidad, nippon taka and Puerto Rican no burn. They are the prettiest little peppers! I'm growing them in pots and plan to overwinter them in a well lit unheated room.

Happy gardening!

    Bookmark   September 6, 2006 at 8:50AM
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jimster(z7a MA)

"... a bit stronger than celery."

That's right. It's good for adding flavor to soups, not for eating like celery.


    Bookmark   September 6, 2006 at 12:23PM
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aka peggy wrote "They are; Bahamian, Congo Trinidad, nippon taka and Puerto Rican no burn."

You found really cool peppers from the HW store. I wish we had also stores like that, or maybe I have not just looked at the right stores. I tasted my first ripe Puerto Rican No Burn peppers yesterday. They have wondeful taste and aroma with light heat, which just warmed my mouth.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2006 at 2:13PM
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aka_peggy(Central Md 6b)

Hi Svalli,

I just ate my 1st Puerto Rican no burn today and it was tasty.

You should have seen DH reaction when I returned from the hardware store with screws and peppers, Lol! These peppers were growing in 3" pots and were stunted but loaded down with peppers. They were intially selling them for 6 bucks ea. They were marked down to $2 by early August when I bought them. I potted them up in some good soil and they're doing really well. They look like "bonsai peppers."

    Bookmark   September 6, 2006 at 2:33PM
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Amino_X(z7b AR)

I got an assortment of seed packages free from Parks one year for ordering $25.00 or more, and in it was a packet of melon seeds called Alwaha. It was an anias cantelope that the women loved (but I hate cantelope). I still have some of the seed left (I've never seen them offered anywhere since and can't get my hands on anymore). I even planted some this year but it succumbed to an idiot groundskeeper with a weed-whacker.

I want to try to de-hybredize one into something good (it may not be true Alwaha.. whatever that is.. but if it's good hey! :D )

Best Wishes

    Bookmark   September 6, 2006 at 4:57PM
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PaulNS(NS zone 6a)

French sorrel is delicious for snacking on in spring, raw - an early green. We've had it in the middle of the garden for six years and it hasn't spread yet, not one bit, though we leave the flower tops on. Wild sheep sorrel, on the other hand, is our biggest weed pest, spreading by runners and seeding like mad.

The other night we had my favourite summer supper, salade nicoise, with unusual (for here) vegetables: late asparagus, Maxibel filet beans, blue potatoes, red scallions, Sugary grape tomatoes.

Very unusual for hereabouts - we managed to grow some 6" long Dusky eggplant, harvested them and made moussaka.

We've been selling chioggia beets (candystripe, OP) to a chef. Very sweet.

Asparagus or winged beans grew fine here but left me wondering why bother - weird flavour and texture, though a beautiful plant.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2006 at 5:34PM
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emilyg(z5 Chicago)


I'm a historian by trade, so I'm interested in the really, really old vegetables. Elliot Coleman talks about both salsify and skirret in his book on 4 season gardening. Root veggies.

I dunno why more people don't grow them anymore. Perhaps not enough historians garden. I have a feeling (now that I have real garden space) that I'll be trying out all those really old (medieval) veggies.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2006 at 8:53PM
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jimster(z7a MA)

I'd have to say that skirret lives up to "unusual" more than anything else mentioned so far. It deserves to be tried by a few gardeners on this forum and reported on next year. Now we may need to do a bit of searching for the seed. Any medieval seed specialists around?


    Bookmark   September 7, 2006 at 12:25AM
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I don't know about unusual. What's unusual for some folks in some clines . . .

Sorrel also shows up as a weed in our gardens now and then. Like nearly all of the weeds, I enjoy picking a little and chewing it while I attempt to eliminate the pesky things. Need to find your pleasures where and when you can - the serendipitous good taste of many weeds brings some joy into my gardening life.

I really enjoy parsnips and try to grow some each year. They are such large roots, it doesn't take much ground to have a nice supply for Winter. This year, we planted them at the end of a bed of carrots. Ol' Steve was busy weeding one morning and came to the end of the carrot rows and just kept goin' - for a few minutes. Apparently, the brain had dropped into neutral. It only took a couple of minutes to eliminate all but 2 parsnip plants before I realized what I was up to.

Celery root has been in our gardens the last few years. I'm still learning how to grow a decent crop, tho'. One ugly but tasty veggie. We like em mashed with potatoes.

Like Jimster, we enjoy growing Asian veggies and are trying a few new varieties of bok choy and Chinese cabbage this year - both early and late. Yummy! We've got bitter melon too - wife likes it. Yuk!!

I've got a new heirloom pole bean which the rabbit took a liking to but he left me with enuf to try. I've grown rather tired of the taste of "modern" varieties and a gardening friend shared some seeds. This has such large pods that only a couple of beans make a serving - guess I didnÂt really need too many plants (he said philosophically ;o).

I plant a few new tomato varieties each year but haven't tried the Garden Peach. The Snow White tomato might just be the most unusual of everything we are growing, however. It isn't quite white and actually looks more like an apricot than a tomato - little fuzzy, too. That apricot skin is somewhat tuff but the tomato has a good flavor.


    Bookmark   September 7, 2006 at 1:31AM
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emilyg(z5 Chicago)

Here are some more, again from Eliot Coleman:

Root chervil
Hamburg parsley
Good King Henry
Russian comfrey

Anyone have experience with these?

Coleman talks about a seed catalog called Le Potager d'un Curieux where he got a lot of this rare seed.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2006 at 12:31PM
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PaulNS(NS zone 6a)


    Bookmark   September 7, 2006 at 1:21PM
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Cardoon and naked-seeded pumpkins. That reminds me, I need to start blanching the cardoon now.


    Bookmark   September 7, 2006 at 5:04PM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

Sorry, left to visit Heritage Farm in Iowa (Seed Savers Exchange), just got back... every vegetable gardener should visit there at least once. Talk about a kid in a candy store! :-)

Remy, the Mexican Sour Gherkins (A.K.A. Melothria scabra) are a miniature climbing vine; it almost looks like ivy, but only gets to 4-5' tall on a trellis. And trellis it you better, or you won't be able to find the _hundreds_ of little .75" watermelon-like "cukes", one at each leaf node. They taste like sour cucumbers.

The West India Gherkins, on the other hand, are like a sweet, very crunchy 1-1.5" cucumber - with spines. The spines are soft, you can eat them as-is; you just have to ignore how they look, and pop them in your mouth. Everyone who has tried them loved them. The vines need room, however; they don't climb (they look like half-sized watermelon vines), and will get easily 5-6' across.

Both vines need to be kept picked, at least every other day, because the fruits get over-ripe quickly.

Svalli, I hear you about northern challenges - I am also in Wisconsin, Fox Cities area. I keep growing okra & large limas, even though they are (usually) destined to fail. It teaches me humility (or masochism?) except for that one year in 10 when they succeed... then max joy!!!

Lolly, it sounds like you grew "Zucchetta Rampicante" squash, or something similar; it has permanently replaced zucchini in my garden. **And you can grow chayote!!!** I lived in SoCal for 16 years, and grew chayote in San Jose & San Diego - it was the most fascinating vegetable I've ever grown. If you are having trouble with it, search GW for chayote, I've given detailed instructions to others. Wish I could grow it here in Wisconsin. :-(

Emily, if you are looking for "food historians", you must have read Will Weaver's books? If not, you would probably enjoy them.

I will add one more vegetable to the list: podding raddishes. No root, just 4-5' plants with _hundreds_ of tender pods. Unlike regular radishes gone to seed, these are juicy, fat, and very slow to develop fiber. "Rattail" was disappointing, but "Madras" is delicious, and very prolific. Now if I can just figure out how to pickle them...

    Bookmark   September 8, 2006 at 3:48AM
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npthaskell(coastal oregon)

> Good King Henry

Leaves tasted terrible raw, still not so good after cooking.
In contrast, other Chenopodium greens such as "Magenta Spreen" (eg., seeds of change), Huazontle, Lambs Quarters, Strawberry Spinach/Beet, or Quinoa are good after a short steaming.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2006 at 4:10AM
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PaulNS(NS zone 6a)

I've seen cardoon in a greenhouse but never tried it. Is it eaten like artichoke?

Speaking of unusual, and chenopodium, I came across (on the web) a farm in Quebec that grows Chenopodium foliosum, Strawberry Sticks, and wonder has anybody tried them.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2006 at 8:55AM
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emilyg(z5 Chicago)

Love this thread! Those strawberry sticks are something. Pipe up if you've grown them.

I didn't know about Weaver's books, so thanks for the recommendation.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2006 at 10:48AM
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Cardoon is botanically the same as Globe Artichoke, but has been selected for solid-fleshed leaf stems (artichoke leaf stems are sometimes/often hollow). If you have cooked and eated the short stems of artichokes, that is more like what you are getting with the cardoon. Let them grow all summer long, then tie up the stems and wrap them in something to exclude light in late summer/early fall. Blanch for 4 weeks before cutting. Steam and serve with butter or Bunya Calda.


    Bookmark   September 8, 2006 at 2:25PM
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If you go to My Page and click on My Clippings, you'll see two posts I saved about Burdock, but the recipe info is the same. Except when Cardoon is blanched well(very white) while growing, it doesn't taste too strong and dumping out the cooking water may not be necessary.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2006 at 8:26PM
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Oops, forgot to say, Thanks Zeedman for the Gherkin info: )

    Bookmark   September 8, 2006 at 8:28PM
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jimster(z7a MA)


I'm very familiar with the use of burdock as cardoons. Burdock is not actually cardoon, but became used as a substitute by Italian immigrants. I wish I had your recipe the first time I tried cooking it. At the time I had only a vaque description from a friend who had seen his mother cook it.

Burdock seeds can be bought from oriental seed sources becuase the Japanese cultivate it for the long roots. They call it gobo. There's no need to cultivate burdock for leaf stalks in Western New York. You can find lots of it growing wild. For gobo, the cultivated roots will be of better quality and easier to harvest.

I've intended to grow the true cardoon for some time because I have been unsuccessful with artichokes. Next year may be the year. I think it will be perennial here.


    Bookmark   September 8, 2006 at 9:39PM
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Interesting thread . . .

I've grown edible Luffa but never the Zucchetta Rampicante squash - not too delighted with the taste of the Luffa.

The West India Gherkins, on the other hand, were "loved" as Zeedman suggests (easy crop, too). I have no idea why I stopped growing 'em - too many other things to try, I guess. What may have replaced WI gherkins were Lemon Cukes. We grow them each and every year. Should note that they aren't much good when they reach the point when they actually look like lemons.

Another something new in the garden this year were leeks. They grew just fine despite my misgivings that I had regarding meeting their requirements. Apparently, they don't mind an arid climate. Their taste and uses are so appropriate for us that they seem like a crop we always should have and likely always will have - from here on out.


    Bookmark   September 9, 2006 at 12:09AM
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I'm growing jicama.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2006 at 1:17PM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

Digit, if you like leeks, have you tried bunching onions (A. fistulosum)? Many of them are perennial, and multiply annually. The stems can get quite large (up to 1 inch).

I am experimenting with 8 varieties this year, to see how (or if) they will overwinter here in Wisconsin. Most of the plants are for seed, but I grew a few to sample - the flavor was quite different than most commercial green onions.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2006 at 3:03PM
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We grow Tokyo Long White and have grown He-shi-ko and Nebuka, Zeedman. Im not entirely clear if these are separate varieties or alternative names. I had never really thought about over-wintering them.

My wife first complained that they were like starting "dog hairs" in the greenhouse but she changed her tune when she realized that they produced such nice scallions. We still start onions from sets but she is now more willing to handle the transplanting of these non-bulbing types. Saying that gives something away, handling the transplants gives me a case of the jitters - I just dont think that I can accomplish much with these mitts I call hands. Darn, the plants start off small.

That leads me to a question: is there a variety especially grown for larger size plants? Im sure they still start small but she might be willing to try something new (even if its just to show me up ;o).

"Try to remember the kind of September when life was slow and oh, so mellow."

    Bookmark   September 10, 2006 at 4:11PM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

Digit, He-shi-ko and Nebuka will over-winter... although I'm not sure to what degree in our hardiness zone (my current experiment should answer that question). Your suspicions of alternate names are right-on; according to my references, they both have many pseudonyms (some of which they share). It might take a botanist to sort it all out.

Tokyo Long White is not winter-hardy, but can get very tall, up to 30".

Larger-size plants? If you mean thicker stalks, I have seen some over 1" thick. Most of them were heirlooms growing on Heritage Farm (Seed Savers Exchange), and I have been unable to find sources elsewhere. I may eventually be able to coax some seed from Seed Savers, when (if) they grow them again.

But one is commercially available, Red Beard. The plants are short (12") but incredibly squat, and become very thick as they mature. Mine are probably 3/4" thick now. Only time will tell if they remain tender at full size. The stalks are also supposed to turn red under cooler temps, so I will be watching this one closely.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2006 at 11:22PM
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PaulNS(NS zone 6a)

Interesting about the cardoon and burdock.

About leeks - we grow some every year at the edge of a bed and leave some in the garden for the next summer - they make fantastic ornamentals, people always ask what they are.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2006 at 8:19AM
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chervil2(z5 MA)

I purchased Chenopodium foliosum, Strawberry Sticks from Thompson and Morgan many years ago and saved the seed. This plant thrives in rich moist soil with plenty of organic matter. I have had the plant self-sow for many years. The appearance is much more interesting than the taste of the berry.

My pride and joy this year was harvesting artichokes from seed I planted in February.

I enjoyed growing an Amish hot pepper call chicken heart.


    Bookmark   September 11, 2006 at 8:16PM
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PaulNS(NS zone 6a)

Going by this web page, growing cardoon in our zone isn't out of the question. And it would be a good excuse for making bunya calda - :o) -thanks for the recipe Catherine. And the information about it and burdock, Remy. What an entertaining member page you have!

Somehow I'm not surprised that the strawberry sticks flavour is uninspiring. They don't say anything about flavour in their catalogue description.

Another lovely unusual plant with (to me) uninspiring flavour is winged asparagus peas. I'd grow it again for the plant.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2006 at 10:19AM
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I would love to grow skirret if i could find a seed supplier in Western Australia...anyone know of one?
Is anyone intesrested in wild foods such as edible weeds?I have several in my garden that I eat.
Or indeed any unusual edible plants not usually grown now, of whatever climate zone...I would appreciate any descriptions with latin names..so I can look it up!

    Bookmark   September 15, 2006 at 7:19AM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

Skirret, it must be Spring for you - planting time, unless you are already a 4-season gardener. My growing season, sadly, is drawing to a close. Sorry, but I have to ask... does it ever snow anywhere in Australia during your winter?

The question of edible weeds is a good one; there are many (including myself) that eat them. However, it is a big topic on its own, and probably deserves its own thread - it should get a lot of responses. You get first crack at it, otherwise I will start it up tomorrow.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2006 at 1:31PM
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I put Purslane (miner's lettuce) in last year- and it's quite pleasant and crunchy,a little sharp to the taste.

I've had sorrel in for a couple of years- I have a great recipe for a sorrel butter sauce (for salmon)and a sorrel soup. It's got a nice sharp lemony taste, and seems to be reasonably hardy. I seem to have two slightly different strains too (bought from the same garden centre) with slightly different shaped/sized leaves.

I grew some oak leaf lettuce this winter- very nice and still going (planted in March).

    Bookmark   September 20, 2006 at 10:17PM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

Finally hope to post photos of some of the more unusual veggies this year:


On top (left to right) are "Butterbean" edamame soybeans and "Tromboncino" squash. Center: "Thailand" bitter melon, Hyacinth Bean. Bottom: Green Gram (Mungo), "Ma Williams" pole bean, mixed "Mexican Sour Gherkin" & "West Indian Gherkin".


Litchi tomato (note thorns everywhere).

    Bookmark   September 23, 2006 at 4:18AM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

Nope, I guess I didn't do it right... any help from the veterans would be greatly appreciated!

I'll post a link to the first image.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2006 at 4:21AM
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It all looks great! I want some of those Ma Williams beans: )
Here's my computer idiot way to post photos.
When you are writing your post, go to Photobucket and highlight the Tag line. On your key board hold down Ctrl and hit C. Nothing happens, but don't worry, come back to your post. Then where you want the pic to appear hold down Ctrl and hit V. A bunch of computer gobbly gook will appear, but don't worry. When you click on Message Preview, the pic will appear in you post.
Try that: )

Glad you liked the info and my page: )

    Bookmark   September 23, 2006 at 8:03PM
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ooooo, look at those thorns! I have a hard time believing those tomatoes are worth extracting from the thicket. Tweezers?

Reminds me of the little green Asian eggplants only much worse.


    Bookmark   September 23, 2006 at 8:24PM
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I have grown red amaranth for a few years, but never tried harvesting the seed. This year I tried harvesting the seed - and it was very easy -

... There are lots of interesting recipies for amaranth seed. This plant hasn't been mentioned here yet, so I'll plump for this as an unusual veggie (although it's a grain.) You can eat the leaves, but I haven't.


p.s. Yes to Chayote! Very good, and definitely a little bizarre in the way it sets fruit.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2006 at 11:44AM
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I forgot to mention that I grew saffron this year.

Saffron is harvested from a crocus. I ordered bulbs last october and planted a bed with them. Got some saffron (yay!) but I won't know for a few weeks if the crocuses survived through the year. Our climate is similar to their native lands, but still you never know.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2006 at 11:47AM
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I got impatient with the empty space where the saffron crocuses were planted, and I dug around to see if the saffron bulbs were still alive.

They're not only alive, they're sprouting!!! Yippee! yay! Don't you love it?

Of course, now I need to find a different spot to plant the snap peas. Grumble grumble. There's never enough room in the garden.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2006 at 9:08PM
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jimster(z7a MA)

"Yippee! yay! Don't you love it?"

Yes, I love it. This is where I can meet others who are crazy enough to grow their own saffron, my kind of people.

How many of those little stigma do you plan to harvest? How much will they weigh after they are dried? :-)


    Bookmark   October 5, 2006 at 2:03AM
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:) :) :)

The flowers bloom and die so quick that I missed most of them last year, and only got maybe 20 stigmas total. But this year maybe I'll do better.

I read that you'd have to harvest 60,000 stigmas to have a pound of saffron. Not that anyone would want a pound of it. One acre would give you four pounds.

Maybe I'll get a few milligrams? Heeheehee.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2006 at 10:28AM
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ridgerunner14_wv(z5/6 WV)

My only excursion out of the usual this year was with the Lemon cucumber as others have mentioned. Absolutely everyone who tried them loved them. They kept going when my main cucumber Diva quit from the heat and dryness I suppose. I like burpless varieties and the Lemons matched or surpassed them in quality. They were crisp with exquisite flavor and no bitterness whatsoever. I agree with digit that they are past prime if left to get yellow. Pick them when they have reached size, but still have a whitish look to them. They'll be a regular in my garden from now on.


    Bookmark   October 5, 2006 at 11:01AM
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I once picked up anything strange, and a lot of stuff we consider normal (citrus, beans, ginger root, etc) I could find at an organic co-op grocer and rooted (or seeded or otherwise propagated it) for a speech I gave that I called "grocery store gardening". Not that I expected it all to produce fruit anytime in the near future, but it was fun to talk about all the things you can "grow" from the produce section.


    Bookmark   January 1, 2007 at 11:11AM
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I am growing Moringa Oleifera ( Drum stick plant) and Chinese Wolfberry.Moringa for leaves and long beans known as Drum sticks. Wolfbwrry for fruits and leaves.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2007 at 2:45PM
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gponder(7/South OR)

Yacon, Oca, Crosnes, Bitter Melon are some of our favorites. Love French Sorrel, Ground Cherries and White Eggplant also. Lastly the "mild" habanero peppers are truly a treat. They have that wonderful smokey habanero flavor without the intense heat. Great for flavoring. Don't know why more people don't grow them. (Aji Dulce, Trinidad Perfume and Tobago Sweet)

    Bookmark   January 1, 2007 at 10:58PM
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Patty, you posted a while ago but I don't visit this forum often. I have been thinking about growing Amaranth as a multi-use vegetable/grain, but haven't been able to convince myself that we would actually EAT the grain. I was thinking of feeding it to chickens.

I was wondering how hard it would be to separate out the chaff. If I feed it to chickens they can worry about it but if we eat any I have to figure that out.

I have grown Saffron in the past, but domesticated Saffron is a sterile triploid that is prone to dying out over time. Kinda ugly too--the flowers have muddy colors, and are big but prone to flopping over (especially in my rainy climate). SOooo, instead, I grew a bunch of wild Saffron--Crocus cartwrightianus--the wild ancestor of C. sativus. The saffron from wild saffron is harvestable--but the threads are RATHER SMALL. Anyway it's a prettier flower and a lot more vigorous. It comes in either purple or an alba form. I definitely have the purple but might have a few of the whites too.

The only things I ever use it for are Rissotto ala Zaffarana (aka Rissotto ala Milanese) and various Swedish-style saffron-flavored breads.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2007 at 11:09PM
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Hi zeedman.
Yes it snows in Australia.Snow falls in New South Wales, Tasmania and Victoria (there are even a few ski resorts).The south of Western Australia gets snow sometimes -and I have witnessed freak snow once even where I am in Perth,but only a small swirl of snowflakes!Witnesses were neverthelesss hysterical with excitement....!
The majority of Australians however,have never seen snow.The temperatures here are ranging between the 23C and 37C presently -so I am now in the first month of summer and yes, a four season gardener.I think I have finally cracked how to grow most winter veges in summer too!

Present unusual veges (for this area at least!)that I am growing are:japanese parsley,japanese red bunching onions,butter bean,chinese yard long beans,water chestnuts,water spinach,trombone gramma,italian escarole of various types,purple and dark red carrots,cresses,chinese mustards,hamburg parsley

    Bookmark   January 4, 2007 at 4:54AM
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floridian(Zone 10)

Being originally from Germany, this winter I'm trying my hand at Scorzonera (Schwarzwurzel in German), Kohlrabi and also am branching out into more tropical veggies... just planted my first Malanga root. Wish me luck!

    Bookmark   January 4, 2007 at 12:45PM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

Wow, Skirret, long time no see! Nice to hear from you.

Thanks for your answer, I had always wondered. Your climate seemed to be very similar to coastal California, where I lived previously. How do I know this, you ask? Believe it or not, I had the pleasure of visiting Perth twice in the 1980's. I was in the U. S. Navy for many years, always on aircraft carriers, and two of them made port calls there (or more precisely, in Freemantle). I took a Swan River cruise, spent time at the beaches, enjoyed the nightlife, and was even taken in by a family during one of my stays. My memories of your city, and of the Australian people, are very fond ones.

You are growing quite a few unusuals, and a good number of Asian vegetables. I too grow the yardlongs, and water spinach is my favorite cooked green... although I am having a harder time finding seed, since it has been banned as a weed by the U. S. & its importation is severely restricted.

I was glad to see your reply... because neither of us ever followed through with an "edible weeds" thread. This is winter for the mainland U. S. - a slow time for garden questions - so this would be a great time to start it. Would you care to give it a go?

    Bookmark   January 5, 2007 at 12:43AM
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The most unusual vegetables I usually grow are:

Malabar Spinach
Good King Henry
Fingerroot/Chinese ginger(Boesenbergia rotunda)
Yellow Nutsedge
Ground cherries
Jerusalem artichokes

    Bookmark   January 5, 2007 at 5:39AM
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jimster(z7a MA)

A Chinese friend told me that there are two types of water spinach (ong choy, isn't it?). One type is actually grown in water, the other grows in regular soil. I assume my friend is correct. Can you who grow it verify?

I plan to buy some fresh ong choy and plant it. Apparently it roots easily.


    Bookmark   January 5, 2007 at 2:00PM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

Jimster, I have grown both - and while the dry land variety is a little hardier, both can be grown in garden soil.

The wetland variety has broader leaves, and is the more tender of the two (in terms both cold-sensitivity & texture); it is best grown in a trench, and flooded occasionally. The dry land variety has narrow willow-like leaves, and while not as tender, can take dry spells, tolerate some cool weather, and seems less attractive to insects.

I grow the dry land type, since it does better - and grows faster - in my northern location. When started as transplants, I can pick my first harvest about 30 days after transplanting. For hotter, more humid areas, the wetland variety would probably be the best choice.

Seeds for both have become hard to find, since Ipomoea aquatica has been classified as a noxious weed, and its importation has been restricted. The dry land type was once known as I. reptans, but the two types are now both recognized as I. aquatica. Asian stores in some of the larger cities may have seed, but all of the mail-order sources for water spinach that I knew no longer carry it.

Yes, the stems root very easily. Most of the water spinach sold in markets appears to be the wetland variety. In wet areas, the stems can be planted directly, and will root quickly. For most of us, however, it is best to root them in water (or wet sand) prior to planting. When I used this method, I cut the stems to 6" lengths.

Water spinach does best when planted densely, in wide rows. Using seedlings, I plant 2-3 together, in holes 12" apart, with rows 8-12" apart (in a staggered pattern). I generally plant 3-4 rows together. For stems, try 6" spacing. If you intend to mulch (which I recommend) do so immediately after planting.

I wish I had good news about saving seed... but I don't. The plants are daylength-sensitive, and will not flower until mid-September. So for most of us, unless you have warm weather seed saving is impossible. When I lived in California, however, I was able to get seed successfully.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2007 at 5:28PM
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What a great thread! It reminds me what the original reason I was excited about gardening to begin with... although you would have never known it based on the contents of my garden last year. Plain ol' vanilla. The most exciting thing I grew was rutabegas. Which was actually a good thing because they are pretty pricy around here for some reason. My babysitter actually spent $7 on 3 of them for thanksgiving dinner last year.

Anyway, I'm taking notes and I've scrapped my garden plan from last year. Thanks!

    Bookmark   January 5, 2007 at 7:06PM
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Last year I had a medium-size Pumpkin seed that only grew to 2" inches in lenght and actually took on some orange color! It was pretty unusual.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2007 at 8:19PM
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HI zeedman.
I once took in one of the visiting sailors from a fremantle carrier in the 1980's(offering accomodation when the ships arrive is still just as popular as ever by the way and still makes headline TV when the ships come in -as did the the fall of snow the other year!),it would be ironical if it had been you!!!

Water spinach is also discretely banned here -simply by being taken off the retail shelves.It seems to be one of those plants which can survive anywhere.Here the heat makes plants grow very fast if water is available,only to clog our precious waterways - and we have an almost total ban on importation of any new seeds now, to prevent diseases and threats to the existing unique flora.I can only drool at some of the plant offerings available overseas....
It would seem advisible to save as much of ANY seeds you can, since varietal stocks of most species are depleting around the world.

I have posted a new thread on edible weeds within the vegetable section just now.

zeedman, how long is your growing season and what months do you start planting?
I am also growing angelica, which is a common enough herb in Europe but in Australia it is largely unknown.I make sweets and add it to salads.I am lucky with this climate as it allows me to grow so many plants at any time.

Things growing in my garden presently are:
spring onions,leeks,strawberries,beetroots,mangel wurzel,sprouts,cabbages of different kinds,scorzonaria,salsify,potatoes,asparagus,cucumber, capsicums,eggplant,tomatoes,chillis,silverbeet,perpetual spinach,english spinach,new zealand spinach,ceylon spinach,swiss chard,runner beans,dwarf and climbing beans,kale, collards,lettuce,endive,chicory,watermelons,rockmelons,pimpkins,squashes,zucchini,marrow,cape gooseberry, huckleberry, blueberry,celery,celeriac,rhubarb,broccholi's,kholrabi,jerusalem artichoke,sunflower,amaranthus,corn,taro,sweet potato,carrots,watercress,peanuts,cress,mustards,mitsuba,mibuna,goy choi,bok choi,komatsuma,chinese celery,chinese cabbages,purslane,leaf celery,wheat,buckwheat burdock ,rocket,parsnips,radishes.
I also grow many herbs, edible weeds and have 46 fruit /nut trees crammed into half an acre.The good thing about this climate is that you do not need to space the plants out as you would in cool climates to catch enough sun.here you can cram them tightly together and are indeed trying hard to minimise sunshine rather than encourage it!

Is it snowing over there presently?
Is it possible to grow brassicas -or anything under cover of snow- in winter where you are?
Another question....when east germany came out of its isolation, it was found that there were many strains of well known vegetables not previously seen in the west, like tomatoes and melons which could grow in very cold temperatures.Did any of these make their way to America?

PS To floridian-what is a Malanga root and how do you grow/eat it????????????

    Bookmark   January 6, 2007 at 4:36AM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

Asa_s in Sweden, while I know your geographical location, I know very little about your climate. I would have assumed that you could not grow Malabar spinach, which is a heat lover.

Skirret, my present home in Wisconsin has very short seasons, 150 days or less - and only about 100 to 110 days of that is truly warm. I start planting just after my last frost in mid-May, and plant my heat-lovers around the first of June. My success with many plants is due to using large numbers of transplants; I start them indoors under lights, then move them out to solar greenhouses as weather permits. Sometimes we have a stretch of freezing nights in late spring, and I have to place heaters in the greenhouses to protect the seedlings.

The only vegetables that I overwinter are alliums (garlic, multiplier onions, bunching onions) and Jerusalem artichokes.

I truly miss the years when I lived in California, and could garden year-round, even growing tropicals successfully. :-( But then, in my present location, land & water are plentiful... so Wisconsin has its compensations.

I agree with your advice about saving seeds... which is why I joined the Seed Savers Exchange. SSE has some Australian members, but I don't know how difficult it is to send seed to Australia from the U.S. I believe that you have an affiliated organization in Australia called Diggers Club. I am nearly self-sufficient for seeds now, except for sweet corn, water spinach, and Egyptian spinach. In general, if I am unable to bring a vegetable to seed, I will search for alternatives.

Some of the varieties from the Gatersleben seed bank in the former East Germany - as well as from the Vavilov Institute in the former Soviet Union - have indeed begun finding their way into the U.S., many of them through a collaboration with the Seed Savers Exchange; but the process is slow.

There are _thousands_ of cultivars, and each must be trialed to determine its traits - a process that, for the most part, only seed companies & dedicated collectors have the resources to accomplish (although I have grown a few). SSE offered many of them to its members last year in its annual seed listing (an ongoing process) identified only by their accession numbers (which start with "IPK" for Gatersleben). The best cultivars will probably be renamed (and hence, unrecognizable) as they enter the trade; I already have two named garlic cultivars that listed Gatersleben as the original source.

Skirret, I would very much like to correspond with you further outside GW; if you feel comfortable doing so, you may contact me through the email link on my GW Member Page.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2007 at 1:57AM
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I grow malabarspinach in large (20-25 liter) black pots on my porch, it grows very fast during the summer several meters we have had very warm and sunny summers in the last years (and this year we have had no winter so far, no snow, and temperatures above freezing). I make a lot of quiche with malabar spinach during the summer, I like the taste of malabarspinach.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2007 at 4:43AM
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floridian(Zone 10)

Hi Skirret

Malanga is a tropical root vegetable, used similar to potatoes, i.e. you can make fritters with it, roast it etc. My neighbors are from Haiti and I tasted Malanga fritters for the first time this Christmas at their party and they were very tasty. Since I live in a subtropical climate potatoes don't really grow very well down here in South Florida, so I decided to give Malanga a try - I simply bought a root at the local grocery store and planted it. Let's see what happens... The botanical name is Xanthosoma ssp. Here's a link for more info:

    Bookmark   January 7, 2007 at 5:34PM
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To floridian -thanks for this information.I know them as yams and they are not available here so far as i know.But as with many other veges they appear in the shops from time to time and I keep a constant lookout to grab some to plant!

To asas s - malabar spinach is also known as running spinach and in my garden it ran from one end of the vegetable garden to the other in the space of 9 weeks.......I call it Day of the Trifids.I like the taste too but now grow it in a pot incase it strangles me in my bed.....

To zeedman - have sent you an email on your home page, no worries, would love to correspond.Let me know if you have not received the email.Diggers Club I have looked into but they have a limited number of heirlooms and are expensive to join.I have however got brochures on all the other seed companies here and have sourced everything I can through these.
The Eastern States allow many more plants and seeds than Western Australia.It is very difficult to send seed to WA and vice versa.I hear talk they are looking at letting NO more new plants in of any kind.Which is hard because the reason I searched for a site like Garden Web was because I could not find enough people with similar interests or the breadth of interest,experience in gardening locally,to converse to and swap seeds with.There simply isn't the population here to warrant it and gardening as a popular pastime has only really taken off since the 90's.My kind of "grow-it -all- yourself-and-eat-anything" attitude is uncommon here.The blocks now being sold are so small you could not find the room anyway!

I also use transplants to extend the season or just because this is sometimes more reliable.My greenhouse is 3 sided though.10 years ago the winter temperatures were colder and I recall fitting polestyrene sheets around the greenhouse(which then had four sides!),to keep things warm.I also used polestyrene boxes that supermarkets packed broccholi in.Into these I placed bubbles of polestyrene,then buried a tin in it.I filled the tin with hot water and placed my seedlings around it in the box with the lid on.The heat permeates out and is a cheap source of heat.This kept them warm at 0 centigrade overnight.You have to remember to take the lid off the box each morning though.

A few cultivars from east Germany have arrived here too.

I have elephant garlic.Is that grown in the US?It is very large and pink.
Today in the supermarket I came across an onion of a pink and white colour.Looks like a swirl of icecream, kind of alternate stripes of colour.The supermarket is often my garden centre so i grabbed some and will see how this grows.
On the subject of unusual vegetables, I have a large white chinese sweet potato.It is not available in the shops or in any catalogue or garden centre and was brought here by the chinse population working in the gold mining areas over a century ago.I was told it was rare,at least in WA.I have no idea what it is called but am happily maintaining it and it is taking over my front garden, working its way to my lillypilly tree just as happily!

    Bookmark   January 13, 2007 at 4:32AM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

Skirret, does your Chinese white sweet potato have deeply-cut leaves, and narrow twisting tubers? I grow a Philippine sweet potato that has white tubers, but it is primarily grown for its tasty shoots & leaves. (Reminds me of a joke I heard about a panda...) It is prepared in a similar fashion to water spinach, to which it is related.

Elephant garlic (which is really a bulbing leek) is indeed grown in the U.S. It is available in supermarkets, but is fairly expensive. I have been multiplying some stock for several years - it does not multiply rapidly - and hope to begin large-scale harvest in the coming year. It overwinters here (with mulch as protection) even down to -28C.

Can you presently exchange seeds with the other countries? Any problems?

    Bookmark   January 13, 2007 at 11:07PM
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Hi zeedman
Conditions for importing to Australia (just been looking this up)and include exert:

"The guidelines are basically set out as follows:

- Check the "Import Conditions Database" section to see if the product you want to import is allowed and the conditions that apply to it.

- Check with your State/Territory Agricultural Department for any special requirements

- Lodge an Import Permit (often a small fee applies) for a species that hasn't previously been imported into Australia. Species already imported into Australia will not require one. You may need an import permit before you import any nursery stock.

- Then, when products arrive they will be inspected and classified according to risk.

If you buy imported seeds that are confiscated, AQIS will send you:

a covering letter;

an action notice;

a risk assessment form;

an AQIS "New Plant Introduction Form".

There are a few ways this matter can be dealt with:

1. Do nothing and the seeds will be destroyed after 30 days

2.Fill in the "New Plant Introduction Form "and return it to AQIS for assessment

3. Send $42.00 Aus. to have the seeds returned to the sender, or, to be treated and held in Quarantine for 30 days.

A warning is also given about the fines that may be incurred for illegal importations and a note to notify the exporter of the risks of sending these seed to Australia."

No, my sweet potato has very ordinary sweet potato leaves like the others.
It is 4.21 in the afternoon here,my beans are frying and it is 41C in the shade, so if you have snow send some quickly!!!!

    Bookmark   January 14, 2007 at 2:24AM
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Found some unusual tomatos when I went to the ville today

    Bookmark   January 14, 2007 at 3:20PM
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dawei39(Bronx, NYC)

I am looking for info on a bean that was sent to me from NYC by a friend who is from Puerto Rico - I am told this is a "pole bean" - The pod, which I have see when dried - was at least 1 foot long and about 3/4 of an inch wide - the individual beans are at least an inch in length and are brick red in color -
I planted the three that I was given and they have begun to grow. Now someone else from Puerto Rico tells me they cannot be eaten - if I get a ton of these giant beans, I would like to know if they are edible or not because otherwise what would I do with them?
I know they are climbing beans because I planted one in the winter inside and it ran all the way to the top of the kitchen window before it finally died from a lack of good light. These are outside and I want to know if they are more than just a conversation piece

    Bookmark   June 21, 2007 at 7:49PM
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decolady01(7a/6b AL/TN)

I'm growing three things that are new/unusual to me:
adzipary squash, from Turkey
yacon, aka Bolivan sunroot
yellow flowered climbing bean - these beans are very large, too, and I need to find out if they are edible.

I love trying out new and unusual vegetables.


    Bookmark   June 21, 2007 at 10:47PM
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A Chinese friend told me that there are two types of water spinach (ong choy, isn't it?). One type is actually grown in water, the other grows in regular soil. I assume my friend is correct. Can you who grow it verify?

Yes. This is correct.

I plan to buy some fresh ong choy and plant it. Apparently it roots easily.

It does. It's sometimes sold as an aquatic plant at pond stores. In some states like Florida, it is considered an invasive weed. A shame because it is absolutely delicious!


Are the beans green and then dry to the other color as many beans do?

    Bookmark   June 21, 2007 at 11:39PM
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marial1214(Z 6 PA)

I tried mesclun greens this year, that was unusual for me. It contained an assortment of: mustard greens, watercres, mache, arrugola, tat soi (spoon cabbage) and a big purple leaf plant that I havent yet been able to identify.

Much different than that crap in the bags in the grocery store. Much better, stronger in taste too but I like that. I just put on more mustard vinigarette to cut the strongness of the leafs. Tasty.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2007 at 2:48PM
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aka_peggy(Central Md 6b)

Marial, look at the link to see if you see the "big purple leaf plant" in your mesclun mix.

Dawei, you'd have better luck getting an answer to your question if you started a new thread. A picture would also help.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2007 at 4:39PM
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marial1214(Z 6 PA)

OH dear. the big purple elephant leafs are Giant Red Mustard. So beautiful and ornamental to grow. The plants have all flowered already and gotten so big I'm afraid to eat them anymore cuz of the flavor possibly not being as good as when they were young and tender.

Thank you kind lady aka Peggy.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2007 at 5:02PM
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iacche(z6 Eastern PA)

I'm growing a couple uncommon dry pole beans, Amish Knuttle and Aunt Jean's.

I'm also experimenting with some summer squash varieties that are new to me, but hardly unusual (Lebanese White Bush and Costata Romanesca).

My most unusual veggie is gigantes. It's a Greek dry bean similar to a lima bean, grown as a pole bean. The name means "giants" (they're big). I fell in love with them when living in Greece. I first grew them about 10 years ago from a package of gigantes bought in a Greek market. I've been saving my seeds and have grown them a few times since then.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2007 at 8:42PM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

Only a few new oddities this year:

Pea, "Purple Pod Parsley"
Where most peas have tendrils, this one has parsley-like leaves... and purple pods. Haven't tasted it yet, it's supposed to be a table pea.

New Zealand Spinach (close-up follows)

More to follow, as the season progresses.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2007 at 9:18PM
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I grow Miner's Lettuce--Claytonia perfoliata--as a winter crop and Purslane as a summer crop.

Neither one turns bitter when they bloom, although domesticated purslane seems to want to seed from every single shoot and I don't seem to get any good long runs of leaves.

I have a horrible time with plain old lettuce. It always seems to be too hot or too cold for it to germinate, and then it grows really slowly (getting smothered by every other green in my salad beds) and promptly bolts on me. I'm going to try it as a Fall/Winter crop this year, having bought some extra-hardy lettuces.

I don't consider Rocket aka Arugula to be an unusual crop; it's easy to grow and common in salads here. It is one of the easiest salad greens to grow. I also don't consider Corn Salad aka Mache to be unusual, tho probably many people don't know it. Rocket is a weedy-looking mustard family green with potentially a strong mustard-sesame flavor. Corn Salad makes cute rosettes and has a distinctly nutty or perhaps even "meaty" flavor. Rocket is about as hardy as lettuce and tolerates mild short frosts but nothing too hard. Corn salad is rather hardy and always overwinters here without a problem.

I tried Salad Burnett as a perennial salad green. It is tough and flavorless all year round, as far as I can tell. Nobody in my house will eat it except me (and I'm stoic). Too bad. I wish there were some convincing perennial salad greens. It's gonna get yanked. It's weedy too.

Several of you are growing Cardoons--essentially just wild Artichokes but coldhardier and more vigorous than their domesticated counterparts. I'm growing Artichokes. I thought they would give me two crops but they only gave me one! Stopped growing in warm weather. Maybe when cooler weather arrives they'll try again.

I too grew hull-less pumpkins. Also neck pumpkins, but I think the neck pumpkin seed was mixed in with some striped cushaw because that's what my one and only fertile fruit looks like. Should have been tan without stripes. Neck pumpkins are the sweetest (what commercial pumpkin pie is made of--not the round ones which are bland), and they keep a long time.

Hull-less pumpkins are a strategic crop, if you ever wanted to live off your produce. The seeds (they are grown for the seeds) are rich in protein and oils. Unlike sunflowers, they don't need to be hulled because they don't have any hulls.

"Garlic Chives" is a Chinese vegetable harvested for tender young leaves, which are stir-fried, often with eggs. It has a rather mild flavor for its family.

Another interesting vegetable was "Mien dou", peavine. A Chinese variety of pea grown for the tender young shoots. Tastes a bit like spinach, but I would say better. Mine never gave me that many shoots, tho, before bolting to bloom and turning tough. So, at that point, I harvested the young pods! Maybe it would work better as a fall crop, since the cooling weather would discourage it from blooming.

Last year I grew chick peas aka garbanzo beans. Highly recommended!!! I am at 47.5 degrees latitude, and any bean that bears here must be an easy one. I dunno if it makes any difference, but they were the variety "Kabuli black". I think they will make weirdly colored (ashen grey?) hummus. They are produced on neat, short plants that don't need any staking. Really didn't seem fussy about the weather. I got a good crop. And they fix nitrogen too.

Some more recommended crops include afolia type yellow soup peas, which are really easy to grow (I grew them from a bag of Ikea yellow soup peas) because you don't have to trellis them, and "Blue Podded Soup Peas", which don't really have blue pods (more like purplish-brown), but the pods are really easy to spot because of their color, AND the peavines have GORGEOUS big rosy-red blossoms. The blue podded peas grow on huge vigorous vines and unfortunately do need to be trellised.

My really unusual crop this year is Quinoa. It was supposed to be a dwarf ornamental mixture. I am happy to say that I did get a few good colors, including deep rose, orange, and yellow. It was NOT dwarf, but typically 4-6 feet tall, and more on the taller end of the range for that matter (they were supposed to be around 2 feet). Now the problem is that I have no idea how or when to harvest it. That's going to be my next post!

Other than the pretty seed heads, Quinoa is one ugly crop. Looks like a weed. My wife complained.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2007 at 6:25PM
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aka_peggy(Central Md 6b)

I'm growing asparagus pea this yr but haven't eaten any yet. Maybe in a week or so I'll get to try them.

Technically, 'Lotus tetragonolobus' they're neither a pea nor are they in the asparagus family.

I had a difficult time germinating the seeds but I did get a few plants.

Also tried growing salsify. No luck. I'll try it again next yr tho.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2007 at 8:56AM
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Has anyone tried these? They both sound interesting but I don't know if they would grow around Chicago (z5).

Gourdseed corn
Oka melon

    Bookmark   November 18, 2007 at 1:45AM
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And, we never found out about your success with over-wintering Nebuka bunching onions, Zeedman.


    Bookmark   November 18, 2007 at 11:33AM
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I've grown (or tried to grow) some veggies that you can't get at the local Safeway, such as blue potatoes, round zucchini, white/red/purple carrots, purple broccoli. I also grow garlic other than the ordinary store garlic. Never did get anything from the broccoli and the zucchini, though, but the blue potatoes were tasty.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2007 at 3:28PM
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I am planning on growing these not so common vegetables next year:
Melon Pear/Pepino Melon(Solanum muricatum)
Achocha(Cyclanthera pedata)
Adapazari Squash
Mexican mouse melon/Mexican Sour Gherkin(Melothria scabra)

Anyone have experience with any of these?


How did your asparagus pea turn out?


    Bookmark   November 18, 2007 at 3:28PM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

Digit, funny that you ask... I was just thinking of posting about the bunching onions.

8 of the 9 bunching onions trialed were started as seedlings in 2006, and all over-wintered with varying degrees of success. The last, "Get Set Red", was sent to me as plants in the Spring (all of which died).

"Evergreen", "Fuyuyo", "Red Beard", "Shimonita", and "Welsh" had larger stalks, up to 1" in diameter - some "Welsh" even larger, although their size varied considerably. They had little to no dividing the first year, and as a rule, suffered more winter-kill than the multipliers. "Fuyuyo" was the hardest hit, with over 50% lost; "Evergreen" was the hardiest. "Red Beard" didn't live up to its name, with only faint red coloration. I believe these varieties are best grown as annuals.

"Welsh" bunching onions (quarter in photo for size comparison)

"Four Seasons", "Franz", and "Stevenson" were multipliers. They proved to be exceptionally hardy, with no noticeable winter-kill. "Four Seasons" had stalks 15" high, about the size of supermarket scallions... and was an _incredible_ multiplier, forming clumps 4" across in its second year! Think of an onion that multiplies like chives.

The other two multipliers ("Franz" & "Stevenson") were larger, 24" high & stems 1/2" to 3/4" across. They were less prolific than "Four Seasons", only dividing into 5-6 stems after the first year... but extremely large & vigorous. They were the best compromise of size, quality, multiplying, and hardiness. They were so tough, in fact, that they survived several attempts to till them under... so I have given them a permanent place in the garden.

"Franz" & "Stevenson" bunching onions (block in front)

Dean, when I lived in SoCal, I considered growing Pepino. It is a perennial shrub that requires a long frost-free growing season, such as they had in San Diego. Chances of success for our area are small; but if you decide to try it, do so in large pots that can be brought indoors.

I grow Melothria scabra (now sold as Mexican sour gherkin) each year; they are pictured in a group photo earlier in this thread. It is a heavily-branched but dainty climbing vine, growing 4-5 feet high on a trellis (think the same trellis you would use for tall peas). At first glance, it appears to be very much like ivy. Once flowering begins, the vines set a single 1" fruit at each new leaf node; they are best picked smaller than that. For best results in our area, it should be started indoors in peat strips 2-3 weeks before it will be planted. The seeds are very small, I usually plant 5-6 per pot & thin to 3. Unlike most cucurbits, they can be started under artificial lights without the seedlings immediately becoming leggy. Plant the clusters 2 feet apart in the row.

I grew asparagus pea last year. It is a close relative of the winged bean. The small, spreading plants had very attractive red flowers. However, the tiny four-sided 1" pods were tasteless, developed fiber very quickly, and were few in number. Interesting, but IMO, not worth growing as a vegetable. It seems to prefer cooler weather, coming on strong in the Fall; so it might perform better where favas are grown successfully.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2007 at 7:09PM
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Beautiful onions & photo's Zeedman,

I've found Four Seasons at Evergreen Seed Company but not the other 2 multipliers.

Agrohaitai and Kitazawa both carry bunching onion seed.

Are you ready to give the guy in the link a run for his money?

Steve' digits

    Bookmark   November 18, 2007 at 10:25PM
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jwr6404(8B Wa)

This year I grew some Greek Zucchinni,Armenian cucumber and Adapazari Squash,all from seeds I got from Turkey. I tried growing the Hmong Red Cucumber but the seeds failed to germinate,probably my fault. Will try again next year. This Cucumber looks like the normal cucumber but turns Red,inside and out,when ripe.Seeds are available from Hirts Seeds.My big effort next year is the Uminami Cucumber. It's been a long wait but I finally expect the seeds this year. This Cucumber needs to be grown on a trellis as it is huge. Cucumbers get 24-36 inches in length and 3-4 inches in Diameter. They are supposed to be sweet. Hopefully we'll see next year

    Bookmark   November 19, 2007 at 11:39AM
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aka_peggy(Central Md 6b)

I never got to eat the asparagus peas, the resident rabbit ate them. I went out one day and they were gone, nothing left, nada! The darned rabbit was small enough to fit through the rungs in my garden gate.

As zeedman says, they are beautiful plants and I've read that you should harvest them very young as they do get tough. I guess I won't try them again...especially since I used up all my seeds and would have to order more.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2007 at 1:36PM
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I found a source for skirret, sea kale, and a lot of other strange veggies. See the link below. I just sent in an order. You need to be VERY patient when using their online order form. You can't back up in the process; the form will go blank. I don't recommend the online form for people with short tempers (like myself).

    Bookmark   December 30, 2007 at 5:35PM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

Re-reading this thread, I realize that I missed replying to something.

Jim (JWR6404), you have a real knack for uncovering the unusual. The Uminami cucumber sounds interesting. What was your source? I trial one Asian cucumber each year, and it sounds like a good prospect.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2007 at 2:58PM
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Always fun to try unusual vegetables & fruit.
I have just harvested our first Carribean ackee (have one tree 10' tall, several smaller)and pigeon peas which are over 8' tall. I got my seeds from a Jamaican friend.
I have a breadfruit tree about 4 foot high which I planted in August of this year. it has grown almost a foot and put on eight new leaves. It is going to be quite a challenge to keep alive this far north. it's reported to slow growth @ 60*F and to die @ 40*F. As I write this, it's under a PVC frame covered in canvas with an automatic Vornado space heater set on 75*F. This is the 3rd nite I've used the heater this winter. Gonna be a long winter keeping that breadfruit tree alive.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2008 at 8:59PM
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I just tried Radicchio for the first time today, and I love it. It's got the strong flavor of endive, but it's not leafy; it's crisp and crunchy like raw cabbage. Wonderful stuff! I just chopped it up and tossed it with some olive oil, wine vinegar, salt, sugar, garlic powder and pepper.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2008 at 2:22AM
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Now that I am successful in growing Moringa Oleifera and Chinese Wolfberry I thought it will be a good idea to post the pics. on the thread.

Moringa Oleifera

Chinese Wolfberry

    Bookmark   January 3, 2008 at 4:02PM
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Scott Schluter

This thread is riveting, thanks guys.
I had a horrible time with vine borers this season so I'd like to replace my summer squash, pattypan squash, zucchini squash, and pumpkins with varieties that won't have the borer problem. I do lasagna gardening since the rest of my property is sand, sand, sand. If I am reading correct, the following would be good substitutes for our squash? (I'm in Zone 6B/7, southern New England)

Costata Romanesca
Lebanese White Bush Marrow
Zucchetta Rampicante Tromboncino

We'd love to grow a cousa, but can't determine if they would be susceptible to the borers. Also a pattypan type would be great.

I think we will try the following from the great stuff posted here:

Malabar spinach
Ground Cherry
Yellow Lemon Cucumbers
Strawberry Sticks

Comments/suggestions? I'm pretty new at having a space to garden (new house 1 growing season under my belt) but I've always had a green thumb, nursing plants back from the dead out of the dumpsters, so I'll try anything. We had a pretty successful season last year in our lasagna beds and I plan on expanding that effort. Got a bunch of drying beans (pinto, kidney, cranberry) but decided they weren't worth the effort for the cost of dried in the store.

What we plan to grow:
Got heirloom tomato seeds saved (tons last year)
Green beans
Wax beans
Kale (mmmm kale soup)
Mesclun or various lettuce
Carrots (have never had luck, trying Chantenay Red Core)
German Chamomile (great tea)
Rhubarb (does great here)
Pumpkins (trying Marina di Chioggia)
Winter squash (trying Sweet Meat, Cushaw)
Summer and zuccini squashes mentioned above plus Round-8 Ball)

Sounds like a lot, will probably grow small quantities of each and save the seeds for the next year as I expand my beds this season. We're also creative planting in non traditional locations (along the walkways, in the edge of the woods, planters, and pots/pans) Comments? Suggestions?

Thanks in advance.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2008 at 2:41PM
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fliptx(Houston 9)

I'm growing Spigariello, aka "Leaf Broccoli." (I posted a picture of it here. It's got lovely, dark blue-green leaves. The stems, even thin ones, tend to be rather tough, but the leaves are pretty much like kale. I decided to grow it after not having much luck with heading broccoli last year.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2008 at 12:45PM
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walktrotcanter99(z5 MI)

Hi! This thread is great!
What does the wolfberry taste like? How big does it get?
I have 2 serviceberries (Amelanchier) the fruit tastes like blueberries, and the trees are really pretty in bloom and in the fall when the leaves change. Nice tree.
ANother vote for the french sorrel. My kids call then sour leaves and eat them as is. It's ready to pick early in the spring. I haven't let them flower, mostly because the stalk looks a lot like the weeds....dock plants I think they're called. I spotted that flower stalk and said "hmm don't I know you" and snipped it. The herb itself is great.
We grow lovage and add it to eggs.
We grow salad burnett, too and like the cucumber taste of the leaves (we do not eat the stems). It's not something we use a lot though... mostly a snack in the garden
The gerkins and cucumbers sound like must trys. Yum.
We like Lemon Squash. The only place I have seen it offered though is Baker Creek. It's mild and easy to grow. It's another best-eaten-when-small veg. I can't wait for summer!

    Bookmark   January 17, 2008 at 8:46AM
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This is the pic. of 5 year old Wolfberry. It is about 8 to 10 feet tall and 6 feet spread.I have posted the pic. of few branches with berries earlier in this thread.Ripe berries has apetising sweet taste.Dry berries taste like sweet raisines.Leaves are used in soup preperations.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2008 at 11:34PM
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I had so much fun looking through this thread, I thought I'd bump it. As for me this year, I'm trying: Chinese Red Noodle Pole Beans, Adazpari Squash, Cocozelle Squash (zucchini), 8 Ball Squash, Bennings Green Tint Squash and Asparagus Peas.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2008 at 8:20AM
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carolync1(z8/9 CA inland)


Alwaha melon was once marketed by Ferry Morse. They sell a lot of open-pollinated melons. You might not need to de-hybridize it. Try to grow more than one plant at a time of this single variety if you want to save seed.


I have found the "Painted Serpent" cucumber/melon to be quite different from the ridged or scalloped light green Armenian cucumber/melon. I don't know how to keep the names straight for this family of cucumber-like melons.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2008 at 1:38PM
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jwr6404(8B Wa)

This year my Tomato theme is "GIANT" and my unusual plant is the Uminami Cucumber which alledged to produce Cucumbers that gets 2.5-3ft in length and 3-5" in Diameter. I always like to have a conversation veggie that the Mrs can brag about.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2008 at 2:20PM
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plant-one-on-me(MI 5b)

Love this thread and just realized how old it is. I am growing Aunt Molly's ground cherries, schoon's hardshell melon, tree pumpkin (actually an eggplant but said to be good in stirfry), baby boo pumpkins for the gkid, cocozelle zucchini, scarlet runner beans and popcorn. I haven't had a veggie garden in many years and all of these are new to me at least. Kim

    Bookmark   May 7, 2008 at 7:16PM
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This is my year to try rare veggies: skirret, sea kale, red cranberry beans, purple carrots, corn salad, radicchio, scorzonera, sikkim cucumber. The skirret is really slow from seed (or maybe I bought some half-dead seed). Time will tell if I'm up to the task. If I get the skirret growing, I'll let you know how it tastes, and maybe offer some seed for trade.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2008 at 12:48AM
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Good thread.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2008 at 11:08AM
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I've got strawberry spinach getting close to fruition now. The berries are described as "insipid", but I'm hoping they are good enough to eat on cereal with a little sweetener.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2008 at 7:26AM
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pnbrown, strawberry spinach isn't supposed to be a berry in the sense of fruit (in the culinary sense, sweet and fruity) - it's just a pretty-looking kind of spinach. The red "berries" don't have any distinct taste - the whole plant just tastes like spinach or any generic leafy vegetable

if you want an annual fruit that's obscure and easy to grow and bears fruit in the culinary sense, grow ground cherries

    Bookmark   July 3, 2008 at 12:26PM
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Well, if it tastes just like the rest of the plant, then I guess insipid was right on.

I've heard of ground cherries. Small annual? I don't have much space left for large perennials.......

    Bookmark   July 3, 2008 at 3:29PM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

A new year, with perhaps not as many oddities as in years past. This year I will be trying Achocha (Cylanthera pedata), a climbing cucurbit very similar to the Cylanthera explodens (exploding gourd) that I grew previously. Hopefully more tasty, and less explosive.

Also an heirloom pole bean, "Succotash", with pointed red seeds that resemble kernels of corn. Supposedly requires a long season, so it could be a stretch for me here.

I have been collecting varieties of "walking onions", which are perennial & form clusters of bulbs on their stalks, as opposed to flowers. Their best use is as green onions, with the topset bulbils used for propagation. There doesn't seem to be much variation in flavor, but then, that could just be my semi-dead taste buds. ;-) There are considerable differences, however, in size of the bulbils, hardiness, and the degree to which they multiply from the base. Several varieties actually form high-quality bulbs, if the topsets are planted... but they are not as winter-hardy as the others. Since potato onions are so difficult here, I'm still working on those.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2009 at 3:25PM
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jwr6404(8B Wa)

Zeedman don't forget that jack/swordbean?

    Bookmark   February 14, 2009 at 5:03PM
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Exploding Gourds! Tell me more!

SE Michigan

    Bookmark   February 14, 2009 at 5:43PM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

Sorry, Jim, the Sword Bean slipped my mind.

Funny, I thought that I had posted a photo of Cylanthera explodens in this thread... guess not.

Exploding gourd

This is a rampantly climbing vine. I grew it on a 6-foot trellis, and the vines covered it completely. The flowers are tiny & green, with a single female & a cluster of males at each leaf node, similar to Chayote squash. I haven't a clue what pollinates it - flies? It bore 2" fruit late, but plentifully. You can eat them immature, but to me they were rather tasteless. When they ripen to yellow-green, they are "loaded"; they explode with the slightest touch, flinging seeds violently. My grandchildren had a lot of fun with these, but I had to train them in the "proper use", because they will shoot seeds over 6 feet away. They always shoot away from the stem end.

Harvesting the seeds was easy, I just held a large empty box in front of a ripe pod, and tapped the pod to trigger it. Some of the seeds came out so fast that they bounced out of the box! A really fascinating plant, but the eye hazard should be respected.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2009 at 2:10AM
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zeedman did you have skirret's details ?

I am growing lots of interesting stuff in Western Australia and would like to catch up with him/her. I am the treasurer of Permaculture WA and one of my passions/jobs is building up a seed bank within WA as we have suck strict Quarantine laws.
Anyway if you see this please let me know.
I can be contacted on charlesotwayAThotmail.com.
Charles Otway

    Bookmark   August 4, 2010 at 11:18AM
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It's OK Charles , you already know me as Jetto's Patch!!!

    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 3:51AM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

Don't know whether this thread has been closed or not... but since this thread no longer shows up on search results, I am bumping it to keep it from dropping off the radar. Please use the new thread, Unusual/Odd Veggies, for posts on this topic.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2012 at 4:24AM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

Almost lost this thread, it no longer came up in search results... but I had saved it in my clippings. Bumping to keep it in the active archive. Again, please do not post on this thread, but use the current "What's Your Favorite Unusual Vegetable" thread.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 5:59PM
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