10 Unusual Vegetables to Liven Up Your Garden

Weird and wonderful edibles to liven up your vegetable garden.

June 3, 2019

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When you grow your own food, you have the opportunity to try some interesting vegetable and fruit varieties that you would never find in a grocery store. See 10 unusual foods that will liven up your garden—and your taste buds!

1. Cardoon  

Cardoons are grown for their edible stems, which look like super-sized celery and taste great served up in a gratin. Cardoon is a big plant that needs lots of space, sun, and a free-draining soil.

2. Shiso Perilla  

Shiso perilla is commonly used in tempuras and sushi and tastes like a mix of herbs and spices. Green-leaved perilla is the most flavorsome, but there are stunning red-leaved varieties too.

3. Oca  

Oca leaves can be eaten in moderation, but oca is primarily grown for its vitamin C-rich tubers. Oca tubers can be eaten raw or cooked liked potatoes. Plant oca in spring for a fall harvest.

4. Celeriac  

Celeriac is a nutty-tasting hardy winter root. It can be mashed like potato, grated raw, boiled, braised, or cut it into cubes and added to soups and stews.

5. Malabar Spinach  

Malabar spinach is a perennial Asian vine with red stems and fleshy leaves that are perfect in salads and stir-fries. Malabar spinach is grown as an annual in regions prone to frost. It loves rich, fertile soil and a sunny position.

6. Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi has an almost alien appearance with ‘bulbs’ are actually swollen stems. Kohlrabi is used in similar ways to turnip and tastes like tender broccoli. They are best grown from the second half of summer, and harvested before they reach tennis ball size. Try baking slices into healthy fries.

7. Seakale

Seakale is a perennial plant that is is forced into growth in winter and early spring using special forcing pots for a very early harvest. The tender, pale stems are cooked just like asparagus. Seakale prefers free-draining soils.

8. Amaranth  

Amaranth seeds are full of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. The variety ‘Red Callaloo’ is grown for its versatile and nutritious leaves. Amaranth isn’t fussy about soil type, but it likes a warm, sunny spot.

9. Winter Radish  

Just as easy to grow as their summer radishes, winter radishes include the mild-flavored daikon often used in Asian cuisines, the dramatic ‘Black Spanish’ radish, and the vibrant watermelon radish.

10. Salsify & Scorzonera  

Salsify and scorzonera are very similar plants. Both grow well in light, well-drained soil and a sunny spot. The roots are very hardy and have a delicate, sweet flavor – some say that it’s like oysters! Harvest roots as required from fall to enjoy boiled or grated raw.

Now discover 10 unusual plant names and fun plant lore!

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