How to Grow Unusual Vegetables in Your Own Backyard

How to Grow Unusual Vegetables in Your Own Backyard

How to Grow Unusual Vegetables in Your Own Backyard

Growing your own vegetables is a rewarding hobby that allows you to enjoy fresh, organic produce right from your backyard. While most home gardeners stick to common vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce, there are many unusual edibles you can grow as well. Here’s how to get started growing unique vegetables in your own garden.

Selecting Unusual Vegetable Varieties

The first step is choosing which unusual veggies you want to grow. Here are some tasty options to consider:

Root Vegetables

  • Sunchokes – Also known as Jerusalem artichokes, these knobby tubers have a nutty, sweet flavor.

  • Crosnes – Shaped like caterpillars, these crunchy tubers taste similar to water chestnuts.

  • Oca – Small, colorful tubers that range from tangy to sweet.

  • Jicama – Crunchy, mild tasting tubers that are great for eating raw.

Leafy Greens

  • Mizuna – Spicy Japanese greens that work well in salads.

  • Malabar spinach – Tastes like regular spinach but with thicker, juicier leaves.

  • Orach – Similar to spinach but with an attractive purple-red coloring.

  • Amaranth – Edible greens that come in vivid colors like purple, red, and orange.

Pods & Fruits

  • Yardlong beans – A type of cowpea with pods that can grow over a foot long.

  • Ground cherries – Sweet, tomato-like fruits encased in a papery husk.

  • Nasturtiums – Produce peppery edible flowers and seed pods.

  • Okra – Harvest pods young to enjoy their mucilaginous texture.

Getting the Right Growing Conditions

Many unique vegetables thrive in warm weather and require a long growing season. Before planting, make sure your region has the right conditions to support the veggies you want to grow. Check seed packets for details on sunlight needs, soil requirements, and time to maturity.

Most unusual edibles need full sun – at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. Well-drained, nutrient-rich soil is also vital. Adding compost or manure before planting helps provide nutrients.

Starting from Seed

The seeds for uncommon veggies can be hard to find at garden centers. Order from reputable online seed companies to get good germination rates.

It’s best to start unusual vegetables from seed indoors. Sow seeds in pots or trays 8-10 weeks before your last expected frost date. This gives plants a head start on growth before transplanting them outside. Follow directions on seed packets for depth and spacing.

Keep the seeds warm (around 70°F) and moist until they germinate. Move them into larger containers as seedlings grow. Gradually expose the plants to outdoor conditions through a process called hardening off.

Transplanting & Ongoing Care

Harden off seedlings by setting them outdoors in filtered sunlight for a few hours, bringing them back inside at night. Slowly increase their time outside over 7-10 days. Transplant into the garden after the last frost when soil has warmed up to at least 55°F.

Most unusual veggies grow best in loose, compost-enriched soil. Add a 2-4 inch layer of compost or manure and mix into the top 6-8 inches before planting. Spread a 2-inch layer of mulch after transplanting to retain moisture and suppress weeds.

Provide 1-2 inches of water per week. Use a soaker hose or drip irrigation to deliver water right to plants’ roots. Mulch around plants to reduce water evaporation.

Enjoying the Rewards!

With proper care, your hard work will pay off in unique vegetables you won’t find in any grocery store. Harvest vegetables like okra and yardlong beans while pods are still young and tender. Pick leaves from greens frequently to encourage more growth.

The unusual colors, shapes, textures and flavors of homegrown exotic veggies make for exciting meals. Try new ways of preparing them – roast ground cherries, stuff okra pods, or pickle crosnes. Part of the fun is discovering new favorites from your backyard bounty.

Growing uncommon edibles brings new diversity and intrigue to your garden. With a little research and preparation, you can enjoy growing – and eating – vegetables that are far from ordinary.