How to Grow Unusual Vegetables That Your Neighbors Won’t Recognize
Growing unusual vegetables in your garden is a great way to add visual interest and culinary excitement. Many heirloom and exotic varieties have unique flavors, colors, shapes, and textures that set them apart from the common vegetables found in most gardens and grocery stores. Here are some tips for selecting and successfully growing unusual veggies that are sure to get your neighbors talking.
Selecting Unusual Vegetable Varieties
When choosing unusual vegetables to grow, look for heirloom varieties that have been passed down for generations or exotic varieties originating from other parts of the world. Some examples include:
- Romanesco broccoli – Lime green spirals with a mild, nutty flavor
- Dragon tongue beans – Vibrant purple pods with streaks of neon green
- Lemon cucumbers – Round, lemon-sized cukes with a refreshing tart flavor
- Purple carrots – Deep reddish-purple roots with a sweet taste
- Cream of Saskatchewan melon – Heirloom muskmelon with creamy white flesh
- Bright lights chard – Rainbow-colored stems in yellow, orange, pink, red, and white
- King trumpet mushrooms – Large, golden mushroom caps with a rich, smoky flavor
Browse seed catalogs, websites, local nurseries, and farmers markets to discover new and exciting varieties to try. Look for proven winners suited to your region’s growing conditions.
Providing the Right Conditions
Make sure to select a sunny location with fertile, well-draining soil to give unusual veggies the best chance of thriving. Group vegetables according to their light, water, and nutrient needs. For example:
- Full sun lovers: Eggplants, peppers, chiles, tomatillos
- Partial sun vegetables: Kohlrabi, okra, radicchio
- Heavy feeders: Corn, broccoli, cabbage, melons
- Moisture-loving plants: Cucumbers, lettuce, bok choy, celery
Check seed packets or plant tags for specific requirements. Tailor soil pH if needed and use compost, organic fertilizer, or nutrient-rich amendments to prepare planting beds. Install trellises, cages, or stakes if required.
Unique Care and Harvesting Tips
Follow good growing practices by watering consistently, using mulch, and monitoring for pests. But be ready to give unusual veggies a bit of specialized care. For example:
- Romanesco broccoli – Loves cool weather. Harvest 6-8 week heads before spirals open.
- Dragon tongue beans – Keep picking to extend harvest. Beans fade when mature.
- Purple carrots – Thin aggressively and cover shoulders to prevent greening.
- King trumpet mushrooms – grow onlogs or sawdust blocks. Harvest when edges curl underslightly.
Get to know your special vegetables’ preferences and ideal maturity indicators. Tracking your observations each season helps ensure a bountiful harvest.
Creative Ways to Use Unusual Produce
The fun doesn’t stop after harvesting your funky veggies. Look for ways to highlight their unique appeal in recipes.
- Roast purple carrots and Romanesco broccoli to intensify their colors.
- Pickle lemon cucumbers for a tart twist on pickles.
- Stuff and grill bright lights chard leaves for a rainbow display.
- Stir fry dragon tongue beans and sprinkle on salads.
- Make chilled summer soup with cream of Saskatchewan melon.
Let unusual produce stars in simple preparations to appreciate their singular flavors and textures. Canning, fermenting, or drying allows you to enjoy heirloom and exotic veggies year-round.
Growing uncommon vegetables provides intrigue and puts a fresh spin on your backyard garden. With careful variety selection, attentive care, and creative use of produce, you’re sure to have fun and tasty results with vegetables that are far from ordinary. Let your gardening curiosity run wild!