10 Unusual Vegetables for Adventurous Gardeners

Reader Contribution by Benedict Vanheems
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1. Cardoon has striking thistle-like blooms, very similar to globe artichoke, but it’s grown for it’s huge celery-like stems which are tasty served in a gratin. Give cardoons plenty of space, sunshine, and a free-draining soil.

Photo by Pixabay/Dimitris Vetsikas

2. Shiso Perilla is a herby, spicy, leafy exotic often used in tempura and sushi. Stunning red-leaved varieties are available, but the green-leaved varieties are the best-flavored.

3. Oca tubers are rich in vitamin C and can be eaten raw, or cooked like potatoes.  The leaves can be eaten in moderation. Plant oca in spring for harvesting from early fall.

4. Celeriac is a nutty-tasting, hardy winter root that can be used in many ways: grated raw, boiled or braised, mashed like potato, or added to stews or soups. Celeriac is a great follow-on crop for planting once overwintering crops have been harvested.

5. Malabar Spinach isa tender perennial climber with attractive red stems and fleshy leaves that are often used in salads and stir-fries. Malabar spinach needs rich, fertile soil and full sun.

6. Kohlrabi is used in similar ways to turnip and tastes like tender broccoli. The alien-looking ‘bulbs’ are in fact swollen stems. Grow them from the second half of summer and harvest before they reach tennis ball size. They taste great sliced then baked into healthy fries.

7. Seakale is a perennial plant that is forced into growth from late winter using special forcing pots for a super-early harvest. Cook the pale, tender stems like asparagus. Seakale needs free-draining soil.

8. Amaranth is an eye-catching plant that produces seeds which are full of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. There’s also a variety called ‘Red Callaloo’ which is grown for its versatile and nutritious leaves. Amaranth will grow well in a sunny spot in most soils.

9. Winter Radish such as daikon (often used in Asian cuisines), the dramatic-looking ‘Black Spanish’ radish, and stunningly bright watermelon radish are milder tasting than summer radishes, but just as easy to grow.

10. Salsify & Scorzonera are very similar plants. The hardy roots have a delicate, sweet flavor that some say is reminiscent of oysters! Both enjoy light, free-draining soil and plenty of sun. Harvest from autumn onwards as needed, and enjoy boiled or grated raw.

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