This summer I’m expanding my garden to include some unique edibles. Your typical veggie is fine and dandy but sometimes you want your garden to surprise you. What’s the point of growing your own food if you don’t grow things you can’t find in a store. There’s something magical about getting seeds to plants you’ve never seen and watching them grow in front of your eyes for the first time.
Hopefully this list will inspire you to let yourself go wild and try a few plants with uncommon flair and color.
Nicknamed “mouse melons,” these miniature melons grow to be a little over an inch in length. Crunchy and easily grown, cucamelons vine vertically toward a height of eight feet. Don’t leave them too long on the vine, though, because the skin may become tough. Ripeness occurs when the cucamelon is about the size of a grape. The taste is like cucumber with a splash of lime.
Cucamelons originate in South Americaand were part of the Aztec diet. They’re perennial plants, and once established, will thrive every year. Plant in a sunny area away from strong wind, and keep in mind that maturity time is about 80 days.
Pineberries are basically the original strawberry, with white flesh and red seeds. The white color doesn’t come from any genetically altered plant strain.
Some of the original Chilean strawberry strains remained with European breeders, and that’s where today’s pineberries come from. They went into mainstream production about ten years ago, but you won’t find these in your local grocery store. To have a regular crop, you’ll need to grow your own pineberries. They best thrive in USDA zones 4-8 but also work well in multiple zones when planted in containers, with at least six hours of sun.
Some nurseries may stock pineberries, but they are also occasionally available on Amazon. Make sure you order the self-pollinating types, preferably the White Carolina, White D, or White Pineberry.
3. Purple Podded Peas
Aside from being fun to say five times fast, purple podded peas are beautifulas they grow on the vine. The pods are purple and the peas are green.
It’s easier to tell when these are ready to eat, too! In terms of taste, they’re just like ordinary green peas. You don’t grow them any differently than normal peas, but there are some claims this variety should be more protected when growing.
Known as the New Zealand Yam, this hardy root crop tastes like potatoes bathed in lemon. Some consider the oca to be “the lost crop of the Incas,” originating from South America.
In terms of texture, the oca is similar to a crunchy radish when raw. It’s usually prepared by boiling or roasting with herbs, just like potatoes or radishes. When cooked, ocas have a softer texture more similar to yam or squash than potatoes. They resemble bumpy oblong red potatoes when harvested, and if you let them grow for their flowers, they produce small daisy-like flowers.
These plants are unusual and lovely additions to grow from seed in your garden. Watch the white pineberries, cucuamelons and purple podded peas thrive happily in the sun as they wind upward. Drizzle a little olive oil and herbs over your roasted ocas, and enjoy a lovely picnic under the sunset this coming harvest.