@IL847’s post about Chinese toona has me wondering what other unusual vegetables people on this forum might grow or know about that I’ve never tried before. It’s fun to discover new-to-me vegetables. Various friends have shared a number of new-to-me vegetables with me that have become much loved regulars in our garden. Tell me about the unusual vegetables/garden plants you grow! Here are a few that I’ve been introduced to in the last 10 years that I really like:
Jute mallow: A tall plant in the okra family grown for the greens in Lebanon (and I don’t know where else.) The greens are slimy kind of like okra. I love them.
Yacons: A root vegetable native to the Andes. I gave a peeled and sliced piece to a friend without any explanation recently and he asked if it was related to an apple. They’re good to eat from about November/December through April/May (and good dried after that.) They can get very sweet for a root crop (hence the apple comparison), they’re crunchy and juicy.
Roselle: Another hibiscus family plant. There’s a fleshy part that surrounds the fruit that’s very red and tastes like cranberry. The fruit, so far as I know, is worthless, and I discard it and save the red part from around it. We use it to make mock cranberry sauce: it melts down into a sauce in just a matter of minutes without needing to cook down, so it doesn’t lose volume. The bush is beautiful. Our growing season in zone 7 North Carolina is just barely long enough to grow a crop, even starting the plants under glass to set out as transplants. It also makes a bright red herbal tea that looks like koolaid and is nice sweetened, especially cold in the summer.
Chayote: I haven’t had great success growing these yet. They’re a really unusual squash. They grow on a vine nearly the size of a muscadine vine with vaguely similar form. The fruits are about the size of an osage orange fruit but a slightly different shape and otherwise nothing at all like osage oranges. There’s no seed in the fruits, but the fruit will turn into a new plant, kind of like a garlic clove or an onion can grow into a garlic or onion plant. The squash are harvested before the first fall frost and can be eaten through the winter. The closest thing I could compare them to would be some kind of summer squash but with solid flesh without the immature (or any other kind of) seeds.
The herb Upland Cress. Fresh leaves belong on tuna sandwiches.
Have you tried Malabar spinach? Excellent greens for the summer months.
Snake gourd. If you live in a warm area.
Chayote fruit and squash fruit used as vegies are good, but chayote greens, just like squash greens(used on gumbo, stews, or broths) are much better-tasting! One instance(to me, at least) when the leaves are better tasting than the fruit.
moringa is another leafy vegie which tastes pretty good, and rapid producer of nutritious greens and pods.
as for jute mallow, are you pertaining to egyptian spinach/ jew’s mallow?
i love those too, despite the slime. One of the sweetest leafy greens have tasted.
winged beans are ‘head-to-toe’ edibles, as the greens, flowers, pods, beans, and roots are all edible, and are richer in protein than most other vegies
will be posting pics of our winged beans, chayote, jew’s mallow, and moringa we recently grown from seed.
i forgot, young sponge gourds are good for broths, and taro greens and corms are delicious when cooked with coconut milk and a little bit of chile serrano!
I agree with jujubemulberry, Chayote green tasted much better. in zone 5, I can’t grow Chayote very successfully, but I can grow Chayote green.
Sponge gourd green and, pumpkin tips are edible too
I eat dandelion green, sherper’purse, no need to grow, mother nature has already taken care of it.
I would like to try jute mallow, and Roselle
Dandelion greens are well timed for a liver tonic during a changing season, spring and fall (they go dormant in summer). For us in the frozen North, cardoon is something I am fond of, but it does not store under leaves as well as it stores under straw, and straw is expensive (and you need a lot of). Cabbage does not rot under leaves but cardoon does. Huge crops.
Daikon is another one, if you are into huge crops. And various types of chicory are under appreciated. All three really benefit the soil and the next crop.
Great thread! I can’t wait to study on some of these things. In South Louisiana we grew Choyote too but we call them Mirlitons. They are sort of the unofficial Cajun squash and boy did they grow well!
Man what a great and educational post! Can’t wait to see winged beans.
Great ideas. I’m another fan of the malabar spinach. My chayote died before it fruited but I never thought to try the greens. This year I’m trying chufa and tree collards. Egyptian onions are easy perennials here. Things I’ve been growing but haven’t harvested yet are green smoothy cactus for nopales, hopniss, and a couple kinds of sunchokes. Daylily flower buds are tasty stir fried. I tried steamed yucca flowers but they were too bitter for my taste.
I like purslane so much I wiped out the weed variety that grows here in my yard and then went online to find seeds. Surprised to find it available in German and French vatieties…
It’s easy to grow too and very rich in omega 3 fatty acids, evidently.
Not exactly a vegetable, but lovage is great stuff. I use it when making chicken stock. I make stock using it all summer and freeze for easy fall chicken soup. Easiest thing I’ve ever grown. I dry stems and use them to start fires in my fireplace. Best Bloody Mary straw ever, or even just tomato juice.
Mache (aka Feldsalat, corn salad). Leafy green that you plant it in the fall and pick it all winter. Mine just bolted three weeks ago after a September planting. Probably picked them 6 times. Mild, nutty greens that are dead easy to grow and winter hardy in Z7. I’ve picked them through the snow!
My Mom’s family in Germany always grew them, mostly along the side of the road because they didn’t want to waste garden space on something so easy to grow. Used to get the seeds from Germany, but now they can be found if you look. Give them a try, they are really delicious!
Do ground cherries count? I only discovered them a few years ago, but my kids like them better than tomatoes (a close relative).
I tried to grow mache several times, bought seeds online, none has come out. I was told it is cold weather veggie.
Maybe I should sow the seeds in fall, not in spring?
This, has fishy smell, but the roots make every good salad.the leaves have antiinflammatories property.
New Zealand spinach. Grows in hot weather. Seeds itself so grows every year.
I think I have that growing as a ground cover around here. I wouldn’t call the smell fishy, but it is distinctive, and strangely familiar. Going to have a hard time not trying it now that I know it’s edible.
I’m not sure it’s mache, though. At least, the google images for that look different.
The name is houttunya. I never got to the point of liking it. It is also ready when there are plenty of other greens in the garden. For a perennial that is green when little else is green, sorrel is excellent, but not as pretty as houttunya.
I grow Mache every summer. it is wonderful!