@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.