Today’s Reader Question comes from Reggie in Clinton, New Jersey:
I enjoy reading your posts about the vegetable garden. I’m going to try your method of lasagna gardening in one section of my garden this year. I hope that it works! Since I’m trying new ways of doing things this year, I would also like to try some different vegetables. I’ve always grown tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers but I’d like to try some new things. Any recommendations?
Do I have any recommendations…is water wet? Nothing gets me more amped up than the veggie garden. To think that you can plant a seed the size of pinhead and then you are able to harvest that plant a couple of months later, that is inspiring! Let’s talk about some of the more unusual vegetables. For other Mid-Atlantic Gardening readers, some of these veggies may not be new to you but I’m sure that you’ll find one or two that you haven’t grown before.
SWISS CHARD – this a plant that is grown for its foliage. If you harvest it when it’s young, you can use it in a variety of ways. It can be added to salads or used in stir fries. If you can’t seem to harvest it before the leaves get too large (that’s the lazy gardener in me shining through), you can dehydrate it and add it to soups and sauces. It’s a great way to sneak more veggies into your family’s diet. You can either sow seed directly in the garden or start seeds indoors. As a side note, the cultivar ‘Bright Lights’ is used as an ornamental plant and it looks great in mixed containers.
GARBANZO BEANS – if you’re a fan of hummus, you’ll love growing garbanzo beans. Otherwise known as chickpeas, garbanzo beans are relatively easy to grow. They are a legume, which means that they can take nitrogen from the air and fix it in their roots. Pretty cool. If you have a section of your garden that receives light shade, garbanzo beans will flourish there. Down here in Virginia, the hot summers can be a bit overwhelming for them so they appreciate a bit of afternoon shade. Sow them directly in the garden as they don’t transplant well.
CARROTS – no, this plant isn’t going to wow your gardening friends when you show off your unusual vegetables. Unless you grow one of the cultivars that produce purple carrots…or white carrots. Dig up one of those for your friends and they’re sure to be impressed. Consider growing ‘Cosmic Purple’ or ‘Lunar White’. If you’re more into reds, ‘Atomic Red’ is a great choice. Who knew carrots could be so exciting?
LEEKS – if you enjoy using onions while cooking, consider growing leeks. They impart a sweeter flavor than onions and are easy to grow. Plant them and then harvest when you need them. Leeks are tolerant of cold weather so you can leave them in the ground throughout the fall and winter. Just add soil around the stalks to blanch them further.
TOMATILLOS – I love Mexican food. I could eat it morning, noon and night. Of course I’d probably be as big a house if I did…something in my brain is hard wired to continue to eat long after I’m full. If you share my love of Mexican food, give tomatillos a try. They require pretty much the same conditions as tomatoes and I’ve heard of people growing them to replace tomatoes if they have disease issues on their maters. One of my favorite Mexican sauces is salsa verde…it’s the tomatillos that give it the delicious flavor.
HERBS – Speaking of Mexican cuisine, grow cilantro to add to your salsa. Grow parsley to add Vitamin A to your dishes. Rosemary is a perennial herb that tastes scrumptious with chicken. Oregano is also a perennial that is mandatory for Italian cooking. Basil adds flavor to any dish that it’s added to. Chives are also perennials that are delicious with potatoes.
OK Mid-Atlantic Gardening readers, what unusual vegetables do you grow in your garden? Leave comments for Reggie in the section below or you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you enjoy being part of the Mid-Atlantic Gardening community, join our e-mail list, become a fan on Facebook and follow me at Twitter. Happy gardening!