I’m always exploring for something new and interesting to grow in the backyard vegetable garden. That’s part of the fun, challenge, and fascination of raising plants and improving your skills as a gardener. So today I thought I’d toss out some ideas on new selections and varieties to grow your own home garden this season.
Kohl Rabi– An odd looking vegetable that resembles a round turnip on a short stem with leaves growing out of the top of it. Kohl Rabi is not a popular crop for the home garden but it is tasty, easy to grow, and fast maturing. It’s a perfect choice to interplant among other slower growing vegetables.
Globe Artichokes – Not the most productive plant in the garden, but I raise these just for the ornamental value they offer. The large leaves are deeply cut and very exotic looking, but it’s the flower buds that provide the biggest show. The problem is that you’ll have to make a choice between harvesting the “chokes” or buds for the kitchen, or leaving them on the plant to open into a huge attractive blossom.
Baby Ginger – Last summer was the first time I tried to raise this tropical root crop in the garden and the results were incredible. Big, beautiful clumps of baby ginger were grown and harvested here in Central PA from seed that was pre-sprouted indoors and planted out after the soil and weather warmed. It wasn’t the same as the tough and tanned rhizomes that you find in the store but the white rhizomes with pink tips were just as flavorful and useful in the kitchen.
Edible Weeds– Stay with me on this one, as weird as it may sound, there are more than likely some very tasty plants among those weeds that you discard from the vegetable patch. Purslane, dandelion, lambs quarters, chickweed, and others offer nutrition and free ingredients to supplement the salad bowl. Find a mentor or a field guide and learn to take advantage your edible wild plants and their cultivated strains.
Gourmet Garlic – Garlic, leeks, ramps, shallots, and perennial are some of the gourmet cook’s best friends. And because they are so easy to grow they should be the some of the gardener’s best companions also. There’s no comparison between the quality and taste of home grown garlic and another plus is that all these crops can be started during the fall our growing region to get a jump on the spring season.
Leafy Greens – There’s more than lettuce that makes a great leafy green vegetable in the garden. Have you experienced the funky flavor of fresh arugula, or the spicy zing of a leaf of mustard? Others such as Swiss Chard and Malabar Spinach will enable you to harvest greens during the hottest part of summer, while kales and collards will be there for you despite frost and cold temperatures.
Assorted Beans – Why settle for bush beans when you can broaden your harvest to include others like favas, runner beans, yard longs, asparagus beans, runners, black-eyed peas, runner beans and others that will add interest and entice everyone from your family, to beneficial insects, and even hummingbirds. You can also save space in the garden by choosing climbing varieties that will decorate a trellis or fence as the produce a bountiful harvest.
Salsify– Another unusual plant that is attractive and versatile in the garden. My plants have perennialized and return every year to display their attractive spikes of colorful flowers. This is a root crop that also goes by the name oyster plant for the flavor that it imparts to soups and other recipes in the kitchen.
Fingerling Potatoes – You may have seen these small, slender, finger shaped potatoes at the market or a specialty supplier. I like them for the unique shapes, colors, and textures that they are available in from the seed sources. In addition to normal uses, some are perfect for roasting, and others have reputation for producing the best potato salad you ever made!
Purple Veggies – I love growing purples and blues in the garden, whether they are flowers or edibles there is just something special about seeing vibrant hues dark purple standing out in the midst of a sea of green. Try your hand at growing one of the following vegetables in an a variety that sports a purple shade: snap beans, artichokes, eggplants, sweet potatoes, carrots, kohl rabi, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, peppers, and more.