Planting strange vegetables doesn't always yield a great result, but it's always an adventure

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By: Jim Carpenter

One of the good things about having a big back yard is being able to have a sizable garden area. In addition to being able to plant a greater variety of basic vegetables for your table, it also allows room to do a little experimenting with plants that you may not necessarily grow on a regular basis. This is kind of fun and allows for a certain amount of “adventures in gardening.”

One vegetable I planted a few years back that was new to me was celery. On a whim I bought six celery plants and planted them in one of my raised beds. Celery needs full sun with rich soil and plenty of water for best results. I found out later that it is also considered a difficult vegetable to grow. These plants grew well for me and I soon had six bunches of celery stalks. Since I didn’t tie up the stalks to keep the sun from reaching the inner leaves, it was pretty fibrous. However, it was great for cooked dishes.

Another vegetable adventure I had one year was leek. These plants will grow into a thick stalk with a bulbous root. As a member of the onion family, it can be used in a similar fashion. Leeks are becoming more popular as people discover the way this sweet, mild vegetable can compliment many dishes. The leeks I grew did very well. I ended up giving away quite a few of them. Leeks are also near the top of the list when it comes to vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

There seems to be about every color in the rainbow available in whatever vegetable you might want to plant. I have tried a few odd colored veggies without too much success. I did have good results with the white carrots I planted one year. They made good 6 inch to 7 inch roots that tasted pretty much like any carrot might. They are considered milder than the orange carrot.

The blue Adirondack potatoes I grew for the first time last year will be on my list again for this year. I planted some black ones once a number of years ago that didn’t do so well. Of course, the red potato is very popular and something I plant every year. My favorite potato is actually Yukon Gold, which certainly does have a light gold color on the inside.

I have also grown other plants which were basically just for fun. One of these was cotton. Actually the pink heirloom cotton I grew was about as pretty a plant as I have ever seen. The entire stalk was reddish pink and the flowers were pretty incredible. It needed a little longer growing season than I could provide and the cotton buds hadn’t opened yet when the first frost came. However, I hung several plants in my shack and over the next few weeks the buds opened and there were the cotton balls. That was pretty cool.

The Litchi tomato plant is another interesting heirloom with some unusual characteristics. This tomato plant actually grows thorns on all it’s branches. I suppose the thorns are a type of defense the plants developed over the years to protect the fruit it bears. In the years that I grow this particular tomato plant I enjoy showing visitors the unique features it has.

I actually had some success with a few seed peanuts I planted one year. I didn’t have enough to try to roast them, but the few raw ones I ate were plenty tasty. I also realized that some crops are especially attractive to certain four-legged critters. Before I finished harvesting my little peanut patch, I realized I was sharing it with some type of small rodent.

Somewhere in my house is a small bags of seeds I collected from a a fruit called a Kiwano. I refer to this as a spiked cucumber, but is is also known as a horned melon. I bought this melon/cucumber from a farmer’s market in Iowa several years ago to taste when I got back home. They say it tastes like a combination of cucumber, kiwi, and banana. I actually was not very impressed with the flavor but of course I had to save the seeds from such a unique fruit. If I run across those seeds again I will give them a shot in my garden. Spiked cucumbers. Why not?

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