Obviously as a Bored Gardener, I’m always on the lookout for something new to grow. I love trying new foods, and it stands to reason that I’d love trying new ingredients. Here’s some veggies that aren’t too outlandish, and might help you dive into a whole new world of culinary possibilities.
Let’s start, slow and easy, with Garlic Chives. Commonly used in Asian cuisine, garlic chive has a nice, mild, onion/garlic flavor on a wider leaf than the standard chive. This wide leaf lends well to being cooked in soups, added to pasta dishes, and tossed in casseroles. The mild flavor insures you won’t easily overpower a dish. But, wait! The stems and flower buds are edible too! Don’t relinquish this perennial to your veggie garden- I think garlic chive deserves a spot in the flower beds. The white, dome-shaped flower clusters are incredibly fragrant and are great for cut arrangements.
I’ve talked about tatsoi before, but here’s the low down- I think tatsoi is better than spinach. Oh, the scandal! Tatsoi is so fast and easy to grow. Anything you use spinach in, tatsoi works just as well. Stir fries, soups, pastas, fresh salads. It has a slightly stronger flavor than spinach, but I don’t really mind it. Tatsoi is one of those veggies that can be hidden in any dish to pump up the nutrients. Tatsoi isn’t quick to bolt like spinach, and can survive frosts just fine. A great addition to the fall/winter garden.
Celtuce is a bit more interesting. Picked young, it can be used like any other leaf lettuce. Left to grow, you can harvest it for it’s crisp, juicy stem. A mature stem, picked before it flowers, can be 16″-18″ long. The semi-translucent stem can be cooked or eaten raw. It has a unique flavor- kind of nutty, kind of celery-ish, maybe a bit of cucumber? It makes a great spring or fall crop.
Last year was my first year growing Oca, and I will be growing it again this year. Oca is a South American tuber related to wood sorrel. It has a very long growth period. I think mine needed more time to grow out, but excitement got the best of me. Oca might be hard to find in the US, it never received the popularity of the other famous South American tuber- potato. I’ve only ever eaten oca raw- it has a slight sourness, and a crisp crunch that reminded me of water chestnuts. We added it to a kale salad with a mustard vinaigrette. The small tubers were a great compliment to the salad. And those colors! Oca can come in an assortment of whites, yellows, oranges, reds, and purples.
Okay, so this last one isn’t so much a “new” vegetable, but a vegetable that people don’t really realize it there. Last year, for the first time, I grew sweet potatoes. They did alright and I ended up with a few tubers that were super sweet. But, really, the highlight of the whole experience was the delicious, tender shoots.
Sweet potato shoots, the young growing tips of the vines, became a household favorite. Every couple days, I was out in the garden, hunting down fresh shoots. As you pick the tips, more quickly take it’s place, so pick them to your hearts content! Sweet potato shoots reminded us of green beans. We picked them at 4″-6″ in length and trimmed off any long leaves. A quick saute with some olive oil and garlic was all we needed for these. Even in my Zone 5 garden, the vines grew vigorously. I’ve made room for more plants this year. Even if I harvest not a single potato, the tender tips will be worth the space!
So, a short and sweet list of easier-to-find veggies that are just far enough from the beaten path to maybe be that spark of inspiration to try something new!