So are you getting a bit tired of growing the same crops year after year after year? Are you yawning just a little at the thought of Early Girl tomatoes and sugar snap peas? If so, you need to break out of the gardening boredom by planting some diversity in your garden. There is a whole wide world out there full of exotic and tasty veggies that you can go grow right here in the US. It is a lesson you can learn all too well by doing some garden touring in your local urban communities. Often times you will find immigrant farmers who are growing and harvesting the crops that are familiar to them, though radically unfamiliar to you.
For me this realization came when I saw an Asian gardener in my city growing some strange and freakishly long beans aka Chinese long beans. It made me wonder if I could source those exotic and unusual ingredients I have to buy from local International grocery stores right from own backyard. Could I grow edamame, daikon radishes, snake gourds, taro root, or pink banana squash in my Columbus, Ohio garden? The idea was mind blowing and VERY exciting.
You can totally “branch out” from the normal crops and play around with other varieties that you typically don’t see. This enables you learn about a bunch of new-to-you veggies and their wondrous flavors and textures. It gives you incentive to try new recipes too! How could it not when you start growing produce more common to Mexico, China, Thailand, and Japan? You may even find when you start global gardening, and I think you will, that your old garden standbys get beat when it comes to flavor.
But how do you get started? Well, you can start by talking to immigrant farmers in your city. They can be great teachers! You can also talk to the farmers at your local farmer’s market. If you see someone with Dragon’s Egg cucumbers or amaranth, ask them for some growing tips. If they grew it, so can you. You can also order some seed catalogs that specialize in ethnic crops. Some crops will thrive and others might fail but the adventure is half the fun. When you discover something that takes off in the garden you will be excited to try cooking with it. Farm to table takes on a whole new meaning for you and that is VERY exciting. You may just discover that you have renewed your passion for gardening and growing your own food.
Here are some crops to consider that add more diversity and flavor to your veggie patch…
Herbs – Thai basil, Mitsuba (Japanese parsley), vietnamese mint, Papalo (like cilantro)
Peppers – Chinese five color, Shishito, Corbaci
Cucumbers – Dragon’s Egg, cucamelon, Poona Kheera, Suyo Long
Squash – Kabocha, Red Kuri, Jumbo Pink Banana, Yokohama
Beans – Edamame, Chickpeas, Orient Wonder, Red Noodle, Hyacinth Beans, Dragon’s Tongue
Greens – Mustard, Mizuna, Mibuna, Rainbow Lacinato, Tatsoi
Spinach – Amaranth, sweet potato leaves, Orach, Molokhia
Potatoes – Jerusalem artichoke, chinese artichokes, taro root, dahlia tubers