By Ellen Barcel
It will soon be time to plant your vegetable garden. Do you sometimes feel that you plant the “same old, same old?” The same tomatoes? The same green beans? If so, why not try some really unique veggies along with the traditional ones? Some say they’re ugly while others call them cute. They’re the veggies that differ from the norm. Here’s a sampling, but you can find lots more in all the seed catalogues that are arriving.
When you think of cauliflower, you usually think of a snowy white head of florets surrounded by green leaves. But, have you considered Graffiti Hybrid, which has purple florets, or Cheddar Hybrid, which is the color of cheddar cheese and a good source of vitamin A. A really unique looking cauliflower is Veronica Romanesco Hybrid, which has a green head, and a sweet nutty flavor that is milder than most cauliflowers. The florets are spiraled and resemble a bunch of hens and chicks. Yes, I really want to try this one myself.
Most radishes have a red skin and a white interior. This fast-growing crop likes cool weather, so plant early for a spring crop or late in summer for a fall crop. But a really unique radish, Watermelon, reverses the colors. It has a white and green skin and pinkish-red interior. It grows bigger than most — two to four inches. The flavor is said to be mild with a bit of sweetness.
Nothing says autumn like pumpkins, whether for pies or jack-o’-lanterns. But if you want to grow some eye-catchers, consider any one of a number of bumpy pumpkins. There’s Red Warty Thing, Goosebumps Hybrid, Galeux d’Eysines and Knucklehead Hybrid. Yes, they’re edible, but these eerie pumpkins are ideal to be turned into Halloween jack-o’-lanterns, warty faces and all. Tiny, smooth-skinned pumpkins include Jack Be Little, which is so small it fits in the palm of your hand. If you’re planning on entering a contest for the biggest, try Prizewinner Hybrid, which has been known to reach up to 400 pounds.
Say tomato and most people will think of the round, orangy-red fruit that goes perfectly with bacon and lettuce to form a BLT sandwich. But, tomatoes, like so many other fruits, come in different colors such as yellow — Yellow Pear and Lemon Boy Hybrid — or blue — Indigo Blue Beauty and Indigo Apple. Tomato sizes range from tiny to enormous. Ugly Ripes are wrinkled but delicious.
Yes, there are many other veggies and fruits that have varieties that differ from the norm. There’s bicolored corn and Golden Detroit, a pale orange beet. Read your gardening catalogues and try at least one or two unique veggies this year.
Ellen Barcel is a freelance writer and master gardener. To reach Cornell Cooperative Extension and its Master Gardener program, call 631-727-7850.