Unusual vegetables to grow in your garden

Mix things up in your vegetable garden and try growing a few unusual varieties among your traditional crops. Jojo Tulloh recommends a few of her favourites. 

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Annual vegetables sown, grown and harvested in a single season are a fairly inefficient way of growing food if you think about all the effort it takes and the hours you spend cultivating the plants, only for them to be pulled up and composted at the end of the season. By contrast trees and perennial plants will provide you with crops from year to year and more time to enjoy your garden. The more unusual perennials, which you'll find in specialist nurseries, such as Crûg Farm and Edulis, are often as attractive as they are delicious, so if you think you lack both time and space to grow your own food, try mixing some of these into your borders: 

Allium ampeloprasum var. babingtonii. Easily raised from seed this perennial, clump-forming leek grows to a height of 1.5m with large flower heads that are a mixture of deep purple flowers and bulbils. Scatter the bulbils at the end of the season for next year's crop.

Tropaeolum tuberosum var. lineamaculatum 'Ken Aslet'. A half-hardy, herbaceous perennial climber that is usually grown for its striking, bright-orange, trumpet-shaped flowers. Its tubers, commonly called mashua, are a traditional Andean root vegetable, eaten boiled.

Oenanthe javanica 'Flamingo'. This low-growing umbellifer is more commonly grown as an ornamental for its pink-edged leaves, but when young the steamed leaves have the flavour of carrots.

Pachyphragma macrophyllum. From Turkey and the Caucasus comes this charming, shade-loving, perennial brassica (a bit like hedge mustard), with rosettes of bright-green leaves and masses of white flowers in early spring. Use tender leaves in salads or stir-fries. 

 

 

Words Jojo Tulloh

Illustration Sarah Young

This article was taken from a longer feature in the October 2017 issue of Gardens Illustrated (253). You'll also find sasonal recipes and a reminder of what to do in the garden.

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