Novelty edibles are a great way to inject excitement into your edible garden. The entire process, from selecting, to growing, to harvesting the plant, is rife with anticipation. What will the plant look like? What will the fruit look like? What will the fruit taste like? How will it combine with other foods? Basically, you're taking yourself on an extended growing/culinary adventure full of discovery and sensory stimulation. And hopefully, you're taking your kids, spouse, and friends along with you.
These seven edibles are all visually fascinating and incredibly flavorful. "Acquiring a taste" for them is not necessary; they are widely considered to be delicious. None of them require fancy or unfamiliar preparations either, and yet they will elevate your meals to a gourmet status. Most of them can be enjoyed raw without any processing whatsoever.
Always an important factor for us Northern gardeners is plant performance. These edibles all have short maturity times and can be grown in containers or in the ground,
If you want something extra special in your garden this spring, consider the novelty recommendations below. Whether you're a child or not, these curiously beautiful edibles will engage your imagination and tantalize your taste buds.
'Aunt Molly's' Ground Cherries
Definitely try ground cherries (aka cape gooseberries, husk cherries, golden berries) if you like sweet, tart and zesty fruit flavours. In terms of texture. biting into one of these marble-sized fruits is similar to biting into a grape. The flesh is firm and juicy and the skin is thin.
Ground cherry fruits are each encased in a papery husk. When the fruit ripens, it drops to the ground.
Raw ground cherries right off the plant are delicious, but they can also be used to make fresh fruit salads, smoothies, pies, muffins, and jams.
Click here to read more about ground cherries.
'Beer Friend' Soybeans
You're likely familiar with store-bought or restaurant-served edamame beans, but you probably didn't know that you could grow them here in the North. Beer Friend soybean comes with glowing reviews - it is an early and productive variety, and the beans are considered to have an excellent taste and texture. As the name implies, this variety is the perfect accompaniment to beer.
Soybeans are simple to prepare. Boil fresh pods in salted water for 3-4 minutes, drain, and season with salt. Soybeans are usually eaten as an appetizer or snack.
Click here to read more about Beer Friend soybeans.
'Rainbow Blend' Carrots
Rainbow Blend carrots is mixture of the Atomic Red, Bambino, Cosmic Purple, Lunar White, and Solar Yellow variety carrots. Each color tastes slightly different but they are all equally delicious.
This all-purpose carrot blend is excellent for eating raw, roasted, steamed, or adding to stews and soups.
Click here to read more about Rainbow Blend Carrots.
'Chocolate Cherry' Tomato
Chocolate Cherry is an intriguing heirloom cherry type tomato. This variety produces an abundance of 1" dark burgundy fruits that are extremely flavourful. We grew this tomato last year and it's definitely a keeper.
Chocolate Cherry is an indeterminate type tomato. Be prepared stake or cage the plant, as it grows rather large (4-6 feet high).
Click here to read more about Chocolate Cherry tomatoes.
'Red Meat' Radish
On the outside, Red Meat radish is creamy white with green shoulders. On the inside, it is an unexpectedly vibrant fuchsia color. I personally prefer to think of this radish by its other, more appetizing name: watermelon radish.
Watermelon radish is smooth, exceptionally mild, and sweet. Harvest the radishes when they are 2-4" in diameter. Use the radishes on salads or as plate garnishes.
This radish is most often recommended for late summer sowing due to its tendency to bolt. However, I'm interested to try how a spring sowing will turn out, seeing as much of the available culture information usually applies to warmer climates. I will report back the results of this experiment.
Click here to read more about Red Meat radish.
'Purple Vienna' Kohlrabi
Purple Vienna kohlrabi, or any kohlrabi for that matter, looks like something from the science fiction movie. Don't be misled by its alien appearance - kohlrabi has a mild flavour that pleases even the pickiest vegetable eaters.
Both the fleshy, purple globe and the tender central leaves of kohlrabi can be eaten raw or cooked. In taste and texture, raw kohlrabi is similar to water chestnuts. Raw kohlrabi tastes great on its own or with dip. Steaming, boiling, or stir-frying kohlrabi enhances its turnip flavour.
Ensure kohlrabi is harvested when it reaches about 2" in diameter. If it gets any bigger, it tends to go dry and fibrous. Slightly oversized kohlrabi is palatable if cooked but forget about eating it raw.
Click here for more information on Purple Vienna kohlrabi.
Golden Beets are another heirloom vegetable experiencing a popularity resurgence, and for good reason. These gorgeous, jewel-toned beets are delicious edible art. Golden beets do not bleed like their red counterparts, and so they combine well with other vegetables such as parsnip and potatoes.
These beets are sweet, crispy, and mild. Don't overlook the beet tops either, as they are also very tasty.
Eat the tops in salads or cook as you would spinach. Prepare the beet root by roasting, steaming, or pickling.
Click here for more information on golden beets.
Expand your gardening repertoire this spring and experiment with novelty edibles. You'll have fun, learn a few things along the way, and enjoy gourmet produce.
If you've got kids, introducing novelty vegetables is a ripe opportunity to grow a gardener. Get the kids involved in the planting, growing, and harvesting process. Chances are, they'll be interested in eating the bounty too.
My education in gardening began at 13, when I started working at our family-operated garden centres. Truth be told, I wasn't always thrilled to be sweating away my weekends in the greenhouse. However, I did become undeniably interested in the vast world of plants, and my summer job eventually transformed into a lifelong passion.