in growing (and eating) unusual vegetables is rising. Traditional
vegetable gardening has waned for a number
but as our taste and menus expand to international cuisine, gardeners
are intrigued by the opportunity to grow nontraditional vegetables.
Adventurous gardeners (and cooks) might want to try some of these
vegetables this year.
Lovers of Mexican food can make their own green salsa by growing
tomatillo (Physalis ixocarpa). A papery husk encloses the tomato-like
fruit. This relative of tomato and pepper likes warm temperatures.
Tomatilloes are planted as seeds or transplants about 24 inches
apart in the middle of May (in northern Illinois). Their culture
is the same as tomatoes. The fruit is ripe when the husks turn
Arugula (Eruca vesicaria var. sativa) is a trendy addition
to mixed green salads. The leaves have a sharp spicy flavor similar
or horseradish. A member of the cabbage and mustard family, arugula
needs cool temperatures to grow and will bolt (send up a flower
stalk) during hot weather. It should be planted in mid to late
April, and late August to September. Arugula is grown from seed
sown 1/2 to 1 inch deep in rows 12 to 18 inches apart. Plants should
be thinned to 4 inches apart. Thinned plants are great in salads.
During cool weather a rosette (clump) of deeply divided leaves
will grow quickly. About six weeks after sowing, the plant will
be large enough to begin harvesting individual tender young leaves.
Arugula can become bitter as the leaves age and flowers develop.
Remove plants when they bolt. The young leaves taste best so plant
a few seeds weekly in spring and fall for a prolonged harvest.
Vegetarians and other soy lovers should consider growing edible
soybeans (Glycine max). Soybeans can be eaten as a fresh vegetable
or, like many beans, harvested dry at the end of the season. Garden
soybean varieties include ‘Black Jet’, ‘Butterbeans’, ‘Envy’, ‘Fiskeby
V’, ‘Maple Arrow’, and ‘Prize.’
They are shorter plants that mature earlier than field soybeans.
seeds are larger and easier to shell. Edible soybeans are grown
like snap beans. They should be planted in middle May and take
70 to 90 days to reach the fresh harvest stage. The pods should
be full, green, and hairy. Green soybeans are difficult to shell,
but boiling for 1 to 3 minutes or steaming for 5 minutes will make
the job easier. For sprouting, tofu, and other uses soybeans should
be left on the plant until the pods just begin to brown and dry.
At this point shelling is easy. In fact, many edible soybeans will
burst from the pod on their own when dry.
In northern Illinois, perennial vegetables are fairly unusual
in themselves. When asked, most gardeners will list asparagus and
rhubarb. But horseradish (Armoracia rusticanna) is a very
hardy, easy to grow perennial crop. Although most people purchase
horseradish (Illinois is the number one state in commercial horseradish
production), the gourmet may prefer homegrown for its pungent freshness.
Root cuttings or crown divisions are planted in early spring. Roots
should be placed 18 to 24 inches apart in shallow trenches then
covered with 4 to 5 inches of soil. Crowns are planted at soil
level. Horseradish prefers loose fertile soil with regular watering.
During hot periods the plants will wilt and require supplemental
watering. The plants will be 2 to 2 1/2 feet tall. Although horseradish
will live years without care, optimum production occurs with yearly
division and replanting. Roots may be dug anytime from hard frost
in fall until new growth in spring. Pencil sized roots should be
saved for harvest the following year. It is best to dig the roots
just before using them, but they may be dug, cleaned, and stored
at 32 degrees F.
Many gardeners grow onions, a few raise garlic, but hardly any
cultivate shallots (Allium cepa var. aggregatum). Connoisseurs
prize shallot’s delicate flavor in sauces, soups, and roasts.
Common varieties are ‘Dutch Yellow’, ‘French’, ‘Epicurean’, ‘Frog
Legs’, ‘Pink’, and ‘Prince de Bretagne’.
Pink tinged varieties are considered superior. Shallots are planted
as individual bulbs 1 to 1 1/2 inches deep and 3 to 4 inches apart
in early spring. They may be harvested like green onions when the
tops are 6 to 8 inches tall. For larger dry bulbs, harvest should
be delayed until the tops brown and dry out in summer. Store shallots
as you would onions.
April-May 2003: Planting
Trees | Prevent Garlic Mustard from
Setting Seed | The Roses Are Coming |
Unusual Vegetables �