Are you tired of planting the same old carrots, tomatoes, and squash in your garden every year? Would you like to try growing something a little more exotic this season? You may be surprised at the wide range of unusual or rare vegetables that can be grown right in your own backyard.
Give some of these plants a try and see what results you get. Once you see how easy it is to grow a wide variety of rare plants in your yard, you will never be content with the same standard varieties again.
Hailing from Mexico, the chayote squash grows on a vine that needs support, so a fence or a trellis is required. This perennial plant produces a good crop of mild-tasting squash that are shaped like a pear. They are good in soups or served on a taco with cheese and salsa.
If you live in a colder climate, be sure to keep it warm by using plenty of mulch in the winter. Since they hail from a warmer climate, they are not terribly hardy plants.
Prickly Pear (Nopal)
Another interesting vegetable that hails from Mexico and Central America is the nopal, or prickly pear. This type of cactus produces thick, paddle-shaped leaves that can grow up to 8 inches in length or more. They taste somewhat like bell peppers or green beans, but have a texture more like okra.
Before eating, of course, the thorns need to be peeled off. The plant grows best in dry, mild conditions. To start your own plant, just remove a paddle, allow a callus to form, and then place it in the ground. Be sure to use gloves to protect your hands from the thorns when harvesting the leaves!
This crunchy root vegetable is popular in Japan and other Asian countries. Known as “gobo,” it is a common ingredient in stir fries, soups, and stews. It is hard and crunchy, but has a sweet and somewhat earthy taste.
Burdock root can also be pickled and used as an ingredient in salads. Thinly sliced, it is a nice addition to miso soup or a stew.
The seeds should be sown in spring or summer, and the roots will be ready to harvest after three months or so. Be sure to wear gloves when you are harvesting the roots, since the leaves can irritate your skin. After the winter, you should get one more season of productivity before you will need to plant a new crop.
Despite its name, this is not actually a type of spinach. Instead, it is a vine that grows in India and Bangladesh and is a popular ingredient in the cuisines of these countries. When eaten raw, the leaves have a peppery flavor with a hint of orange. Once they are cooked, their flavor more closely resembles that of spinach.
The plant tends to thrive best in hot conditions that resemble those of its native home. It will grow in cooler conditions, but does so more slowly. It is resistant to frost and grows best on a trellis or arbor.
This may be the only vegetable on this list that you have growing in your yard already. Commonly regarded as a weed, purslane is actually a tasty and nutritious herb that is widely used in many cuisines, from Mexico to France. It contains high levels of vitamins A and C, as well as omega-3 fatty acids.
Because of its weedy nature, purslane is very easy to grow. Once you have planted it, you need pay it little attention. It grows best in hot, wet conditions, and you may need to prune it to keep it under control.