Just like diet and exercise, every once in awhile it’s good to break from routine, even in your own garden. This spring, sow a few new seeds.
The garden. Our backyard oasis, our retreat, our place in the (sometimes) sun. Even a few containers scattered on a balcony can make us happy. Why not add to this feeling of well-being by mixing it up a bit? Sure, we all love our little cherry tomato plant, but how about a watermelon radish? Its cheery fuchsia centre matches its vitamin-packed flavour.
“Like most North American gardeners, my vegetable plots had always been planted with ‘normal’ crops like tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, peas and beans,” writes Halifax-based gardener and author Nikki Jabbour in her book, Veggie Garden Remix: 224 New Plants to Shake Up Your Garden and Add Variety, Flavor and Fun, “and although I played around with different varieties, I certainly didn’t venture too far from the traditional veggies.” Enter Jabbour’s Lebanese mother-in-law, who recognized what Jabbour thought to be ornamental gourds as edible summer squash – quite common in Lebanon. This got Jabbour thinking, and the idea of a “remix” of what we can grow in our gardens came to be.
Here, Jabbour shares three easy-to-grow vegetables that will add an additional healthy dose of colour and flavour to your garden and your table.
“What’s the most popular vegetable in my garden? It’s cucamelons! These cucumber relatives are seeded indoors in spring and moved to the garden after the risk of frost has passed. The plants form slender vines that spread in every direction but can be planted in a pot and allowed to climb trellises or balcony railings. They produce grape-sized fruits that look like tiny watermelons but taste like cucumbers with a hint of citrus. Delicious!”
2. Broccoli leaf
“Also called Spigariello Liscia, broccoli leaf is an Italian vegetable that yields large quantities of tender, nutrient-rich leaves that have a mild broccoli flavour. It’s easy to grow in containers or garden beds and should be started indoors in early spring or direct seeded outdoors in mid-spring … Use the leaves raw in salads, sautéed with garlic or chopped in soup, lasagna and other pasta dishes.”
3. Watermelon radish
“Almost too pretty to eat, watermelon radishes are a type of daikon radish but have rounded beige-green roots that hide an electric pink interior. Slice one of these open and wait for the ‘oohs and ahhs.’ Sow seeds early in spring and again in late summer for a fall harvest. The roots grow up to four inches across and can be thinly sliced in salads, pickled, stir-fried or roasted in the oven for a tasty treat.”
A version of this article appeared in the May 2018 issue with the headline, “Power Plants,” p. 52-53.