Archive for the ‘Offbeat Edibles’ Category

The Novelty Factor

Tomato 'Variegated' fruits

The last few springs, I’ve promised myself that I’m going to concentrate my veggie-growing efforts on the relatively boring but dependable crops that Mom and I like best: ‘Candy’ onions, ‘Carnival’ squash, ‘Chioggia’ beets, ‘Red Brandywine’ tomatoes, kohlrabi, turnips, and some basic greens. And yet, when I’m placing my seed orders, I still get tempted by the novelty factor, unable to resist the lure of trying something really out of the ordinary. This past spring, I succumbed yet again, and as usual, I had mixed results.

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A Wonder of a Berry

Wonderberry in fruit salad Aug 10 09

A link to a guest post I wrote about sunberry, also known as wonderberry or garden huckleberry, for Meadowwood Garden: A Wonder of a Berry.

Hayefield Happenings

Hayefield House from orchard path June 8 08

Text and photos ©Nancy J. Ondra

Wow, I can’t believe how fast the weeks are passing. So much for the days of blogging every day or two! Besides the usual busy-ness of this time of year in my own garden, I’ve been working every other day at a friend’s nursery/garden center for the past month, installing and maintaining some huge new gardens, so I’ve been gloriously immersed in extended hours of hands-on gardening every single day.

In many ways, it brings back the days when I used to be a professional gardener. I enjoyed it then, but I remember it being pretty tough physically. Getting back into it 20 years later, I find it’s actually easier now, maybe because I have a lot more experience, and a good selection of time-tested tools as well. Still, dealing with the intense heat we’re experiencing now in PA is tough at any age, so I’m grateful to be indoors for today. Continue reading

Non-Green Greens and Perennial Potatoes

Mustard Ruby Streaks and Golden Streaks May 22 08

Text and photos ©Nancy J. Ondra

Late spring is prime time for picking great salad fixings from the garden. We generally refer to them as “greens,” but there are many intriguing options to choose from that are anything but plain old green. One of my new favorites is a mustard variety called ‘Ruby Streaks’; it’s the jagged purple foliage shown above. The other variety shown is ‘Golden Streaks’. It’s even more frilly, and it makes a great contrast to ‘Ruby Streaks’, but it doesn’t appear nearly as golden next to other greens. Continue reading

Peas Please Me

Pea ‘Blauwschokkers’ (blue-podded)

Text and photos ©Nancy J. Ondra

Novelty-seeking veggie gardeners have plenty of exciting options to choose from with trendy crops, such as gourmet greens and tomatoes. But peas? Hardly trendy, and hardly a plethora of options to choose from, at least in most catalogs: a few snap peas, a couple of snow peas, and maybe a few varieties of shelling types. I suppose it’s not really necessary for peas to be exciting, appearance-wise; once you experience the flavor of fresh-picked peas straight from (or, even better, right in) the garden, you hardly care what they look like. But if you enjoy trying something different, there are two out-of-the-ordinary varieties worth tracking down.

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Spigarello

Spigarello plants in June

Text and photos ©Nancy J. Ondra

When I read seed-catalog descriptions that tell me a plant “tastes just like [fill in the blank],” I have to wonder, well, why don’t I just grow the original plant, rather than the taste-alike? Sometimes, it seems like the substitute might be the easier route, but we all know how shortcuts often have a way of turning out to be disappointing, to say the least.

If I’d put some effort into getting a good bed of real asparagus going last year, for instance, I’d probably be able to harvest a few stalks this spring, and they’d really be asparagus. Instead, I went for the seemingly simpler route of growing asparagus peas and spent months waiting for hardly a mouthful of pods that weren’t all that asparagus-like anyway.

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Peanuts in Pennsylvania

Peanut 'Early Spanish'

Text and photos ©Nancy J. Ondra

As I was ordering vegetable seeds last year, I ran across a listing for ‘Early Spanish’ peanuts, and I absolutely had to order some. Would I even be able to grow them here? Would they need a lot of pampering? Would I actually get a harvest from them? On our afternoon walk that day, I reported my great find to Mom and rambled on a bit about what I’d read about growing them. When I stopped to take a breath, she calmly replied “You used to love to grow those when you were little.” What? I’m pretty sure I’d remember that, but well, I’ll defer to her on that point. Maybe I did plant them, but did I ever harvest any? She’s not too clear on that, so maybe that’s why I don’t remember the experience. Because with peanuts, the real fun is in the harvesting, not in the growing.

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