Your Garden Successes and Failures

Every winter when the seed catalogs arrive in the mail, I have a hard time not being lured by unusual varieties of produce.

Something about all of those glossy photos of exotic fruits and vegetables just sucks me right in.

I wonder if pea eggplants would do well in my garden? Or maybe Japanese mugwort? I bet I could devote enough space for a jujube tree… Oh, and I’ve simply got to try a hardy kiwi this year. Sure it’s not technically in my growing zone, but maybe with global warming…

If you’re anything like me, invariably a packet or two of weird seeds get ordered along with the usual sure-things like heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, and salad greens. Like all gambles, sometimes the risks pay off, and sometimes they don’t.

As the growing season draws to a close, I thought that this would be a fitting time to talk about this year’s garden success and failures.

So, Eat Drink Better readers, which exotic seeds will you be reordering this winter, and which ones will be forever banned from your garden?

Since I’m living in the woods right now, I only had enough sun for an herb garden this past summer. I was particularly happy with the exotic varieties of basil that I grew. Thai basil and cinnamon basil turned out to be just perfect for summer cocktails.

I was also lucky enough to raid my friend Lucy’s garden a few times this summer. We were both really happy with her new crops of bitter melon and pickling melon. The bitter melon was really wonderful in curries, while the pickling melon was great fresh in salads and made a perfect quick pickle.

Post your garden successes and failures of the year as comments!

Image courtesy of sogni_hal via a Creative Commons license.

  1. kelly

    Had great success with rainbow chard, rocambole and some really beautiful, long, wrinkly cayenne peppers, but will skip the mache, thumbelina carrots and Brussels sprouts next year…

  2. Emily

    that bitter melon looks awesome. i’m attracted to the exotic stuff too, whether or not it’s practical to grow here in boise…both bitter melons and hardy kiwis have caught my eye.

    two of the novelty items i planted this year were “prickly caterpillars” and “asparagus/winged pea,” both from SSE. the caterpillars were fun to photograph but i probably won’t grow them again because there’s just not much point to them. so far the winged peas are a bit of a disappointing failure also. the plants look super healthy up until the time they flower and begin to set fruit, then they stop growing and turn yellow-ish, even if i feed them. this happened three times.

    one success, though, was black cumin. i don’t know if that counts as exotic but it’s something i never thought of growing until i saw it in a seed catalogue, and it turned out wonderful–beautiful flowers, delicious seeds.

    next year i’m thinking yard long beans. they are freaky looking and i’ve read hardly anyone in the states can get them to grow to their full length, but i’m up for a challenge.

    1. Rachel Shulman

      Hmmmm… I’ve thought about growing those prickly caterpillars as well. Like you said, not much point to them but they’re so darn cute!

      Black cumin is an interesting idea. Was the flavor different from regular cumin?

      I want to grow yard long beans too! Several of my Thai cookbooks call for them.

      1. Emily

        yeah, black cumin is pretty different. it’s stronger-flavored, sort of peppery. regular cumin is from the parsley family and black cumin is from the genus nigella, same as the love-in-a-mist flower (which it resembles).

        if you do try the prickly caterpillars, i recommend planting a whole lot of them. they’re very, very small plants, only about two or three inches tall. i tried eating one of the caterpillars…it was like chewing on toothbrush bristles that tasted like grass.

        sounds like we’re into a lot of the same seed catalogue novelties. best of luck with your beans!

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