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Growing Unusual Fruits and Vegetables from the Grocery Store

By Bubbles
December 15, 2011

Have you ever wandered through a grocery produce section and wondered how some of the more exotic fruits and vegetables are grown and how they should be prepared? I recently roamed the aisles of a local grocery that caters to our city's growing international transplants. I had never seen so many root vegetables that were unknown to me. My husband wasn't along and therefore could not be embarrassed by his wife, so I asked permission to photograph some of the produce with my phone. The produce manager smiled and said, "People do it all the time."

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Name: Marylyn
Houston, TX (Zone 9a)
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Marylyn
Dec 15, 2011 12:23 AM CST
I LOVED your article, Sandi! I'm from the midwest, but have been living in Houston for 13 years now, and there are many fruits and veggies in the produce section that I have no idea what are, or what to do with them.

I do know what ginger is for, and I'm forever buying a big piece of it to use just a little, just as you said. If I planted it, how would I harvest it? Would I have to dig up an entire plant for that one little piece? Or do you dig it up and freeze it/dry it/??? for when you need it?
Name: Carole
Clarksville, TN (Zone 6b)
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SongofJoy
Dec 15, 2011 4:46 AM CST
Oops, moving this post out of the ginger thread. Sorry. :-/
The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched -- they must be felt with the heart. ~ Helen Keller
[Last edited by SongofJoy - Dec 15, 2011 5:09 AM (+)]
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Name: Sandi
Austin, Tx (Zone 8b)
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Bubbles
Dec 15, 2011 6:21 AM CST
Marylyn, like you, I only use a little ginger in a few dishes, and most of the piece would rot in the frig. Since I love other types of gingers, I decided to plant a piece. The first time I wasn't successful. Someone told me to soak the root a few hours to remove the growth inhibitor and then plant it. It worked.
I'm no expert, but I plant it like you would an iris, not too deep. Use a good sized pot, as it will spread. It'll take a few months to sprout leaves. You'll need to take it inside or greenhouse it over winter. You can grow it indoors too. It won't survive a really cold, wet winter. Lift a piece of the root, cut off what you need and rebury it. If it doesn't make it over the winter, just start over with another small piece from the grocery.
Name: Kristi
east Texas pineywoods (Zone 8a)
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pod
Dec 15, 2011 6:35 AM CST
To harvest the ginger, I remove the 'palms' of ginger and allow the soil to dry, then gently brush any remaining dirt off so as not to bruise the ginger. They can be wrapped in plastic wrap and sealed in a freezer bag and frozen for future use. I've never washed it before freezing but if you do, let it dry thoroughly.

To use it, peel it of course, then grate or slice thinly. I've never peeled or grated before freezing. I've also only used the frozen palms for cooking and don't think they'd be good fresh.

Love the ginger and the tropical looking plant.

Another produce plant I've grown is horseradish but when you select that tuber to plant, make sure it isn't coated with sealer. Look for pieces with eyes and perhaps sprouts to plant.

Fun article ~ thanks. Kristi
Name: Sandi
Austin, Tx (Zone 8b)
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Bubbles
Dec 15, 2011 10:10 AM CST
Thanks for all the information Kristi! I've never frozen it and wondered how successful that would be. I know the fresh "palm" leaves can be brewed for tea and also used in stir fry, although I've never tried either.

Someone gave me a horseradish plant and I thought I knew where I'd planted it. I couldn't find it months later, and figured it had died of neglect. I had forgotten about it until now. It's another of those plants I use so seldom, but would be great to grow. I haven't looked for it in the grocery, but will now that you've jogged my memory.
Name: Marylyn
Houston, TX (Zone 9a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I sent a postcard to Randy! Region: Texas Daylilies Lilies
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Marylyn
Dec 15, 2011 11:26 AM CST
Thank you!! :-)
Name: Kristi
east Texas pineywoods (Zone 8a)
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pod
Dec 15, 2011 8:47 PM CST
I have saved a couple of recipes for candied ginger which I like to use in cookies but haven't tried candying ginger yet. It is on the 'to do' list. Here is one if you are interested. Another way to save/store ginger.

1 cup peeled, finely chopped ginger root
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup water
2 Tbsp granulated sugar

In a 1 1/2 quart saucepan combine ginger root and enough water to cover. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Drain the ginger thru a wire strainer. Discard cooking liquid, set ginger aside.

In the same pan, combine 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar and 1/3 cup water. Bring to boiling, stirring constantly to dissolve the sugar. Add the ginger root. Return to boiling. Reduce heat and cook, uncovered, over medium low heat for 20 minute. Stir occasionally. The mixture should boil at a moderate, steady rate over the entire surface.

Drain ginger thru a wire strainer into a bowl. Discard syrup. Spread ginger in a single layer on waxed paper. Let stand 5 minutes or till cool enough to handle. Add ginger to plastic bag with 2 Tbsp granulated sugar. Shake to coat. Spread on clean waxed paper. Dry on the paper for 1 to 2 hours. Cover tightly and store for up to 1 week in the refrigerator or up to 6 months in the freezer. Makes about 2/3 cup.
Name: Sandi
Austin, Tx (Zone 8b)
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Bubbles
Dec 15, 2011 9:07 PM CST
Thanks! I guess I never thought about doing it myself! Will have to try this. Thanks Kristi
[Last edited by Bubbles - Dec 16, 2011 2:08 PM (+)]
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crittergarden
Dec 16, 2011 1:16 PM CST
Excellent.
I just bought some for my own holiday cookies and was bummed to see sulphur dioxide on the ingredients list.
I'll do my own next!
SHOW ME YOUR CRITTERS! I have a critter page over at Cubits. http://cubits.org/crittergarden/thread/view/73275/
Name: Anna
North Texas (Zone 8a)
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canadanna
Dec 17, 2011 8:48 AM CST
I loved your article! I can just imagine you doing your "research", What a great idea to grow ginger. Just so I understand, is the palm kind of like the hand with stubby fingers?
While making an egg , some ginger from the cutting board ended up in the frypan...that was a good accident!
Name: Christine
North East Texas (Zone 7b)
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wildflowers
Dec 17, 2011 9:19 AM CST
I enjoyed your article and looking at all the unusual produce. I wish we had such interesting things around here. Ginger is one I'd like to grow.

I also make my own "sushi ginger", that is yummy!


Hi Pod! so nice to see you. Big Grin
May your life be like a wildflower, growing freely in the beauty and joy of each day --Native American Proverb

Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
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valleylynn
Dec 17, 2011 9:46 AM CST
What a fun article you wrote Sandi. I had such a great time in the international food market back in Virginia a couple of weeks ago.
My experience was like yours. Everyone was so helpful and thought it was fun that some one brought a camera to take photos of the fruits and vegetables.

I never thought about using some of them to grow in the garden. Thumbs up
Name: Sandi
Austin, Tx (Zone 8b)
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Bubbles
Dec 17, 2011 9:52 AM CST
Thanks Anna! If I understand your question, the "palms" I wrote about are actually the leaves of the ginger plant after it sprouts. The ginger root in the grocery will be clearly marked as ginger. It's the nubby looking whitish roots. Hope I didn't make that more confusing.

I did have to do some research on the botanical names of some of those more exotic tubers. Most was done on my cell phone while waiting for DH who was having a battery of tests run last month!

Christine, sushi ginger sounds really interesting! Can you share the recipe with us? Bet it would be good in other dishes too.
Name: Sandi
Austin, Tx (Zone 8b)
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Bubbles
Dec 17, 2011 10:21 AM CST
Lynn, I recognized a few of the tubers as "elephant ears" that I'd bought a year ago! I hope to grow out a few of the yucas. I've spent $14.95 twice for tapioca plants and killed both. This time I can spend less than dollar and have at least three. If they don't live through the summer, it won't be such a disappointment!

Glad you took photos of the international market! Last year I took photos of most of the booths at our farmers' market and posted them in Texas Gardening. Had a great time visiting with some of the vendors.
Name: Christine
North East Texas (Zone 7b)
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wildflowers
Dec 17, 2011 11:21 AM CST
sure thing Bubbles. It's pickled ginger that tastes like the stuff served with sushi. I really would like to grow my own ginger because it's the young ginger that turns a pink color when it's pickled. The older stuff, usually what you find at the store, doesn't turn pink but keeps its yellow color, and is more coarse, I think. So use young ginger if you have it.

Here's the recipe, very easy to make:

1/2 lb ginger root
1 T coarse salt
1 1/4 C rice wine vinegar
3 T water
1/4 C sugar

Peel the ginger and slice it as thin as possible. I usually just take my peeler and make slivers. Rub the slices with coarse salt. Place in a mixing bowl and refrigerate for about three hours.

After ginger has sat for several hours, take it out and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Put ginger in a clean jar.

Add vinegar, water and sugar in a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Pour over ginger and allow to cool slightly. Seal the jar and allow to "cure" in the refrigerator for at least 3 days before eating.
May your life be like a wildflower, growing freely in the beauty and joy of each day --Native American Proverb

[Last edited by wildflowers - Dec 17, 2011 11:21 AM (+)]
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Name: Sandi
Austin, Tx (Zone 8b)
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Bubbles
Dec 17, 2011 2:15 PM CST
Thanks for the recipe. I'm sure I'm not the only one who'll appreciate it.
I loved sashimi when we lived in Hawaii. Didn't eat much sushi, but I tried most all the Hawaiian, Chinese and Japanese food over there! Did I forget Korean? That too. I think your ginger would be great in stir fry. How long does it last in the frig?
Name: Carole
Clarksville, TN (Zone 6b)
Cherish today
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SongofJoy
Dec 17, 2011 3:49 PM CST
The pickled ginger recipe sounds delish. Lovey dubby
The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched -- they must be felt with the heart. ~ Helen Keller
Name: Anna
North Texas (Zone 8a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Region: Texas Clematis Garden Ideas: Level 1 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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canadanna
Dec 17, 2011 5:13 PM CST
pod said:To harvest the ginger, I remove the 'palms' of ginger and allow the soil to dry, then gently brush any remaining dirt off so as not to bruise the ginger. They can be wrapped in plastic wrap and sealed in a freezer bag and frozen for future use. I've never washed it before freezing but if you do, let it dry thoroughly.

To use it, peel it of course, then grate or slice thinly. I've never peeled or grated before freezing. I've also only used the frozen palms for cooking and don't think they'd be good fresh.



Fun article ~ thanks. Kristi


OK..now I am confused...I know it is the root that you eat so what is the palm?


Hurray! I love pickled ginger...I can never have enough when I go for sushi. Thanks!
Name: Christine
North East Texas (Zone 7b)
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wildflowers
Dec 17, 2011 6:27 PM CST
Pickled ginger should be good for about 6 to 8 months in the refrigeratior; but it probably won't last that long anyway.

I've not tried freezing ginger but love knowing that is an option!!

May your life be like a wildflower, growing freely in the beauty and joy of each day --Native American Proverb

Name: Sandi
Austin, Tx (Zone 8b)
Texas Gardening
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Bubbles
Dec 17, 2011 6:32 PM CST
Thanks, Christine. Your're right, it probably won't last that long anyway!

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