The end of 2003 is right around the corner. While most people are thinking of Christmas gifts, gardeners are dreaming of new plants and varieties to try in their garden next spring. Why not bring a little international flair to your garden? Why not grow exotic vegetables and varieties that normally aren't found in American home gardens? It will make for interesting eating and lots of raised eyebrows from friends and family.
From the subcontinent comes a host of unusual vegetables that should grow well for most U.S. gardeners. One that's sure to catch your neighbor's attention is the bitter gourd. This climbing vine forms a mass of green foliage by midsummer and delicate yellow flowers soon after. The flowers produce warty, cucumber-like fruit. The fresh flavor is very bitter. However, when cooked in traditional Indian dishes, it mellows to a distinct and memorable flavor.
Most gardeners have grown eggplant, but unusual varieties from India offer a new look. For example, 'Harabegan' produces shiny, elongated green fruits in bunches about two months after transplanting. The flesh keeps its consistency, not turning mushy, even after extended cooking.
China and Japan have a broad range of unusual vegetables that are sure to entice. The asparagus bean is a pole bean that produces slender 15-inch-long pods. The seeds are slow to develop, so the beans stay tender longer.
Also in the bean family, green soybeans or edamame are an easy to grow, nutritious option. Grown like a bush bean, the pods form about 75 days after seeding. The beans inside are harvested while still green. Just steam the pods for a few minutes, remove, and squeeze. The beans pop out, making edamame a welcome snack for adults and kids.
A little closer to home, continental vegetables from France also draw attention, especially from cooks. Instead of unusual vegetables, it's the unique varieties of common vegetables that pique gardener's interest.
French fillet beans are stringless, smooth, and flavorful, and meant to be picked when still young (4 inches long). The variety 'Nickel' produces small, slender, tasty pods. French Charentais melons are known for their fine eating quality and high yields. These 2-pound fruits have a smooth, green-gray rind and rich, sweet, orange flesh. Try the variety, 'Savor', which tolerates powdery mildew and produces fruits 78 days from seeding.
With these new international vegetables and varieties growing in your garden, you'll feel like you've traveled the world in your backyard garden.
For seeds of all the varieties mentioned here, go to Willhite Seed Company, www.willhiteseed.com.
Question of the Week
Indeterminate versus Determinate Tomatoes
Q. What is the meaning of the words "determinate" and "indeterminate" as used to describe tomato plants?
A. Determinate plants set a crop of tomatoes and then stop growing and producing flowers and fruit. This type of variety is very useful for gardeners with small spaces and those with short growing seasons. The fruit tends to mature faster than fruits on indeterminate plants. Indeterminate plants will keep growing and producing fruit as long as growing conditions are favorable. They tend to produce large plants and many fruits. Generally, the fruits will ripen later than fruits on determinate plants.