21 Unusual Vegetables You Can Grow and Where To Get Them

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Try something new by growing these unusual vegetables. One of the most exciting things about growing your own food is discovering weird and wonderful new vegetable varieties. Not only are the flavors something to savour but some of these vegetables truly look bizarre.

What’s more, these unusual vegetables are surprisingly easy to grow. You won’t find any of these in the supermarket and you’ll be lucky to see them at the farmer’s markets!

Yardlong Beans

Very popular in Asian cooking, these beans will grow up to two feet in length! They are best harvested to be eaten as green beans when they are about 12 inches long. Or you can leave them on the vine and use the dried seeds in soups.

They taste similar to green beans but the texture is distinct. The beans are the best stir-fried or sauteed as they become bland when boiled. Unlike green beans, the yardlong bean grows as a climbing plant and will produce beans almost all season long.

Karela

Also known as bitter melon, this is a very popular vegetable commonly served in India. The whole plant can be eaten including the green or yellow melons, leaves, and young shoots.

Bitter melon is prized for the bitter taste it adds to dishes and is usually pickled or stuffed when eaten. The melon is similar in texture to a cucumber and requires similar growing conditions.

Growing as a vigorous vine up to 15 feet, Karela should be well supported and watered regularly for the best growth.

Jicama

Excellent fruit to be used in salads, sauces and garnishes. Jicama are crunchy when eaten raw, or soft like potatoes when cooked or fried. The long vines can grow up to 15 feet and produce delicious tubers all season long.

Jicama one of the most unusual vegetables we’ve even seen. They grow similar to sweet potatoes but produce much smaller tubers.

Garlic Scapes

Garlic is a common vegetable, but most gardeners only harvest the cloves. Many asian cultures make use of the whole plant, especially prizing the “scapes” or young shoots. The scapes have a mild garlic flavor and are best used raw in salads or added last minute to soups.

Garlic requires a long growing season of 6 months and should be planted on the summer or winter solstice for the biggest cloves. There are winter and summer varieties so make sure you plant the right variety for the season.

Romanesco Broccoli

Although botanically a broccoli this unusual vegetable won’t be found in the supermarket. The weird vibrant green swirls look nothing like the common green broccoli. It isn’t known why or how this broccoli grows differently to the more common varieties.

Romanesco requires the same growing conditions as cauliflower or broccoli and has a similar taste. The texture is a little crunchier and the unusual swirls add an extra element to any dish.

If you are a beginner and need more tips and ideas to grow your vegetable garden, check out 27 Tips for Beginner Vegetable Gardeners.

Black Radish

This quick growing vegetable requires almost no care to produce a crop. You can practically scatter the seed and forget about it until harvest time. Black radish a little milder than the common red radish, but still pack quite a punch.

They are best when sliced or grated into a fresh garden salad. The leaves can also be eaten, although they are often quite tough.

Okinawan Purple Sweet Potato

Eaten by the most long-lived people on earth, the famed purple sweet potato is easy to grow and full of antioxidants. The small Okinawan village just off the coast of Japan eats more of this sweet potato than rice!Click To Tweet

The taste is similar to that of the common yam but the purple skin and flesh have almost double the antioxidants and nutrients! If you grow yams already then consider switching to this yummy powerhouse of goodness instead.

Fiddleheads

Actually a fern not a vegetable, fiddleheads are the young edible curled shoots of a dozen or more fern species. These plants are very easy to grow mostly ornamental, requiring a shady and moist soil.

For a full list of edible species check this wikipedia list. One of the easiest to grow US species is the Ostrich Fern. Fiddleheads taste like asparagus and must be fully cooked to remove the shikimic acid (only found in some species but better to be safe than sorry).

Ramps

Considered by many top chefs to be the best tasting member of the Allium (onion) family. The leaves are very tender and edible in the spring, whilst the bulb is sweetest at the start of winter.

Ramps is also known as wild leek and can be sown any time of the year. Once planted it will continue to clump in the one area year after year making it a truly low maintenance crop.

Kohlrabi

A member of the Brassica family (broccoli, cauliflower etc), Kohlrabi grows a swollen stem that is both tender and tasty. The young leaves can be eaten like kale and the stem is best harvested when tennis ball size.

Kohlrabi has a very mild cabbage like the taste and grows just as easily as any broccoli or cabbage.

Salsify

Grown for its ornamental flower, edible root and herbal properties. Salsify is a unusual vegetable that is probably already growing wild in your backyard. The root and young shoots are used as a vegetable and taste similar to oysters.

The young flower shoots can also be harvested and used like asparagus either raw or cooked. The flowers are also edible and can be used in salads. A truly unusual tasting vegetable that’s well worth growing.

Sunchoke

A very easy to grow vegetable that will reward you with both beautiful flowers and tasty tubers. The sunchoke also known as Jerusalem artichoke thrives in full sun, grows very quickly and needs almost no care to produce a crop.

Be careful where you plant though because sunchokes can grow to 9 feet tall and the tubers can persist for years in the ground. The tubers are a natural source of insulin and can help people with diabetes.

If you want to plant vegetable side by side to save space, this article is helpful, What Vegetables to Plant Side by Side / Companion Planting and Gardening.

Tomatillo

These unusual vegetables are in the same family as tomatoes and need similar growing conditions. Tomatillos can be eaten raw or cooked and are most well known as an ingredient for salsa verde.

The fruits can be harvested green for a sour taste or picked when ripe and sweeter. They can also be dried which is when they taste similar to cranberries with a hint of tomato flavor. Due to their high pectin content they are commonly used to thicken jams or jellies. The sour fruits help to balance the strong sweet taste of many fruits.

White Asparagus

This isn’t a special variety but actually a special growing technique. Almost any asparagus variety can be blanched to produce white stems instead of green. To get white asparagus all you need to do is mound the soil up around the shoots until they are ready to pick.

Asparagus is best harvested after the second year of being planted and will continue to produce spears for 20 or more years in the same spot!

Oca

One of the staple food crops of the Native Americans. Oca is easy to grow in the states and produces small tubers that taste similar to potatoes. First popularized commercially in New Zealand, there are now dozens of varieties and colors available.

Oca contains high levels of oxalic acid which can give some tubers a bitter taste. If you don’t like the bitterness you can easily remove it by peeling the skins before cooking and cooking the tubers thoroughly.

The flavor is slightly tangy when eaten raw but the flavor changes considerably between varieties so plant a few different types and find one you prefer.

Celeriac

One of the only vegetables mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey, celeriac was once a commonly used vegetable. Growing wild over much of Europe and the Americas it is very easy to grow requiring minimal water and nutrients to produce a crop.

Celeriac is best harvested when the swollen root is between 4 and 5.5 inches. However, some cultures prize the strong flavor and tenderness of the immature plant. Celeriac is edible raw or cooked and tastes similar to celery.

Wan Shen

One of my favorite greens to grow. Wan Shen is delicious and has a sweet and pungent broccoli flavor. It’s commonly served in Chinese restaurant stir-friedd with garlic and soy sauce.

Growing well in containers or in the ground, Wan Shen also known as Chinese Broccoli is great for every gardener. Best grown through the winter months.

Nopal

Most gardeners will know this plant as prickly pear. The fruits which grow to about the size of a golf ball are juicy and sweet. But it’s the leaves of the plant that are most often used as a vegetable. Commonly known as Mexican spinach, the leaves of this easy to grow cactus are stripped of the spikes and then slice or diced.

Nopal leaves have a light, slightly tart flavor, similar to green beans and a crisp texture. They are best eaten during spring and can be dried or canned easily.

Cassava

Often called yuca in the states, Cassava is an easy to grow woody shrub that produces delicious tubers. When the roots are dried and powdered they are called tapioca, which is traditionally fermented into garri.

Be careful when harvesting and cooking cassava as the roots are high in antinutrients. Commercial varieties have been selected for their sweet, highly edible roots. Cassava grows best in the tropics and dislikes cold winters.

Dragon carrot

The story goes that all carrots were originally this dark purple color, but a Dutch Queen demanded everything to be orange including her carrots. After years of breeding a farmer finally turned a carrot orange and the strange orange vegetable became more popular than the purple variety.

Today we’re seeing a reversal as purple carrots come back into popularity. Dragon carrots have almost twice as much antioxidants and nutrients than their orange cousin, and have a stronger carrot flavor.

Malabar Spinach

An interesting climbing variety of spinach with thick succulent leaves. You can use the young stems and leaves raw or cooked, and they can be picked repeatedly over the season. Unlike ordinary spinach, Malabar won’t bolt to seed in warm weather.

The leaves are great when used in soups as they thicken sauces. Malabar spinach grows well over warm summer months and requires plenty of water and a rich growing soil. It will die back at the first frost.

Peter Pepper

A rather fun vegetable to grow, the peter pepper is famous for its unusual shape that looks like a penis. With a heat level similar to a jalapeno and a good flavor peter peppers are great for everyday cooking.

Peter peppers grow to about 3-4 inches in length and need the same growing conditions as any other pepper plant. Grow them in a well-drained fertile soil with regular watering. To get hotter peppers, water your plants only when they begin to wilt.

If you want to have an idea of the best vegetables and fruits to grow in small places or in your apartment, check out this article, Vegetables and Fruits You can Grow in Your Apartment. 

weird looking veggies

variety of vegetables

unusual vegetables

unique veggies to grow

Mitch Baylis is a backyard gardener. His passion for nutrient dense, sustainably grown food has taken him across the globe in search for the best vegetable gardens on earth.

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