Growing Outside the Garden Box 2013

Whenever I get asked what I’m growing, people always assume the norm: Tomatoes, peppers, squash, beans. Of course that’s what I’m planting, but this year I wanted to think a little more ‘outside the garden box’. After all, isn’t that what gardening is about? Being able to grow what you can’t find at the store. It’s like a secret garden of edibles.

One of my goals for my garden is to grow things that are edible, so it has been a challenge for me think beyond the annual veggies.  Here are a few things I’m growing that might not be recognizable or common.

Wheat grain. That’s right, I’m growing wheat and plan to make homemade bread this fall. I know it’s quite a process to get to the bread eating, but that’s all part of the experiment. I might have started my spring wheat too late, but it’s sprouting: so far so good. This is what I was hold backing from this post.

Sunchokes. Also called Jerusalem Artichokes, but no relation to the artichoke. This is my first year to grow them and have already sprouted. I’m growing them because they are high in inulin that feed the intestine. They also make a great living fence but are highly invasive. I understand that once planted, you have them for life. On the bright side, the bees love the sunflower-like flowers and are practically maintenance free. The maintenance is the harvesting, and they grow almost any where.

Comfrey. I just ordered this medicinal herb and just can’t wait to add it to my garden. I couldn’t find it at any nursery in the Dallas, so I ordered it here. There is controversy on if it’s edible. I haven’t done my research, so I won’t go there. However, it’s great for any garden with edibles. With comfrey, the leaves are used to make tea or add them to the base of fruit trees. I also understand the bees love this plant too. The root system is a tap root, so this is another plant that once established will there for forever.

Amaranth. This plant is classified as a grain, but it’s actually a seed. Everything about this plant is edible and grown best in the heat of the summer, and that’s why I want to grow it. The leaves are said to taste better than spinach and the seeds can be popped like popcorn or stewed like oatmeal. This plant is scheduled to be planted in June. It will seed itself, so timing the harvest could be important. Aren’t the flowers alone a show stopper?

Stevia. This plant was an ‘i’ll give it a try’ plant when I purchased the comfrey. This is the plant we get sugar from which is why I wanted to give this plant a go. I’m not sure how to extract the sugars, but I’ll figure that out with the time comes. Stevia doesn’t do well in my zone 8 climate, so I’m going to dig it up like I did my lemon grass and keep it in the green house over the winter months.

Cardoon. I’ve posted about cardoon before. I planted this in winter, but is best planted in the fall for best results. Most grow this for the beautiful flowers, but I wanted to grow it because it’s edible and it’s unique. I haven’t harvested this yet, but what I understand the edible stalks are bitter raw. They can be blanched or boiled to take out the bitterness. Then they can be fried or I found this recipe that looks delicious.

Purple Tree Collard. This is a must-grow plant I’ve talked about heregrowingyourgreens.com loves this plant. In my post I called it kale, but it’s actually a collard. I wanted to grow this plant because it’s a perennial that will last for years and give me nutrient dense greens all year. Since we’ve had a cold front, the leaves have turned purple. I’m also waiting for my walking stick kale seeds to come in that are similar to the tree collard but will only last for a few years.

Other unique plants I’m looking into are stinging nettles, dandelions greens, minors lettuce sprouts, chick weed, leachie tomato, bloody doc, sour grass, rock lettuce. A good source for unique edibles to grow is www.pfaf.org and growingyourgreens.

For a complete list of what I’m growing click here. All photos I took myself except the sunchokesComfrey, Wheat Grain, Amaranth, and Stevia.

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