April 17, 2015

Getting My Garden Freak On - Photo by la fattina/Flickr (HobbyFarms.com)

So yeah, this spring, I’m definitely covering the basics: zucchini, kale, lettuce, tomatoes, radishes. Duh. But even though I have a roster of tried-and-true veggies and fruits, I fear falling into a gardening rut, trudging the same old zukes and cukes and butter lettuces out to the dinner table; serving up a platter of plain red tomatoes. Delicious, sure, but kinda like having only one dress to wear to parties.

Just as much as I am compelled to claw through thrift stores looking for just the right quirky party dress, I feel a strong urge to venture into the world of weirdo gardening. So in my seed arsenal, alongside the faithful standbys, I’ve also got some gray and orange Kabocha squash seeds, a packet of stevia, and four kernels of Iroquois white corn. The corn is largely a symbolic planting, as corn really needs to be planted in larger plots in order to produce. Even I know that.

Getting My Garden Freak On - Photo by Sunchild57 Photography./Flickr (HobbyFarms.com)

I’m also planning a medicine garden: chamomile, elecampane, hyssop, echinacea and calendula. I have a big wad of beeswax, coconut oil and some other stuff just waiting for herbs so they can turn into lotions and balms.

When I’m setting out plant starts, I’ll be saving space for a patch of lemongrass. Rumor has it, you can just take the stuff you get at the grocery store, snip off a bit from the end, stick ’em in a glass of water until they sprout, slap ’em into the garden, and bammo! Thai food for days. Folks in zones too cold for lemongrass can even grow it indoors, according to the little elves who live in the Internet.

My freak flag is also flying proudly above my new fruit trees. I’ve got young pomegranate and guava shrubs and my new favorite: a pineapple quince.

I look at it this way: Anyone can walk into the grocery store and grab a bag of Granny Smiths, but you can’t find Gravensteins or cider apples or quinces. When was the last time you tried quince syrup? Never, you say? And what the heck is a quince? Well, a quince may look like a very ugly, lumpy, hard apple, but it grows on a beautiful, fragrant tree, and when you slice and poach them with cinnamon stick and vanilla, the poached slices make a great pie, and the poaching liquid can be boiled down into an amazing pink syrup that goes great over a stack of pancakes or ice cream, or in a bourbon cocktail. Who knew?

Getting My Garden Freak On - Photo by Stacy Spensley/Flickr (HobbyFarms.com)

So this spring, I’m branching out (note the clever gardening pun). I’ll be looking for quirky heirloom varieties of Joe Average vegetables and fruits, and trying things I’ve never even heard of. Why plant plain lettuce when you can scatter a fistful of Red-Streaked Mizuna seeds? And while the good ol’ orange carrot is a dandy, how about a purple or white variety?

I fully expect some epic fails. But I figure if I hedge my bets, something is really gonna take off. Weirdo crops just might turn out to be cash crops, too. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll end up with that elusive ideal crop: delicious, unusual, desirable, expensive, and with the vigor of kudzu. Maybe it will even cover my expenses for all the experimental plants I will kill. We’ll see.

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