This season, my sweetheart did his own experimental garden plot. He was inspired by an article in The Old Farmer’s Almanac which featured curious crops from around the world. His line up was (I apologize for such few pictures, but google…):
- Golden Eggplant: tiny members of the eggplant family, which start of white and mature to a bright yellow color at full maturity. They are about the size and shape of a medium egg.
We ended up with one, and let it go too long. As with any eggplant, prime picking/eating is before full maturity, aka before the seeds get really big. As far as production, we didn’t do well with eggplants all around this year, and these weren’t placed well.
- Yard-long beans: both red and green. aka asparagus bean, Chinese long bean. They are like green beans, only really long.
We’ve had a decent haul, still going. Growing up Asian, I’ve eaten yard long beans a lot in my lifetime. They are kind of a concentrated, tougher green bean in flavor. But being tougher, they stand up well in soups and stews, and stir fried in hot oil with chilies…MMMM! Good! The nice thing about these beans is you don’t need much to compliment a meal because they are, well, long. Ours ended up averaging about two feet long before they began to mature (get even tougher). 5 or 6 beans cut into pieces was more than enough to noticeably contribute to a meal.
- Walking stick kale: also called Jersey Cabbage. The kale leaves grow on very long, sturdy stalks that, when dried, can be used as very sturdy walking sticks.
Examples of walking sticks from the stalk of the kale.
The walking stick kale didn’t make it. We have a multitude of beetles who frequent our crops which always gravitate towards our greens right as they are getting going.
- Parisian Carrots: like regular carrots, but stubby…about the same length as they are wide.
I looove homegrown, heirloom carrots. They are so very carroty! I grow a rainbow variety normally and marvel at the different subtleties in flavors of the different colors (red, yellow, white, purple, and orange). These did not disappoint. And they were wonderfully easy to add to stews and roasts whole.
- Cucamelons: aka mouse melons, Mexican gherkins. These babies are the inspiration for my post today.
These things grew like crazy! They grow on a vine, like a cucumber or a melon, only much smaller and more delicate looking. The flowers are yellow, and roughly the size of the cross-section of a pencil. The fruit looks like a watermelon, only Barbie sized.
These are probably each about an inch long.
They taste mostly cucumber-y, with either a watermelon or lemon (or sometimes both)undertone, depending on the ripeness. The skins are edible, and they make a wonderful pickle or garnish or salad topping, or just a popable snack.
My sweetheart planted some seeds after our first frost, and they grew, and grew, and grew! I mentioned earlier about our many pests…nothing touched these. They grew neglected, with only rain waterings. no special soil, no fertilizer, not even proper trellising. They grew along the light fencing (to keep the dog out) around the garden plot, and over the chicken coop that’s next to the garden plot, and over the kale stalks, the eggplant, and out into the lawn. They were trampled a couple of times, clipped on the ends by the lawn mower, tossed by wind, and left alone for weeks, and still the plants are loaded.
We’ve been snacking and pickling and giving away quarts and pints, but this weekend we did a big-pick and walked away with probably five pounds, and at least 3 times that left on the plants for next time, so I brought a basket in to work to share.
My sharing basket after 3 hours.
Where we live in Maryland is pretty rural. There are a lot of old farming families, and a good number of people at work grow a garden and share their surplus. But no one had ever seen or heard of a cucamelon. There were some who looked and walked away. And of those that tasted, I heard some “weirds” and “I don’t knows,” but most of those who tasted them really liked them. Bags have been gathered, people walking by have dipped in several times, there is talk about pickles and salad toppings in the hallway, and I’ve gotten a lot of appreciative smiles and curious questions.
That’s the other thing about where we live: there isn’t a whole lot of “new” here. People grow what they’ve always grown, eat what they’ve always eaten, do what they’ve always done. So it wasn’t so much that people appreciated the crop sharing that got me, but that they were willing to try something new and completely foreign, and (most) found they liked it!
There isn’t much I won’t eat, or at the very least try. (Without this willingness, I’m not sure I would have survived the alpha-gal years or the sulfites). And there’s not much I don’t like, but I realize not everyone is like that. We all have our tastes and preferences. Even I get stuck in a rut of all the same old things. It’s the climbing out that’s the fun part. You never know what you might discover.
So today, I challenge you: try something new. Maybe you’ll just end up being able to say you did…or maybe you’ll find your new favorite thing.
(and yes, this is totally a metaphor for life…but baby steps is what I’m all about, so let’s start with something easy like food)