Freaky & Flavorful
By Carol Brock
Harvesting a garden is one of life’s delights. Freshly picked and plated broccoli, strawberries, melons, plums, kale and cucumbers are tasty additions to any meal, but these six fruits and veggies have varieties that offer more curious flavors. Sow or plant the following in your garden for delicious alternatives to traditional harvests.
Pineberries are sweet, red-seeded white fruits with a luscious strawberry-pineapple flavor, hence the plant’s name. Some people accuse this small, seed-speckled berry of tasting watery, but others adore its tropical overtones. Pineberries ripen in spring and bear fruits until first frost. Since it’s partially self-pollinating, pineberry should be planted beside a regular strawberry to improve its fruiting capacity. Don’t plant pineberry from seed; it’s unlikely the plant will produce fruit with flavors true to the parent. More popular in Europe than in the United States, these non-GMO plants are difficult to obtain here, and sell out quickly. Plant it in an area that gets at least six hours of sun, preferably in the morning and early afternoon.
Hybridists have gone plum crazy crossing plums with apricots. Pluots are a plum/apricot cross with fruit more similar in taste to plums than apricots. Plumcots are a plum/apricot cross with more apricot flavor than plum, and apriums taste even more like apricots. All these hybrids produce sweet fruits that lack the bitterness plums sometimes have, and most grow well in our area. The list of varieties goes on—Dinosaur Egg, Flavorosa, Tropical King, Summer Punch, Dapple Dandy, Flavor Delight—as do the color variations, from purple, red and pink to green, orange and yellow. Plant in full sun or light shade.
Kale crossed with Brussels sprouts? Now that’s a super food! Kalettes grow tall stalks like Brussels sprouts, with kale-like leaves surrounding the sprouts. The non-GMO plant contains more Vitamin C and B6 than either parent, with a sweet, nutty taste that lacks the bitter bite of Brussels sprouts. The leaves are also tenderer than traditional kale leaves. Kalettes can be eaten raw, boiled, blanched, roasted, sautéed, grilled or stir-fried, or add them to stews and soups—the preparations are endless. Plant it in full sun or partial shade in a wind-protected area.
4Papaya Dew Melon
This hybrid melon has a honeydew look with a sweet and richly tropical taste. Delectable and juicy with papaya-colored flesh, papaya dew is a prolific producer that was bred from several different melons. When the greenish rind turns creamy yellow, you’ll know it’s at peak ripeness. Plant it in full sun in warm, well-draining soil.
Cucamelons look like mini watermelons, but taste like cucumbers with a lemony tang. This pretty vine is known by many names: Mexican sour gherkin, Mexican sour cucumber and mouse melon, to name a few. Cucamelons don’t require peeling and you can eat them raw, toss them into a salad or stir-fry, or pickle them. Rich in lycopene, minerals, fiber, beta-carotene and vitamins C, E and K, cucamelons have been a staple in Mexican and Central American diets since the pre-Columbian era. Support the vines on a trellis or tomato cage. Pick the fruits early, when they’re the size of grapes or olives—the longer they’re on the vine, the sourer they become, but those are perfect for pickling! Plant it in full sun in well-draining soil.
A hybrid of broccoli and cauliflower, broccoflower is often confused with Romanesco broccoli. Broccoflower is a trademarked hybrid of cauliflower and broccoli with yellowish green cauliflower-shaped heads that are tenderer, sweeter and milder than broccoli or cauliflower. It’s also richer in vitamins C and A than either parent. Romanesco produces lime-green heads of conical florets with a nutty taste. Cook broccoflower any way you’d prepare broccoli or cauliflower. Plant it in a partially shaded area with three to six hours of sun in well-draining soil.