What are the most interesting/ exotic things you ever tried/ contemplated growing?

Food gardeners, what are the most interesting/ exotic things you ever tried/ contemplated growing? If you have grown it, what was the outcome? Was it worth it? If you contemplated growing something but did not end up doing, what’s holding you back?

I will start off, I thought of growing:

  • saffron flowers. So I don’t have to pay $$$ for saffron. But the idea just died out over time.
  • technically not food- soap nuts, for homemade soaps. I don’t even know where to buy the seeds.
  • asparagus. Too much bed prep work it seems.

What are yours?

Well it is not exotic but is not usually grown in the PNW. Okra. I wanted smaller and fresher okra than what I can get at the markets here so I gave it a shot. I put a few seed in the back of my garden. I got really excited when I saw tiny okra on the healthy but very short plants. There were only a few but I was pretty happy. I am a lazy gardener and I tend to sort of forget about things and that is what I did. By the time I remembered to check them the okra was huge. Beyond eating huge. I got so annoyed with myself I did not pick them and they remain there still as a reminder I guess to not be so silly in the future.

Lazy gardening has its advantages. One year I grew pok choy. That is how it was labeled I think it is what markets often label as baby bok choy but it never gets big like your standard American market bok choy. Some might call that exotic. I let some go to seed. I am a terrible weeder so the next year I noticed little bok choy plants growing here and there. I origanally planted it maybe four years ago and I just found a plant grown up under my tomatoes. I get lots of volunteer plants from lazy weeding and by keeping a compost happens compost pile. Mine never gets hot enough to kill seed so all kind of things happen. No, my garden will not be featured in Sunset Magazine anytime soon!

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The most exotic things I’ve tried to grow have been crosnes and passion fruit.

Turns out starting passion flowers from seed is trickier than my gardening ability can handle. I did spot a wild native this summer and hope to remember to try transplanting some next spring.

I learned about crosnes through a post by Hank Shaw. I ordered one plant and stuck it in a pot on the deck. After the first frost I harvested and had about 4 cups worth of tubers. You can never get all the little bits out* so it has come back each year and is incredibly fuss free.

*Some articles say to plant in the garden. Don’t! It can become extremely invasive.

Mark me down as another lazy gardener. I actually had the same thing happen with my basil plants this year. I found a few of them growing in the cracks of my sidewalk. I thought it was pretty cool that they reseeded themselves so I refused to pull the up and people had to walk around them all summer.

Im also lazy because I mostly like to plant things native to my area. They just seem to require less work. However I do like grow native plants that not everyone harvests. For example I have a few service berry bushes in my front yard. This year we got an amazing crop out of them. I’m not sure if they count as exotic…

What do service berries taste like?

A lot like a blueberry but more tart and floral. They work really well in a pie or jam.

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I have grown saffron in the past. I grew some here (planted last year) but this isn’t an ideal place for it. The outside stuff didn’t come up - or at least hasn’t come up so far, and it’s pretty late for it by now - and I forgot to put my dormant potted stuff back out last month. I may have killed it. But I had success with saffron crocus in the past, and intend to be successful with it again in the future, once I light permanently somewhere.

I did harvest saffron from the crocus I planted last fall, though usually you shouldn’t expect that the first year.

I currently have about 25 curry leaf plants. I am going to have to sell some of those off, there are too many at the size they are now to bring them all inside and keep them going over the winter.

I planted mouse melon this year but they are only just now bearing so I don’t know what they’re actually like yet, food-wise.

I have been growing various exotic versions of eggplant for decades. These days its fairly easy to find seed (and even started plants) for some Indian and other Asian varieties, but decades ago, they were virtually non-existent in the USA. Along about the 80s, Ichiban (which is no longer available) was It for asian types.

I don’t know how “exotic” it is, but I’ve got rosemary, a couple types of thyme, and a dwarf lavendar established here. I’ve never had a lot of luck with perennial herbs in the past, but they’re going great guns here now.

I’ve been growing edible ginger and lemongrass for a couple of years now. I just have to bring it in for the winter and keep it warm and well-lighted. They pretty much stop growing, but they muddle through until its warm enough outside.

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What zone are you in?

Zones are virtually meaningless here, in the high Sierra Desert. It gets super hot in the daytime - pretty warm all winter, for winter, even, at least at my elevation (ca 1400 feet) - but it still freezes at night all the way into June at times, though I think our last frost date was in May this year.

I am lucking out in October again this year, as I did last. It was 78 today, aiming for a low in the mid 50s tonight. It is not unusual for first frost to be as early as the end of August here. This would then usually (but not always) be followed by warmer days and nights between frosts, but of course it only takes one frost to kill most of your garden. Especially when its as small as mine.

Sounds like a very challenging area for gardening!

Yes, at least for an overly ambitious gardener who is used to more temperate (and much much wetter) conditions.

Very disappointing, also. I am VERY much looking forward to moving out of the desert and back someplace where green isn’t just the color of the paint on the highway signs, LOL!

At some point I want to try growing curry leaves. Not sure when that will be since in NYC they’d have to be wintered inside, and I’m not in a position to do that these days.

I grew curry once and was not impressed with the flavor, though the aroma was lovely.

Your reminder/self-punishment made me laugh. :smile: “Let that be a lesson to you!”

Sorry, lengthy, but a strange and exotic story if you stick with me. Back in '09, I decided, being an Italian girl, I’d like to have a lemon tree. Other Italians here in Connecticut have them, so why couldn’t I?

I purchased a semi-dwarf Meyer lemon tree from my local garden center, named it Limona Lemon Tree, bought it a pretty pot and placed it on the deck of my townhouse.

As it grew colder, I brought Limona into the living room. In about January or February, the tree began to bloom and filled the room with a lovely jasmine-like fragrance. I bragged to everyone about just how lovely the blooms were and how pretty it smelled.

Well, next thing you know, I got sick with some sort of allergy flare. Unusual for that time of year, but a week later, I was back in biz. At the time, I worked in an office and wasn’t sitting at home with my tree all day.

The following year, just about the same time (hmm, are you catching on yet?), once again, I got sick as a dog. But now I worked at home almost full-time and, despite a host of pharmaceuticals and steroids, I could not shake whatever was making me sick. All of a sudden, it occurred to me: I WAS ALLERGIC TO LIMONA! I explained this to my allergist, who shook his head with a tsk-tsk and said, “Get rid of it!” You got it, Dr. S. So, Limona went off to live with her grandmother (HA HA) and I occasionally get fruit. It was like living in the middle of an orchard in my own living room. What a nightmare!

In closing, that same year, I wanted to learn to make a video. Fun if you like black cats and lemon trees:

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One of the first blossoms here:

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never mind…

After letting two curry leaf plants die because they got scale in two separate locations in the Bay Area, I’m taking a hiatus. I tried scale removal, but they got the better of me both times. But maybe next year…

But I use them a lot, and even though they aren’t terribly pricey it would be so satisfying to be able to grow them. As it stands I always end up wasting a few from each little cellophane package I get from the Indian groceries.

I grew some new to me variety of peppers this year: Szegedi 80, Kurtovska Kapija, Csersnye Szentesi, Feher Ozon and Aleppo. The first three being seeds from Hungary and the Aleppo seeds from someone who got theirs from Syria.

This coming season I’ll be adding Urfa Biber, Maras and Sulu Adana from Turkey, Kolobok, Shorokshary and Zolotoy Fazan from Ukraine, Palmyra, Piment d’Espelette, tap di Corti, Sinahuisa and some others I’m sure I’m forgetting. The internet really does make it a small world and gardeners are generous folks world wide. :smile:

I also have seeds from the USDA seed bank that don’t have names (need to be grown out in isolation and documented.) The ones sent to me by the seed bank I’m growing them out for are from Bolivia, Indonesia, Peru, Honduras, Suriname, Venezuela, and Ecuador.

I have two new tomato varieties from Ukraine: Kmicic and Tarasenko 2. I gave a bunch of seeds to a guy who lost his collection to a flood and he offered to send me some tomato seeds from his buddy’s collection so he sent me a list to choose from. It has hundreds of varieties on it so I’m looking them up to find ones that suit my zone 9b/ 10 climate so I will have more new to me tomato varieties soon!

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold