Whenever you get many gardeners together, as we have here at Park Seed, you tend to find that we have, as a group, a somewhat overdeveloped sense of whimsy. So it should be no surprise that we go out of our way from time to time to search for the oddest plants we can find. Maybe it’s because odd food is especially appealing (don’t get between me and a platter of octopus), but very often our favorites come in the form of weird vegetables.
Unusual vegetables are great for several reason. One reason for their appeal is that few things yield more “oohs” and “aahs” at a dinner party than something that is unlike anything your guests have ever seen. I absolutely love the look of surprise on a guest’s face when I serve them delicious purple carrots or a slice of Everglade Watermelon with its deep black rind. Another reason to grow these weird veggies is one that most people don’t consider: children love them. Because I’m an amateur cook who likes to experiment a great deal, I’m often asked how to hide vegetables in your kid’s food. I say rather than try to hide the most nutritious part of the meal, better to find an odd vegetable
that makes eating them fun for the child. This establishes a habit of enjoying vegetables, which almost any child nutritionist will tell you is among the best things you can do for your child. I can tell you from experience that most kids are willing to try almost any vegetable if it looks like it was grown on an alien planet, such as romanesco (which is sometimes called “Italian cauliflower”). I try to grow at least one new unusual vegetable each year, even if only for the thrill of seeing something utterly strange poking its head up in my garden.