Unusual varietals - seeking advice
Every year I try a couple new vegetables/herbs in my garden. Usually with little success, but occasionally I stumble upon a keeper.
This year I am trying the following, and am wondering if anybody has experience with them or advice:
Black Spanish Radish: I'm growing this mostly out of curiosity. I understand that it used to be a bit of a staple in English and French gardens in the 1800s, prized for it's hardiness and winter storage. It sounds like it's a bit of a more bitter, less sharp flavor compared to radishes that are common in American Gardens. I suspect I won't enjoy it, but I'm giving it a chance. I'm a sucker for anything that stores in my root cellar. Veggies that bore me in July are exciting in February.
Culantro: This cousin of cilantro is a staple herb in Costa Rica. Gardeners in Costa Rica complain about Cilantro bolting too fast, so they grown this instead. I have had the same experience with Cilantro. I will start some Culantro indoors to transplant in mid-June, and I will also direct seed both under plastic and in regular beds.
Winter Savory: I've always grown summer savory under plastic, and use it as one of my favorite salad herbs all summer. I'm hoping that winter savory will grow well in standard rows, and I understand it has a stronger flavor, which is good. I will both direct seed and start some indoors.
Any comments? Or any weird varieties that other people grow. My most successful random plant I tried was Krimzon Lee Peppers. It's a paprika style pepper that grows very well under plastic or in a greenhouse, and has both a little sweetness and a little bit of spice. I use it to make an aioli that everybody absolutely loves, but will also add them to stir fry type dishes. I never get enough yield, but I probably end up with 1 lb of peppers per plant.
I grew both summer savory and winter savory a couple of years ago. Both grew well, and we found that we liked the stronger flavor of winter savory. The winter savory has its name for a good reason--it overwintered for us here in SE, and is still going strong. Known as the bean herb, it does indeed go very well with any bean dish you make.
Weird varieties? Try caraway. It's a biennial, and I planted some seeds just for fun. The first year it grew up about 6 to 8 inches tall. The second year it's supposed to flower. Mine came back and grew about 18 inches tall, but no flowers. This year is the third year, and the caraway grew with a vengeance. It's now over 2 feet tall, and loaded with blossoms. I read that the leaves are edible and can be used in salads, but I didn't think they had much flavor. I did dig one up to try eating the roots. Wow, what a root mass! Gnarly roots wound around each other, but I peeled one and cooked it. Nice flavor.
Another weird veg we tried is scorzonera. I planted it in a deep container, then in the fall just dumped the roots out of the container. Peeled and cooked them, finishing them off in the oven. We liked them a lot--too much, as it turned out. They are loaded with inulin, a starch which can cause you intestinal upset. We suffered that night and the next morning. Were I to grow them again, I'd eat very small amounts over the course of a week to get my body used to eating them.