I know, with the temperatures this week, I might seem a bit silly in choosing gardening as my theme. But Mother Nature is gearing up for spring and soon things will be growing again.
If you are planting seeds in a garden space you may have already done some shopping. But just in case you have a bit of dirt with no purpose yet, I want to offer some lesser-known foods that you can try.
I have talked of purple carrots and beans before and about heirloom tomatoes. These items are even more exotic in flavours and appearance.
Peanut Butter Fruit (bunchosia armeniaca)—This berry from South America has no relation to the peanut but does have a sweet nutty taste. They are delicious in smoothies. You do need some space for this plant though, it grows upright but will reach three to six feet in height.
Chocolate Pudding Fruit (diosyros digyna)—I bet I have your attention now, don’t I? This is a real fruit, grown natively in Mexico and Central America. It must be eaten ripe to be enjoyed. Unripe fruits are pale and very astringent. But when ripe, it has a smooth texture and is sweet with cocoa undertones.
Rollinia, Biriba (rollinia deliciosa)—This tropical delicacy comes from Brazil and would not enjoy our climate enough. It also grows to as tall as 40 feet. But in my gardening dreams I would have a tree, just to taste the juicy, slippery flesh with flavours of pineapple, coconut, and banana. I wouldn’t even be dissuaded by its nickname, “snotfruit.”
Strawberry Tree (arbutus unedo)—This evergreen shrub has fruit that look like fuzzy strawberries but taste uniquely delicious. I tasted them in Morocco and was enchanted. They originated in the Mediterranean in ancient times but spread across the world. Thomas Jefferson listed it in his gardens his in America. I had never heard of them until I saw them in Morocco.
Bitter Melon/Bitter Gourd/Balsam Apple (momordica)—There are many varieties of this vegetable hanging from hearty vines, some being more bitter in taste than others. The fruits are said to have many health benefits and are used throughout south and central Asia in curries, stir fries and pickled.
Pink Lemonade Blueberries, Black Arkansas Apple—These fruits were developed in the United States, so they are a bit easier to grow. Pink Lemonade Blueberries were only used as ornamental shrubs at first, until someone discovered how delightful the sweet berries were. Black Arkansas Apples have complex flavors of vanilla, cinnamon, cherry and coriander, and are excellent for storing through winter.
I did also want to include a few plants that are easy to grow here in the Okanagan, and readily available at local nurseries and seed companies.
I have fully mature Arctic Kiwi vines and I delight in harvesting the fruit every summer. I can’t wait to show them to our granddaughter.
Arctic Kiwi (actinidia arguta)—This little beauty is a miniature version of the kiwi we all know, minus that silly fuzz. It grows on a vine that is vigorous (watch your drainpipe for invading shoots), making it easy to find a handful of fruits you can pop right into your mouth.
Cucamelon (also called Mexican Sour Gherkin)—A fun curiosity in the veggie garden that is similar to both the cucumber and watermelon but not exactly like either. If you have kids, this would be a great bit of mystery to add to their garden experience.
Even if you stick to growing your usual carrots and peas, I do hope this has offered a bit of respite from our blast of winter this week.
If you would like an immediate taste of something that makes you forget about winter, how about my recipe for Tropical Delight Cookies?
My mom always said there wasn’t much a cookie couldn’t cure.