Every gardening season I like to try out a new crop. We’ve got a big enough plot for our needs so allowing a square yard or two for experimenting with something that might be a bust is no big deal. When I asked the Co-Conspirator what we should grow this year the suggestion was peanuts. I ordered a bag of seeds from an outfit that was having a free shipping sale since I didn’t think I’d find any seeds locally.
Look at that! Peanut seeds look like peanuts! OK, they are peanuts. I will admit I actually spent a minute or two wondering if they should be planted in their shells or taken out. They’re legumes, like beans, and those are shelled before planting so I liberated some and potted them up. I should probably check to see if that was the right thing to do.
Peanuts need a long growing season and the weather has made spring so late here that I wanted to get a jump on things. They’ll be inside for four or five weeks and then, with luck, I’ll be setting out the plants around the end of May.
The other “new to me” addition to the garden this year is a selection of my own. Some time ago I was reading some 19th Century gardening books to satisfy my curiosity about what Victorian Era gardeners grew and to see how different it was from what we commonly plant now. In “The Field and Garden Vegetables of North America” by Fearing Burr (1863) one of the plants sounded particularly interesting, producing sweet, nutty tubers. Re-reading the description I realized it was nutsedge! Cyperus esculentus is a weed most gardeners would rather not turn loose in their plots. I also read about several Oxalis species that also produces tasty tubers. I remembered these when I happened upon a nursery that had some unusual ancient Andean crops including Oxalis tuberosa, also known as oca. I decided to give them a go, ordered a handful of mixed varieties, and was immediately taken with their beauty when they arrived.
On a couple of the tubers I could see the remnants of their three-part leaves that are characteristic of this genus. Some species of Oxalis are sold as “shamrocks” as houseplants.
I left the tubers in a paper bag in the cool part of the basement since it was still a little early to plant them out. When I checked on them the other day it was clear they were starting to grow shoots so I decided to pot them up and let them, like the peanuts, get a head start on the season. Wish I’d remembered to weight them first. They’ll be grown similarly to potatoes, planted and then hilled slightly. Sometime after the Autumn Equinox they should start forming new tubers so I’m crossing my fingers that the frost stays away late this fall.
This is one of the cool things about gardening, no matter how long you’ve been doing it there’s always something different to grow. What exciting, funky, new-to-you crops are you growing this year?