Heirloom Vegetables & Things you’ve never thought of planting

A few times a year I go out on a field trip for The Art of Doing Stuff.  Last Wednesday was one such day.  I hopped in the car and headed to Linda Crago’s Heirloom vegetable farm.

It was a bit strange having to drive to work.  I liked it.

If you’re caught up on things you know that on Monday I wrote a profile piece on Linda Crago, owner of Tree & Twig farm, an heirloom vegetable farm near Wellandport, Ontario.   Linda’s farm is a CSA. CSA stands for Community Supported (or shared) Agriculture. For a per season fee, CSA farms will supply you with a season’s worth of vegetables, delivered to you or picked up once a week for an entire season.  What you get depends on what’s ripe on the farm.

Surprise groceries.  There’s nothing better really.

In addition to growing vegetables to sell, Linda also grows things just for the fun of it.  Vegetables and plants in general intrigue her.  There’s a certain excitement that comes with growing something “just for the fun of it”.  Just to see if it will grow.  I have one of those things in my garden right now, that you don’t even know about.  It’s my own version of the surprise produce which you’ll find out about at the end of the summer.

See?  You don’t know *everything* about me.

Part of what Linda does is travel around the world helping to maintain and repopulate the world of heirloom seeds.  She buys and sells seeds and trades and shares them as a member of many seed saving organizations in Canada, The United States, Britain and France.  She’s a test gardener for Organic Gardening Magazine and holds workshops and events.

So clearly … she’s into this sort of thing.

So today I’m gonna give you a little look at some of the highly unusual stuff Linda is growing.  Oftentimes just for fun.  Some of the thing are unusual because they’re weird and I’ve never heard of them, and sometimes they’re unusual because it’s such a strange thing for a gal in Ontario, Canada to grow.


Weird looking UFO shaped hot pepper.

Chapeau de Frade

Hot Pepper 2


Sesame Seed plants.


HAVE YOU EVER HEARD OF ANYONE EVER growing their own sesame seeds?

Um. Let me answer that for you.  No.


Sesame Seeds


The sort of person to grow their own sesame seeds is exactly the sort of person to grow their own …


Yes.  That beautiful, tall, grassy looking row in the centre is rice.  Growing it in the dirt in Ontario.  Apparently it’s a special strain of rice which she got in … Tennessee.  ‘Cause you know Tennessee is known for its rice.





Just for fun, Linda is growing cotton.

And now I am determined to grow cotton.  For one thing I had no idea that cotton was such a beautiful plant.

If you want to stick something fun in your front yard but are afraid to do actual vegetables, plant some cotton.

The flowers of the plant are similar to Lisianthus almost.




This scary looking thing is actually edible! It’s past its prime right now, but this is a …

Rat-tailed Radish

You don’t eat the root, but instead eat the pods that form on the stalks.  They taste just like, wait for it …


Rattail Radish



Headless broccoli

That’s right.  Broccoli that doesn’t give head.

You just eat the leaves which tastes exactly like broccoli.

No Head Broccoli



This folks, is a $100 plant.

It’s the newly crowned, World’s Hottest Pepper.

The Trinidad Moruga Scorpion.

Linda bought 10 seeds for $100.

Of the 10, only 1 seed germinated.

Hence … the $100 pepper plant.

This is the kind of thing people obsessed with seeds and vegetables do for fun.

Hottest Pepper In The World


This little bud, in a month or so, will be The World’s Hottest Pepper,

Hot Pepper


Black Pokey plant with thorns.

Solanum Atropurpureum

Not edible, just an incredibly strange and beautiful ornamental.

The stems and thorns are black, black, kind of soft and definitely painful when grabbed. In case you were wondering. Like I was.

Spikey Plant


Painted Hills Corn

Painted Corn

Even though this corn looks like Indian corn, it’s actually edible corn.

Painted Finger Corn



 Linda’s specialty is tomatoes.

She gave me this Oziris tomato to take home with me.

It’s a dark skinned tomato with an even darker flesh.

I knew nothing about this tomato so I Googled it, but there’s very little information to be found.

That would lead me to believe it’s rare.

So in the tradition of Seed Savers everywhere, I’m saving the seeds of this tomato that was given to me,

so I can continue to grow it and share the seeds with someone else.

Oziris Tomato


So give some thought to one surprise thing you can plant in the spring.   It doesn’t have to be a vegetable, just something you can’t find at your local nursery.  Scour the Internet, search  out places that sell  unusual seeds and plants.

Visiting Linda and seeing and tasting all the different varieties of vegetables, I already have a list of new things I want to plant.  Cotton, Lime Basil, Ground Cherries, Black tomatoes … and the list goes on and on.

Sadly … the property does not.

O.K.  I’d like a commitment from you now.

What different thing would you like to grow next year?  I need to know these things.

Have a good weekend!

Your pal, (but not the kind of pal you come and visit .. stay away)



  1. Lilli says:

    amazing, n beautiful plants, thanks for inspiration!

  2. BethH says:

    Peter Peppers! They look just like, well, uh, peters! I picked an absolutely perfectly shaped one today. And they are hotter than the boring jalapenos I planted, too.

  3. Donna Hirsch says:

    I grew Solanum Atropurpureum once. It was given to me by a friend who called it “The 5 minute Plant” – because you looked at it for 5 minutes before saying “What the heck is that?” It was a dangerous plant – very, very sharp and long thorns, and pretty little yellow flowers.

  4. rosemary says:


  5. Cathy says:

    I love, love, love this blog. I’ve been lurking in the background for several months after finding you in my search for chcken information. I have 5 chickens that are wonderful egg producers at 6 months old. Anyway, it is so much fun to read all these blogs about gardening. Gardening has been difficult in Colorado this year due to the drought and record breaking temps. But, I’ve collected some zucchini and pepper; I know boring compared to some of these advemtures. Anyway, Karen, thanks so much for this forum. It is wonderful and I enjoy it so much after a day at the work grind.

    • Karen says:

      Cathy – You’re welcome. You should comment more often. Everyone here gets along and talks among themselves. Even if I’m not around. Congrats on your chickens! Mine have (for the second time in the past 6 months) pretty much stopped laying. They’re idiots these chickens of mine. One of them moults and ALL of them stop laying. :) ~ karen!

  6. Caron says:

    This is my first year to really try to grow anything and I got hit hard by the drought. I went out of town and the 115 degree heat with no water killed most of my plants. What survived: 1 blueberry, 2 strawberry, 2 sunflowers, 1 cherry tree and 3 apple trees. All my herbs and tomatoes died and an armadillo dug up and ate the roots of my weeping cherry tree. Since it was the first time I’d tried to grow anything, I wasn’t too depressed and I have a better idea what to do next year. Since I love rice, I think I’ll try that! And the idea about cotton is pretty cool too.

    • Karen says:

      Caron – Everybody’s killed or had at least a hundred plants die in their gardening lifetime. That’s how ya learn. Upward and onward. ~ karen

  7. Becky says:

    This year, in the fall, I will be adding dwarf pear trees. I plan to espalier them.
    At their feet, will be a strawberry patch.

    In the spring I will be adding more raised beds to the front yard, so I can try my hand at squash… my hubby claims he doesn’t like it, but we’ll see about that.

    Right now, I planted some beets for a fall garden (among others) so I can try them.. I had them as a child but don’t remember what they taste like. I figure growing my own has got to taste better than store bought anyway, so I figured its better just to go for the gold :D

  8. Elizabeth says:

    This year I grew strawberry corn just for the heck of it. And i have saved the seeds from some cherry tomatoes that were supposed to be yellow sunburst but instead turned out to be little yellow tear drop shaped ones.
    Next year I have already planned to grow some dyeing plants like indigo.

  9. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    OK..If you can grow cotton in Ontario..I can grow it in Pennsylvania..Right?? It sure will be fun to try..And peanuts sounds interesting too..I guess the one tomato I planted is an heirloom.. It grew like crazy all over and out of the raised bed and the tomatoes taste amazingly good..I bought that one from an Amish greenhouse..I will be saving some seeds from it for next year as soon as you show me how Karen..Thanks!!

  10. Anemone says:

    My dad wants to plant green banana. It was supposed to only grow in Tropics. We have a small one in a pot that can be brought in during winter but I doubt I will ever see it make fruit. My mother tried to grow avocado. O boy!! Next year I think I am gonna get the hottest pepper but I really wanna grow datura, Saffron bulbs, maybe some okra and long green beans.

  11. Winegirl says:

    We grow ground cherries… watch them cuz they spread! Last year I planted purple tomatillos and wasabi arugula. This year it was indigo tomatoes (hardy and good producers!), Cushaw squash, rainbow peppers and corn in buckets. Lesson learned – corn doesn’t do well in buckets! Lime basil grows well, just keep pinching. Also growing Costmary and St. John’s Wort for the first time.
    I’ll be checking out some of her ideas… especially the broccoli! thanks!

  12. Mary Werner says:

    I have a strange plant that no nursery I bought from, would say they sold me. It is a gorgeous african plant that comes back each year and produces a firework display of white stars that shoot off once a month lasting one day. Just like fireworks, they fall cleanly to ground to begin again producing more each month until they freeze back. LOVE this plant. Grows from tip cuttings only. No one has seen it before that I can find and it’s common name is witches tongue or musical notes. If I could send you a tip I would. Sorry, Mary (Will send email with picture attached.)

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