Unique Things to Grow.

So you want to grow something “different” this year do you? Alright. I have a few ideas for ya.

When you plant your first garden you usually limit yourself to the things that are easy for growing in a vegetable garden.  Stuff that’s pretty common.

Things like tomatoes and cucumbers and slugs. But as time goes by and you get confident in your gardening skills you inevitably want to branch out into growing things that are little less common.  

Things like quinoa and tomatillos and credit cards.

Reisetomate Tomato

I’m featuring a few of the weird, unique and moderately bizarre things you can grow this year. Like the Reisetomate tomato you see above.

They’re also called a Traveller tomato or a Pull Apart Tomato because instead of growing into 1 large tomato, each tomato grows in sections like a bunch of cherry tomatoes fused together.

To eat it you just pluck a section off and pop it in your mouth, leaving the rest of the tomato still in tact and not dripping juice all over the place.

The eating it is where I had a problem with these tomatoes when I grew them. They were dry and sour and really kind of inedible. BUT there are people who say they’re the best tomato they’ve eaten.

So you could land in the camp of one of those mental folks and LOVE the taste.

Seeds for this specialty tomato can be hard to find especially in the past year but I’ve found some online for you:

In the US you can get Reisetomate tomato seeds from Annapolis Seeds here.

In Canada you can get Reisetomate tomato seeds from Gaia Organics here.

Mouse Melon / Cucamelon

ALERT! If you have a fence, pergola, arbour or trellis you like to have something climbing on, may I introduce to you the Mouse Melon.

A vine that will wrap itself around and over just about anything all while producing little fruits that taste like a pickled cucumber.

I think the reason they’re called Mouse Melons is quite obvious to anyone with even a partial strand of DNA in them.

They look exactly like a watermelon that a mouse would find about the right size to take home to her family.

I mainly eat these while I’m standing in the garden contemplating what to pick for dinner. But they’re also perfect, and I mean PERFECT in salads.

When you bite into the mouse melon the first flavour you get is cucumber, but then your salivary glands do that weird thing where they kind of burn and clench up, like when you eat salt and vinegar chips. It’s astonishing how I can relate everything back to potato chips. Or at the very least potatoes.

Mouse Melon seeds are available just about everywhere so check your local seed stores.

Horned Melon / Jelly Melon / Kiwano

photo via SeriousEats

The Horned Melon originated in Africa near the Kalahari desert.  The outside is green and horned, turning orange when it’s ripe.

The inside is filled with a chartreuse green jelly that tastes like cucumber at first then blends into an exotic fruit flavour. At least that’s what anyone trying to sell the fruit says. As far as online reviews, pretty much everyone in North America says they think the taste is kindda gross.

Mushy, sour and just not a ton of flavour.

But I don’t care what it tastes like.  LOOK at it.

Photo via Fruit Facts

It grows like a vine that you can trellis so it doesn’t take up a ton of space.    So that’s good.  It’s the sort of thing you may just grow once to see what it’s like for the fun of it.   And I really can’t imagine what would be more fun than having a big bowl of these on the kitchen table when people came over.

It’ll look great beside my big bowl of home grown winning lottery tickets.

I tried to grow this one year but I got started on it late and got it into the ground late so I never ended up with anything more than a LOT of vine. IF I can find my old seeds in my stash I’m going to try again.

You can buy Horned Melon seeds in the US from Rareseeds right here.

You can buy Horned Melon seeds in Canada from this company in Quebec.

Amaranth

Ah, Amaranth. It’s what you see me holding at the very beginning of this post.

Last summer, in year 3 of the English Cottage garden the third most commented on flower was Hot Biscuits Amaranth.

Everyoneeeeeee who walked past it asked what it was. This tornado of blooms (which is actually a grain) easily gets 4′ high by the end of the season and will relentlessly reseed itself every year. But not in a bad way like stupid Rose of Sharons.

There are many varieties of Amaranth but the two easiest to find are Green Tails or Red Tails Amaranth. Unlike the upright habit of these Hot Biscuits, Green and Red Tails Amaranth droop down like a horse’s tail.

If you REALLY want to impress yourself, grow one upright and one trailing variety like Green Tails and Velvet Curtains or Hot Biscuits.

So if you’re looking for a unique flower to grow and you want one that gets BIG, produces BIG blooms, will reliably grow year after year, comes in all manner of shapes and colours, is a beautiful cut flower, dried flower or glycerine preserved flower you should try pansies.

Just kidding.

Amaranth is your gal. She’s also edible. Did I mention that?

For the best selection you wanna get your seeds from Floret. They’re sold out of ALL Amaranth seeds right now but the minute they go on sale again this is where you should get them from.

If you’re desperate to buy some Amaranth seeds right now you CAN get the variety Hot Biscuits from:

William Dam Seeds in Canada – note they’re several weeks delay for shipping but that still gives you time to plant.

Johnnys Select Seeds in the US also have Hot Biscuits along with several more of the more unique varieties of Amaranth.

Obviously this isn’t any kind of exhaustive list. That would be overwhelming and I’m not here to overwhelm you. I’m here to inspire, encourage and remind you that gardening is fun.

Even if you can’t grow credit cards. Legally.

48 Comments

  1. Roxanne Scott says:

    I just bought Amaranth green seeds, before I read this! Beat ya!!! 😎Mine are already 1/4 inch tall.😄 I love them to dry!!!!! Look awesome for Halloween and Autumn deco! Love all your ideas and projects!! Roxanne Scott

  2. Kristina says:

    I had a single mouse melon start from a friend last year, and a subsequent bumper crop. They also make excellent and very cute pickles. I cut it down but left the root tuber, because it’s supposed to perennial here in my zone in central CA (We always refer to Sunset western zones, and mine is 14 with marine influence). We shall see… Amaranth comes up volunteer. I think it must be a leftover from either a bird feeder or a hay mix cover crop we planted years ago. So lovely in a fall arrangement. I think I may grow luffa this year – post pandemic exfoliation may be necessary.

    • Twyla Laakso says:

      Hello Kristina!!
      May I please ask what recipe you used to pickle mouse melons? And how they turned out?
      Many thanks,
      Twyla

  3. Sylvie says:

    Hi Karen,
    The Amaranth obviously has attitude if you look closer! Giving a “Bouquet” to other flowers!
    I absolutely love the scarlet trailing Amaranth, so beautiful when covered in butterflies. I see you used them in your flower arrangements, I will have to try. I thought they would quickly wilt.

    Have you tried artichokes?…They are easy to grow and perennials, who knew. Sand, sun and a spot of watered tea here and there. How easy is that!

    Delphinium (Dark & Baby Blue), and blue poppies they must be added in the garden as they are stunning.

    Mouse melons are tasty, and adorable. Getting seeds today!

    Thank you, stay well.

  4. Rory says:

    On your past advice, I brilliantly ordered Hot Biscuit at beginning of the year and got the seeds from Floret in February. (Yay). I also bought some more of those damn mouse cucumbers.
    I had no luck with them last year, but I’m a terrible gardener.
    I’m trying again and will protect the little seedlings from marauding rodents or whatever got them last time.

  5. Kathy says:

    Besides being a show-stopper in the garden, I assume you’re using the amaranth grain for the chickens? If I don’t have chickens, how else might they be used? Just let the local fauna have at them?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Kathy! I actually don’t give the Amaranth to the chickens. I use them for cut flowers alone. But I leave a lot of the heads outside over the winter or birds to pick at them. (other birds, not my chicken birds) ~ karen!

      • Elizabeth says:

        Karen…Hi; I just found all this today, and am absolutely loving it! Second time back already.
        However, I was reading on some post about your ‘camp’, and have a comment re that from the 40s, since I am 79. Please tell me how to get back there, if you would. And, if I never do, here is my comment re hideous kale, for all those folks:
        ‘Kale is now known to be a very dangerous vegetable!’
        It’s true, do a search!!

  6. Lynda says:

    Two of my favourite local seed companies! Tournesol and Gaia Organics. If you want seeds that can handle a little more cold, these two are amazing. Between Ottawa and Montreal, and in Ottawa itself.

  7. Lesley says:

    I grew mouse melons last year, and will be starting more soon this spring. They’re slow starters here in upstate NY, since they don’t like cold, but also don’t like transplanting. Totally worth it, though! I had some in a big bucket trailing off the porch, and transplanted others to a spot with a 4′ tall trellis. Had enough for daily snacking, and a pint every Saturday for my favorite farmer’s market customer, once they got into gear. Amazing with feta cheese and cherry tomatoes for a “chunky” salad, but mostly just ate them in the garden!

    • Karen says:

      Yes, I often think mine are not going to mature quickly enough for eating but in the 3rd quarter they always take off and take over. ~ karen!

  8. Karen A says:

    I planted 18 pots of Amaranth, “Love Lies Bleeding” during your ZOOM get together Monday night. The seed company is McKenzie, don’t know how you feel about them but they were the only choice for Amaranth. Thanks for the inspiration and focus during the time of Covid-19.

    • Karen says:

      I’ve often grown McKenzie seeds. They’ve always been fine! The only thing I would say is they often sell “pelleted” seeds and I don’t often have good luck with those. ~ karen!

  9. Danni says:

    Surprised you didn’t list luffa! I grew some with the seeds I “ahem” ……won from you! Easily the most impressive thing ever seen in my garden, the flowers are stacked and as one falls the next is in line to take over. They had to have reached 30 feet by end of season here in Massachusetts, and was the side show at the family clambake at the end of September!

    • John says:

      Good to hear they can grow in MA. I’ve grown luffa in LA for years and am moving to MA later this year. Will pack some seeds.

      • Laurinda says:

        Welcome to MA! Don’t miss the Big E in West Springfield (covid willing) & you might want to invest in a real down jacket, & some wool accessories. Also, pot is legal here

      • danni says:

        They need to be started indoors, and very carefully moved out. Look up Karen’s info on growing, that’s what hooked me.
        Good luck!

  10. Huguette Lacoste says:

    Just ordered Mouse Melon seeds… thanks for that!!! I didn’t know they existed.

    Super.

  11. Penny says:

    Cucamelons look interesting, but the reisetomate looks suspiciously reminiscent of a severe case of haemorrhoids…..

  12. Steve R says:

    Yep, think I’ll grow me some a them Horney Melons.
    ;-)

  13. Christy Jay says:

    Karen you are the tits.
    Ty so much for this, and a few giggles. Mouse Melon here I come!
    😊❤️

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  16. Barbie says:

    It’s beautiful! I want to grow them just to photograph! You could frame that picture! Would look great in my kitchen!

  17. Kristin Ferguson says:

    When I was in culinary school the pastry chef-instructor devoted an hour or two to Unusual Fruits. She said this was a kiwano. It most closely resembles a cucumber, but it is sweet. But my favorite thing was that she didn’t call it a kiwano; she called it Star Trek fruit. Apparently, in Star Trek: The Next Generation, they’d often put a bowl of kiwanos out to look like alien fruit!

  18. annette says:

    I think you need to dedicate an entire post (at least) to growing money, preferably on shrubs as trees take too long to bear….

  19. Gail says:

    I am looking forward to growing anything in the Cleveland area!!! Been so cold and chilly, can;t even get in the garden yet! Kale growing in the house alongside a bucket of green bean vines that I started early!! Have to try the cute little watermelon cukes- adorable!!

  20. Karl Micheal says:

    the small striped watermelon looking fruit are also known as cucamelon. how did yours turn out last year when they produced. how many vines/plants did you grow and how many fruit did each produce? are they indeterminate type fruits/veggies like some tomatoes (growing more fruit as you harvest) or not? thanks in advance for the answers.

  21. Jackie says:

    Aw, Man – —- You can grow money – credit cards – 24k gold & winning lottery tickets in Canada?
    I gotta get me some of that.
    I’m moving next door to you.
    What’s your address so I can call the moving van – TODAY!
    See you soon, Karen.

  22. Ruth says:

    Is the kitchen renovation starting to wear on you Karen? Or maybe it’s just taking a toll on your pocket? Picking credit cards, growing bank account, 24K gold and lottery tickets….. hmmm. I would support your sponsors if I weren’t financially embarrassed myself. :-/

    On another note, Horned Melon sounds really interesting though…

  23. Lynne says:

    I never had much success with the Easter Egg radishes – but Northern Lights swiss chard was the bomb. Nothing like all those tall leafy stalks in rainbow colours. Gorgeous.

    The first “funny” thing I grew was tomatillos. I don’t know whether it was a particularly good summer for them or whether they always grow like that – but they took over my garden. They are like indeterminate tomatoes and they just keep going – looking back I guess I should have staked them like tomatoes. I had tons of them – lovely little green fruits in papery skins – I had so many I had to freeze piles of them. I was making green salsas for months. And that’s not a bad thing.

  24. Sera says:

    Ok but how do you eat it? I bought a passion fruit while on vacation in Hawaii 3 years ago and once I cut it open, it looked about the same. I would have put it in a smoothie but I didn’t have a blender. What else do you do with something so gooey and seedy?

    • Karen says:

      I’m not entirely sure Sera, lol. But from what I gather, you either scoop it out with a spoon and eat it like that or scoop a little out and use it as a condiment/garnish on top of steak or chicken. I think it’s mainly just fun. :) ~ karen

  25. Marion says:

    Just bought those seeds at the store today! Lol!

  26. Melissa in North Carolina says:

    I’m so inspired! I, too, want to find the sources for growing cash, credit cards, winning lottery tickets and gold seeds in my little raised bed garden!!! Thanks for the smiles this morning, happy Thursday!

  27. Laura Watt says:

    mouse melon is adorable! I’m going to have to find some. We’re growing black radishes this year and I’m pretty excited about it.

    • Karen says:

      I love black radishes. They look really cool when they’re sliced. I grew some a year or two ago. I should probably dig out those seeds again. Pink, purple and black radishes. omg. I’m growing a bruise. ~ karen!

  28. Feral Turtle says:

    I tried to grow those winning lottery tickets in my greenhouse last year but they wouldn’t germinate! I am intrigued by your melons…..oh that didn’t sound right. I mean you grow cool melons…nah forget it. Cheers to good money crops!

  29. Su says:

    horned cucumbers, credit cards, 24k gold and lottery tickets! what a crop :)

  30. Tigersmom says:

    I’m definitely not proficient enough at growing things to try weird things yet. That being said, I would still be very much interested in a link to a source for cash, credit card, winning lottery ticket and gold seeds.

  31. KiwiKat says:

    In New Zealand they are known as Kiwanos and are sold as a cross between the kiwifruit and a cucumber in taste.

  32. Mindy says:

    I wanna try the cucumbers that look like baby watermelon!!!

  33. Laura Bee says:

    The interior of fruits are so often small works of art. I was cutting up an apple for our hamster today & found the star in the center. Should do some printing with my daughter soon.

  34. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    How cool is that?? I would love to taste one! Show us when they are growing please!!

  35. alison says:

    It never occurred to me we could grow those in our Northern climes! I might just have to try this!

    • Karen says:

      If you do want to try it Alison, get your seed now and get it started (if you have grow lights). I don’t know, but imagine it has a long growing season so any head start will help. ~ karen!

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