3 Unusual Summer Crops to Try
To a gardener, summer means corn, cucumber, melon, pepper, tomatoes. These summer garden staples are extra delicious, as if blessed by the ample sunshine. But this list is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to scrumptious summer crops. Devote a good part of your garden to these unusual crops. Who knows, you may find a new favorite plant.
If you enjoy Mexican food, you’re probably familiar with the tomatillo, a tomato-like fruit that’s a staple in Mexican dishes. These small paper husk-encased fruits are citrusy yet sweet, giving salsa verde its characteristic refreshing taste. While it is native to Mexico, it can grow anywhere with a full, hot sun and well-drained, moderately rich soil.
The tomatillo is closely related to tomatoes; its care is similar. When in doubt, treat it like a tomato! One important thing to note is that tomatillos are not self-pollinating, so you’ll need at least two plants for the blossoms to bear fruit. Let them creep on a trellis or a tomato cage to get them off the ground. This will improve air circulation and discourage fungal growth. Harvest while the fruit is green, but has filled out the husk. The husk will probably turn brown by then.
Edamame is the green soybeans popular in Japan, Japanese-food lovers, and vegans. This soybean is great for snacking and cooking. Harvested while they’re green, the easiest way to prepare them is to boil in salted water for a few minutes. Pop them out of the pod directly into your mouth for a crunchy snack. This nutritious bean is an excellent source of protein, dietary fiber, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin A, and folate.
Edamame loves the warmth. Sow your seeds when the temperature of the soil has gone up to 60 degrees fahrenheit to ensure successful germination. Ensure that the soil is moist until it emerges. After that, water only when the soil is dry. In case of pest issues, protect edamame with floating row covers. Harvest edamame when the beans have filled the pod, but before it turns yellow. It can be blanched after harvest, then refrigerated or frozen for future use.
People familiar with bitter melon are usually of two minds about it. There are those who hate it for its bitter taste, and those who love it exactly for its bitter taste. As polarizing as it may sound, a lot of people who hate the taste eventually develop a liking for it. This is a good thing, because bitter melon is loaded with iron, beta carotene, potassium, calcium, fiber, phosphorous, and Vitamins C, B1, B2, and B3, making it quite the nutritious powerhouse.
Bitter melon thrives on fertile, but well-drained soil. It needs to receive at least six hours of sunshine daily. Like its brothers and sisters in the squash family, it grows into vines. Protect the bitter melon fruit from rot by enticing the vines to a nearby trellis. Bitter melon is typically harvested while they’re green to avoid the spongy flesh of the overripe yellow fruits. A lot of gardeners prefer to harvest them while still immature at four to six inches long as they’re usually less bitter at this phase.
To prepare, slice the fruit open, deseed and remove as much of the pith as you can. Some salt and parboil the fruit to cut the bitterness. Bitter melon can be stuffed, curried, sauteed with meat, or pickled. It’s an excellent vegetable for Asian cooking.