15 Unusual Fruits & Vegetables to grow in your Garden

This post may contain affiliate links. Thank you for your continued support of this site!

The benefits of growing your own fruit and vegetables are many – reduced food miles, healthy exercise, truly Organic produce, self sufficiency, and a closer relationship with the land. Another is being able to choose from a vast selection of different varieties that you’ll never see in a supermarket. Heirloom tomatoes in wild shapes and sizes, foreign vegetables you’ve never heard of before, and common veg in uncommon colours.

Every year I try to grow something out of the ordinary and in the past five years some of them have graduated from trial to garden staple. Growing unusual varieties adds excitement and diversity to your plate and is just plain fun! This is why I’m sharing my list of fifteen unique varieties that I think you should consider including in your own garden this year. For more ideas, check out my Pinterest board for Unusual fruits & vegetables for the Home Grower.

15 Unique fruits & vegetables to grow this year: from pink radishes to white strawberries, these unusual varieties will beautify your garden and your plate

White Strawberries or Pineberries

1. White Strawberries 

White strawberries, also called Pineberries, came onto my radar a couple of years ago. They’re not genetically engineered but rather an old variety – I bet you didn’t know that all strawberries in South America used to be white! I now have dozens of these plants on the go thanks to a friend who gave me some plants. They multiply by sending out runners (vines that grow their own root systems) so I’ll have even more baby plants to put in my allotment garden this year.

The colour of these berries is certainly intriguing but it’s functional too – I’ve not had any problems with birds eating them at all. As for taste, they’re said to be a cross between a pineapple and a strawberry but personally I think they taste like ordinary strawberries.

You might be able to find plants for sale in a local nursery, but try to get runners off any friends who are growing them first. If all else fails, here the plants are for sale on Amazon:

Buy plants in the USA
Buy plants in the UK

15 Unique fruits & vegetables to grow this year: from pink radishes to white strawberries, these unusual varieties will beautify your garden and your plate

2. Achocha

These South American pods that are nicknamed ‘Fat Babies’ are very easy to grow and flourish in the British climate. I originally got seeds from my pal Caro at the Urban Veg Patch, and that year I had vines growing up a bamboo wigwam.

Achocha will cover an entire wall if you let them and their green pods with their silky and soft ‘spikes’ taste like a combination of cucumber and green bell pepper. Since peppers need warmth and tend to be grown in greenhouses here in the Isle of Man, Achocha are the perfect alternative. They’re profuse, can be grown outside, and are fantastic in stirfries and any other dish you’d normally use peppers in.

I’d suggest checking out an online or in-person seed swap for this one but I have found some sources for seeds too.

Achocha seeds USA
Achocha seeds UK

15 Unique fruits & vegetables to grow this year: from pink radishes to white strawberries, these unusual varieties will beautify your garden and your plate

Red Meat Radish

3. Red Meat Radish

This is a completely new variety for me but I recently purchased seeds from Kings Seeds in the UK. Like I said before, I like to try unusual varieties every year and this is one I’ve heard good things about. Just imagine these crunchy pink roots in salads and dips! I really can’t wait to get the seeds into the ground.

Other places to buy seeds:
Red Meat Radish seeds in the USA
Red Meat Radish seeds in the UK

15 Unique fruits & vegetables to grow this year: from pink radishes to white strawberries, these unusual varieties will beautify your garden and your plate

Cucamelons via the Freckled Rose

4. Cucamelons

Also known as ‘Mouse Melons’ these tiny cucumbers grow to just over an inch long. I tried growing them outdoors last year but the fruits didn’t have a chance to mature before it got too cold, so the lovely image you see above is from my friend Angie over at The Freckled Rose.

Cucamelons are very easy to grow and will vine up anything vertical to a height of up to eight feet. The small watermelon looking fruits are crunchy but another gardening pal has warned that the skins can become tough if the fruit is left too long on the vine. Somehow I’d doubt I’d leave any of these cute little fruits on the plant that long though!

This year I’m trying again with a plant that a friend has spare. I found out too late that hey’re perennial so once you have one established it can keep it for several years. Once you have a plant, place it in a sunny spot, ideally with protection from wind. The Real Seed Company recommends putting them in a cool-ish polytunnel.

Buy seeds online:
Cucamelon seeds in the USA
Cucamelon seeds in the UK

15 Unique fruits & vegetables to grow this year: from pink radishes to white strawberries, these unusual varieties will beautify your garden and your plate

Purple Podded Peas are easier to find on the plant than their green cousins

5. Purple Podded Peas

Inside these purple pods the peas are as green as any other but their attractive Aubergine colour looks beautiful on the vine. The colour is practical as well since finding the pods is SO much easier. If you’ve grown peas or beans before (you can get purple beans too!) you’ll know just how difficult it is to spot every last pod when they’re green.

I’ve honestly not found growing them any different from growing other peas although the seed packet information claims they need to be more protected. If you’re planning on growing peas I’d highly recommend these for both their looks and ease of picking. Taste-wise, they’re the same as ordinary peas.

Here are a couple of places to find seed online:
Purple Podded Pea seeds USA
Purple Podded Pea seeds UK – this is my same source of seed

15 Unique fruits & vegetables to grow this year: from pink radishes to white strawberries, these unusual varieties will beautify your garden and your plate

Golden Raspberries contrasting with traditional red berries

6. Golden Raspberry ‘Fall Gold’

I inherited Golden Raspberry plants on my new allotment garden plot and could not be more pleased. Though they’re not as sweet as the red variety, they crop in the autumn alongside them and when mixed together create such a beautiful display! They’re also less bothered by birds since the yellow fruit looks unripe to them.

Raspberries are best grown from plants purchased either bareroot or potted up. The former can only be planted out in the dormant (winter) season but if you get one growing in a pot you can put it in the ground at any time of the year. The other way to get raspberries is from a friend – the plants can be invasive with their roots constantly exploring and branching out from their original spot. These runners will need to be removed anyway so gardener pals will likely be happy to give you some of them to establish your own patch.

Otherwise, check out these online sources:
Golden Raspberry plant in the USA
Golden Raspberry plant in the UK

15 Unique fruits & vegetables to grow this year: from pink radishes to white strawberries, these unusual varieties will beautify your garden and your plate

Purple Sprouting Broccoli crops in winter when not much else is in the garden

7. Purple Sprouting Broccoli

Though the plants need a long growing time, it’s worth it when it comes to Purple Sprouting Broccoli. Depending on the variety, it will produce masses of broccoli spears throughout the winter and early spring months when nothing else is growing in the veg patch.

Once cooked, the purple does turn green which some people might be happy with. Each spear is juicy and more full of flavour than ordinary Calabrese Broccoli and you’ll be amazed at how much money you’ll save when you grow your own. I’ve seen a small pack of them for sale at a high-end supermarket for close to £4. It’s times like those that I feel especially smug about my allotment!

Purple Sprouting Broccoli Seeds in the USA
Early Purple Sprouting Broccoli Seeds in the UK

15 Unique fruits & vegetables to grow this year: from pink radishes to white strawberries, these unusual varieties will beautify your garden and your plate

Oca, also called New Zealand Yam, is a hardy root vegetable that tastes like lemony potatoes

8. Oca ‘New Zealand Yam’

Considered a ‘Lost Crop of the Incas’, this is another new variety for me and I’ve yet to taste them cooked. Raw, they’re like a mild crunchy radish but it’s said that when this South American root vegetable is boiled or roasted that the flavour and texture is like a lemony potato.

The greens of the plant look very similar to Wood Sorrel, a wild plant with a lemony tang flavour that can be used in salads and soups. You can use the greens of this crop in much the same way. Interestingly the tubers only start growing in size after the very first frost so you need to leave them in the ground for some weeks after that happens. Dig them up earlier, like I’ve done before, and you’ll only get a few tubers. If you wait, you can be rewarded with up to two pounds of tubers per plant. The Real Seed Company has more information on growing them.

Buy tubers online
Oca tubers in the USA
Oca tubers in the UK

15 Unique fruits & vegetables to grow this year: from pink radishes to white strawberries, these unusual varieties will beautify your garden and your plate

Alpine Strawberries ‘Golden Alexander’

9. Alpine Strawberries ‘Golden Alexandria’

I first became interested in growing unusual fare after my trip to the Edible Garden Show way back in 2011. It was there that I heard James Wong’s presentation on ‘Incredible Edibles’ and picked up Alpine Strawberry seeds. The plants I grew from them are still growing strong and are as beautiful as an ornamental as they are as a fruit.

Alpine strawberries don’t send out runners like other strawberry plants do but I have had small plants grow from berries that have fallen onto the soil. The berries are small and red and pack a sweetness punch that their bigger cousins can’t compete with. These little plants also grow very well in containers so would make a lovely edible plant for a patio or balcony garden.

Places to get seeds
Alpine Strawberry seeds in the USA
Alpine Strawberry seeds in the UK – the exact variety and seed company as I started with

15 Unique fruits & vegetables to grow this year: from pink radishes to white strawberries, these unusual varieties will beautify your garden and your plate

Welsh Bunching Onions come up reliably every year

10. Welsh Bunching Onions

I started growing Welsh Bunching onions several years ago and since then I’ve given up growing spring onions. There’s no need to grow them when you have such a low-maintenance perennial plant giving you onion greens from early spring until late Autumn.

Once you have a clump of these established they’ll regrow every year. Often described as giant chives, you can use the greens and the bulbs as you would spring onions and there’s no real taste difference in my opinion.

As the plant grows it also produces large white flowers similar to chive flowers. Bees absolutely love them and the flower heads will produce masses of seeds that you can give away or use in cooking. Saying that, they’re far easier to grow if you get an established clump from a friend. You do need to divide them up every couple of years so share the love and give mini clumps to gardening neighbours.

If you’d like to try from seed here are a couple of sources:
Welsh Bunching Onion seed in the USA
Welsh Bunching Onion seed in the UK

15 Unique fruits & vegetables to grow this year: from pink radishes to white strawberries, these unusual varieties will beautify your garden and your plate

Quinoa bred for wetter climates like the UK

11. Quinoa

I’ve grown Quinoa before but the season was extremely wet and I feel that I could have done better with my harvest. I’m giving them another go this year since even in my first they were extremely prolific. Each tiny seed will sprout a plant a massive spire that can reach six feet in height that will be covered in thousands of grains that are threshed from the plant late in the summer.

Native to the Andes, Quinoa is a complete protein which makes it an excellent food for vegetarians and vegans. This grain also has a nutty taste and pleasant texture which has contributed to this super food becoming very popular with the foodie crowd. Because of this, it’s rumored that this relatively pricey food is now unaffordable to the native people who grow it as a subsistence crop. All the more reason to try growing it yourself! There are now varieties that can stand up in both hot and wet climates and I bought my very first packet of ‘Temuco’ Quinoa from the Real Seed Company which is bred for the British climate.

Though I haven’t tried growing it from seeds purchased in the shop I think the likelihood of them germinating is slim. The grains need to be soaked and scrubbed of a natural saponin (soap) before they can be consumed and I imagine processing them in that way will have an affect.

More places to get Quinoa seed
Quinoa seed in the USA
Quinoa seed in the UK

15 Unique fruits & vegetables to grow this year: from pink radishes to white strawberries, these unusual varieties will beautify your garden and your plate

12. Globe Artichoke

The price per head of Artichoke can seem outrageous, especially if you grow it in your own garden. Each plant is productive for up to eight years and will put out dozens of flower heads every year. That’s exactly what an artichoke is by the way – an immature flower. When it blooms the artichoke looks like a giant purple thistle and bumblebees adore them.

My favourite way to have artichokes is in risotto. Boil the artichoke head to soften it up and then use the water you boiled it in to flavour your risotto – just replace the water content in your recipe with artichoke water. The base of the head is where the ‘meat’ is so cut that up and put it in the rice too.

As for growing it, once established in fertile soil it will only need a mulch of compost once a year. That’s it! When I first started growing veg I thought it would be more fussy and need more heat but it thrives in our very mild climate on the Isle of Man.

Artichoke Seeds in the USA
Artichoke Seeds in the UK – this is a purple variety that I grow alongside the Green Globe type

15 Unique fruits & vegetables to grow this year: from pink radishes to white strawberries, these unusual varieties will beautify your garden and your plate

Rainbow Carrots via Suzie’s Farm on Flickr

13. Rainbow Carrots

Did you know that the very first carrots were white and sometimes purple? It’s mainly through breeding that the thick orange carrots we know today are on the shelves. Still, those earlier strains of coloured carrots do exist and I’m very excited to be growing some this year!

Rainbow carrots come in purple, white, orange, yellow, and red, and the packet of seeds I purchased is a mix of all of them. I understand that the flavour is pretty much the same but the visual interest and perhaps higher concentrations of some vitamins make growing these an exciting prospect.

If you’re interested in the history of the carrot head over to this page for a detailed report on their origins.

Rainbow carrot seed in the USA
Rainbow carrot seed in the UK

15 Unique fruits & vegetables to grow this year: from pink radishes to white strawberries, these unusual varieties will beautify your garden and your plate

Cape Gooseberry produce golden berries inside their paper lanterns

14. Cape Gooseberry

You may have seen these berries in a fancy fruit display but have never thought of growing them before. I picked up seeds for these frost-tender perennials at the Edible Garden Show and from them grew several plants. I even propagated a few more of them through cuttings and gave plants away to gardening pals.

Cape Gooseberries, also known as Physalis and a few other names, look like mini yellow tomatoes and have a mildly sweet yet tart flavour that make it an interesting raw addition to fruit bowls. They’re also fun to unwrap out of their little paper lanterns!

Cape Gooseberry seeds in the USA
Cape Gooseberry seeds in the UK

15 Unique fruits & vegetables to grow this year: from pink radishes to white strawberries, these unusual varieties will beautify your garden and your plate

Purple Kohlrabi is architectural but tastes of juicy mild cabbage

15. Kohlrabi

Last on my list is the alien-like vegetable Kohlrabi. I remember having this the very first time on a trip to Germany – it had been roasted and served cut into chunks along with Sauerbraten and other dishes I can’t quite remember now. What I do remember was being pleasantly surprised at the sweet, cabbage flavour of this juicy vegetable. You can roast it like described or even eat it raw, sliced up like an apple.

Though it is a Brassica, growing Kohlrabi is easier than growing cabbage. It does attract the attention of birds and cabbage white butterflies but not to the extent as other cabbage family crops. When the swollen stem of the plant is about the size of a tennis ball it’s time to harvest them and serve them up in savoury dishes. Until then, they look like interesting architectural plants in the garden.

Kohlrabi (purple) seeds in the USA
Kohlrabi (purple) seeds in the UK

15 Unique fruits & vegetables to grow this year: from pink radishes to white strawberries, these unusual varieties will beautify your garden and your plate

15 Unique fruits & vegetables to grow this year: from pink radishes to white strawberries, these unusual varieties will beautify your garden and your plate

2 Discussion to this post

  1. icebear says:

    I’ve grown some of these with varying success. Last year was my first year growing Mouse Melons, it was an exciting crop and i had many to share with friends, family and coworkers.
    The cape gooseberries are more slightly better known here (and i say that because they are not well known here either by any name) as “ground cherries”. I have grown them at least 3 maybe 4 years now and they are always well received – like a sweet tomato with a pineapple hint. Welsh Onions were one of the first things i planted over 6 years ago when we were able to purchase the neighboring lot of property and i finally got space for a real garden. They are reliable and tasty. Strong scallion flavor with a hint of garlic. Some of the leaves are so large, i fantasize about stuffing them with seasoned cream cheese and frying them with a light tempura batter not unlike the way squash blossoms are done.

    I have tried globe artichokes without much luck, even lifting the roots to overwinter in a cold place then set out again. Even the hardiest and fast growing are not strong or quick enough in my area of the USA.

    I have tried purple sprouting broccoli without success but i think i’m frankly “doing it wrong”.

    I have had great success with kholrabi but came to the personal conclusion that it tastes just like broccoli stem and when you grow enough broccoli, you are never in short supply of stem. It seemed redundant for me to grow it in the end. 😉
    Never thought to try growing quinoa, i certainly do enjoy eating it. I’ll keep it in mind.
    Wish i had enough room for raspberries. I’m planning space for blackberries which are my most favorite soft fruit.

    Carrots have been hit-or miss for me except when i take the time to make seed tape (well, seed sheets in my case)so i have not branched out into carrots much, but those colors do look tempting!

    I have made an order for this year of those “Pineberries” i have a few gaps in my new strawberry patch that need filling and the price was right. I’m intrigued by the idea that these berries have a bird immunity! I have a sweet little catbird who watches me closely when i’m in the garden.
    The alpine strawberries remind me of the ones that grow (and still grow) in my parents’ yard. As far as i know those are completely wild and so tasty they put even home grown to shame.

    The red meat radish has always caught my eye but i have never grown them.

    I tried growing purple podded peas one year but the resident woodchuck mowed the plants down. I had grown them for my youngest child (now 7) who i thought would easily find those richly colored pods. I think i was so disgusted with the woodchuck that year i never dared to try peas again. my garden takes a yearly ravaging from those varmints.

    The Oka and the Achocha are completely new to me and i will certainly look into trying them. What a great find i can’t wait to try them. Thanks for posting this article!

    • lovelygreens says:

      What a brilliant run down of your growing experiences! You’re right that Kohlrabi does taste like broccoli stem but of course you get more per plant 🙂 PSB is a British garden staple but it needs a good long season to grow. If you’re growing ordinary broccoli you do it much in the same way.

      So interesting that you have trouble with globe artichokes. They grow without any fuss for me but then again we’ve only had two frosts this entire winter – it’s very mild here.

      Thanks for the fab message and good luck with trying the new veggies and fruit!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *