Monday, February 29, 2016

Take a Leap Day!

Today is Leap Day! So I'm inviting you to take a leap into the unknown and do one of my favorite things - grow an edible plant you haven't tried before.

It's great to have old reliables in our gardens, plants we know will produce well for us without falling to disease or pests, and that we'll enjoy eating. Some people grow the same varieties for fifty years and are never disappointed. But even those who appreciate the tried-and-true can also benefit from giving a little garden space to something new and unknown. After all, every seed or plant that ends up in cultivation and commerce is one that someone out there has loved! And if you grow something and don't like the results, generally you haven't wasted a lot of time, space, or money, and have gained some knowledge - but if you do like it you have a new plant in your repertoire (and your kitchen).

If I'm asked to suggest something new to grow, I usually recommend mouse melon, a.k.a. Mexican sour gherkin or cucamelon. I wrote about these adorable mini-cukes back in 2010, and the post has continued to be very popular, so perhaps everyone's tried them already.

But if you haven't, Leap Year is the time to do so.

What are my Leap Year choices? I'll hopefully be writing about quite a few new things this year, but here are some examples I pulled out of my seed list. (Links do not constitute commercial endorsement by University of Maryland Extension.)

King Harry Potato was developed to have hairy (ha ha pun get it?) leaves which resist leafhoppers, flea beetles, and Colorado potato beetles.

The herbs horehound and kinh gioi are both members of the mint family, so I'll have to watch their seeding and spreading habits, but if they end up being useful I have areas they can colonize a bit.

Horehound, Marrubium vulgare

The giant poha berry is a type of groundcherry or Cape gooseberry that bears extra-large fruit. It is a relative of tomatoes, as is tzimbalo, a fruit similar to pepino melon but purportedly with a shorter growing season. I've tried pepino before but run out of time for the fruit to mature - probably I will grow the tzimbalo in a container so I can bring it inside in the fall.

I also may try these pineberries (a relative of strawberry with a pineapple taste).

February 29th only happens once every four years, but you can Leap into something new every year! Give it a try.

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