While the calendar says August it really is time to start planning and in some cases start planting your fall vegetable garden. While these plants may not be new to some gardeners to many of you, they are vegetables that you may not even be aware of or if you knew about them never considered growing in your garden. All of these plants are kin to much more well-known vegetables which means if you can grow their relatives, you can grow these plants too!
Arugula is a member of the cabbage family and is great in a salad or as a garnish. It has a peppery flavor and goes well with a vinaigrette dressing. It is best in cool temperatures as warmer temperatures can make them taste bitter. Many varieties of arugula grow quickly and can be harvested in as few as 35 days from sprouting. Plant the seed in rows about a ¼ inch deep and cover the seed. Don’t let the soil dry out until the seed germinates. You can plant seed every week or two to ensure a steady harvest this fall.
Another leafy member of the cabbage family is collard greens. While they are particularly popular in the Southern section of the United States these plants can tolerate temperatures as low as 10 degrees which make them a good crop to grow in the fall in Northern areas too. You can plant the seed a ¼ to ½ an inch deep in full sun. The plants like to be kept evenly moist so if you have a drier than normal fall you may need to provide supplemental water. One valuable hint is to try to refrain from harvesting the leaves until after the first frost occurs. Frost is said to sweeten the flavor of this plant which is used in soups and stews as well as ham and pork dishes.
Our next “hidden gem” is a plant that has dual uses. Turnips are grown for their roots as well as their leaves and like collards waiting to harvest this vegetable until after the first frost improves its flavor. You can plant the seed about ½ inch deep and eventually thin out the seedlings until there are plants 2 to 3 inches apart from one another. It is also a good idea to plant them in soil that has no stones which can impact the growth of the root. Turnips can be eaten raw or cooked and it is versatile as it can be used in soup, as a side dish or even as part of a stew or main dish.
Jumping back to the cabbage family our fourth “undiscovered jewel” are mustard greens. They are related to collards and have a tangy flavor. Mustard is popular in Middle Eastern and Indian dishes and it can be used as a substitute for lettuce in a salad or cooked and used as a side dish. It important to pick the leaves while they are young as more mature leaves are not as flavorful. Similar to other leafy greens you can ensure a steady crop by planting small amounts in 2-week intervals.
Our final candidate for the “Best New Vegetable for Your Garden” award is another versatile plant. Kohlrabi can be planted for its enlarged “bulb-like” stem as well as its leaves which can be used in a salad. Like the other plants in this article harvesting its leaves while they are younger will give you a more flavorful dish. The seedlings should be thinned out so the maturing plants are about 4 inches apart and the bulbs should be harvested when they are about 2 to 3 inches in diameter. Allowing them to grow larger will cause them to be tough rather than tender. The bulbs can actually be eaten raw just like apples or they can be cooked and served as a side dish.