Edible Dahlia

5 weird & attractive vegetables to grow this year

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Vegetables? They look like flowers to me!

I think you will agree with me when I say:

A flower border is nicer to look at than a vegetable patch.

But does it have to be this way? What if we could have the best of both worlds and grow vegetables that produce amazing flowers and foliage?

Stand out from the rest of the gardeners on the allotment this year by growing my unusual assortment of great tasting and nutritious vegetables. All of the plants featured on this page make great additions to the ornamental border as well as the dinner plate!

Pineapple Guava

Feijoa sellowiana

Feijoa sellowiana

This attractive silver leaved shrub will bare red and pink fuchsia-like flowers, followed by small, aromatic, guava-flavoured fruit. It comes from the mountains of southern Brazil and is part of the guava family.

Feijoa can be easily grown from seed and is fully hardy in southern parts of the UK. In order to get a good crop, you will need to plant several Feijoas together as they are not self-fertile. Plant in direct sunlight and ensure that the canopy of the plant is left open to maximise pollination. I would also recommend a little bit of hand-pollination to increase fruit production. Feijoa makes for a good container plant and is quick growing.

Canna Lily

Canna indica

Canna Lilly

I had to double check this one. The root of the canna (one of my favourite ornamental flowering plants) is edible! They make a powerful statement in any sunny garden with their large leaves and bright showy flowers. Once they have finished dazzling the senses, you can dig them up and eat them. Tubers can be cooked as a potato and indeed has a similar flavour.

Although you can buy the tubers from most garden centres, canna indica is extremely easy to grow from seed. Each plant will produce huge tubers in the first season. I would recommend growing from seed to avoid canna virus. There is no cure for this virus and it will weaken and eventually kill the plant. It cannot be passed down by seed.

More information about growing Canna Lilies.

Dahlia

Edible DahliaYes, dahlia! I am not kidding. Those pretty flowers you saw growing in the park last year are in fact edible. The starchy tubers can be boiled or roasted and treated as you would potatoes.

They are best grown from seed. Choose varieties that have the largest flowers as they will usually result in the largest tubers. You will need to experiment with different varieties for the best flavour as some will be sweet and delicious and others bland.

Purslane

Portulaca oleracea

Purslane - Portulaca oleraceaGot a spare patch in the rock garden? Fill it with super-food purslane! It’s unfortunate that we have forgotten this incredible plant. It was a prized plate filler in 16th century Europe. The thick, succulent leaves have a rather refreshing flavour similar to green peas with a tangy hint of apple. If you prefer a milder flavour, harvest later in the day when the sour malic acid is at its lowest in the leaves.

Purslane can be added to salads, stews, stir-fried and also great in soups. It is high in Omega 3 fatty acids, vitamins A, C, E, vitamin B, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and iron.

Love-lies-bleeding

Amaranthus caudatus
Amaranthus - Love-lies-bleeding
I grew this one as a child. A highly attractive, (usually deep red) plant with downward millet-like flower clusters. Very easy to grow. All varieties of amaranthus are edible.

Amaranthus is a fast growing annual and can be the star of any West Indian meal. Eat the young tender leaves as you would spinach.

Warning

Do not eat tubers purchased directly from garden centres as they will have been washed in chemicals before sale. I would always recommend growing varieties from seed.

James Middleton

An obsessive gardener since 1982. Day-time job - web designer and developer and University lecturer.

2 Comments

  1. I should point out. Canna lilies are non-toxic to cats and dogs. They are not really a part of the lily family. Even the seeds are supposed to be edible. Not sure who would want to have a go at eating them though. They are so tough, they can germinate after 600 years and in the past, have been used for shot. Maybe Jaws from the Bond movies could manage a few.

  2. Ever noticed: When we describe an exotic meat, we often say that it ‘tastes like chicken’. The vegetable equivalent seems to be that it ‘tastes like spinach’.

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