Planting and harvesting unusual vegetables, recipes included, at PumpjackPiddlewick

Every year I put my hand to trying to grow some lesser grown or unusual vegetables.  As a self titled garden virgin (as in most of the time I simply have a go rather than know), I of course have varying success.

I am very proud of having trying to grow chamomile, sweet potatoes, celeriac, artichokes, fennel, asparagus, physalis and Rond de Nice, to name a few.

Lesser Known

In the past I planted straight courgettes, only 4 plants, but my oh my did I get a few courgettes. As did the neighbours, and the neighbours of the neighbours, the post woman, heck, anyone who dared come to my door. (Oh, and you know when they grow into those overly large courgettes/zucchini that you get given now and then? Here’s what to do when you are ‘given a marrow‘.)

Then I discovered Rond de Nice – round courgettes (or zucchini) to you and me. Not chosen just as one of my unusual vegetables, but mainly because I think they are prettier. But, and this is a big but in this family of veg, it turns out they also produce less and don’t (quite) take over the garden. Win, win.

Rond de Nice Recipes

It’s a little trickier figuring out what to do with them. The obvious is stuff them. It is actually a delicious thing to do as they cook better than squashes this way, since they are smaller, softer and have a higher water content. But it can get a little boring after the 3rd time, particularly if you have quite a few of them.

I did find you can actually cook them just as you would straight courgettes, cutting them up, ribboning them, whatever the needs are for a recipe. One of my favourite recipes for courgettes is so very easy, takes about 5 minutes:

1 x courgette (any shape)
olive oil
sumac (substitute paprika if you don’t have sumac, though not quite as good)
sesame seeds

Using a potato peeler, peel your courgette (round or otherwise) into ribbons, skin and flesh, until you get to the seeds. Compost the seeded bit, or dry seeds to use in the garden next year.

In a saucepan heat a tablespoon of olive oil on a medium heat. Toss in the courgette ribbons and stir around. Add a pinch of salt. Then a teaspoon of sumac, and stir into the courgette. Now the sesame seeds, and again stir. Stir loosely for about 2 minutes and serve.

Ugly Unusual Vegetables

And let’s talk celeriac. This has to be my favourite in the unusual vegetables I have tried growing. Have you ever seen this ugly veg, let alone grown it? It’s from the celery family, but grows like a wrinkly turnip. You can eat the tops, which funny enough taste, and look like, celery.

It’s quite easy to grow actually, like celery. It takes longer to grow the actual celeriac root ball and is an autumn harvest veg consequently. It stores for a very long time too, like potatoes. And that is also how you use it. Whatever you can do with a potato, you can do with celeriac.

Celeriac Recipe

To my mind it is most delicious cooked as curried chips.

1 celeriac
2 Tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1 Tablespoon curry powder
sea salt

Pre-heat an oven to 210C/415F. Cut off the skin of the celeriac, then cut the celeriac into thick chips and place in a heat proof bowl. In a pan melt the butter and add mustard seeds and curry powder. Cook for about 1 to 2 minutes until sizzling. Pour over the celeriac chips. Toss to coat with the flavouring. Place the chips in a roasting tray. Season with salt and put in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, turning them about half way through. Bake until golden.

Newest Experiments

The newest of my unusual vegetables that I am trying to grow are fennel and physalis. The fennel has made a show of itself in the garden, but not much of one. Just a frond or two. I think I have not planted it in the best place. It’s a wait and see game.

The physalis has been a nice surprise. I planted seeds on a whim, because I found them in a Lidls. Then I promptly forgot about them. Several months later and I found two plants growing in my tucked away out of the windy weather pots. Pots I use for cuttings mostly to give them a fighting chance before heading into the ground outside.

Trouble was I couldn’t tell what they were. They looked like tomato plants, and since I had planted tomatoes too… And the name I had written on the label had become illegible. So thinking they were tomatoes, I planted one next to my known tomatoes in the garden. The other, smaller one, I left in its pot. Both grew a little, but not much. And then they started show casing their fruit (or is it technically a veg?) in tiny form, so not ready for eating.


Then I discovered physalis is in fact a perennial. Oops, on the planting the one in the garden. It will have to be transplanted come early spring. The one in the pot can stay in the pot until then too.

Both would prefer sunnier spots, and could grow to be quite big and bushy, so some planning has to go into where they will be situated. Gardening can sometimes provide you with some very pleasant surprises.

More Food?

For more food related posts from France, check out my Food Findings. Or more Garden Findings.

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  1. Thanks for the inspiration. I’m no gardener but I do like different ways to cook zucchini as they are so plentiful and cheap at this time of year. Will look for sumac!

    1. So glad I could inspire 🙂 If you have not used Sumac as a seasoning, it has a sort of woody barbecue flavour. So you could also substitute a bbq seasoning if you don’t have sumac. Let me know what you think of the recipe if you make it.

  2. Tried the recipe and it was great! With paprika as no sumac, but overall simple and delicious way to enjoy the zucchini. Thanks!

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