Wondering what to plant in your family’s garden this year? While we love a classic garden full of the standards like tomatoes, zucchini, parsley, and peppers, there’s a whole wide world of wacky and wonderful herbs and vegetables that will make gardening together even more of a memorable adventure. So if you’re looking for some outside-the-planter-box ideas for what to plant in your backyard kitchen garden, here are a few unexpected delights to get you started.
Purple basil: Purple pesto, anyone? Purple basil tastes a lot like the familiar green stuff but offers a gorgeous contrast of color in the garden. The leaves are often larger than more common basil varieties, so you can even use them to make basil roll-ups or wraps.
Fun fact: Basil is an herb in the mint family native to India, and its many varieties are used in cuisines around the world, including Thai, Vietnamese, Italian, Chinese, and more.
White Eggplants: Ever wonder why those large oblong, dark purple vegetables-that-are-really-fruits are called eggplants? When the plant was brought to America in the 1700s, the most popular varieties were smaller and white—and looked a lot like eggs. There are still many heirloom varieties of eggplant that can add variety to your garden and your menu.
Romanesco: This crazy-looking plant related to broccoli and cauliflower looks like something out of science fiction, with its neon-green color and spiky fractal shapes, but you’re already familiar with its taste. You can use it any way you would use broccoli or cauliflower.
Brusselberry Sprouts: Kids not crazy about brussels sprouts? Try their milder, sweeter, reddish-purple cousin, brusselberries! While this variety may not be commonly found in supermarkets, you can grow them from seed for just a few dollars.
Chocolate Mint: Love Thin Mints? You’ve gotta plant some Chocolate Mint! Reminiscent of the classic Girl Scout cookie, this variety of mint has a peppermint chocolate scent… maybe? There’s a rather delightful controversy in the gardening world about whether that chocolate you’re smelling is all in your head. We want to believe. Be warned: mint loves to take over your garden, so plant it alone in a container to avoid crowding out your other plants.
Black Radishes: No, these radishes aren’t just covered in dirt! They’re actually coal black on the outside and white on the inside, with a pleasantly spicy bite. All radishes are surprisingly delicious roasted with olive oil and salt—they turn sweet and creamy!
Fun Fact: Radishes are one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world, stretching back to Egypt before 2000 B.C.!
Cucamelons: Are those mini watermelons growing in your garden?! Nope, they’re Cucamelones, also known adorably as mouse melons, that look like tiny inch-long watermelons complete with the familiar dark and light green stripes. You can eat them raw right off the plant in the garden, pickle them, or chop them into a salad.