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Good Gardening: New Crops

John Fischer


Most of us long time gardeners have a list of vegetables we grow each year. In other words we are stuck in a rut.

A few accidents, and some crop choices from my farmer son in law have revitalized my interest in trying new things. The first change was a gift of kohlrabi  plants from a friend last spring. It gave us a new summer vegetable to try, and since I had so many plants, it morphed into a new  ingredient to add to our winter salads. We now put grated kohlrabi in with the arugula, poppy greens, fava leaves, and dandelion greens that make up the bulk of our winter salads. The change is good. Our generous friend has tried it too.

Harvesting lettuce for me has always been one head at a time, or one leaf at a time for my smaller plants. My son in law cuts the tops off all of the lettuce in a thickly planted bed to sell as salad greens at the farmers market. Then, like a leafy fairy tale the plants grow back and you can repeat the process. The harvest lasts longer, and takes less time. My wife and I love salad.

My favorite new crop, again from my daughter and son-in-laws farm, is grain corn-some people call it dent corn or field corn.  The ears are beautifully multi colored, and when ground into meal, make a great polenta, or a corn bread that surpasses the standard yellow in both taste and texture- and color.

Credit John Fischer / KLCC
Fischer says grain corn- also known as field or dent corn- is one of his new favorites.

Building on my new found willingness to try new things, I'm going to attempt to grow garbanzo beans this year, and I'm searching for a sweet potato that can tolerate our pleasantly cool summer nights.

So whether you're a gardener with decades of experience, or getting ready to plant your own food for the first time, grab a pack or two of unfamiliar seeds. You may have a few failures- okra won't grow in the Willamette Valley, but if you stay in the rut, you'll be missing a lot of tasty opportunities.


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