Tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, spinach and onions are some of the most popular vegetables to grow in zone 7. Many gardeners grow okra, radishes, corn and beans, too. But there are several interesting and unique vegetable possibilities that are tasty additions to the summertime table.
Besides lettuce and cabbage we can grow chard, kale, amaranth, corn salad, broccoli raab (broccolini), mizuna, pak choi, radicchio, rocket, ramps, sorrel, bloody dock, cutting celery and French dandelions.
Mache and rocket can be relied on for winter salads if this spring’s harvest is allowed to go to seed and re-plant itself in the vegetable beds. Kale also survives winters here and will usually provide salad greens until February.
At one time root vegetables were popular among gardeners. In addition to beets and turnips, kohlrabi, parsnips and rutabagas were commonly planted. Carrots come in a wide array of colors now, from orange to purple, and add a festive touch to salads and picnics. Also short carrot varieties can be planted in shallow beds.
The vining vegetables that are popular include cucumbers and beans. In the spring, snow peas (edible pod type peas) thrive during cool weather and shelling peas can be planted after them. A vertical garden takes up a lot less space in small gardens, patios and balconies.
Green beans and their cousins, wax beans, can easily be grown in “bush” form or vines. Romano beans are a delicious alternative that will grow up a trellis. Small Wonder is a spaghetti squash hybrid that grows on a trellis and produces spaghetti squash just the right size for two meals.
Edamame (edible soy bean pods) are fun to grow and eat. They do best when planted where peas grew before or with a dusting bean inoculant before planting.
Winter squash and pumpkins takes a lot of garden space and require a willingness to cope with squash bugs so fewer gardeners attempt them as much anymore. If you want to grow tomatoes on a trellis look for indeterminate varieties.
Climbing beans will grow new plants the following summer if a few pods are left in the garden over the winter. Just move the seedlings the next spring if they are in the wrong place. Malabar spinach is a climbing, heat-tolerant green for salads and cooking.
Eggplant thrives in our area. The long, slender Asian varieties are easier to cook than the large egg-shaped traditional variety. Peppers, too, have expanded into so many varieties that there are entire catalogs of color choices, sizes and heat.
Among the perennial vegetables that are still grown, you will find asparagus and sometimes rhubarb. Other perennial vegetables that are easy to grow here include Jerusalem artichokes (the latest darling among gluten-free eaters), walking onions, fiddlehead ferns, and Cardoons (artichokes).
Leeks, garlic and shallots, can return year after year if a few plants are allowed to remain in the ground. In the case of leeks just allow a seed head or two to stay in the garden and those seeds will give you leeks the following year without much effort.
Salsify is a root vegetable that is growing in popularity. The seeds are planted in the spring and the plants grow throughout the fall. After the first frost the roots are pulled up and either prepared then or saved in the refrigerator for winter eating.
When cooking salsify in the fall, wash the light, bottom part of the leaves and sauté them with the peeled and sliced roots. The roots can also be peeled and steamed without leaves. The flavor is similar to artichoke hearts.
Add a new vegetable to your garden and table this year. You may discover a new favorite.