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Sustainahillbilly:

n., Any hill dweller who knows that the best path to the future is through the arts of the past mixed with the smallest possible dose of newfangled ingenuity.

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How to Find Unusual Vegetables & Fruits for Zone 7b

Today I did a lecture for the Greater Greenville Master Gardener’s Symposium titled “Unusual Vegetables and Fruits.” Since Greenville is zone 7b, the talk centered around plants that grow here. But some of these plants may grow where you live if you’re in a different zone.

Photo Caption: One of our garden harvests with lots of unusual edibles.

More people ended up at my talk than the symposium organizers were expecting which meant that some people didn’t receive the handout. I decided to post my handout here since there’s a large list of weirdo edible plants and their growing requirements.

Based on questions asked at the symposium lecture I’ve included some helpful links. You can click here for a list of sources, here for a link explaining how to use milk to prevent powdery mildew, and here to learn my homemade fertilizer recipe. The “How To” drop-down menu in the left sidebar will direct you to lots of odd (and common) vegetables and fruits I’ve written about in the past.

Below is the handout from the talk today (3 pages printed). I hope you find something new to try! If you’re interested in the hardy citrus check out McKenzie Farms near Olanta, SC.

Unusual Fruits & Vegetables – Eliza A.H. Lord – eliza@appalachianfeet.com

Sources:

Plant List:  (Difficulty – Annual/Perennial – Size – Light – Water – Pollination)

“Sponge” means the soil should feel like a wrung-out sponge, though the top 1″ of soil can dry out between watering. “Xeriscape” means that once established, a plant can handle the fluctuations of the weather without additional water (may not be true in extreme drought).

Trees:

  • Asian Pear (Pyrus sp.) Beginner – Perennial – 40’ unpruned – Full sun – Sponge/Xeriscape – 5-8b – Recommend cross-pollination
  • Bay Tree (Laurus nobilis) Beginner – Perennial – 15’-60’ – Full to part sun – Sponge/Xeriscape – Z 7-10 – male/female
  • Black Cherry, native (Prunus serotina) Beginner – Perennial – 45’ unpruned – Full to part sun – Sponge/Xeriscape – Z 4-8b – Self-fertile
  • Citrus, hardy (Citrus sp. & Poncirus trifoliata) Experienced – Perennial – 20’ – Full sun – Sponge except in winter – 7b-10, Trifoliate Z 5 – Various pollination
  • Citrus, indoor (Citrus sp.) Experienced – Perennial – 2’-5’ – Full sun – Sponge except in winter – Houseplant – Various pollination, recommend using dry paintbrush to pollinate indoors
  • Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) Experienced – Perennial – 12’-30’ – Full sun – Sponge/Xeriscape – 7b-11 – Needs cross-pollination
  • Mandarin Melon Berry (Maclura tricuspidata) Experienced – Perennial – 45’ unpruned – Full to part sun – Sponge – Z 6b-9 – male/female
  • Mulberry (Morus rubra, M. alba, & more,“Pakistan” mulberry has long fruit) Beginner – Perennial – M. rubra 30’-45’, M. alba up to 80’ – Full to part sun – Sponge/Xeriscape – 5-9 – self-fertile
  • Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) Beginner/Experienced – Perennial – 35’ unpruned – Full to part sun – Sponge – Z 5-8 – 2 recommended
  • Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana & D. kaki) Beginner /Experienced – Perennial – 45’ unpruned – Full to part sun – Sponge/Xeriscape – Z 5-9 (American), Z 6-9 (Japanese) – male/female, parthenocarpic
  • Pomegranate (Punica granatum) Beginner – Perennial – 15’ – Full to part sun – Sponge/Xeriscape – Z 6-11 – Self-fertile
  • Quince (Cydonia oblonga) Beginner – Perennial – 12’ unpruned – Full sun – Sponge/Xeriscape – 5-8b – Self-fertile
  • Redbud (Cersis canadensis) Beginner – Perennial – 20’-30’ – Full/Part sun – Sponge/Xeriscape – 4-9 – Self-fertile

Shrubs:

  • American Hazelnut (Corylus americana) Beginner – Perennial – 8’-12’ – Full/Part sun – Sponge/Xeriscape – 4-9 – Recommend cross-pollination
  • Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis & more) Beginner – Perennial – 8’-10’ – Full/Part sun – Sponge/Xeriscape – 3b-9b – Recommend cross-pollination
  • Fig (Ficus carica) Beginner – Perennial – 8’-12’ – Full/Part sun – Sponge/Xeriscape – 6b-10b – Self-fertile
  • Goumi (Elaeagnus Multiflora) Beginner – Perennial – 6’-8’ – Full Sun – Sponge/Xeriscape – 4-8b – Self-fertile, more with pollinator
  • Honeyberry (Lonicera caerulea) Challenging – Perennial – 4’-6’ – Part Sun – Sponge – 4-8b – Needs pollinator
  • Pineapple Guava (Acca sellowiana) Challenging – Perennial – 8’ – Full Sun – Sponge – 7b-10 or houseplant – Self-fertile, more with pollinator

Vines:

  • Achocha (Cyclanthera pedata) Experienced – Annual – 5’-12’ – Full Sun – Sponge – 90-110 Days (fruits as days shorten) – Self-fertile
  • Beans, unusual (Phaseolus, Vicia, Vigna, Lablab, more, recommend sword beans, winged beans/asparagus pea, yardlong beans, hyacinth beans, curved snap bean ‘Anellino’, soybeans, runner beans, fava/broad beans ) Beginner – Annual – 2’-12’ – Full/Part Sun – Sponge/Xeriscape – 65-150 Days – Self-fertile (For fava beans sow Oct-Feb, all other beans sow April 15-May)
  • Black Pepper (Piper nigrum) Experienced– Perennial – 3’-12’ – Filtered Light – Xeriscape – Houseplant – Self-fertile
  • C. moschata Squash (Cucurbita moschata, recommend ‘Tromboncino & ‘Long Island Cheese’) Beginner – Annual – 5’-20’ – Full Sun – Sponge/Xeriscape – 60-108 Days – Self-fertile
  • Cucumbers, odd (Cucumis sativus, recommend ‘Poona Keera’ & ‘Lemon’) Experienced – Annual – 3’-10’ – Full Sun – Sponge – 50-70 Days – Self-fertile
  • Kiwi, hardy (Actinidia arguta) Experienced – Perennial – 12’-30’ – Full Sun – Sponge/Xeriscape – 4-8b – Need male + female
  • Jicama (Pachyrhizus erosus) Experienced – Annual – 4’-15’ – Full Sun – Sponge – 150 days – Self-fertile
  • Malabar Spinach (Basella rubra) Beginner – Perennial – 12’ – Full/Part Sun – Sponge/Xeriscape – 7b-11 – Self-fertile, can be weedy
  • Melons, miniature (Cucumis melo, recommend ‘Minnesota Midget’) Experienced – Annual – 5’-10’ – Full Sun – Sponge – 70-100 Days – Self-fertile
  • Muscadine (Vitis rotundifolia) Beginner – Perennial – 15’-40’ – Full Sun – Xeriscape – 5-9b – Some self-fertile, others cross-pollination
  • Passionfruit (Passiflora incarnata) Beginner – Perennial – 15’ – Full/Part Sun – Sponge/Xeriscape – 6b-10b – Self-fertile
  • Pea greens (Pisum sativum) Beginner – Annual – 1’-2’ – Full/Part Sun – Sponge – 30 Days – No pollination needed (Sow crowded snow/snap pea seeds in 1 square foot of space, harvest tender tips for salad)
  • Pea, yellow snow (Pisum sativum var. saccharatum) Beginner – Annual – 2’-8’ – Full/Part Sun – Sponge – 50-70 Days, Plant Feb 1-15 – Self-fertile
  • Sweet Potato (Ipomoea batatas) Experienced – Annual – 3’-12’ – Full Sun – Sponge/Xeriscape – 100-140 Days – No pollinator

Everything Else:

  • Amaranth Greens (Amaranthus sp., varieties bred for greens instead of grain/ornamental taste best) Beginner – Annual – 1’-4’ – Full/Part Sun – Sponge/Xeriscape – 30 Days – No pollinator needed
  • Artichokes/Cardoons (Cynara cardunculus) Experienced – Perennial – 3’ – Full Sun – Xeriscape – 85-150 Days – No pollinator needed
  • Broccoli Raab (Brassica rapa subspecies rapa) Beginner – Annual – 8”-18” – Full/Part Sun – Sponge – 42-60 Days, Plant Feb-Apr/Sept-Oct – No pollinator
  • Carrots, odd (Daucus carota subsp. sativus, recommend rainbow style carrots & minis like ‘Parmex’ and ‘Thumbelina’) Beginner – Annual – 1’ – Full/Part Sun – Sponge – 36-75 Days, Plant Mar/Jul-Oct – No pollinator needed
  • Cilantro ‘Delfino’ (Coriandrum sativum) Beginner – Annual – 8”-3’ – Full/Part Sun – Sponge – 7b-11 – 30-50 Days, Self-fertile (Seeds are coriander)
  • Cilantro, Vietnamese (Persicaria odorata, Syn. Polygonum odoratum) Beginner – Perennial – 18’’ – Full/Part Sun – Xeriscape – 7b-11 – Self-fertile
  • Celery/Celeriac (Apium graveolens, recommend red & green celery types – seed heavily) Experienced – Annual – 1’-18” – Full/Part Sun – Sponge – 30-200 Days, Plant Mar/Jul-Oct – No pollinator
  • Eggplants, odd (Solanum melongena, fertilize well at planting to outgrow flea beetle problems, golf-ball sized Thai types great for pickling) Experienced – Annual – 1’-5’ – Full Sun – Sponge – 55-100 Days – Self-fertile
  • Greens (Many species, recommend buying packets of all one type instead of multi-species mesclun mixes for uniform growth) Beginner – Annual – 2”-4’ – Full/Part Sun – Sponge – 21-80 Days – No pollination needed
  • Ground Cherries (Physalis sp.) Beginner – Annual – 1’-4’ – Full/Part Sun – Sponge/Xeriscape – 60-80 Days – Self-fertile
  • Jerusalem Artichokes/Sunchokes (Helianthus tuberosus) Beginner – Perennial – 3’-9’ – Full/Part Sun – Sponge/Xeriscape – 90-150 Days – No pollinator needed
  • Kohlrabi (Brassica oleracea, recommend early varieties) Experienced – Annual – 1’-2’ – Full/Part Sun – Sponge – 38-80 Days, Plant Feb-Apr/Sept-Oct – No pollinator
  • Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) Beginner – Annual – 4’ – Full/Part Sun –Xeriscape – 75-100 Days – No pollinator needed
  • Mache/Corn Salad (Valerianella locusta & V. olitoria) Experienced – Annual – 2”-10” – Full/Part Sun – Sponge – 30 Days, Plant Oct-Feb – No pollinator needed
  • Mizuna (Brassica rapa nipposinica) Beginner – Annual – 1’-2’ – Full/Part Sun – Sponge/Xeriscape – 21-40 Days – No pollination needed
  • Onions, perennial (Allium ×proliferum & Allium cepa, Egyptian walking/tree onion, potato onion, multiplier onion – recommend Southern Exposure Seed Exchange as source) Experienced – Perennial – 12”-18” – Full/Part Sun – Sponge/Xeriscape – 80 Days – No pollinator needed
  • Papalo (Porophyllum ruderale subsp. macrocephalum, seeds slow to germinate, erratic) Experienced – Annual – 3’-8’ – Full/Part Sun – Sponge/Xeriscape – 50 Days – Self-fertile, erratic germination
  • Peppers, odd (Capsicum sp., recommend fast-ripening tapered sweet peppers like ‘Gypsy’ and hot pepper ‘Fish’) Beginner/Experienced – Annual – 1’-5’ – Full Sun – Sponge – 45-100 – Self-fertile
  • Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia stricta & Opuntia sp., recommend native O. stricta or spineless O. cacanapa ‘Ellisiana) Beginner – Perennial – 3’ – Full/Part Sun –Xeriscape – 7-11 – Self-fertile
  • Radish, podding (Raphanus sativus, recommend variety ‘Rat’s Tail’) Beginner – Annual – 2’-4’ – Full/Part Sun – Sponge – 50 Days, Plant Feb-Mar/Sept – No pollinator needed
  • Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana) Beginner – Annual – 18”-3’ – Full/Part Sun – Sponge/Xeriscape – 50 Days – No pollinator needed
  • Sunberries (Solanum burbankii, different from “garden huckleberries”) Beginner – Annual – 1’-2’ – Full/Part Sun – Sponge/Xeriscape – 50-75 Days – Self-fertile
  • Tea Hibiscus/Florida Cranberry (Hibiscus sabdariffa, grow like okra, fruits when days shorten) Experienced – Annual – 4’-12’ – Full Sun – Sponge/Xeriscape – Flowers when days shorten – Self-fertile
  • Tomatillos (Physalis philadelphica) Beginner – Annual – 4’-10’ – Full/Part Sun – Sponge/Xeriscape – 60-80 Days – Self-fertile
  • Tomatoes, odd (Solanum lycopersicum & S. pimpinellifolium, recommend “currant” types for shady yards) Beginner – Annual – 3’-12’ – Full Sun – Sponge – 50-100 Days – Self-fertile
  • Turnip, salad ‘Hakurei’ (Brassica rapa subsp. rapa, ‘Tokyo Market’ recommended as an open-pollinated version) Beginner – Annual – 18’ – Full/Part Sun – Sponge – 38 Days, Plant Feb-Apr/Sept-Oct – No pollinator needed

 

 

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