ISSUE 66  |  Cult of the Kitchen

How to Grow the Delicious Foods You Never Find in Shops

April 03, 2013 5:00 PM

BY Kendra Wilson

“I wish we’d stop growing potatoes, carrots, and onions,” says Mark Diacono. “Life is too short to grow unremarkable food.”

Diacono, award-winning blogger, author and photographer (and head gardener at River Cottage HQ), says: Don’t grow things because you think you should: instead make a wish list of “un-buyables.”

Vegetables and fruit which are no trouble to grow–but almost impossible to find in the shops–are just as easy as growing something dull. Take quince for instance.

Photographs by Mark Diacono, except where noted.


Above and below: Quince, like all top fruit, is double value, performing early and late with its spring blossom, followed later by evocative and picturesque fruit. A 3- to 4-foot-tall Jumbo Quince Tree is $24.95 from Willis Orchards.


Above: Consumer demand for quince is relatively low, so those that want it can’t find it in shops. Grow your own and give away extra fruit (though it is unlikely that you will have a glut). Photograph by J.G. in S.F. via Flickr.

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Above: Salsify. Lovelier looking above ground than below but this is where the unique flavor is stored. Heritage fruit and veg is sometimes criticized for its comparatively low yields. But do you really need to harvest vast quantities? Choose flavor over yield, says Mark Diacono.

A packet of Mammoth Sandwich Island Salsify Seeds is $1.85 from Victory Seeds.

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Above: Japanese wineberries. We buy more vegetable seeds than those of flowers in the UK and enjoy the idea of circumventing the supermarket to put our own food on the table. But has the practice of growing our own made us any wiser? There are still plenty of things out there which we have never even heard of but which are perfectly able to grow.

Available in two sizes, Wineberry Plants are $16.95 and $19.95 from Back 40 Books.

“Japanese wineberry has wonderful fruit that arrives in the lull between summer and autumn raspberries,” says Diacono, who sells all kinds of recherché edible plants at his nursery. “It is deeper flavored than raspberries and more wine-y; hence the name. The canes are covered in deep pink hairs: very beautiful, especially in autumn and winter.” The Japanese wineberry also makes an informal boundary or hedge.

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Above: Alpine strawberry, filed under Easy. Some would say too easy as alpine strawberry plants run amok among the flower beds. And yet, they are sought after by chefs and restaurateurs, served up as an un-buyable delicacy.

A pack of 25 Mara Des Bois Alpine Strawberry Plants is $24.95 from Wayside Gardens.


Above: Rows of Freckles lettuce. Salad leaves come under the category of “you can never have enough,” shared with peas, parsley and, arguably, all soft fruit. Autumn raspberries come along to cheer us up after we’ve said goodbye to the too-short summer raspberry season. These can be expensive and their autumn counterparts are simply not for sale, at any price. Photograph by Kendra Wilson.

A packet of Freckles Lettuce Seed is $2.75 from Organic Seeds.

Wondering what other delicious things you might already be growing? See The English Garden: Edible Florals.