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Plant-Based Diet: How to Grow 5 Delicious Foods You Never Find in Shops


Plant-Based Diet: How to Grow 5 Delicious Foods You Never Find in Shops

March 11, 2018

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

Welcome to Throwback Sundays: Readers’ Favorite Posts from the Past.

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 that 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.

Photography by Mark Diacono, except where noted.


Above: Quince, like all top fruit, is double value, performing early and late with its spring blossom, followed later by evocative and picturesque fruit.

A three- to four-foot-tall Jumbo Quince Tree is $19.95 from Willis Orchards.

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).


Above: Salsify. Lovelier looking above ground than below, but below is where the unique flavor is stored. Heritage fruits and vegetables are sometimes criticized for their 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.


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.

Wineberry (Rubus phoenicolasius) plant is $13 from Fruitgarden via Etsy.

“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.

Alpine Strawberries

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 potted Alpine Strawberry (Fragaria vesca) plant is $10 from The Shop at Monticello.

Freckles Lettuce

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 ought to be growing? See our guide to Edible Gardens Design 101 and our Edible Plants 101 growing guides, including spring garden favorites Arugula, Peas, and Lettuces.

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$15.00 USD from Fruitgarden

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