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Twisted, Bitter And Worth A Try! Two Unusual Vegetable Varieties To Plant And Harvest

A bitter gourd called kerala on a table at a farmers' market.
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For more variety in your vegetable garden, try growing these bitter-tasting gourds from the cucumber family, called kerala and ground cherries.

If you are quickly running out of zucchini recipes and people run away when they see you approaching with an armload of cucumbers, consider planting some unique vegetable varieties to grow and harvest, like ground cherries and kerala.

Ground cherries, also known as cape gooseberries, are related to tomatillos and tomatoes. It grows into a bushy plant that produces delicate, papery lanterns with a yellow fruit inside. Ground cherries also self-sow, which means that once you’ve planted one and its grown, it will regrow for years in your garden.

Where things really differ from tomato and tomatillos is in the fruit itself. The fruit grows on the stems and has papery green husks that form on the branches. As the season progresses, those husks turn to a tan color. You can peel off the husks like you would a Chinese lantern, and inside you’ll find a yellow berry with a sweet taste. The taste is sweet and tastes a bit like tomato.

Another unique plant to try is the bitter gourd or melon, known as kerala. Kerala is an Asian vegetable often eaten in Thailand and India. Kerala is in the cucumber family and is a vining plant with lobed leaves and pretty yellow flowers. This plant really thrives in hot weather and can do well in Vermont summers.

The kerala fruits can grow to be smooth-skinned or warty depending on the variety. Once you harvest them, you can sautee kerala with sweet peppers and onions or roast, grill or steam them! If bitter-tasting vegetables aren't for your palate, tame some of the bitter flavor before cooking by slicing them in half and scooping out the seeds and pulp.

If you keep a garden planner and plot out next year’s garden and raised bed, jot down these two veggies. For now, you might find them in your local farmer's markets so you can get a taste of them this year.

Q: Is it earwigs in my clay pots and raised beds that are eating my herbs and lettuce? I see them burrow in my garden soil, especially around the stems. Oh, please tell me what I can do to get rid of them! Or, at least keep them from eating my food! - Gael, in Barre

If you have a lot of earwigs, here is a homemade earwig trap you can make with some simple ingredients. Roll up some newspaper and soak it in water, then add a little vegetable oil in the center of it. Wrap the newspaper up with an elastic band and in the evening, place it in the area where you know there's a lot of earwigs. The next morning, a whole bunch of earwigs will have crawled inside the newspaper and spent the night. Dispose of them and hopefully that will cut down on them in your garden.

Q: Is there any herbicide available to control crabgrass in my lupine plot? - Gene, in North Haverhill, NH

This time of year, keep mowing the crabgrass down to help control it. Avoid letting it go to seed to reduce the amount of seed you have in the soil.

Controlling crabgrass overall, though, is a gardening chore to tackle earlier in the season when the forsythia are blooming.

In spring, when the crabgrass seed is germinating, apply an organic herbicide.

One herbicide to try has corn gluten meal in it and is a pre-emergent herbicide, which means using it will kill the crabgrass before it gets a foothold.

Sprinkle it on the lawn area where you think crabgrass will grow and this will prevent it from germinating.

Do take care where you’re applying this herbicide, as it can also affect other types of seed.

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Mary Engisch is the host and reporter for Weekend Edition Saturday and Weekend Edition Sunday on VPR.
Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on VPR. Be part of the fun and send your gardening questions here, for Charlie to answer on the air. Plus, find lots of great gardening tips and information for all seasons here. For more gardening information, check out Charlie's website, Gardening with Charlie Nardozzi. Charlie is a guest on VPR's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.