Exotic Edible Section

Our Selection of Unusual and Exotic Vegetables and Flowers

If you are looking for the common names of some of the more unusual Exotic Vegetables and Flowers we thought the following list might help identify some of the plants correctly. You might also have a look at our Tropical Fruit section for other ideas?

Cucumis anguria


West Indian Gherkin Cucumber or bur cucumber 12 seeds

This relative of the cucumber produces wonderful 5cm oblong spined fruits produced in quantity on 6ft tall climbing/scambling plants. The baby gherkins are good to eat fresh or pickled and taste exactly like a good cucumber with no bitterness. The spines are harmlessly soft and totally edible, so no need to rub them off. Best grown under cover though as these are a tropical plant and very popular.

Cucumis melo Golden Sweet

Oriental Melon  10 seeds
Cucumis melo is an unusual small Oriental melon, with oblong-shaped melons 3-4 inches long, these fruits have a smooth, golden skin and a very crisp, sweet white flesh.  Plant grows vigorously in warm climates. This melon is very prolific and is very popular in Taiwan, Korea and Japan. Sow seeds in seed pots in spring and transplant to a greenhouse border or warm frame when large enough. The plant begins to set fruits 40 days after transplanting.

Cucumis metuliferus

Horned Melon  10 seeds
Cucumis metuliferus, or ‘horned melon’ is a fast growing annual vine related to the cucumber family that is best planted in a greenhouse as our summers are not really warm enough for it. Prized by some for its slightly bitter papaya and watermelon flavour. Beware though the fruits have thorns and the leaves have very small spines. Best grown for its novelty value.

Cucumis sativas Suhyo

Oriental Cucumber Suhyo  10 seeds
Cucumis Suhyo is a long-time favourite cucumber in Japan, that produces long slender cucumbers, 1” x 18”. The cucumber skin is dark green and has small spines. The flesh is firm, crisp and delicious. A very productive variety.

Cyclanthera pedata


Achocha, Caigua or Stuffing Cucumber 10 seeds 

Achocha is a slender tropical vine from South America from the cucumber family. It produces a pale green, semi-flattened fruit resembling a cucumber that is 4" to 6" long. However unlike a cucumber, the inside of the ripe fruit is hollow and eaten much like bell peppers - either raw or cooked (after the seeds are removed). They are also prepared as stuffed peppers; stuffed with meat, fish or cheese and then baked - earning it's name "Stuffing Cucumber". Research conducted in Peru has reported that caigua can lower cholesterol levels in humans by up to 20% and is becoming popular in the USA as a health food.

Cymbopogan citratus - Lemon Grass

West Indian Lemon Grass  10 seeds
This is the type Lemon grass used for cooking - an excellent aromatic clumping tropical grass growing to 6' tall.  When the leaves are crushed the fragrance resembles the scent of lemon. The stem and leaves are used for cooking in the Asian kitchen but it is also used to make a refreshing tea and for perfume, oil and medicine. Easy to germinate in a controlled propagator.

Dahlia Cactus Flowered Mixed

Cactus Bedding Dahlia Aprx 50 seeds җ
Dahlia Cactus Flowered produces superb bold flowering dahlias with large, spiky 'cactus' blooms in a range of attractive colours. They are quite tall plants to 4ft, making them ideal for creating a statement in bedding displays or herbaceous borders, where they are particularly useful for filling in gaps that appear as other plants go to seed. They are frost tender, but can be re-used each year if the tubers are lifted in the autumn and stored in a frost-free place. Some people reckon that you can cook and eat the roots of these large cactus types like sweet potatoes but the flavour may be somewhat questionable?

Edible Flower Collection


Annual Edible Flowers for Salad Decoration

Edible flowers can add a really nice touch to summer salads and I have put together here an annual mix for anyone wanting to try them out. Don't forget that most herb flowers are also edible i.e. mint, rosemary sage etc. My own favourite if you have any in the garden are day lilies with a crisp sweet flavour and a slight peppery after taste. (Please note that in for the Clary "flowers" it is actually the colourful leaf bracts in pink or blue that are eaten not the small true flowers)

Our mix includes:-

Calendula officinalis - Pot marigold
Chrysanthemum coronarium - Garland Chrysanthemum
Borago officinalis - Borage flowers
Nasturtium Blue Pepe - Nasturtium
Basil Genovese Sweet - Basil
Salvia horminum Monarch - Clary leaf bracts
Bean Runner Hestia - Scarlet runner bean flowers
Courgette F1 Midnight - Zuchini flowers

Eucalyptus citriodora


Lemon Gum 10 seeds 

Eucalyptus citriodora is a tall water hungry tree to 50m in warm climates but can be kept pollarded if grown in a pot for the UK. It is not frost hardy and not suitable for growing outside all year round in mainland England. The lemon scented leaves are used to produce an essential oil used as an antiseptic or insect repellent. A herbal tea can be made using an infusion of the leaves for treatment of fever. I have seen it mentioned to use as a herb on food but Eucalyptus oils can be mutagenic and it would not be my advice to use it this way. On the plus side and quick from seed it will make an excellent highly lemon scented patio pot plant for the summer with long lance shaped bright green leaves.

Feijoa sellowiana

Pineapple Guava 15 seeds  җ җ
This interesting small shrub also known as Acca sellowiana will take some frost to perhaps -8°C, therefore fully  hardy in some gardens. In mid summer Feijoa sellowiana bears unusual large dark red flowers and if you grow two plants together, they will cross fertilise to bear delicious “guava” flavoured fruits.

Hemerocallis Novelties Mixed


Day Lilies 10 seeds җ җ җ

Hand pollinated seed from the finest collection of modern coloured hybrids. Apart from providing a wonderful display of flowers mid summer on very hardy perennial plants you can also eat the flowers. Hemerocallis flowers add a really unusual exotic touch to any salad and the slightly crunchy, peppery sweet flavour is quite unique. I love eating them straight off the plants when my wife is not looking (I am told it ruins the garden flower display!)

Lepidium meyenii

Maca or Peruvian Ginseng 20 seeds җ җ җ
Lepidium meyenii is an herbaceous annual native to the high Andes of Bolivia and Peru. It is grown for its fleshy tap root which is used as a root vegetable and a medicinal herb. It is related to mustard, radish and turnip and fully hardy and often grown as a winter crop in mild areas. For centuries, ancient Peruvians have used Lepidium meyenii due to its great health benefits as it stimulates the glands in charge of regulating hormones, optimizing body functioning for long-term energy and well being.

Lycium chinense

Goji Berry or Wolfberry 20 seeds җ җ

The two species of Goji berry or Wolfberry grown are Lycium Barbarum and Lycium Chinense, two very closely related species from China. They are perennial plants and will grow to a height of between one and three metres.  They require a sunny position and a well drained soil and fairly easy to grow, are self polinating, drought tolerant and are hardy plants. After being introduced into the UK many years ago they have already been seen growing wild in some locations.

The red berries which are small and plum shaped are very high in nutrients with many health claims. In traditional Chinese medicine, goji berries are often made into a tea that is said to work on the liver and other areas of the bodies. In food products, goji berries are often dried and mixed in with the other ingredients Marketers of goji berries have made the following health claims; improves the immune system; improves circulation;  reduces inflammation; improves vision including macular degeneration; helps reduce the aging process.

Melothria scabra

Mouse Melons or Cucamelon or Mexican Sour Gherkin 20 seeds 
Egg shaped inch-long green & white striped or mottled fruits resembling tiny watermelons. Melothria scabra is a fast-growing annual with lobed leaves from Mexico. Fruits have a tasty flavour and crunchy in texture, used in salads or stir fries and pickled in Mexico where they are known as Mexican Sour Gherkins.

Momordica charantia

Bangkok Hybrid large fruited Bitter Melon or Bitter Gourd (5 seeds Pr Pkt)

This tropical, annual vine has a bitter taste and is used in, soup, curry, and salads. (If you don’t like the bitter taste, parboil with salt and rinse 2-3 times before cooking.) The Thais believe that Momordica charantia is very good for the kidneys and blood. Grow under glass or in a polytunnel like a cucumber vine. This new large fruited hybrid has early to medium fruit maturity on vigorous plants. The fruits (8” to 15” long) are set mostly on the lateral vines similar to Gourd plants.

Monarda didyma Panorama Mixed

Bergamot or Bees Balm 25 seeds  җ җ җ
Monarda an old favourite of ours in our cottage garden is a durable, showy garden plant for the perennial border and an interesting cut flower with stem up to 60cm. A tea from the spicy leaves of this plant is known as Oswega Tea and the petals are also edible in salads. This special mixture of Red, Pink and Salmon shades makes a wonderful addition to any garden. Easy to grow and fully hardy.

Oryza sativa

Japanese Rice - Koshihikari Aprx 40 seeds
Grow your own Paddy field? Oryza sativa is the premium rice of Japan, distinguished by its aroma, sweet flavour and sticky texture. Also, dried stalks are beautiful displayed in flower arrangements. Harvest time about 5 months and contrary to expectations it does not need to be waterlogged to grow well, just regular watering and heat! Worth a try for the novelty factor? Maturity: Approx. 160 days

Pachyrrhizus erosus

Jicama or Yam bean  10 seeds
Pachyrrhizus erosus is a very unusual root vegetable originating in North America, but Jicama is probably most popular in China. Crunchy and mild, it is a perfect substitute for water chestnuts or bamboo shoots in salads or stir-fries. A relative of the sweet potato, this tuber is not very uniform, but it does make a crisp and delicious low calorie peel-and-eat snack. Jicama thrives in hot climates where it enjoys a long, hot growing season so best tried out in a hot greenhouse in the UK.  (Ripe seed pods and leaves are poisonous.)

Pea Asparagus

Asparagus Pea  Aprx 50 seeds
Pea Asparagus is not a true pea, but a vetch, forming low, bushy plants. The attractive red flowers are followed by small winged pods which should be picked when only 1” to 3” long, before they become fibrous. Saute whole in butter and they taste very much like asparagus - delicious!

Physalis ixocarpa Purple

Purple Tomatillo (10 seeds Pr Pkt)
A uniquely coloured tomatillo that is enjoyed for the sweet yet tart flavour it gives Mexican dishes. These small fruit form inside papery husks and begin as pale green, then ripen to a rich, deep purple. Vigorous and productive plants.

Physalis peruviana

Giant Cape Gooseberry or Poha Berry or Inca Berry  Aprx 200 seeds 
This giant cultivated form of Physalis peruviana is native to Brazil but long ago became naturalized in the highlands of Peru and Chile and became identified with the region. Best grown as an annual crop in the UK sown in Feb/Mar but it is perennial by nature and not frost tolerant. Plants grow 2 to 3ft with bell-shaped, nodding yellow flowers forming in the leaf axils. After the flower falls, the calyx expands, forming a straw-coloured husk surrounding the fruit, which take 70 to 80 days to mature. The tangy, tasty fruit is a berry with smooth, waxy, orange-yellow skin and juicy pulp containing numerous very small yellowish seeds. The plants need regular watering, in a well drained soil in a hot sunny position planted outside in June, or pot grown in the greenhouse. Do not fertilise as they do best in poor soil. The tasty fruit is often dipped in melted chocolate as a special treat!

Psophocarpus tetragonolobus


Winged Bean  10 seeds

Psophocarpus tetragonolobus, the winged bean is a strong growing, twining perennial legume to 6ft with large beautiful pale blue flowers. The plant is thought to have originated along the east coast of Africa and is used for leafy green potherbs, fresh pods, dried beans, edible tubers, animal fodder and forage, green manure, and cover crops; the winged beans are the ultimate multi-purpose crop. Young seedpods cooked for a few minutes taste like French beans but the roots and foliage can also be used and the flowers taste a bit like mushrooms - am all purpose tropical plant not at all frost hardy though.

Sicana odorifera

Cassabanana  10 seeds 
Sicana odorifera - a perennial tropical vine from the cucumber family, producing 1-2 ft long brownish fruits, which are yellow inside and eaten raw or used in preserves. The fruit also has a sweet scent like a ripe melon. Grow as a fast growing novelty annual. In tropical regions it will cover and often smother 50ft tall trees and is often grown as an ornamental as well as for fruit. Flowers are aromatic yellow to 2".

Solanum burbankii

Wonderberry  Aprx 25 seeds 
Solanum burbankii is an annual hybrid berry developed as a cross from Huckleberry but with a much sweeter flavour and larger up to 1/2" diameter. Grow like a tomato in rows planted outside after all frosts have passed. The berries are produced very early even on 6" plants but take a while to ripen. The green berries are slightly poisonous and should only be harvested when black and non shiny. Eaten raw there is next to no flavour but when cooked it develops into a taste superior to blueberries. Best for pies, jam and jellies.

Solanum muricatum


Pepino fruit  10 seeds

Solanum muricatum or the Pepino is a small bush or shrub from South America much like the tomato in looks and habit. Usually fruits in 9-12 months, so a frost free environment is required. Pepino’s will stand a few degrees of freezing however. Our trial plants started flowering in August from a spring sowing and the fruit that ripened around Christmas was best described as a sweet melon flavour with the texture of a Kiwi fruit and quite delicious. One fruit shown in the picture was about the size of a grapefruit. Best grown like a pot tomato plant and in the same conditions although they have proved much hardier and continue to grow through our winter even in a cold frost free greenhouse.