17 Seeds From Around the World
Harvest international flavors without a passport by planting these seeds from growers around the globe.
Kiwano African Horned Cucumber Melon
Also known as jelly melon, this quirky looking veggie brings an unusual look and flavor to the garden. Fruits have greenish yellow skin that shifts to bright orange when ripe. The pulp has a lime-green color. Fruits continue to ripen after picking. Many gardeners like to juice the fruit; others recommend fresh eating (sweeten as needed).
Savor gourmet asparagus you grow from seed. Argenteuil, France, was a prime asparagus producing region in the mid-19th Century, and the heirloom asparagus variety ‘Argenteuil’ was a choice selection, known for thick, rose-purple spears. This asparagus bears early and offers excellent hardiness. Start harvesting asparagus from seed the third growing season after planting.
Popular in the Tokyo region, ‘Hokkori’ is known as one of the best tasting kaboucha squashes. This squash offers fluffy flesh that’s akin to a cross between a pumpkin and a sweet potato. It has a sweet taste and stores well. The fruits are the perfect size for single servings or small families. In Japan, it’s used in tempura, stir fries or desserts.
‘San Marzano’ Tomato
Fresh from Italy, these seeds produce the classic Italian plum-type tomato renowned for making sauce and canning. It’s the tomato cooks want in their gardens. Fruits are meaty and long with thick walls perfect for cooking into garden-fresh sauce and tomato paste.
Gray Speckled Palapye Cowpea
Cowpeas have a flavor profile similar to black-eyed peas. Gray speckled palapye offers long pods loaded with tasty peas. It hails from Botswana, where it’s commonly sold in markets. The peas dry well and make great soup beans or can be eaten fresh. These plants love heat and grow similar to soybeans—no trellising needed.
‘Cavolo Nero’ Kale
If greens are your thing, you want seeds of this kale. It’s known by a variety of names, including dinosaur kale, Tuscan kale, palm tree kale and lacinato kale. The names describe the dark, pebbled leaves and/or the large clumps these plants form. This kale is an architectural marvel in the garden. Harvest leaves for Italian dishes and tasty kale chips.
‘Tokyo Market’ Turnip
For early spring and fall plantings, consider this Japanese turnip. The round roots are almost bite size with sweet, juicy flesh that adds a nice crunch to salads. Harvest young leaves for fresh turnip greens.
Rezha Macedonian Pepper
Long, thin peppers offer variable heat from mild to very pungent. In Macedonia, these peppers are hung in large clusters in late autumn to dry. The name “Rezha” means engraved and refers to the lines on the pepper skin.
‘Rouge Grenobloise’ Lettuce
Toss colorful salads with the red and green leaves of this hard to find French lettuce. This is a Batavia or crisphead lettuce with a rich flavor. Plants tolerate cold and are slow to bolt, giving you a long harvest season.
Named after a Japanese folktale hero, Momotaro is the primary variety raised for fresh markets in Japan, where it’s a common taste test winner. Pink fruits weigh in at 6 to 8 ounces and often have green shoulders. Plants are heat tolerant and indeterminate, so they benefit from staking. Fruits are crack resistant.
Serpent of Sicily
Known in Italian as Zuchetta Serpente di Sicilia, this climbing gourd is a member of the calabash or bottle gourd family. It goes by several names, including New Guinea Bean, Italian edible gourd and Zucchetta da Pergola (pergola squash). Vines grow up to 25 feet, and fruits can top out at 3 feet, but they taste best when harvested at the 12-inch mark. Vine tips are yummy sautéed in olive oil.
Black Hungarian Pepper
Bold black color makes this jalapeno-shaped pepper a stand-out in the garden. These peppers bring medium heat to the table with delicious pepper flavor. Flowers are purple and leaves have purple veins, making this veggie a lovely ornamental.
Also known as Japanese hornwort, this Asian vegetable is a traditional favorite. All parts of the plant are edible, but cooks mostly use the aromatic leaves. The clean flavor has a wild bite, sort of a blend of celery leaf and chervil. Use leaves fresh as a garnish on dishes. If cooked too long, flavor becomes bitter.
‘Piccolo di Parigi’ Cucumber
This Italian charmer translates as “small Paris” cucumber. It’s a pickling cucumber with fruit 3 to 4 inches long that also tastes great fresh. Vines start bearing early in the season and continue strongly until frost.
‘Petit Star’ Sweet Pepper
‘Petit Star’ is a Japanese Shisito type pepper, popular for snacking. The peppers are small—2 to 3 inches long—and bring a sweet, smoky flavor to the table. For a classic Japanese experience, blister Shisito peppers in oil, sprinkle with salt and serve. Poke a hole in the peppers before cooking to keep fruits from bursting.
‘Super Marconi’ Bean
Enjoy a longer harvest season with pole beans like ‘Super Marconi.’ This is a roma-type bean with meaty, flat pods that taste great in salads. For best flavor pick pods at 5 to 6 inches long. Roma beans are sold all over Italy in markets. Grow your own from seed in your backyard.
Discover a tomato with origins in the Nomadic tribe of the Near East and North Africa. Unusual pear shape fruits ripen to a deep, dark brick color and weigh from 3 to 6 ounces. Meaty flesh adapts nicely to canning, sauce and juice. Fruit is extremely flavorful and earns rave reviews by gardeners who grow it. Plants withstand heat and shrug off disease.