Beyond our familiar fruits, vegetables and herbs, edible plants can be exotic, old-fashioned, wild or just plain weird. Think of the things you consider to be unusual – things you've seen in the produce section, or the latest 'superfruit' to be mentioned in the media. Perhaps you encountered something new on holiday, and wished you could bring it home with you. A list of plants you consider to be unusual would be different from my list, which would be different from everyone else's, because what counts as unusual depends on both your past experiences, where you live and when you live – there are trends and fashions in food and gardening, as in anything else.
An unusual plant may have been commonly grown in the past, or it may have been bred only recently and be something truly new. Or it may come from far away. It may be a plant that is very commonly grown and known in agriculture, but not often cultivated at home - or the reverse, a plant that is common in gardens and on allotments but rarely commercially available.
Why would people want to step off the beaten garden path and grow something unusual? At the simplest level, I think there is a natural human impulse to seek out new and interesting things, to collect them, to experience them, and for gardeners to grow something new just to see if they can.
Jade Pearls and Alien Eyeballs tells the story of unusual edible plants and the people who grow them. It begins with a potted history of the plant hunters who first began moving edible plants around the world. Returning to the present, it examines the motivations of the modern day fans of unusual edibles, and showcases some of the unusual plants you may encounter as you being your own journey into this fascinating and intriguing world.
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About the Author
Emma Cooper is a writer, photographer, blogger and podcaster based in Oxfordshire, UK. She's a Master Composter and loves making compost, a habit that supports her efforts to grow edible and useful plants in an environmentally-friendly way. She aims to prove that gardening is a fun and rewarding activity that anyone can get involved in, rather than time-consuming, hard work or impossible without years of experience. She’s not much into shrubs, though. Emma has been part of the online gardening community for more years than she cares to remember, and throughout that time has been keeping a blog of how her garden has developed. In 2007 she began recording the Alternative Kitchen Garden podcast, a free online radio show that reaches listeners all over the world. The blog and the podcast paved the way for her first book - ‘The Alternative Kitchen Garden: An A to Z’ covers a wide range of topics from green gardening techniques to unusual edibles and was published by Permanent Publications in 2009. Emma’s second book, ‘The Allotment Pocket Bible’, was published by Crimson Publishing in June 2011. A gift book that provides a unique mix of practical tips and fascinating trivia about allotments and growing your own vegetables, it’s part of a series of books that “bring you fun facts and fascinating advice, ensuring even the most knowledgeable person will find out something new”. Emma is also the author of Dennis Publishing’s magbook ‘Growing Vegetables is Fun’, aimed at children of all ages and designed to get them outside, having fun and growing their own food. The third edition was published in spring 2010. In September 2012 Emma packed up her things and went back to school - studying for a Masters degree in Ethnobotany (how people make use of plants) at the University of Kent. Now graduated and home again, she's getting back into doing the things she loves best - growing edible plants and writing about them. In the midst of all this, Emma enjoys social networking with other gardeners and foodies on Twitter and Facebook, and loves swapping seeds. And although she has tried very hard, Emma doesn’t like fresh tomatoes; but she still grows them.