Getting Down With Super Crops


Courtesy of Ahmed Bilal, Vineland Research and Innovation Centre

 Another growing season is here and it’s going to be exciting! My plan is to get more involved in gardening this year and to grow my own food. I intend to get down and dirty not just with the usual, conventional seeds but with those special world crop seeds like okra, callaloo, fuzzy melon…AND bitter melon! Bitter melon is one of the super foods, rich in iron, containing twice as much beta-carotene as broccoli, twice the calcium of spinach and twice the potassium of banana. Medical research shows that it also regulates blood sugar levels.  Now the best part is I can use it in a stir-fry, stew, or curry. It can also be steamed, braised or pickled. Adding to its amalgam of nutritional awesomeness is its natural pest deterrent properties. Who wouldn’t want to grow a crop like that?


Courtesy of Ahmed Bilal, Vineland Research and Innovation Centre

In my quest to learn more about growing crops like bitter melon, I attended a world crops workshop last week, at The Stop Community Food Centre, where there were representatives from urban gardens in Toronto such as  Access Alliance, Live Green, Stonegate, Greenest City, Carrot Green Roof, The University of Guelph and Ryerson University. Ahmed Bilal, the lead researcher at Vineland Research and Innovation Centre gave an informative presentation on the do’s and dont’s of growing these crops successfully, drawing from his experience as a crop science consultant. He is also involved in a New Crop Animation Project with Peter Mitchell at The Stop, and Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association to test new world crops for successful production in Southern Ontario.

This summer, I will taste the world right here in Ontario, by getting down with some super crop seeds. So which will you get down with this summer? For more information on world crops contact Vineland Research and Innovation Centre at 905.562.0320 or visit:

If you have interest in upcoming gardening workshops at The Stop Community Food Centre visit: 


--Esther Lambert, Program Assistant

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