I have long been surprised at the wide variety of horticulture contest entrants that you'll see in the Expo building. Yes, you can grow sugar cane in North Carolina! Yes, you can grow all kinds of peppers, all kinds of vegetables, all kinds of fruits.
But this year there are a couple of especially unusual entrants, as Superintendent of Horticulture April Blazich pointed out to me. You'll want to keep an eye out for them too -- of course, they're so striking you probably won't be able to miss them!
This year the horticulture contest features a "true yam" -- sweet potatoes are often called yams but the two plants are not related. Keep an eye out for the "true yam" on exhibit -- it doesn't look anything like a sweet potato at all! It doesn't taste like a sweet potato either, Ms. Blazich says, but firmer and drier, rather like taro.
Near the true yam is a sample of amaranth, a grain. It wasn't quite ripe when it was harvested, but it's a striking addition to the exhibit next to all the fruits and vegetables.
These are unsual entrants because they're new to the contest, but there are also entrants that are entered simply because they're odd! The North Carolina State Fair has contests for "Most unusual shaped sweet potato," "Most unusual edible vegetable,"and "Most unusual fruit."
If you've never walked through the horticulture entries in the Expo building, you're missing out on the huge variety of fruits and vegetables that are grown in North Carolina. I can almost guarantee you'll find something that you would never have thought grows here.