The finest-quality vegetables, the varieties that are less frequently seen, are known as gourmet vegetables. Some have an unusual taste or appearance, while others are so labor-intensive to grow that their prices are much higher than the more common types. Growing methods that are difficult or too expensive for most commercial growers, however, can be managed by home gardeners who are prepared to take a little extra care to get some extra-special results.
Prepare the soil first, because the best vegetables demand the best soil. Get the soil tested for available nutrients. Your local county cooperative extension office, listed in the phone book and on the Internet, can help you locate a good testing laboratory. They will explain how to take soil samples, too.
Amend the soil following the recommendations in the soil test report. Adjust the soil pH (the acid-alkaline balance) so it is about pH 6.5 to 6.8, slightly on the acidic side of neutral. If the soil is basically in good shape, add at least 2 inches of good compost over the whole area. If the soil has been neglected or abused with chemicals, add 4 inches of compost. Mix the compost into the top 6 inches of soil.
Decide whether to plant seeds or buy transplants, which are tiny plants that are already started. You might want to do both. Seeds take longer to reach harvest stage, but they are a lot cheaper than transplants. Buy transplants from a local garden center if you want to have harvestable plants earlier in the season.
Make a list of what you want to grow. This list will be heavily influenced by how much space you have, what climate you are growing in and how skilled you are as a gardener. Seed catalogs are great sources of inspiration. Suppose you decide to raise filet beans, which are delicious green beans almost as skinny as a matchstick and beloved by top chefs. They are easy enough to grow, but they are susceptible to insects and diseases and have to be picked daily.
Consider tomatoes and melons. Heirloom tomatoes are beautiful---or at least unusual-looking---and taste great. Some rare and gorgeous varieties of muskmelons can be found in seed catalogs. They fetch high prices and taste and smell great. These crops are not quite as easy to grow as filet beans, but are less demanding on a daily basis.
Grow asparagus for a real gourmet treat. Roots (called crowns) are planted in a trench of rich soil and continue to produce for 15 or 20 years. But you will have to be patient because it takes at least two years from planting before you can harvest for the first time. Purple asparagus is a rare and tasty variety.