10 unusual vegetables we bet you haven’t tried
To mix things up, sometimes you need more than a new recipe — you need a new food. The following vegetables and their corresponding recipe recommendations offer nutritious ways to break the routine and bring something new to your plate.
Though its name is German for “cabbage turnip,” kohlrabi is actually in the same family as kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower. The greens and the bulbs are edible, and it can be eaten raw or cooked. In fact, the bulb — which has a taste and texture similar to that of broccoli stems — tastes great once it’s peeled, sliced and just sprinkled with a little salt. The best way to eat the greens is to cook them just like you would cook kale.
Kohlrabi needs to be thoroughly peeled before eating — both the stems and the fibrous layer beneath need to be removed to reveal the edible crisp flesh underneath. The nutritious veggie is a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, copper and manganese.
If you want to try it raw but want something with a little more flavor than simply salted kohlrabi, try this kohlrabi Waldorf salad — which tosses kohlrabi with Granny Smith apple, raisins and pecans — from Vegan Yum-Yum. For a dish with cooked kohlrabi, try this kohlrabi and ham gratin from Eating Well.
2. Garlic scapes
You probably didn’t know it, but the long, curly, bright green stems of garlic bulbs can also be eaten. Garlic scapes are the immature flower stalks of garlic bulbs that resemble thick scallions and taste like garlic cloves but milder.
Also known as garlic shoots, garlic stems, garlic spears or green garlic, the scapes grow above the ground, attached to the bulb that grows below the surface. They can be finely chopped and used for flavor and aromatics like you would use garlic cloves, or they can be chopped into pieces the size of green beans and eaten as vegetables. And they’re nutritious! Garlic scapes are a good source of protein, vitamin C and calcium.
Garlic scapes make for wonderful hummus or pesto. Try this garlic scape pesto from In Jennie’s Kitchen to find out for yourself. To try them in vegetable form, we recommend using them in a stir-fry, like this beef and garlic scapes stir-fry on Food.com. For an example of how to use it for added flavor and as an aromatic, check out this recipe for garlic scape scampi from Closet Cooking.
Also known as Japanese mustard, kyona, potherb mustard or Japanese greens, mizuna is Japanese for “water/juicy vegetable” and is closely related to turnips. The veggie has white stalks and green leaves and is often used in salads, stir-fries and soups. With a mild, peppery flavor, it’s delicious as a replacement for arugula or mixed with arugula in salads. Like spinach, it shrinks when cooked; so unless you’re trying to get rid of a hefty amount of mizuna, eat it raw. Mizuna is high in vitamin C, folate, iron and antioxidants.
Want something a little more exciting than your usual salads? We recommend Bobby Flay’s recipe for grilled tuna “sashimi” strips with mizuna and avocado.
Yuca, also known as cassava, is a starchy root vegetable similar to the potato. Its white flesh has a very subtle flavor, and it can be sliced, pureed, sautéed, fried or boiled. Like potatoes, yuca is high in carbohydrates, but it’s higher in fiber and potassium than potatoes. The bad news: It’s also higher in calories than potatoes.
For a starch switch, we occasionally make yuca puree as a side dish for dinner. If you don’t feel confident experimenting with your own yuca puree, try this gratin from Yanuq — but leave out some of the cheese and use skim milk to keep the dish relatively low-fat. Or try this recipe for yuca with Cuban mojo from the Food Network.
5. Zucchini blossoms
The zucchini you buy at the store might not look like anything special, but what you don’t see is the beautiful golden flower it grew before being shipped to the store. It turns out these blossoms are edible — and yummy when stuffed with a cheese of your choice (we recommend ricotta!). They have a mild, squashy flavor and are typically fried — we won’t lie; they’re amazing fried — but you can bake them for a healthier alternative.
For something a little more creative than just ricotta-stuffed blossoms, try this Epicurious recipe for zucchini blossoms stuffed with tomatoes and Parmesan.
You’ve probably heard of rhubarb by now, but many people find themselves clueless about what to do with the pinkish red, crisp stalks after they pick them up at the market or end up with them from community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs. The stalks are edible, but the leaves are poisonous, which is why you usually won’t find them attached to the stalks at market.
Rhubarb was traditionally used for pies and other desserts because of its sweet taste; it’s often considered a fruit in the culinary world because of this. However, there are plenty of innovative, non-dessert ways to get rhubarb on your plate.
For a sweet and savory rhubarb dish, try this recipe for roasted salmon and rhubarb from Williams-Sonoma. Rhubarb stalks can also be made into syrup that you can then use in homemade soda — like this one from Culinate.com — or cocktails. If you’re a traditionalist and want a nutritious, sweet dessert, try this strawberry-rhubarb crisp from Whole Living.
Rhubarb is a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, calcium, potassium and manganese.
7. Jerusalem artichoke
Jerusalem artichokes, also known as sunchokes, aren’t artichokes at all. Though they were named for their similar taste to artichokes, Jerusalem artichokes are actually the tuber of a species of sunflower. They might not be very pretty, but these knobby root vegetables can be a tasty starch substitute for potatoes. Sunchokes are good sources of thiamin, phosphorus and potassium, and very good sources of iron.
Our favorite recipes are easy, delicious and healthy — and that’s a perfect description of this HellaWella recipe for roasted sunchoke chips.
8. Romanesco broccoli
It might be the weirdest-looking vegetable we’ve ever seen, but Romanesco broccoli is a very versatile veggie with a mild, sweet taste. Also known as Roman cauliflower, the green veggie is a close, denser cousin of cauliflower. Romanesco broccoli is frequently steamed or boiled and cooked until tender. It’s high in vitamin C, fiber and carotenoids.
If you want to keep it simple, try this recipe from Summer Tomato for Romanesco broccoli with roasted fingerling potatoes. Or go Italiano and try this recipe from Sippity Sup for penne with pancetta and Romanesco cauliflower.
9. Okinawan purple sweet potato
The Okinawan purple sweet potato looks like a normal potato from the outside, but cut it open and you’ll find bright purple flesh. The starchy tuber is popular in Hawaii and Asia and has a sweet, nutty flavor. Purple sweet potatoes are high in vitamin C, folate, potassium, calcium, phosphorus and such antioxidants as polyphenol and anthocyanin.
You can boil, steam or bake Okinawan potatoes like you would other potatoes, or you can get fancy and try something like these Bolognese potato appetizers from Pham Fatale. The food blog Burnt Lumpia uses the tuber to make gnocchi. Get the recipe here.
10. Dandelion greens
Fun fact: Martha Stewart foraged for dandelion greens in the prison yard to use in prison food when she was carrying out her sentence for her stock-trading mistake. The edible weed can be eaten raw in a salad or sautéed or boiled like spinach. It has a mild, slightly bitter taste and is a very good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, calcium, iron, potassium and manganese.
Tags: broccoli, cauliflower, dandelion greens, garlic, garlic scapes, Jerusalem artichoke, kohlrabi, mizuna, nutrition, Okinawan purple sweet potato, potatoes, recipes, rhubarb, Romanesco broccoli, Romanesco cauliflower, squash blossoms, sunchoke, sweet potato, vegetables, yuca, zucchini, zucchini blossoms