Many of us are creatures of habit when it comes to making dinner. We use the same vegetables over and over again, and if you eat anything often enough, it starts to become unappealing. But we know we need fresh fruits and vegetables in our diet. What can we do?
Finding new and interesting vegetables to try sounds good in theory, but you might not know how to cook them, what they pair with and ultimately how they taste. But never fear, culinary adventurers, because we have done the hard work for you.
Kohlrabi, also known known as a German turnip or turnip cabbage, is a bulb-like cruciferous vegetable renowned for its cancer-fighting properties. Both the bulb and the leaves are edible and have a similar taste to the stalk of broccoli. Kohlrabi can be eaten raw or sliced thinly in salads. It can be steamed, mashed or roasted in wedges. It’s low-carb and makes a good alternative to mashed potatoes.
2. Fiddlehead ferns
Fiddlehead ferns or fiddlehead greens are the curled fronds (leaves) of a young fern plant that are harvested as a vegetable. These delicate delights are available only in early spring, when ferns grow their new shoots, so blink and you’ll miss them. Fiddleheads have a taste and texture similar to asparagus. You can find these rare treats at your local farmers market in the springtime. I make sure I eat them every spring and I prepare them by sautéing them in garlic and butter with some salt and pepper. Sheer perfection.
Cassava, also known as yuca, is an edible, starchy root. Native to Brazil, the cassava plant is an integral part of Brazilian cuisine, but has recently gained popularity in the United States. Cassava root has white flesh and thick, brown, waxy skin. The root itself contains residual amounts of cyanide and must be carefully prepared before consumption.
To prepare the root, chop off both ends of the yucca root using a sharp knife, then carefully slice down the full length of the yuca. Once you’re underneath the peel, you can work your thumbs down the length of the root, peeling the skin off like a jacket. Chop into chunks and boil for about 15 minutes. You can also chop the root into smaller pieces and deep fry them as an alternative to french fries.
Sunchokes are a low-calorie, high-fiber root vegetable. They can be eaten raw or roasted. Sunchokes are tubular-shaped, thin-skinned and come from the sunflower plant family. They’re in season from late fall through early spring.
Sunchokes are a great source of iron, calcium, magnesium, and potassium, however — word of warning — these little vegetables can have quite an effect on digestion. (Let me put it this way: their unofficial name is the “fartichoke.”)
That aside, they taste slightly nutty and sweet and can be prepared in many ways. Like the potato, you can roast them, boil them, mash them or fry them. I like to roast them with olive oil until the skin caramelizes and the center is soft and creamy.
5. Garlic scapes
Garlic scapes are the curly, shoot-like stalks that grow out of the bulb of the garlic plant. Scapes are harvested at the beginning of the growing season, typically late spring to the middle of summer, so we are just in time. A popular way to prepare scapes is to blend them into a pungent pesto. But they’re also delicious when treated like asparagus and grilled or roasted with a sprinkle of sea salt and butter.
This psychedelic-looking vegetable is like the lovechild of a cauliflower and broccoli. Originating in Italy, this vegetable can now be found at your local farmers market.
This gorgeous-looking vegetable is crunchy and mild-tasting. Romanesco is rich in vitamin C, vitamin K and fiber. It can be prepared several ways. Blanch it and throw it together with some pasta — keep it simple with a hard, aged cheese and olive oil, or pair it with this three-ingredient pasta sauce. Try it roasted or sautéed in olive oil with onions and garlic. Don’t be afraid of getting a little char on the veggie. Romanesco even works well on an Italian sub.
7. Sweet potato greens
You may be familiar with sweet potatoes (we all know they make the best fries), but did you know you can eat the greens too? Sweet potato greens are loaded with vitamin B-6, vitamin C and riboflavin. They have a velvety-soft texture and are similar to kale and Swiss chard, but without the bitterness. Sweet potato leaves can be found at your local farmers market. They can be eaten raw in a salad or cooked in a simple stir-fry, or sautéed until just wilted and dressed with a little olive oil, sea salt and lemon juice.
Perhaps not as obscure as the other vegetables on this list, celeriac is having a bit of a moment. It’s popping up on fine dining menus the world over.
Celeriac is celery root and it looks a little unappealing. Once you discard the gnarly outer layer, however, you’re left with a root vegetable that is edible both in raw and cooked forms, with a vibrant and distinctive celery flavor. It can be eaten in soups, stews, casseroles, mashes and other savory dishes. You can also shred it and toss it into salads. Celeriac is low in calories and high in flavor, making it a root-vegetable superstar. I like to roast and puree it as a side dish to meat.