14 vegetables you've probably never heard of
Think you don't like to eat your veggies? Maybe you're just bored with the options. The truth is, the world is full of edible, healthy and flavorful roots, stems and leaves, the vast majority of which you've probably never tasted.
Though this colorful root vegetable was originally cultivated in the Andes of South America, it is also sometimes called the "New Zealand yam" due to its popularity there after being introduced in the mid-1800s. Oca can be difficult to find in North America, but in many parts of South America it is second only to the potato in area planted. It is an excellent source of vitamin C, potassium and iron.
There are many different varieties of oca, so the flavors can vary. But in general, they are tangier and sweeter than potatoes, and can range from starchy to almost fruitlike. In fact, the "apricot" variety grown in New Zealand tastes much like its namesake fruit.
This mesmerizing vegetable is actually an exotic variant of the cauliflower. If you're feeling tripped out while looking at it, that's because it is a natural approximation of a fractal. In fact, the spirals on the head of romanesco follow the Fibonacci pattern — so toss one into your next stir-fry if you really want to impress that math geek friend of yours.
Not only will you feel smarter eating one, you'll probably be healthier too. Romanesco is an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K, fiber and carotenoids.
A relative of wild cabbage, this unique-looking vegetable has been hailed as one of the 150 healthiest foods on Earth. It is most commonly consumed in India, and is a staple in the Kashmiri diet. Pretty much everything on this plant is edible. Fry up the root for some kohlrabi fries, toss the leaves in a salad, or chomp on the crisp, juicy stems for a low-calorie snack.
Misleadingly named after their length (they rarely grow much longer than half a yard, truth be told), these green bean pods native to Southeast Asia are the perfect complement to any stir-fry. What really sets them apart as a crop is how fast they grow: Cultivators will notice significant growth on a daily basis.
They are also known as Chinese long beans. You can prepare them in pretty much all the same ways as most other bean pods, and the flavors will be similar, but they really help to make your Asian stir-fry more authentic. They are a great source of fiber and vitamins C and A.
Residents of New England, especially Maine, may not think these are exotic. They are a traditional vegetable dish throughout the region, occasionally served boiled, in a salad or with mayonnaise or butter. For the rest of the country, though, fiddleheads probably look more like alien appendages than a vegetable.
They are actually the furled fronds of a baby fern. One reason they're so rare outside of their native regions is that they are not cultivated — only harvested from the wild — and so are only found locally and seasonally. Foraging for fiddleheads is also for experts only: Much like with mushrooms, not all ferns are edible and some are poisonous.
They are packed with nutrients and acclaimed for their succulent flavor. Fiddleheads are full of omega-3 fatty acids and fiber, and contain twice the antioxidant quality of blueberries.
#6 Tiger nut
Though they're often called "nuts," these tubers are actually the root from the chufa sedge plant. They were originally cultivated in ancient Egypt, but today are common in Southern Europe too, particularly in Spain.
Tiger nuts are often soaked in warm water before being eaten, and they have a sweet, nutty flavor. In Spain they are used to make horchata, a sugary, milky drink. In fact, it can make for a good milk substitute for those who are lactose intolerant or vegan.
This plant might be related to the sunflower, but it's the edible root that is the real treat. Salsify has historically been popular as a food crop throughout Europe and as far as the Near East, and is also believed to have medicinal qualities. (In fact, it was once believed to be a cure for snake bites.)
You can prepare salsify much like you can many other root vegetables, but what really sets it apart is the taste, which is akin to the flavor of artichoke hearts.