Look, we totally get it – you’re looking back at all the feasting you’ve done over the holidays (and pre-holidays so far) and you’re cringing a little bit. Seven types of cookies, four types of stuffing, more turkey than you’ve eaten all year, drinks on drinks on drinks… safe to say, the holidays are a time of overindulgence. Sure, you’ll occasionally munch on a few raw veggies from the crudité platter, or add some Brussels sprouts to your plate, but face it – we don’t always eat the most healthfully during the holiday season.
So, as the New Year approaches and you begin thinking about your resolutions, what’s an easy way to get your eating habits back on track? Simply – incorporate more veggies. Yes, you probably need to cut back on some of the fat-filled products, and maybe stop eating three desserts a night, but at the end of the day, one of the easiest ways to make any meal better for you is to add a healthy serving of vegetables.
However, there’s only so much green salad and steamed broccoli a girl can eat – sometimes you want a little variety in your veggies, and that’s what we’re here for. The 12 veggies that follow are likely ones that you’ve wandered past in the grocery store, or maybe haven’t even seen if you don’t venture to some of the specialty grocery stores in your town. Nonetheless, they’re great ways to add variety to your veggie game. Here are 12 vegetables you’ve probably never heard of.
If you’re a junkie for cruciferous veggies, kohlrabi is something that you need to try, like, yesterday. It’s also sometimes known as a German turnip or turnip cabbage, and it’s basically a gnarly, bulb-like veggie that you’ve probably walked past because it looks a little unmanageable. However, it’s not tough to use at all – just slice the bulb thinly as a side dish, roast it, mash it, steam it, whatever you want. It tastes slightly like the light green stalk part of broccoli, and it’s full of health benefits. Don’t judge a veggie by its appearance – kohlrabi might not be as gorgeous on the outside as some vegetables, but it’s definitely tasty.
You’ve probably used celery a ton in your kitchen – after all, it’s one of the staples of any veggie platter, and it’s a key ingredient in countless soups. However, have you ever used the root? Celery root, also known as celeriac, is another one of those vegetables that looks gnarly and, quite frankly, a little gross. But don’t judge a book by its cover! It’s an absolute showstopper in the root vegetable world – you can add it to soups and stews just like celery stalks, you can slice or shred it thinly as the star of a fresh raw salad, and more. It has a similar distinctive celery-like taste that you might be familiar with from the stalk, so if you’re a celery lover, you absolutely need to try celeriac.
10 Sweet Potato Greens
Sweet potatoes are definitely a thing now. I mean, what’s not to love? They’re a vibrant orange, they have a distinctive and delicious taste, they’re incredibly versatile, and they’re full of nutrients. However, when you’re stocking up on sweet potatoes for your meal prep, why not try out their greens? Sweet potato greens are filled with riboflavin, vitamin B6, and vitamin C, and you can use them in pretty much the same way that you’d use greens like kale and swiss chard. However, sweet potato greens are actually a bit less bitter than their green rivals, so if you’ve never been able to get on the kale smoothie train, here’s a new chance. You can toss sweet potato greens into a nutrient filled smoothie while they’re still raw, or sauté them with a little oil and seasoning for a delicious side dish.
Even the name Romanesco seems exotic and exciting, so why on earth wouldn’t you try this vegetable? It has a decidedly Italian flair, having been first documented in Italy, and is also sometimes known as roman cauliflower or Romanesco broccoli. It’s basically the perfect mix between cauliflower and broccoli, so if you’re a fan of either vegetable, Romanesco needs to be on your shopping list. It’s rich in vitamin C, vitamin K, and fiber, and is fairly mild tasting, so you can easily dress it up with your favorite seasoning. The best way to serve up this vegetable is roasted – and, as an added bonus, it looks totally chic with its pale green peaks.
8 Garlic scapes
A lot of chefs are firmly on the scape-train, but the average home cook will likely never have used them. So, what are they, exactly? Well, like many of the unknown vegetables on this list, they’re a different part of a vegetable that you probably use on a weekly basis – in this case, garlic. Scapes are the slightly curly stalks that grow from the garlic plant’s bulb. So, next time you’re picking up a few cloves of garlic for your meals, toss some scapes in the basket and show the entire garlic plant some love. They’re delicious when roasted, like many of the vegetables on this list, but another way to prepare this lesser known vegetable is to blend them into a flavorful pesto.
7 Purple sweet potatoes
Most sweet potatoes you likely use in your kitchen are yellowish or a vibrant orange in color, but there’s another sweet potato color that you should be familiar with – purple. Purple sweet potatoes have the same rich flavour that orange sweet potatoes do, but there are a few differences in texture – they tend to be a bit more dense and dry than a regular sweet potato. However, that’s easy addressed by adding some oil and seasoning when you roast them, and they’re absolutely full of antioxidants. They can be used basically the exact same way that normal sweet potatoes are, so next time you’re roasting up a tray of sweet potato fries, toss some purple ones in there for variety!
If you love the flavour of artichokes but can’t quite bring yourself to go to the trouble of preparing them, sunchokes might be your perfect vegetables. They’re a tuber with a mild artichoke-y flavour, and are very high in fiber. The one thing to note with sunchokes is that they’re made of inulin, which can be tough to digest, so you might not want to serve up an entire bowl of sunchokes. However, the flavour makes them a great addition to other veggie-filled dishes such as soups or mashed vegetables.
We’re betting that most home cooks have used green beans at some point in their life – after all, you just need to steam them and sprinkle some seasoning on to make a delicious side dish. However, have you ever tried their super-sized twins? Yardlongs are also sometimes known as Chinese long beans, and they’re basically just extra long versions of green beans. They’re native to Southeast Asia, so take a cue and add them to a stir fry when you’ve gotten tired of the same bell pepper/broccoli combo.
Fiddleheads definitely look a bit strange if you’re not accustomed to them, but they’re a great vegetable to try if you’re feeling adventurous. They might not be a year-long staple, as they have a fairly short growing season, but they’re a delicious way to mix up your vegetable game in the spring. Fiddleheads are fairly simple to prepare – just wash them and sauté them with some oil and seasoning like garlic, salt and pepper. They’re similar to asparagus in taste and texture, so if you can’t get enough of asparagus, fiddleheads are a great vegetable to try.
You may have seen cassava on a menu here and there, but not too many people have really used it much in North America. It’s a staple in many countries, as it’s a fairly durable, drought-tolerant crop, but it’s only recently been gaining popularity in North America. It looks similar to a potato, with white flesh and brown skin, and you can prepare it in similar ways. One thing to note is that cassava root has small amounts of cyanide, so be careful to prepare it properly – but, luckily, it’s not too tough to prepare. Peel it, chop it into even-sized pieces, and either roast, boil, or fry it up.
Asparagus lovers, we have another twin of your favorite veggie – samphire, also called “sea asparagus.” It’s definitely a fighter of a vegetable, as it grows in often rocky regions near the ocean where other vegetables would definitely die out. Samphire comes in green stalks, similar to asparagus, and has a comparable flavour. However, samphire is known to be quite salty, so while you certainly can eat it raw, most prefer to boil or steam it. To create a side dish with samphire, just toss it in some butter and serve the salty veggie alongside some fish – simple!
Nopales is a fairly popular vegetable in Mexico, but if your only exposure to Mexican cuisine is ground beef tacos from a kit, you may never have encountered this interesting green. Nopales are made from a particular type of cactus, and the flesh can be served up once the cacti spines are peeled off. The texture makes it a great vegetarian alternative to meat in Mexican dishes (kind of like portobello mushrooms are in the burger world). To prepare this curious veggie, all you really need to do is grill them, and sprinkle with your favourite spicy seasonings.