Sure, we’re all familiar with lettuce, carrots and onions. But what about fiddleheads, kohlrabi or sea beans? There are plenty of delicious, nutritious, and just plain odd vegetables that don’t come across our tables often. Click through to check out some of the world’s most interesting and unusual vegetables.
1. Purple Sweet Potato
No food coloring here! Yep, purple sweet potatoes have naturally vibrant flesh. Though you may come across sweet potatoes with purplish skin at your local supermarket, these babies have purple insides, too. The color comes from anthocyanins, a pigment that also gives grapes, blueberries and red cabbage their distinct hues. Also known as Okinawan sweet potatoes, these tubers are rich in antioxidants. They are relatively hard to find outside of Asia and Hawaii, but your best bet is to check out Asian supermarkets.
Image Credit: wfairchild via Flickr
2. Bottle Gourd
Bottle gourds are one of the oldest cultivated plants on earth — but not so much for eating! Indeed, the gourd was harvested for, well, making bottles. Across the globe, people have been carving water containers, and other eating utensils out of its sturdy flesh. It’s not just a utility vegetable, though: you can find calabash in Chinese stir-frys, Central American horchata, and North Indian lauki channa. Look for them at Asian supermarkets (they may be hard to find, though!)
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Native to Italy, this striking veggie is closely related to both broccoli and cauliflower. Romanesco’s flavor, though, is much milder and sweeter than its relatives. Though its appearance may be a little intimidating, it’s actually quite easy to prepare, and it’s much more versatile than you might expect. For a simple way out, you can cook it like you would conventional broccoli. Where can you find this unique treat? Check out farmer’s markets or specialty grocers.
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German for “cabbage turnip,” kohlrabi is related to the former vegetable. With high levels of vitamin C and and fiber, this unusual veggie is a nutritional powerhouse. It’s tasty both raw and cooked, but needs to be peeled thoroughly — remove the top two layers. Look for kohlrabi at farmer’s markets, Asian grocery stores, and specialty grocery stores.
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For a few weeks every spring, you can forage fiddleheads in Northern New England and Canada. That’s right — these rare treats are not cultivated, and are very difficult to find for purchase. They’re similar to asparagus, taste-wise, but with their own nutty flavor.
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6. Sea Beans
Though the name suggests that sea beans grow in, well, the sea, they’re actually found in salt marshes, beaches and mangroves across the globe. Sea beans are quite salty, and have a crunch like sugar snap peas. As tasty raw as they are fresh, sea beans are a popular addition to salads, stir-frys, and are tasty steamed and lightly dressed. You may want to skip these if you’re watching your sodium intake, and there’s no need to add any salt when cooking. Look for sea beans at farmer’s markets, natural supermarkets, and specialty stores.