You’ve been trying to eat more vegetables, and that’s great. But if you choose the same old broccoli, spinach, carrots, and various lettuces every time you go grocery shopping, your palate is missing out on an explosion of flavors and nutrients. Wouldn’t you like to change that? Here are some vegetables you might not know about or haven’t tried — yet.
Seaweed is a good source of iodine, a mineral important for healthy thyroid function. Plus, sea vegetables are rich in fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin A. Kombu, a type of seaweed high in calcium, is commonly used to make dashi, a Japanese soup stock. You can also stir-fry or sauté it with other vegetables. Try adding a pinch of dried kelp flakes to soups, stews, and chili for more flavor and minerals. Other ways to enjoy seaweed? Try making nori rolls or dip strips of nori in soy sauce or add sea vegetables like dulse and arame to salads.
You’ve probably heard of the purple cauliflower but may not have tried it yet. Purple cauliflower is — no surprise — purple has a milder flavor than the more common white variety. Beyond its beautiful color, purple cauliflower is an excellent source of vitamin C and folate and a good source of fiber.
The color pigments that give purple cauliflower its illustrious color come from anthocyanins — the same compounds found in blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries. Some studies suggest these bright purple pigments may help protect against certain cancers by reducing inflammation and neutralizing harmful free radicals in your body.
You can cook purple cauliflower in the same way as white cauliflower. Roasting is a good option, as it brings out the sweetness of the vegetable. You could also try sautéing or stir-frying it. Enjoy it raw too — just add it to your favorite salad recipe for a touch of color. Try mixing it with some greens and other colorful veggies for a nutrient-packed meal.
Dandelion greens have a “bitter” reputation, but they’re delicious when you pair them with the right ingredients. This hearty green can be found year-round — and they’re an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and K. Dandelion greens also contain significant amounts of calcium and potassium, important for bone health and blood pressure control.
You can sauté dandelion greens like any other leafy green but also enjoy them raw in salads for a crisp, refreshing bite. How about a massaged kale and dandelion salad? The massage helps soften the tough kale leaves. Add dried cranberries for sweetness and color, along with your favorite salad dressing. And if you’re looking for a unique way to use up those extra greens, try pickling them. And if you want your breakfast to pack a healthy punch, try adding some dandelion greens to your next smoothie.
Purslane is a unique little green that’s often found in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine. It has a juicy, semi-fleshy texture with a mild, lemony flavor. It’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids and one of the few plants known to be high in these heart-healthy fats. It’s also packed with vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, and calcium. Purslane makes a great addition to salads, soups, and stews; just be sure to give it a good wash before using.
Romanesco is a type of cauliflower that’s a member of the cabbage family. It has been called “broccoli on steroids” because its curvy, spiraling florets resemble broccoli florets, but Romanesco also boasts a unique taste and texture all its own. The vegetable contains antioxidant compounds called glucosinolates, which may help lower your risk for certain types of cancer. It’s also high in vitamin C and potassium.
How can you enjoy Romanesco? Since it’s a member of the cruciferous vegetable family, it has a similar texture and taste to cauliflower. Use it as you might any other type of cauliflower — roasted, steamed, or baked. For example, you could roast Romanesco with olive oil and garlic for a simple side dish. Another option is to steam it and top it with cheese sauce for a savory main course.
When shopping for Romanesco, look for heads that have a bright green color with firm, tightly packed florets. To store it, wrap the vegetable in plastic and place it in the refrigerator crisper drawer. Use within four to five days for the best flavor and quality.
Bok Choy/ Pak Choy/ Bok Choi
Bok choy is a leafy vegetable that you can eat raw or cooked. This Asian vegetable has a mild flavor and cooks quickly, which makes it great for stir fry or steaming in soups. Add it to salads, casseroles, and sauté with other veggies like broccoli or zucchini. It’s as versatile as it is nutritious. Bok choy is delicious with a touch of oyster sauce, garlic, or ginger. You can also substitute Bok choy for spinach in recipes like lasagna as well as chopped up in soups and stews.
Choose Bok choy carefully. The stems should be firm but not tough; the leaves bright green with no yellowing; the inner leaves smaller than the outer ones (these are better for cooking). To store Bok choy, keep whole heads in an open plastic bag in your refrigerator crisper; they’ll keep up to five days without wilting too much before you use them again.
What about the nutritional benefits? Bok choy is a good source of vitamins A, C, and K, as well as calcium and iron, and has similar health benefits as other cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, well-known for their potential anti-cancer properties.
Kohlrabi is a vegetable that’s part of the cabbage family and you can use it as an alternative to turnips or potatoes. It has similar health benefits to other cruciferous vegetables like broccoli. Kohlrabi is a versatile vegetable you can enjoy raw or cooked. The leaves on kohlrabi are edible, too. They taste like kale but with less bitterness. You can use them in salads, soups, or sautés.
Here’s a simple recipe: Chop up a couple of bulbs into bite-sized pieces and sauté them until they’re tender (about five minutes). Toss them with olive oil, salt, and pepper then top with feta cheese crumbles before serving.
There are many healthy vegetables besides the ones you already know. Now you know some lesser-known ones, along with their flavor and texture, how to prepare them, and what they can do for your health. So how about it? Will you try some of these vegetables?
- “Cruciferous Vegetables and Cancer Prevention – NCI.” cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/cruciferous-vegetables-fact-sheet.
- “Iodine and seaweed • MyNutriWeb.” 18 Aug. 2021, mynutriweb.com/iodine-and-seaweed/.
- “Nutrition Information for Raw Vegetables | FDA.” fda.gov/food/food-labeling-nutrition/nutrition-information-raw-vegetables.
- “Nutrient Analysis of Fruit and Vegetables – GOV.UK.” 22 Mar. 2013, gov.uk/government/publications/nutrient-analysis-of-fruit-and-vegetables.