If you’re tired of serving the same broccoli, cauliflower and spinach as sides to every meal you eat, maybe it’s time to try something new. Check out this list of five great vegetables you haven't heard of yet.
Yucca is a white, starchy and tropical root that’s native to South America. It’s a very versatile vegetable that tastes great boiled, baked, roasted, sauteed, pan fried, or even deep fried (yucca chips are to die for). The nice thing about yucca is that it’s loaded with vitamin C and is high in carbohydrates. It’s also a good source of dietary fiber and low in calories.
To make garlic-mashed yucca, boil 4 pounds of peeled, cored and diced yucca until soft (this takes about an hour). Drain and return to the pan, adding 2 minced garlic cloves, 2 cups of milk, 1 tablespoon of fresh lime juice, and 2 teaspoons of salt. Mash coarsely and serve.
Arracacha, a starchy root vegetable that hails from South America, is another great vegetable you probably haven't heard of. Straight out of the ground, arracacha looks like a spearhead. It’s quite fat at the top and narrows to a point -- no wonder it earned the nickname “white carrot.” Boil arracacha root and use it as you would a potato, but expect a distinctive taste and aroma. Think celery, chestnuts and roasted cabbage. Arracacha is loaded with vitamins and nutrients: iron, calcium and vitamin A. It’s also low in calories and a great source of starch.
To make arracacha soup, peel just over a pound of arracacha and boil in 6 cups of stock until soft. Blend until smooth and set aside. Saute 2 large onions and 2 large tomatoes. Season to taste and add to the puree. Add 2 chopped scallions for garnish.
The fiddlehead is an unusual-looking vegetable. It is actually the coiled tip of an immature fern. When harvested early in the season (and cleaned and cooked properly), fiddleheads are a vibrant little green parcel that stand up as well as a main dish as they do a side dish. Not only are fiddleheads tasty, they’re also loaded with vitamins and nutrients such as vitamins A and C and fiber.
Prepare fiddleheads simply: Boil or steam for 12 to 15 minutes, add a knob of butter or a glug or 2 of olive oil, a bit of salt, and some garlic -- and you’re off to the races. Just don’t eat them raw -- they’re loaded with nasty toxins.
Daikon is quite popular in Japanese cooking; if you eat Japanese noodle dishes or salads regularly, you’ve likely had this root before. The most common variety of daikon in North America looks like a large white carrot. The root is excellent boiled, stir-fried or served raw. Simply peel, slice (and soak in water if not using immediately to prevent oxidization) and prepare.
Daikon has a fresh, crisp taste -- not unlike an Asian pear -- but less sweet. It’s very low in calories and quite high in vitamin C. For the health conscious, daikon is excellent for digestion. The root is said to cleanse the blood, promote circulation and increase metabolic rate.
Try this simple daikon salad: Julienne 1 pound of peeled daikon and soak in cold water for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, slice a small cucumber with a vegetable peeler; add to a bowl with a quarter-pound wakame seaweed. Drain, add the daikon and then dress with a simple mix of 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon soy sauce and 4 tablespoons vegetable oil.
You’ve probably seen kohlrabi before in the produce section of the supermarket. It has a large, bulbous root end that’s about the size of a small orange and a series of long stems and leaves shooting out of one end. The bulb’s flesh is sweet and crunchy, tasting a bit like radish or cabbage. Health-wise, it’s a winner: It's high in vitamin C and potassium, with added vitamin B6, folic acid, magnesium, and copper.
Kohlrabi puree is amazing. Boil 4 peeled kohlrabi bulbs (reserving the leaves) in salted water for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, saute 1 onion and 3 cloves of garlic until soft. Add a quarter-pound of chopped mushrooms with the reserved kohlrabi leaves and cook down. Drain the kohlrabi bulbs and add them and the mushroom mix (with about a quarter-cup of milk) into a blender. Puree until smooth and then season to taste and serve on toast.
Odd one out
Keep your eyes open next time you’re in the produce section of the supermarket and don’t be shy about sidling up to the odd-looking roots and greens. There’s a whole world of vegetables out there waiting to be discovered -- and many of them are awesome.