We all know how important vegetables are to a diet — after all, they are full of vitamins, nutrients and fiber. Unfortunately, the traditional array of veggies can get tiring. The good news is that those no longer enticed by the likes of cucumbers, spinach and peas can delve into the exciting world of more exotic vegetables. Often wacky-looking, these healthy and delicious offerings are bound to be a great conversation starter at the dinner table too.
Probably one of the most striking of the world’s vegetables, Romanesco broccoli is characterized by spirals of differently-sized buds. Romanesco broccoli is a member of the same family as cauliflower, kale, traditional broccoli and Brussel sprouts, and is prepared in exactly the same way — albeit it has a different – more nutty and earthy – flavor. A native of Italy, Romanesco broccoli is packed with vitamin C and K, as well as fiber and carotenoids.
Also called cassava or manioc, yuca (not to be confused with the US desert plant yucca) is a South American root vegetable that looks a little like sweet potato. MonederoSMART affirms that the nutty-flavored veggie is a staple for millions in the developing world. It is often consumed in the form of chips, fries, fritters, waffles and empanadas. “Yuca is great for the digestive system and it is a good source of energy. It is also rich in potassium and calcium dietary fiber,” maintains the website’s nutrition section.
Kohlrabi, which translates to cabbage turnip in German, is a light bulb-shaped vegetable that belongs to the broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage family. It comes with a tough outer layer and a softer inner part that can be eaten either raw or cooked. Kohlrabi is most commonly diced and added to stir-fries or tossed over salads. While still relatively unknown, kohlrabi has been seen in an increasing number of dishes across Europe due to its nutritional content, which includes vitamins C and B6, potassium and dietary fiber.
Harvested from fiddlehead ferns, fiddleheads are essentially green fonds the size of prawns. They are picked when still coiled during spring. Fiddleheads taste a little like asparagus and are very easy to prepare — simply saute them in butter and salt and eat them as a snack. Nutrition-wise, fiddleheads are a rich source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, iron, antioxidants and dietary fiber.
Originating from Mexico, nopales are the soft and thick leaves of the Opuntia cactus plant, also referred to as the prickly pear cacti (yes, this is where prickly pears come from). The paddle-shaped purple or green pads take a little preparation prior to eating since they come with spines that need to be removed before they can be cooked. Nopales are usually grilled or boiled — but can also be eaten raw — and feature in numerous Mexican dishes.