10 Peculiar Produce Picks
Ever feel intimidated by some of the more exotic, unfamiliar produce items in the supermarket? Time to turn those eccentric groceries into a special surprise the whole family will love. These unusual fruits and veggies are 100% good-for-you — plus downright delicious — and are sure to perk things up in the kitchen.
With its sweet skin and tart pulp, kumquats taste
like an inside-out orange. The small
ovular fruit can be eaten whole to savor the contrast in flavor — or, if bitter
isn't your thing, just eat the fiber-rich peel for a straight burst of
sweetness. This exotic fruit also provides a blast of vitamin C, an antioxidant
that helps to prevent arthritis, cataracts, and macular degeneration
promoting radiant, glowing skin and healthy, strong hair. Pop it in your bag
for a perfect on-the-go snack; or slice into rounds and toss in a salad for a
little zest. You can even add these under-the-radar
gems to your favorite smoothie recipe for a bright shot of citrus flavor — yum!
Tomatillos are yellow, red, green, and even purple
when ripe, but you're more likely to find the green variety in the produce
section of your local supermarket. These tart fruits look like small tomatoes,
but their papery covering or husk sets them apart. As a staple in Mexican
cuisine, tomatillos are typically used in raw and cooked green sauces and
salsas. You can also incorporate these flavorful tomato lookalikes into salads,
stews, and chili
to add a tangy kick to your favorite Latin-inspired recipes.
Chayote (prounounced chah-yoh-teh) squash is
another exotic produce item native to Mexico and Central America. As a member of the gourd family, this
pear-shaped vegetable is an excellent source of folate, which according to research,
plays an important role in regulating mood. Chayote squash is typically treated like a summer squash — lightly
cooked to maintain its crisp flavor, which works nicely in soups, salsas and stir-fries.
The purple cauliflower, also called the Violet
Queen, gets its bright color from the antioxidant anthocyanin, the same
compound that gives red cabbage and red wine their purple hues. Just a half-cup
serving of this vibrant veggie provides almost half of your daily requirements
for vitamin C, and just like its ivory sister, purple cauliflower has an ample
amount of fiber to keep you feeling fuller longer. Try roasting florets with a
hint of balsamic vinegar for an easy scrumptious side dish or try substituting
the purple variety in my Cauliflower Mashed "Potatoes"
recipe to jazz up
the dinner table with a pop of fun color.
White asparagus is simply green asparagus that's
been slathered in "sunscreen" — when growing, white asparagus is covered with
soil to keep sunlight out, preventing the plant from producing the chlorophyll
that gives traditional asparagus its green color. Considered a delicacy in
Europe, this "royal vegetable" is only available for a short period of time in
, so be sure take advantage of the elegant ivory veggie before it
disappears. With a slightly milder taste and more tender texture than the green
version, the white version can be used interchangeably in recipes calling for
regular asparagus. In fact, it's
great for dinner parties since it looks impressive but is actually super-simple
to prepare. I like to serve it steamed, roasted, or grilled as a side dish, or
toss bite-sized pieces into salads and omelets for some extra crunch.
What do you get when you mix a grapefruit, orange,
and tangerine together? One ugli fruit
(yes, that's the actual name)! This exotic hybrid is grown in Jamaica, and can
be found in the US from December to April. Like the rest of the citrus family,
the ugli fruit provides a juicy shot of immune-boosting Vitamin C. And don't be fooled by its less than
attractive rind — the sweet flesh (on the inside) is a refreshing alternative to
its orange and grapefruit relatives. For
a simple breakfast option, enjoy ugli fruit the same way as a grapefruit, or
add it to yogurt or cottage cheese for a interesting twist.
When it comes to members of the fungi family,
there are some pretty odd looking characters situated next to the more familiar
button and portabella mushrooms. If you're a shroom lover, I highly recommend
giving oyster mushrooms a try – they are super simple to use and add a
beautiful flavor and texture to many dishes. This gourmet mushroom is not only
luxuriously tasty, but it also contains significant amounts of niacin and
lovastatin, both of which have been shown to help lower LDL ("lousy")
cholesterol levels. It is important to note that these mushrooms are quite
delicate and should be added in toward the end of cooking for best results. For
a simple weeknight meal, try slicing oyster mushrooms into my shrimp and
This Mediterranean legume comes in beautiful
bright green pods and is known for its creamy, buttery flavor and smooth
texture. While the beans can be a bit of
a chore to peel, the extra effort is worth the terrific source of satiating fiber
(9 grams per 1 cup serving) hidden inside. Fava beans are also an excellent
source of vegetarian protein, making it a nutritious addition to soups, salads,
pastas, and so much more — the possibilities are endless!
Ramps have a deliciously strong garlic-type smell
and onion-like flavor so they can be used, raw or cooked, in any recipe that
calls for these aromatic veggies. They provide a punch of flavor to just about
any dish, but I like to toss them into frittatas and omelets to amp up the
taste. Try them in my Red Pepper, Chard, and Feta Frittata
recipe for a
shot of iron, beta carotene and Vitamin C — a scrumptious way to strengthen your
Rhubarb is a vegetable with a reddish-pink stalk and large green leaves.
But fair warning: rhubarb leaves are toxic and the tartly flavored stalks are
tough to eat raw. However, the stalks
are commonly cooked with sugar or other sweeteners to make sauces, jams,
chutneys, or pie filling — and taste out of this world! Rhubarb is also a great
source of anthocyanins, anti-inflammatory antioxidants that can help prevent
arthritis and memory loss.
Related: 10 Superfoods for Spring
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