May: Delicious, Nutritious, Misunderstood Vegetables - Explore What You’ve Been Missing
Vegetables come in many shapes, sizes, colors, and textures. To bring out the best flavor of specific vegetables, whether you are familiar with them or not, look to these tips and preparation methods.
- Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, and Cauliflower
These less exotic members of the cruciferous vegetable family are misunderstood because they are often poorly prepared. For best results, roast, grill, or sauté to bring out their delicious caramelized textures and flavors.
Cardoon stalks impart a slightly bittersweet, artichoke-like aftertaste, are frequently used in French and Italian cooking, and work well braised with flavorful liquids and sauces. To prepare cardoons, first pull apart the celery-like stalks, peel off the stringy fibers, and soak the pieces in water with 1 tablespoon vinegar to help reduce bitter qualities and prevent discoloration. Additionally, most recipes call for cardoon to be chopped and parboiled prior to final preparation.
- Celery Root
This root has a flavor akin to celery and parsley and it is great prepared as you would any root vegetable, providing new flavor to dishes such as mashed potatoes.
Grilling, roasting, or sautéing the fennel bulb brings out flavor and mellows the licorice-like taste. If you enjoy licorice, use the stalks, fronds, and seeds, which have a stronger licorice flavor and are great in curries and stir-fries.
German for “cabbage turnip”, kohlrabi tastes a lot like a juicy broccoli stem and can be eaten raw or cooked. Try thin slices in a fresh green salad, sautéing until golden, boiling and mashing, roasting, or drizzling with balsamic vinegar after cooking.
Leeks have a sweet, elegant flavor and silky texture that pairs well with root vegetables. When purchasing leeks, look for fresh, green tops and avoid larger leeks, which are usually tougher and woodier in texture and flavor. Wash well as the layers often contain dirt and then add in place of onions in any dish.
Cooking okra incorrectly can bring out a slimy texture. To reduce the sliminess, prevent excess moisture by leaving okra at room temperature for one hour prior to cooking, spreading in an even layer while cooking, avoiding covering the pan, and only adding salt after cooking has been complete.
Akin to a carrot but with a paler color and stronger flavor, parsnips have a nutty quality that imparts a rich and unique flavor and are delicious roasted or in soups and stews. Additionally, their sweet nature makes them versatile in either savory dishes or desserts.
Considered a weed, purslane is actually an edible succulent that is very easy to prepare. Purslane is delicious raw, with a lemony-arugula like taste and juicy mouthfeel. The best way to eat purslane is fresh atop salad or grilled meat or quickly sautéed.
With an exotic, geometric appearance, this cruciferous vegetable can be prepared just as you would cauliflower or broccoli. The unusual structure adds a uniquely bumpy texture that allows romanesco containing dishes to hold sauces well.
This underrated cruciferous vegetable is also termed a “yellow turnip” due to its distinctive yellow-orange hue. Grate into a vegetable slaw, dice into soup, or mash with or without potatoes.
An intimidating looking brown root vegetable, salsify has a uniquely sweet and creamy flavor and texture that pairs well with acids, such as citrus or vinegar. To prepare, remove the rough outer peel with a vegetable peeler or knife and cook as you would a carrot, potato, or any other root vegetable - try it roasted, sautéed, or mashed. If not cooking immediately, be sure to soak the pieces in water with lemon or vinegar as salsify rapidly turns brown when exposed to air.
- Spaghetti Squash
When cooked, spaghetti squash flesh pulls apart to resemble strands of spaghetti. Try serving spaghetti squash with any traditional pasta sauces and sides, tossed into a stir-fry, or stirred into a comforting soup.
- Stinging Nettles
As the name implies, edible nettles have painful stingy leaves, so use gloves when handling raw nettles. Once cooked, these woodsy, nutty wild plants are delicious in soups, smoothies, pestos, and can be substituted for dark leafy greens in almost any recipe.
Misunderstood Vegetables Recipes: Including Rhubarb, Chévre, and Toasted Hazelnut Salad, Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Melted Leeks, and Fennel Bulb and Frond Gratin.
Cooking with Misunderstood Vegetables Handout: Information and preparation methods for more unique vegetables with which you might not be familiar.
Vegetable Match-Up Handout: Test your vegetable-savvy with this match-up game that asks you to identify unusual properties associated with certain vegetables.
The Well-Being Challenge is a personal challenge for our guests, updated each month to coordinate with the Food for Your Well-Being theme.
One time per week this month, explore what you’ve been missing by trying a vegetable you are not familiar with, either in a Bon Appétit café or at home. Download the Cooking with Misunderstood Vegetables Handout for some examples of unusual vegetables and ideal preparation methods to get you started. Share your experiences by posting comments or photos of your vegetable explorations on our Facebook page wall.
Here are some suggested websites and documents that contain credible information about misunderstood vegetables.
- "Best Ways to Cook Vegetables," WebMD, Accessed March 2013
- "Top 10 Healthy Ways to Cook Fruits & Vegetables," Fruits and Veggies More Matters, Accessed March 2013
- "Unique Vegetables and What to Do With Them," UW Health, Accessed March 2013
- "Vegetables," USDA MyPlate, Accessed March 2013
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Accessed March 2013
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to take the place of advice from a health professional. Check with your physician before starting any diet or exercise program. While all efforts have been made to ensure the information included in this material is correct, new research is released frequently and may invalidate certain pieces of data. Feb 2013.