Step aside kale, there is a new veggie in town! Several of them, in fact. While kale may have hogged the culinary and nutrition spotlight over the past few years, there are several less-common vegetables that boast an impressive nutritional profile as well as delicious flavor and texture.
Keep in mind that these vegetables are not genetically-engineered, but rather are the result of cross-breeding, which is a normal part of agriculture.
Kalettes are a cross between kale and Brussels sprouts. This cruciferous culinary cross has been described as tasting sweet and nutty, and more mild than either veggie alone. Kalettes resemble small heads of purple-hued kale and are tasty when eaten raw, sauteed with a little olive oil, blanched or roasted in the oven.
Do you like broccoli? Captivated by cauliflower? Why not combine the two! Broccoflower, which is a cross between the two, looks very similar to regular cauliflower except it has a subtle green tint to it. Flavor-wise, it is like cauliflower’s sweeter cousin. Chefs suggests smoking broccoflower to bring out an entirely new flavor profile.
Purple Sweet Potato
Looking to wow your friends at your next dinner party? Look no further than the purple sweet potato. This colorful veggie, which originated in Okinawa, Japan, and has become quite popular in Hawaii, has a tan skin and a bright, purple-hued interior. Chock-full of vitamin A and C, it makes for a flavorful and nutritious side dish. If you can’t find it at your regular grocery store, seek out this eye-popping veggie at your nearby Asian market.
This very strange-looking, uniquely spiral-shaped veggie is also a part of the cruciferous veggie family, and its taste is much like regular cauliflower but with a more earthy, nutty flavor. Although it can be eaten just like white cauliflower, famous chef Mario Batali says his favorite way to prepare romanesco is to slowly saute it with olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes and lemon zest or red wine vinegar.
Broccolini, which resembles regular broccoli but with much smaller florets and more lengthy, thin stalks, has been described as tasting slightly sweet with a subtle peppery undertone. This more delicate “baby broccoli,” as it’s often called, is a hybrid of broccoli and gai lan–also referred to as Chinese broccoli, kailaan or Chinese kale. This pretty veggie is increasing in popularity among chefs, who describe it as a more refined broccoli. It can be enjoyed in a plethora of ways–be sure to eat the entire stalk, as this is where much of the flavor is concentrated. Also, be careful not to overcook it–it cooks much faster than broccoli.
Samphire, a sea vegetable often referred to as sea asparagus or glasswort, has bright green, fleshly leaflets with greenish-yellow blossoms. It looks like a cross between a mini-cactus and small asparagus spears. It can be eaten raw as part of a salad, lightly steamed, or pickled and has been described as salty, crunchy and tender. It’s often served alongside fish or in stir-fry dishes.
Kari Hartel, RD, LD is a Registered, Licensed Dietitian and freelance writer based out of St. Louis, MO. Kari is passionate about nutrition education and the prevention of chronic disease through a healthy diet and active lifestyle. Kari holds a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from Southeast Missouri State University and is committed to helping people lead healthy lives. She completed a yearlong dietetic internship at OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, IL, where she worked with a multitude of clients and patients with complicated diagnoses. She planned, marketed, and implemented nutrition education programs and cooking demonstrations for the general public as well as for special populations, including patients with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, obesity, and school-aged children.