Unusual Vegetables That You May Not Have Ever Heard Of

While there are literally hundreds of different types of vegetables eaten around the world, most of us limit ourselves to just a few when we are preparing meals. We eat potatoes, corn, and tomatoes on a regular basis, and when we are feeling really adventurous, we might branch out and have some okra or Brussels sprouts.

However, there are many unusual vegetables out there that you might never have heard of. Some of these you may be able to find at your local grocery store, while others may not be available in your area. Take a look at this list of some of these unique plants and see if any of these sound appealing.

Oca

Cross sections of pink oca new zealand yams aerial shotEven though this root vegetable is native to South America, it is commonly referred to as the “New Zealand yam.” However, it is neither a yam nor native to that island country. The oca was introduced to New Zealand in the 19th century and quickly became quite popular. It is also widely cultivated in its native continent, where it is second to the potato.

The oca is a colorful tuber that contains high levels of potassium, iron, and vitamin C. It can be grown in a number of varieties that have different flavors and textures. They tend to have a tangier and sweeter flavor than the potato, and some even resemble fruit.

Kohlrabi

Fresh kohlrabi on the wooden table closeupThe cabbage family contains a wide range of different vegetables, all descended from the same wild ancestor. In addition to cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, and others, the kohlrabi is a less-well-known variety. It resembles a green turnip, but all parts of the vegetable are edible, including the leaves, the stems, and the root itself.

This vegetable is not as hard to find in the United States as some others, but it still not widely eaten in the West. It is one of the most popular vegetables in India, where it is consumed in a wide variety of dishes. It can be eaten cooked or raw, depending on your preference.

Celeriac

Heap of small fresh celeriacs with stems at a farmers market.As its name suggests, celeriac is related to celery. While most people only eat the stems of celery, celeriac is cultivated instead for its roots. It is high in fiber and low in starch, making it an excellent alternative to the potato in many dishes.

Celeriac is commonly used in many European countries, but is much less popular in the United States. Like kohlrabi, it can be eaten raw or cooked, and makes an excellent addition to many soups, stews, and salads. The leaves and stems can also be eaten or used as a garnish.

Samphire

Samphire a coastal herb also known as sea beans glasswort pickleweed or SalicorniaThe next time that you go to the beach, keep your eye out for this edible plant that grows near the coast. Also known as “sea asparagus,” its common name comes from a corruption of “Saint Pierre,” the patron saint of fishermen. Few other vegetables are able to grow on rocky coasts where the sea constantly lashes the land.

Samphire is often pickled, but it can also be used as an addition to salads. Because of its origins, it is also commonly used to complement fish or seafood dishes.

Cassava

Close up of tapioca Plants Cassava in farmIn many parts of the world, this vegetable is far from unusual. In fact, it provides a significant amount of carbohydrates for half a billion people worldwide, primarily in tropical regions. Its starchy root, also known as manioc, is used in a similar fashion to the potato.

However, cassava is rarely found in more temperate climates. It needs to be prepared with care, as its flesh can contain toxins. Before eating, it must be properly cooked to eliminate these substances.

Rare Vegetables That Can Be Grown At Home

Are you tired of planting the same old carrots, tomatoes, and squash in your garden every year? Would you like to try growing something a little more exotic this season? You may be surprised at the wide range of unusual or rare vegetables that can be grown right in your own backyard.

Give some of these plants a try and see what results you get. Once you see how easy it is to grow a wide variety of rare plants in your yard, you will never be content with the same standard varieties again.

Chayote Squash

Hailing from Mexico, the chayote squash grows on a vine that needs support, so a fence or a trellis is required. This perennialChayote plant produces a good crop of mild-tasting squash that are shaped like a pear. They are good in soups or served on a taco with cheese and salsa.

If you live in a colder climate, be sure to keep it warm by using plenty of mulch in the winter. Since they hail from a warmer climate, they are not terribly hardy plants.

Prickly Pear (Nopal)

Another interesting vegetable that hails from Mexico and Central America is the nopal, or prickly pear. This type of cactus produces thick, paddle-shaped leaves that can grow up to 8 inches in length or more. They taste somewhat like bell peppers or green beans, but have a texture more like okra.Prickly Pears

Before eating, of course, the thorns need to be peeled off. The plant grows best in dry, mild conditions. To start your own plant, just remove a paddle, allow a callus to form, and then place it in the ground. Be sure to use gloves to protect your hands from the thorns when harvesting the leaves!

Burdock Root

This crunchy root vegetable is popular in Japan and other Asian countries. Known as “gobo,” it is a common ingredient in stir fries, soups, and stews. It is hard and crunchy, but has a sweet and somewhat earthy taste.

Fresh Burdock rootsBurdock root can also be pickled and used as an ingredient in salads. Thinly sliced, it is a nice addition to miso soup or a stew.

The seeds should be sown in spring or summer, and the roots will be ready to harvest after three months or so. Be sure to wear gloves when you are harvesting the roots, since the leaves can irritate your skin. After the winter, you should get one more season of productivity before you will need to plant a new crop.

Malabar Spinach

Despite its name, this is not actually a tyMalabar Spinach (basella Alba)pe of spinach. Instead, it is a vine that grows in India and Bangladesh and is a popular ingredient in the cuisines of these countries. When eaten raw, the leaves have a peppery flavor with a hint of orange. Once they are cooked, their flavor more closely resembles that of spinach.

The plant tends to thrive best in hot conditions that resemble those of its native home. It will grow in cooler conditions, but does so more slowly. It is resistant to frost and grows best on a trellis or arbor.

Purslane

This may be the only vegetable on this list that you have growing in your yard already. Commonly regarded as a weed, purslane is actually a tasty and nutritious herb that is widely used in many cuisines, from Mexico to France. Dried PurslaneIt contains high levels of vitamins A and C, as well as omega-3 fatty acids.

Because of its weedy nature, purslane is very easy to grow. Once you have planted it, you need pay it little attention. It grows best in hot, wet conditions, and you may need to prune it to keep it under control.