We all have a soft spot for oddballs--think of John Malkovich, Bjork, and of course, Bowie. But oddballs don't just exist in Hollywood and pop music, they are also in the produce section of your grocery store and the farmers market. Allow me to introduce you to some unusual fruits and veggies.
5 unusual fruits
1. Star Fruit (or carambola): Full of vitamin C and antioxidants, eat some star fruit when you feel a cold coming on. When this fruit is still on the tree it looks like a hanging lantern, but slice into it and you'll see its distinctive star shape.
Eat it raw or try this inventive Star Fruit Soup recipe.
2. Buddha's hand is a fruit with a fantastic name and a lot of vitamin C. In Japanese homes this bright yellow fruit (with "fingers") may be found in a special alcove called the tokonoma because it is thought to bring good luck. Some cooks like to candy them; their zest can be used anywhere you'd use lemon zest.
3. Pomelo: I once heard the pomelo fruit described as a grapefruit on steroids. According to NutritionFacts.net, the pomelo's health benefits include its ability to boost the immune system, improve digestion, lower blood pressure, and reduce cramping.
Use pomelo in a marinade or juice, but I'm aching to try this recipe for Pomelo Couscous.
4. Dragon Fruit: Before you cut into a dragon fruit (a.k.a. pitaya) you'll probably be tempted to snap a few photos for Instagram. That's because of its brilliant pink outside layer that has green "flames" popping out. Once you cut into it you'll find a fruit that has a texture similar to kiwi.
Enjoy dragon fruit cut up in chunks on top of your breakfast yogurt or (later in the day) try this martini recipe.
5. Cherimoya is one of my favorite unusual fruits and veggies. But don't take my word for it, Mark Twain once describes cherimoya as "the most delicious fruit known to man." Also known as custard apples, these green, heart-shaped fruits taste akin to banana, pineapple, and strawberry.
Eat cherimoya peeled, add to a smoothie, or put in a salad. I like these recipes for adding cherimoya to a smoothie and salad.
5 unusual veggies:
1. Kohlrabi: I first met kohlrabi in my CSA share and it was love at first bite. Peel off its skin and you'll find that its crisp, mild flavor makes it a great addition to salads. Did you know that you can also eat the kohlrabi's leaves? Mix them into a salad or add to a stir-fry. Like spinach and collard greens, they're very nutritious.
2. Romanesco broccoli (a.k.a. Roman cauliflower) looks like a chartreuse fractal. (FYI, a fractal is a natural phenomenon or a mathematical set that exhibits a repeating pattern that displays at every scale. Thanks wikipedia.) This oddball is rich in vitamins C and K, dietary fiber, and carotenoids.
Prepare it by roasting bite size pieces in a 425 F oven for ten minutes. You can also blanch or saute it just as you would any type of broccoli. It can turn a run-of-the-mill pasta dish into something truly memorable.
3. Ramps are one of my new discoveries! They look like smaller, more delicate, scallions, but their taste packs more punch than a scallion. Nutritionally there's a lot to love about them as they're high in vitamins A and C, iron, and calcium. Grill them, or add them to a quesadilla or risotto. Check out this website for great ramp recipes.
One major drawback to ramps is that due to the fact that they're trendy, you'll pay more for them than other veggies.
4. Jicama (pronounced hik-e-ma) is a large, round root vegetable. To prepare it you first have to peel the tough outer skin. Inside you'll find a crisp white flesh that can be eaten raw or added to a salad. I like this recipe for Veggie Slaw with jicama.
5. Fiddleheads: I saved my favorite of the unusual fruits and veggies for last: fiddleheads. Here in Northern New England we find these small ferns growing along the side of the roads in early spring. They're about the size of a half-dollar coin and look like the top of an elaborate fiddle (hence the name). High in both vitamins A and C, they're very nutritious.
Some old-timers love to eat them, but for many of us the taste is too bitter. Never the less, we hunt for them each year because they are one of the first harbingers of a long-awaited spring. Saute them with some garlic and butter or deep fry them; I've often wondered if they'd be good on a veggie pizza smothered with cheese.
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Fiddleheads pie image via Shutterstock