5 Delicious Veggies You've Never Heard Of—And Need to Try
Apples and spinach have you bored out of your gourd? Thanks to creative crossbreeding, there’s a handful of new fruits and veggies popping up at farmer’s markets and grocery stories—and they’re worth sinking your teeth into. (Cotton candy-flavored grapes, anyone?!) “Some of [these hybrids] even offer superior nutrition compared to their old school counterparts,” says Wendy Bazilian, RD, author of Superfoods RX Diet ($26, amazon.com). Break free of your broccoli-and-peas rut with these five fresh new ways to get your five a day.
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With a purple sprout base, leafy green top, and nutty, slightly sweet taste, Kalettes are the love child of kale and Brussels sprouts.
Nutrition perks: This veggie mash-up has more protein and vitamin C than kale. And because Kalettes lack the bitter taste of Brussels sprouts and other leafy greens, Bazilian calls them “the perfect gateway veggie.” (Read: no cheese sauce necessary.)
Prep tips: Toss trimmed Kalettes with olive oil, salt, and pepper; roast at 475 degrees for 10 minutes. The leaves will crisp up like kale chips. Or try this salad from chef Aaron Woo, owner of Natural Selection, a farm-to-table vegetarian restaurant in Portland, Oregon: Combine three cups of chopped Kalettes with one cup shaved fennel bulb and ¼ cup each toasted pine nuts and pitted, chopped green olives. Drizzle with lemon vinaigrette (one part lemon juice to one part olive oil; salt and pepper to taste) and top with grated Parmesan.
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Also called Pluots, these plum-apricot combos come in many different varieties, and have a firmer texture than plums.
Nutrition perks: Plumcots pack more fiber than plums and apricots. They also offer a "double whammy of vitamins A and C,” says Brooklyn-based nutritionist and chef Jackie Newgent, RD, author of 1,000 Low-Calorie Recipes ($27, amazon.com). Vitamin A plays an important role in immunity, while vitamin C protects against against cell damage.
Prep tips: The next time you make salsa, swap out tomatoes for plumcots and serve over chicken or fish. Woo likes to bake squares of phyllo dough at 375 degrees until golden brown (about 20 minutes) and top them with a smear of jam and diced pluots that have been tossed with watered-down honey or agave. He serves with a dipping sauce of sour cream, honey, and cinnamon. (Swap in low-fat Greek yogurt for a healthier base.)
Photo: Family Tree Farms
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Cotton Candy grapes
A multigenerational hybrid of southeastern and Mediterranean species, these grapes are bred to taste like the circus treat (minus the stickiness).
Nutrition perks: Like any table grape, this variety is plump with heart-healthy resveratrol. Research suggests that resveratrol may also slow cancer cell growth and inhibit the formation of tumors.
Prep tips: For a grown-up version of everyone’s favorite after-school snack, spread nut butter on a toasted whole wheat English muffin and top with ½ cup of thinly sliced Cotton Candy grapes. Or use them to punch up a cheese plate: Woo says sweet grapes like these pair well with blue cheese, Camembert, Asiago, and Parmesan.
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These root veggies aren't just orange—in rich hues all along the color spectrum, they can turn an ordinary side dish into an Instagram-worthy event.
Nutrition perks: Orange carrots are nothing to sneeze at (just one medium carrot more than satisfies your vitamin A requirements for the day). But red carrots contain lycopene, an antioxidant thought to protect against cancer and heart disease. Yellow carrots have pigments that support good eye health. And purple carrots get their funky shade from anthocyanins, the same memory-enhancing flavonoid that makes blueberries blue. Bonus: Eating the rainbow could help slim your waistline, too. Research from Cornell University found that when people serve colorful food on white plates, they dish out 22 percent less.
Prep tips: Prepare a pretty roasted carrot salad by slicing four large rainbow carrots into 1/8-inch thick coins and tossing with 1 tbsp. olive oil and 1/4 tsp. sea salt. Roast at 475 degrees until lightly browned, about 10 to 12 minutes. Combine the carrots with cooked quinoa or farro for a heartier side dish. You can also turn rainbow carrots into a gorgeous garnish for any dish: Shave with a vegetable peeler and submerge the shavings in ice water to preserve their curl until serving.
Photo: Stephen Ausmus, courtesy of USDA Agricultural Research Service
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Touted as “the next kale,” BroccoLeaf is actually just the leaves of the broccoli plant, which are typically discarded during harvest. They’re big (similar in size to collard greens), with a sweeter, milder taste than broccoli trees.
Nutrition perks: One to two leaves provide a full quarter of your daily calcium needs.
Prep tips: The next time you make burritos, try using a whole broccoli leaf in place of a tortilla. Or you can do a simple stir-fry: Roll the leaves like cigars and cut them crosswise into noodles. Then sauté with olive oil, minced garlic, and crushed red chili flakes.