1 . Oca
Though this colorful root vegetable was originally cultivated in the Andes of South America, it is also sometimes called the “New Zealand yam” due to its popularity there after being introduced in the mid-1800s. Oca can be difficult to find in North America, but in many parts of South America it is second only to the potato in area planted. It is an excellent source of vitamin C, potassium and iron.There are many different varieties of oca, so the flavors can vary. But in general, they are tangier and sweeter than potatoes, and can range from starchy to almost fruitlike. In fact, the “apricot” variety grown in New Zealand tastes much like its namesake fruit.
2 . Tiger Nut
Though they re often called nuts, these tubers are actually the root from the chufa sedge plant. They were originally cultivated in ancient Egypt, but today are common in Southern Europe too, particularly in Spain. Tiger nuts are often soaked in warm water before being eaten, and they have a sweet, nutty flavor. In Spain they are used to make horchata, a sugary, milky drink. In fact, it can make for a good milk substitute for those who are lactose intolerant or vegan.
3 . Romanesco
This mesmerizing vegetable is actually an exotic variant of the cauliflower. If you re feeling tripped out while looking at it, that s because it is a natural approximation of a fractal. In fact, the spirals on the head of romanesco follow the Fibonacci pattern so toss one into your next stir fry if you really want to impress that math geek friend of yours. Not only will you feel smarter eating one, you ll probably be healthier too. Romanesco is an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K, fiber and carotenoids.
4 . Kohlrabi
A relative of wild cabbage, this unique looking vegetable has been hailed as one of the 150 healthiest foods on Earth. It is most commonly consumed in India, and is a staple in the Kashmiri diet. Pretty much everything on this plant is edible. Fry up the root for some kohlrabi fries, toss the leaves in a salad, or chomp on the crisp, juicy stems for a low calorie snack.
5 . Salsify
This plant might be related to the sunflower, but it s the edible root that is the real treat. Salsify has historically been popular as a food crop throughout Europe and as far as the Near East, and is also believed to have medicinal qualities. (In fact, it was once believed to be a cure for snake bites.)You can prepare salsify much like you can many other root vegetables, but what really sets it apart is the taste, which is akin to the flavor of artichoke hearts.
6 . Celeriac
Though popular in Europe, this hearty, delicious root vegetable is hard to come by in the United States. That s a shame, because it makes for a great seasonal alternative to the potato in the winter, and is an excellent source of dietary fiber. Celeriac is also noteworthy among root vegetables in that it contains very little starch. So those looking to cut the starch from their diet can still enjoy all those potato snacks by replacing the potato with celeriac.
7 . Kai Lan
Sometimes referred to as Chinese broccoli on menus in the United States, kai lan is a nutritious leafy green common in Cantonese cuisine. Its leaves make a delicious complement in any salad, and it can be served in any meal that might otherwise include broccoli. In fact, the hybrid vegetable broccolini is a cross between broccoli and kai lan.
8 . Sunchoke
The sunchoke is sometimes called the Jerusalem artichoke though it has no specific relation to Jerusalem or even that part of the world. In fact, the sunchoke is native to North America, so it s a local exotic vegetable. It can be used as a low starch substitute for potatoes and is remarkably easy to grow. It also has great potential for use in the making of alcoholic beverages, as the alcohol fermented from the tubers is said to be of better quality than that from sugar beets.
9 . Samphire
Sometimes called sea asparagus, samphire is a remarkably rugged vegetable that you may have witnessed during a weekend trip to the coast. It grows in places few vegetables can: rocky, salt sprayed regions near the ocean.Perhaps for obvious reasons, samphire makes for the perfect vegetable complement to fish dishes. In England, they have been pickled and thrown in salads for centuries. This resilient plant has even been investigated as a potential biodiesel source.
10 . Nopales
These delicious veggies are made from a plant you d probably never think to bite into: a certain kind of cactus. The succulent flesh is made edible after the spines have been carefully peeled off. It is a popular vegetable in Mexico, and because it is so fleshy, it can make for a great vegetarian alternative in tacos.