Stuck in a vegetable rut? Four unusual ones to try

It’s good to mix things up every so often and why not try it with vegetables?  If your vegetable repertoire consists of only green beans and corn, you are officially stuck in a vegetable rut. It’s time to step outside of the vegetable bin and test the waters trying out some unusual greens that even some seasoned vegetable lovers may have never experienced. 

Break the routine, dig yourself out of the rut and bring some excitement to your plate and taste buds.

Rhubarb

There’s no mistaking rhubarb once you’ve seen it.  The beautiful pinkish red, crisp stalks are eye-catching and are the edible part of this plant. Rhubarb leaves are poisonous due to high levels of oxalic acid and you’ll never (or rarely) see them attached to the stalks when being sold.   Technically a vegetable, rhubarb is often used as a fruit in desserts like pies or cobblers. 

Rhubarb has an impressive nutritional health profile.  One cup contains more calcium (348 milligrams) than a cup of milk.  That same one cup provides 5.4 grams of fiber, 230 milligrams of potassium, 32.4 milligrams of manganese, along with vitamins A and C.  Try out a recipe using rhubarb to enjoy what it has to offer.

Very easy to grow, rhubarb is a perennial faithfully coming back year after year.  Keep refrigerated for several days in a sealed bag and keep from washing it until use. 

Jerusalem artichoke

Also known as sunchokes, Jerusalem artichokes are not actually an artichoke.  Native to Central America, this bumpy, fleshy, root vegetable is from the sunflower family of plants.  It is used much in the same way potatoes are and has a nutty, flavorful taste. 

One cup of this tuber vegetable will provide about 75 calories, 1.6 grams of fiber, 3.4 milligrams of iron, and a whopping 429 milligrams of potassium.  Potassium can bring about reductions in blood pressure by reducing the effects of sodium.  Jerusalem artichokes also have a lower amount of carbohydrates in one cup, 18 grams, compared to one cup of potatoes at around 30 grams.  This makes them a better match for individuals with diabetes needing to control their carbohydrate intake. 

Jerusalem artichokes have a lot of versatility making it easy to find ways to enjoy them.  Add to salads, or prepare boiled, mashed, or roasted like a potato. 

Tomatillo

Tomatillos or “little tomato” in Spanish, are also known as husk cherries or tomato verde.  They come from the tomato family and do resemble a small green tomato. 

Tomatillos abound in the nutrients they have to offer.  They are a very good source of fiber, niacin, potassium, manganese, vitamin C and iron.  One very exciting discovery made by a research team from the University of Kansas was that the wild tomatillo had significant anti-cancer properties of a compound called withanolides, showing promise in fighting different cancers discouraging cancer growth. 

Tomatillos can be a delight to the taste buds when blended with garlic, onions, and herbs such as cumin and cilantro.  They go excellent with Mexican dishes like tacos or burritos or add them to salads, soups, sandwiches, and salsas.  Find easy recipes here and get started enjoying tomatillos.

Swiss Chard

Like so many other foods, Swiss chard has various nicknames – silver beet, spinach beet, perpetual spinach, crab beet and mangold.  I think I’ll just stick to calling it Swiss chard. 

Its taste is very similar to raw spinach, maybe slightly more bitter but not that noticeable. 

What really is amazing though, is Swiss chards nutritional power.  And this is why you should at least try it out and see for yourself.  One cup of cooked Swiss chard provides 716% of daily needs of vitamin K, 214% of vitamin A, 53% of vitamin C, 38% of magnesium, 27% of potassium, 22% of iron and 17% of vitamin E.  Quite an impressive list! 

But the list continues - it also contains the antioxidants alpha and beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and choline.  With such a long list of very important nutrients, it’s easy to see why this vegetable has been shown to help lower blood pressure, possibly reduce cancer, can help manage diabetes better, and lower risk of osteoporosis. 

It can be used in a multitude of ways in your diet – add to an omelet or scrambled eggs, throw into a smoothie, add to a salad, or saute in extra-virgin olive oil seasoned with black pepper and grated Parmesan cheese. Try out this recipe for Swiss chard and tomato frittata to help get you started.