Eat your vegetables – good advice when we were kids, and it’s good advice for adults. Only 23 percent of Americans currently eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Increasing physical activity and eating more fruits and vegetables can help reduce the risk for certain cancers, stroke, diabetes and heart disease. It’s an easy way to improve health, especially with the abundance of locally produced fruits and vegetables available during the summer months. In addition, today’s vast transportation system ensures a year-round supply of fresh produce.
If you’re limiting your choice in vegetables mostly to lettuce, carrots and potatoes, it’s time to expand your horizons. Consumers now have an ever-expanding variety of vegetables from which to choose in the produce aisle. The next time you go grocery shopping, make a point of buying a vegetable you have never tried before. If you’re not familiar with how it can be prepared or eaten, look for an information card located in the produce aisle or ask the produce manager. Here are a few examples of vegetables you might enjoy.
– Arugula – a green, leafy vegetable with a distinctive flavor that can be mixed in green salads or cooked and tossed with pasta or risotto.
– Blue potato – looks and tastes like a normal potato, but has blue skin and flesh. Can be boiled, mashed, or microwaved. Makes an eye-catching dish when used in potato salad.
– Bok choy – a variety of Chinese cabbage that consists of several white, bunched stems with thick green leaves. Bok choy is often used in stir-fry dishes, but can also be eaten raw.
– Daikon radish – looks like a large, smooth, parsnip with a stronger, more bitter flavor than a red radish. Great sliced and served with a dip or can be used in sushi.
– Fennel (anise) – resembles a short celery bunch with feathery leaves and has a mild licorice flavor. Leaves are often added to fish stews, soups and casseroles, but can also be eaten raw in salads or used as a garnish. The bulbs and stalks can be braised, steamed or sauteed as well as added to soups.
– Jicama – a root vegetable that is crisp, crunchy, and slightly sweet. Can be peeled, sliced and eaten raw by itself or mixed in salads. Jicama also makes a great addition to stews and stir-fried dishes.
– Kale -one of the oldest forms of cabbage and often used as a garnish, this dark green leafy vegetable is delicious steamed or added to soups. It’s rich in vitamins A and C and a fairly good source of calcium.
– Kohlrabi – this member of the cabbage family resembles a turnip, both in looks and taste. It can be used in recipes in place of turnips or peeled and eaten raw by itself or in salads.
– Leeks – a type of onion that looks much like green onions only bigger and sturdier. Both the bulbs and leaves are edible. The bulbs are most often sliced and added to soups or casseroles, while the leaves tend to be used in salads.
– Parsnip – looks very similar to a carrot in size and shape, but is white in color. With its mild flavor, parsnips can be eaten raw or added to soups and stews.
– Tomatillo – a member of the tomato family, a tomatillo looks like a small, green tomato covered in a paperlike husk. It has a citruslike flavor and is often used in Southwest and Mexican inspired dishes, including salsa and salads.
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by Pat Kendall, Ph.D., R.D., Food Science and Human Nutrition Specialist, Colorado State University, Cooperative Extension