As you know, I’m an avid gardener – and I love growing fruits and vegetables. My backyard holds a plethora of many different varieties of edibles including lemons, figs, tomatoes, kale, oranges, chard, and more. I’m always looking at unusual plants that I can add to the herd. I also love purchasing unusual fruits and veggies at the Mar Vista Farmers’ Market – they have an amazing selection including some of these below. A few I have tried, a few I haven’t . . . but these are some that you may not have heard of.
Oxalis tuberosa (Oca)
This underground stem tuber comes in wide range of colors: yellow, orange, pink, apricot, and the traditional red. It’s a dinner table staple in New Zealand, and the flavor is slightly tangy.
Is it a food or a math problem? Romanesco is fun to look at because its form is a natural fractal. The texture is far more crunchy than cauliflower, and the flavor is earthy and nutty. You can cook it just as you would cauliflower, and it makes a great substitution. I purchase mine from the Mar Vista Farmer’s Market.
When you first see it you might assume it was a strange artichoke, but it’s actually a delicious fruit that apparently tastes like a combination of banana, pineapple, payaya, peach, and strawberry. It can be chilled and eaten with a spoon – and many love the texture. This is another purchase I regularly make at the farmer’s market.
Calabash (bottle gourd)
It’s not often that you can use a vegetable to make utensils, water containers, and instruments, but the bottle gourd can do all three. It’s commonly cultivated in tropical and subtropical areas, and grows up to three feet long. You decide if you want to eat it or use it in craft projects.
Imagine putting a watermelon in the dryer on a high setting for an extended period of time – this is the fruit that results! But seriously, cucamelons taste nothing like watermelon. These grape-sized cuties taste like cucumbers with a bit of sourness. They are great in salads and taste amazing when pickled.
This bean does exactly what it sounds like – grows to nearly a yard long in sixty days. You can find these in tropical and subtropical environments all over Asia, and they look interesting hanging on the vine. Yardlong beans are prepared by cutting into sections and cooking as you would common green beans. And they are just as delicious.
You might be afraid to pick up a durian because of the spikes, but it’s probably more intimidating because of its size. They can grow as large as 12 inches and be up to 7 pounds. Yet the most interesting thing about the durian is its smell – to some, the smell is pleasant; others say it reminds them of raw sewage. The only way to find out is to pick one up and try it for yourself.
When I first saw a picture of the jackfruit, I imagine something that could fit in the palm of my hand. Not so. This native of Southeast Asian can grow to 3 feet in length and weight as much as 80 pounds! It holds the record for the largest tree-borne fruit. It’s fueled with tons of a fiber, and apparently tastes like a combination of apple, pineapple, mango, and banana.
I’m not a big fan of artificial sweeteners, so fruit that can be used as dessert is right up my alley. The lychee is small and berry-like but with a delicious white pulp inside. You’ve got to peel off the outside layer to get to the good stuff, because the red portion is inedible. You can find this delicacy in Southeast Asia. I buy these at the farmer’s market when they are in season.
I had no idea that this is nothing more than the furled fronds of a young fern. They are growing in popularity in North America, especially because of the omegas and anti-oxidant benefits. Apparently steamed is the best way to eat them (after removing the outside husk), but I’ve seen a variety of recipes with this unusual veggie.
I’d love to know which of these fruits and vegetables you’ve heard of, and even tried! Are there any rare fruits and vegetables that you’ve seen and want to sample?