Ugly, Unloved, Unappreciated

Oh, grow up!
Do you have an allergy? Do you object on political grounds?
No? Then shut up and eat your vegetables!

It’s time to stray outside of your comfort zone of carrots, green beans, zucchini, broccoli, and spinach. You will encounter unfamiliar tastes, odd textures, and the occasional aroma of feet. But there will be no pouting, food phobias, or knee-jerk reactions. These are vegetables for grown-ups, so act your age.

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Celeriac (Celery Root)

There’s no getting around this; celeriac is one ugly vegetable. It’s the knobby root of a celery variety that’s grown for its root. It peels like a potato, the flesh is firm and white like a potato, the texture is potato-like, and it can be cooked just as you would a potato— roast, french fry, bake, boil, mash—but the taste is all its own, falling somewhere in between the sweetness of a carrot and the grassiness of celery.

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Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi is often described as tasting like a cabbage crossed with a turnip. Or a cucumber crossed with a radish. Or broccoli crossed with brussels sprouts. You could say that kohlrabi has an identity problem. Its peculiar, martian probe-like appearance doesn’t help. It’s a pity because kohlrabi is crunchy and juicy as an apple, can be eaten both raw and cooked, and has a mildly sweet taste.

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Okra

I probably won’t win any converts when it comes to okra. Too many of you have tried it once and knew right away that it didn’t require a second opinion. But I will tell you that it doesn’t have to be slimy. Stir-fry or deep-fry it quickly and the goo isn’t released; cook it long enough in a gumbo or stew and the goo dissolves. My only hope is that someday, a well-prepared okra will catch you in a weak moment.

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Turnips and Rutabagas

Most people don’t know their turnips from their rutabagas. They’re both knobby, gnarly root vegetables that are interchangeable in many recipes. Turnips are the smaller white or purple ones. They are juicy, mild, and sweet when young and small; older, larger turnips are woody and less appealing. Rutabagas are bigger, rounder, and brown-skinned with dense yellow flesh and a sweeter taste than turnips. Pretty much anything  you might do with cooked carrots you can do with rutabagas and turnips.

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Brussels Sprouts

Has any vegetable been more maligned than brussels sprouts? The low water mark of  many a childhood dinner, overcooked brussels sprouts smell like a barnyard and taste of sulfur. Roast, sautée, grill; just don’t boil them into the mushy, sulfurous mess you remember. I gave you a pass on okra, but you’re not off the hook with brussels sprouts.

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These six vegetables are not the beauty queens of the vegetable world. They can be unappealing in their natural state; you don’t pick up a rutabaga and think Yum! Let’s have a go at this! You might have been turned off or even have sworn off some of them years ago. But you’ve grown up and so has your palate. Think of wine and whiskey, coffee and gorgonzola; every one of them took a taste bud turnaround.

It’s time to act your age in the produce aisle.

The Alphabet of Vegetables has shopping, storing, and prepping tips plus loads of recipes for everything from asparagus to zucchini.

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15 Responses to Ugly, Unloved, Unappreciated

  1. This post made me smile; I like anything that encourages people to try unfamiliar foods. Most of these veggies, my fellow commenters seem to quite enjoy. Glad I’m not alone on that. Even if the celeriac in the first photo does have a certain Lovecraftian look about it(smiles), that doesn’t mean it can’t still taste wonderful.

  2. Janice says:

    Laura-

    If it was fried okra, I also would take it over dessert. Well, depends on the dessert.

  3. OMG – I love okra, but then it was my absolute favorite food over everything else prepared including desert when I was growing up. Yes when I was a kid. I am serious.

    I think all veggies above are delicious prepared correctly. I haven’t tried celeriac or kohlrabi yet. So little time, so many veggies.

  4. I love everything on your list…except okra…I don’t think I’ll ever like that stuff, even if live to 100…Theresa

  5. Jennifer says:

    I’ve never even heard of a kohlrabi! And I guess that means I’ve never seen one, which means I now must go kohlrabi hunting.

  6. G Martin says:

    I’ve always loved brussel sprouts. When I was a kid I like them because they reminded me of little miniature cabbages. I never understood why they have such a bad rap.

  7. Great post. We all need to branch out a little more!

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  9. Awesome post…I definitely need this reminder every now and then 🙂

  10. Janice says:

    I think CSAs have introduced a lot of folks to foods they wouldn’t ordinarily buy. I know I’ve been sent scurrying to cookbook shelf looking for recipes for the unexpected bumper crop of kale.

  11. Janice says:

    I am curious if you feed any of these to your girls?

  12. you certainly picked some very under appreciated vegetables! They can also be some really tasty veggies when prepared properly….hopefully more people will take notice of these veggies from you outstanding post!

  13. Great post! I love brussel sprouts and cook them with bacon and tart apples. Kohlrabi showed up in our CSA bag a few times. Found I liked it best raw in dipped in hummus but also cooked it with cabbage with kielbasa and lots of toasted caraway seeds. Some of the others are a little intimidating, like the celeriac root. I cracked up on your claim for its “identity crisis.” I just did a post on nigella which runs into the same problem. Thanks again (I find that I say that a lot on your witty blog)!

  14. Janice says:

    I had no prejudice because I had a mother who had her own lingering brussels sprouts hatred- I never had them foisted upon me as a child. I have loved them for years.

  15. I LOVE brussels sprouts. I think they’ve redeemed themself in the past few years; they rock when cooked right

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