Whether you have a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) membership, find produce at your local farmer’s market, or opt for what’s most in-season at the grocery store, you’re probably encountering more unfamiliar root vegetables and darker, leafier greens. Although these veggies may not immediately spring to mind when planning your Thanksgiving dinner menu, they might just make for an unexpected-yet-perfect side dish to accompany your traditional main courses.
I’ll start with my favorite of the unusual fall vegetables: kohlrabi! Part of the cabbage family, kohlrabi is crunchy like a radish with just a hint of sweetness; it might remind you of an apple. For this reason, it complements honeycrisp apples perfectly in a crispy salad. When you’ve got the turkey and the mashed potatoes but realize you’re missing the ‘crunch,’ kohlrabi might be your answer. Get this Crispy Apple and Kohlrabi Salad recipe.
Loaded with vitamins but less bitter than kale, Swiss chard can provide the base for that sauteed greens dish you’re trying to figure out. Since it’s as versatile as spinach, you can experiment with a more creative side involving salty capers and sweet golden raisins. Or, you make a simpler version using only olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. Either way, Swiss chard can be added seamlessly to this year’s Thanksgiving meal. Get our Mediterranean Braised Chard recipe.
Akin to chard but but with way less street cred, you might be surprised to find that beet greens are similarly mild and, indeed, edible! You’ll have more success encountering beet greens if you belong to a CSA or if you frequent a farmer’s market, and if you do, then know you one more leafy green available for use in your holiday side dishes. Try a recipe that incorporates a touch of sweetness, and if you haven’t come across beet greens yet, you can easily substitute chard or spinach. Get this Honey Beet Greens with Pecans recipe.
Thanksgiving sides often involve sweet (like in the previous recipes) or roasted flavors. For the best of both worlds, give roasted Japanese turnips a shot. A little sweeter than regular turnips, try enhancing this difference with the addition of maple syrup. And bonus: If your guests are picky, you can double, triple, or quadruple the syrup—heck let’s just have candy for dinner, it’s not like we’re grown-ups or anything! Get this Miso Turnips recipe.
If your guests are adult people who occasionally eat a vegetable, they might be pleasantly surprised to find that leeks can be a side dish all on their own. Try serving a braised leeks dish and see how well this vegetable, often relegated to the role of ‘extra’ or ‘supporting actor,’ actually shines on its own. Get our Braised Leeks recipe.
Shifting gears back to the theme of ‘you can eat that vegetable top,’ it turns out carrot tops are edible, and even more unexpected, make for an excellent pesto. Though you can go full ‘grilled cheese’ as the following recipe dictates, I recommend you try serving just the carrots-with-pesto part as an elevated version of your typical roasted-carrots side dish. Having bites of carrot accompanied with a little carrot-top pesto is an interesting and nice way to use the whole carrot, avoiding unnecessary food waste. Get this Grilled Cheese with Roasted Carrots and Carrot Green Pesto recipe.
Brussels Sprout Tops
Finally, if you’re looking for something truly different, give brussels sprout tops a shot. These, like the beet greens, are more likely to make an appearance in a CSA box than at the grocery store. A spicy dish using brussels sprout greens, with the addition of chili and ginger, is anything but traditional—and if your guests haven’t yet declared you a Thanksgiving heretic for eschewing the green bean casserole, you might realize you’ve found delicious harmony in blending tradition with inventive use of these seasonal veggies. Get this Spicy Stir-fried Sprout Tops recipe.