Snaky green loops, a knobby root ball, little round leaves with tendrils, and what appears to be a vegetable bouquet plucked straight out of a rustic wedding—what are all these strange-looking vegetables? What do they taste like? While their look might be unfamiliar, these vegetables actually have some very familiar flavors; each one is reminiscent of produce you purchase on the regular. So, don’t be spooked by the difference in appearance—embrace unusual forms that remind of you of old favorites!
This loopy, green vegetable might remind you of a curlier scallion, but it is actually the top part of hard-necked garlic. Oftentimes garlic scapes are plucked to prevent the plant from flowering, which might slow growth of the garlic bulb. Because of this, garlic scapes have their own little pre-flower bulb-like part, as well.
Since the scapes grow out of more traditionally-recognizable garlic bulbs, it might not surprise you that they, too, have tons of garlic flavor. A great way to use garlic scapes is as a base for pesto instead of basil—sub out the usual “green” and the garlic cloves for this vegetable that has both elements covered, and you’ve got a delicious pesto ready to pair with pasta. Get this Garlic Scape Pesto recipe.
Or, make butter even better (I know, hard to imagine)! Compound butter and fresh bread make for a quick, posh appetizer, and garlic scapes give butter an herby look and a wonderful, garlicky flavor. Get this Lemon Garlic Scape Compound Butter recipe.
Seemingly a root only a mother could love, celeriac (or celery root) is surprisingly versatile! Knobby and brown with unimpressive mini celeries attached, the appearance of celeriac might be off-putting; however, once you remove the rough outside of the root, you’re left with a moderately soft vegetable ready for roasting and boiling. The flavor is a bit like celery, but sharper (mellowed by cooking).
Try using celeriac in place of potatoes to ease up on the carbs. One way is to purée the celery root instead of mashing potatoes. Get our Celery Root Purée recipe. Or, give this recipe for Garlic & Herb Celeriac Fries recipe a try.
If you’ve never had pea shoots (or pea greens, or pea tendrils), you might see the little round leaves and assume they’re just another generic-tasting salad green. Pea shoots are so much better than that, though! They’re fresh-tasting and a little sweet, and since they’re part of the garden pea plant, they deliver the crisp, bright flavor of peas, but in leaf form.
Pea shoots certainly hold their own in a salad, so you can keep it simple with a few choice ingredients, like in this Avocado Beet Pea Shoot Salad recipe. They cook up nicely, too. Get our Pea Tendrils with Coconut recipe, and showcase those shoots with a dish that requires only one pot and a few minutes of cooking.
Bamboo Salad Bowl
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Broccoli rabe (or rapini, or kale rapini) looks like a bouquet comprised of kale and what might be broccoli’s longer cousin. Sometimes confused with broccolini, broccoli rabe is related to both turnips and broccoli. With a taste akin to broccoli but a little more rustic and bitter, broccoli rabe can be prepared in many similar ways. To prep this vegetable simply, try sautéeing—get our Sautéed Broccoli Rabe recipe.
Steaming in the microwave works too! Incorporate Asian flavors with this Steamed Kale Rapini with Oyster Sauce and Sesame Oil recipe. Or, boil broccoli rabe and make it into a pesto (let’s just go ahead and make everything into pesto!) as part of this Orecchiette Broccoli Rabe and Chive Pesto recipe. So many possibilities!
All these vegetables are like when you meet your friend’s super cool sibling or cousin; you know how great that “friend” is, but now you can see it runs in the family. Expand your vegetal circle by inviting to dinner these new pals that might put a fresh twist on your favorite dishes!
Related Video: Broccoli Rabe and Provolone Panini