If eating all things clean and green reigns supreme in your life, then you’re most certainly well-acquainted with produce such as chia seeds and kale, along with the rest of its well-lauded superfood equals. But do dandelion greens or kohlrabi ring a bell?
Mother Nature is packed with obscure, yet beautifully nourishing foods that are often ostracized because of their odd appearances or robust flavours that are of acquired taste. It’s time to discover some rather alien-looking and quirky sounding fruits and vegetables that are nurtured on natural land that pack a wholesome punch!
Described by nutritionist Jonny Bowden as a ‘cross between an octopus and a space capsule’ in his book ‘The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth’, the knobby-looking Kohlrabi (German for ‘cabbage turnip’) that comes in green and purple varieties has a taste similar to that of broccoli stems or cabbage hearts, but of milder and sweeter nuances with a consistency reminiscent of apples or water chestnuts. A crisp, juicy vegetable that can be eaten both raw and cooked, kohlrabi is valued also for its versatility, and is jam-packed with fibre, vitamins A,C and K, and minerals such as potassium, copper, manganese, iron and calcium. A member of the brassica family (cabbages, kales, brussel sprouts), Kohlrabi also has phytochemicals and various carotenes that are highly regarded for their antioxidant properties.
Eat it raw, or make a salad out of it, roast it, or make kohlrabi fritters or even puree it to make a creamy soup; cooking possibilities with kohlrabi are endless!
At first impression, the Romanesco looks like it belongs to a fascinating art installment, in all of its geometric aesthetic glory, but it’s actually a close cousin of the humble but wholesome cauliflower. With a denser texture than the latter, it has a delicate earthiness that picky eaters with an aversion to strong vegetal tastes will find pleasant and not over-powering. The Romanesco is also rich with zinc and carotenoids, which help promote glowing skin, and also has iron, vitamin C, and folate, which fight anaemia and beneficial for good reproductive systems.
Steam it, or sauté it simply with olive oil, or pair it with pasta, Romanesco can be eaten raw, lightly cooked or cooked through.
This thorny, heart-shaped fruit has soft, creamy flesh that has a refreshing citrusy, tutti-frutti tang when ripe. Soursop has a significant amount of vitamin B1 and B2, and vitamin C, which means it has a good amount of antioxidants as well. The other parts of the soursop plant, such as its leaves, have been purported to have inherent remedial properties, such as treating mouth ulcers, acne and head lice.
Although there’s a belief that soursop is able to combat and cure cancer, medical research has yet to properly disclose a solid verdict on this. In any case, it’s still extremely delicious and can be enjoyed in a ton of ways – as juice, sorbets, and other forms of sweet treats.
4. Dandelion Greens
Who knew the delicate dandelion harboured such powerful greens in its midst? Although each part of the dandelion is edible, dandelion greens burst into the spotlight because of its high amounts of calcium (one cup of chopped dandelion greens has 10% of the daily recommended intake!) iron, vitamin A, vitamin C and minerals such as phosphorus, copper, manganese, potassium and magnesium.
Dandelion greens are often recommended as a good smoothie green due to its perceived detoxifying capabilities. Susan Curtis, co-author of Healing Foods, explains that the bitterness supports liver health, while potassium helps flush impurities. A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that dandelion greens caused significant increase in urine output in the 5-hour periods after consumption.
Cultivated dandelions are said to be less bitter than its wild counterpart, but nonetheless, give this nutritious green a go by integrating it into your diet to gain all of its green goodness!
5. Sea Buckthorn
It’s easy to see why the bright, orange berry that is the sea buckthorn has been christened as a ‘Super Fruit’ or ‘Miracle Berry’. Despite its name, it does not actually come from the sea, and is instead derived from a shrub. (Go figure!)
It packs 12 times the vitamin C of an orange, and is a great source of protein, fibre, antioxidants, and at least 190 other bioactive compounds. The sea buckthorn is also the only plant source that contains Omega fatty acids 3,6,9 and 7. Although it has been described as ‘unpleasant’ to eat raw due to its sour, oily flavour, consuming sea buckthorn oil (which can be found in cosmetic products as well as in food or supplement forms), helps to promote skin health by moisturising it while reducing inflammation. It's also able to help relieve dry eyes, and its high vitamin C content means a strong presence of antioxidants that neutralises the free radicals in the body.
So the next time you go purchasing groceries or plan a trip to your local Farmer’s Market, be on the lookout for these weird yet wonderful foods to add to your diet for a healthier, happier you!