The Allure of Unique Spring and Summer Veggies

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably know what kale, chard, and beets are. You know, the vegetables a la mode that we habitually fill our kitchen with each week. But with summer upon us, and the weather warming up, why not warm up to something new? Below are a few unique veggies you can find this summer to spruce up a salad or simply savor on their own.

Stingning nettlesStinging Nettles

This plant that for some, grows as far away as the outer edges of the backyard, has an appropriate moniker. It’s unassuming green leaves are covered in tiny needles that unleash a poison as painful as a bee sting at the slightest touch.

But that doesn’t mean they aren’t delicious. In fact, when steamed or pureed, the stinging power of the nettles is dismantled, leaving the brave soul that dares to eat them the spoils of a delicate vegetable, rich in nutrients, that has the flavor of spinach and cucumber. They’re also rich in vitamin C and iron.

Publications from The Guardian to the Huffington Post have even lauded these embattled weeds and suggested recipes using the greens for anything from soup to pesto to sorbet.

Stinging nettles are prevalent throughout the U.S., but especially like the west coastal forests of the Pacific Northwest.

And the best part, if you forage for them, they’re free! They’re generally considered good to eat, as long as they are not flowering. Just make sure to wear gloves when you pick them.

kohlrabiKohlrabi

The sputnik-shaped kohlrabi has been compared to both a space alien and an octopus. But it’s in fact a brassica—the same as cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower.  And like the rest of its veggie family, its rich in antioxidants.

The eccentric kohlrabi tastes a bit like broccoli stems, but is milder and sweeter. It’s also, despite its unusual shape, quite versatile and easy to prepare. Once its thick outer skin is peeled away, kohlrabi can be steamed, boiled, baked, or grilled.

Make sure to buy kohlrabi with the greens attached because they can be cooked in the same manner as kale and turnip greens.

The New York Times Well blog offers five suggestions for how to cook the unwieldy kohlrabi, including kohlrabi Home fries, a great addition for any summer cookout with burgers on the grill.

Fiddleheads

Fiddleheads

The curly fiddleheads are the furled fronds of a young fern—try to say that three times—and may look like they came from Middle Earth, but are comparable in flavor to the modern-day asparagus or artichoke.

The most popular variety of fiddlehead comes from the ostrich fern, a colony-forming fern found in the Northeast. In addition to being one of the few edible ferns, they’re rich in fiber, vitamin C, vitamin A, and omega-3 fatty acids.

To prepare fiddleheads, you have to remove their brown papery coating, which takes time, but can be done by placing them in a colander and thoroughly spraying them with potable water. Once their papery coat is gone, it’s recommended that they are steamed or boiled anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes to avoid food-borne illness, according to the University of Maine Cooperative Extension

Like many greens, fiddleheads, are delicious when sautéed in garlic and butter, and can be added to a variety of dishes.

Just be sure to pick some  before the season’s over for these magical vegetables, which general unfurl into full fern form by June. 

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