Eaten on their own or as part of a healthy salad, vegetables form an essential part of our
everyday diet. Let’s look beyond the regulars on the grocery shelves, and explore the world of the increasingly popular exotic vegetables.
One of the oldest cultivated vegetables, artichokes are regarded by some as gourmet food, and are harvested just before the bloom. This perennial vegetable, whose edible flower head is formed of a fleshy base and surrounded by scaly leaves, is an excellent sourceof dietary fibre, magnesium, folic acid, vitamin A and riboflavin.
Blanch the artichoke hearts and toss in a little butter, or stuff them and serve cold dishes garnished with them. However you prepare them, artichokes make a healthy and delicious choice. When young and tender, artichokes can be used as a filling for omelettes or as fritters.
Once classified as a part of the lily family, the fleshy green asparagus is succulent and tender, and considered quite a delicacy. Often called one of nature’s perfect foods, asparagus is packed with many health benefits. It's great for detox diets, and can reportedly reduce the risks of cancer and heart disease, reduce pain and inflammation, and even has anti-ageing properties!
For additional health benefits, asparagus shoots can be eaten raw. An easy method of consuming this vegetable without losing any nutrients is to blend it into a juice, and consume with a little honey. The alkalinity and diuretic effect of the asparagus juice helps relieve many common ailments.
A popular Italian vegetable, radicchio is often used in salads as well as pastas. Its small hearts, red with white veins, are round and crunchy. Radicchio tastes bitter, peppery and slightly acidic.
It has a powerful flavour and colour, and is a powerhouse of nutrients! These young tender leaves are an excellent source of folate, copper and vitamins K and C. It's generally used in salads, and is very attractive when mixed with other salad leaves, greens and vegetables.
An easy way to enjoy this wholesome veggie is to mix some chopped radicchio with a spoonful of olive oil and grated Parmesan; it makes a delicious, nutritious and attractive snack!
Closely associated with the onion and garlic family, leeks have a sweet yet moderate flavour that adds a subtle touch to any dish. The white elongated bulb at the base of a bunch of green leaves is widely used in salads, and the green leafy tops make an excellent flavouring agent forsoups and stews. Often used as a substitute for its cousin, the onion, the green portion of the stalks adds flavour to soups and broths.
Leeks are packed with vitamins and minerals and are an excellent source of fibre, making them a great choice for maintaining overall health. Leeks are also a good source of vitamin A, beta carotene, folate and lutein.
A variety of marrow (summer squash) that is usually eaten when young, zucchini has a shiny outer skin, firm watery flesh with a delicate taste and low caloric value. Also called the ‘courgette’ or ‘Italian squash’, zucchini is biologically a fruit, though often cooked as a vegetable. It can be used as a salad vegetable, or can be pickled, and is equally delicious when stuffed.
This cylindrical cucumber-like vegetable has a sweet and tangy taste. While it is low in calories, zucchini has very high water content and a higher nutritional value, making it perfect to munch on between meals. Regular consumption of this ‘fruit-vegetable’ helps reduce heart-related problems, including high cholesterol. It's also a good source of magnesium and phosphorus, both which are essential for maintaining healthy bones.
Packed with nutrients, zucchinis can be consumed on their own, or as an important flavouring agent in a wide range of recipes.
Now’s the time to indulge in some vegetable exotica!