Spice Up Your Diet With Exotic Foods

By Tracy Wright

We’ve all spent more time in the kitchen these days, and now you may find yourself in a cooking rut. Adding exotic foods to your food repertoire may literally “spice” up your routine in the kitchen. There are a variety of fruits, vegetables and proteins you can add to liven up your menus.

VEGETABLES

KOHLRABI

The Spruce Eats, an online cooking site, reports that kohlrabi is referred to as a cabbage turnip and is in the same family as broccoli or cabbage. It can be eaten cooked or raw in salads or purées, said Bon Appetit. According to Delish, kohlrabi tastes a lot like cabbage heart. The Kitchn recommends using these vegetables in anything from noodles to slaws. It can be found at Whole Foods or farmers markets.

SALSIFY

Originally from the Mediterranean, salsify is a long and thin root vegetable that resembles a parsnip or carrot, said the Farmer’s Almanac. The vegetable has both a black and white variety which both taste different. Black salsify has a black skin with an oyster flavor while the white salsify has brown or tan skin and tastes more like artichoke hearts and asparagus, the Farmer’s Almanac reports. Salsify can replace root vegetables in many dishes like soups, stews or sautéed with greens, said Delish. OneGreenPlanet.org tells us it is truly a “superfood” because of its abundance of vitamin C, potassium, iron and calcium. You can find the canned version online or at Whole Foods. The raw variety can be found online at True Leaf Market.

BROCCOLI ROMANESCO

You may see this vegetable and think you’re looking at a little set of cacti. Bon Appetit claims the vegetable hailing from Italy tastes similar to cauliflower with a bit of nuttiness. Broccoli Romanesco can be roasted in the oven with a light coating of olive oil or grated to make rice. It can be found locally at Whole Foods.

SUNCHOKE

This root vegetable is actually a type of sunflower. According to Cooking Light, sunchokes have a “sweet and nutty flavor said to be similar to artichokes.” It’s become more popular recently because it is very versatile as well as low in calories. They can be roasted or pan fried. They can also be eaten raw because they have a great crunch. You can find them in supermarkets and farmers markets.

JICAMA

Jicama is a root vegetable with crunchy skin that has become more popular these days. According to Healthline, its flesh is “juicy and crunchy, with a slightly sweet and nutty flavor.” It can be eaten raw once it is peeled, but can also be cooked and made into items like baked jicama fries or jicama stir fry. Raw jicama can be inserted into salsa or slaw, said The Kitchn, an online cooking site. Most grocery stores or specialty markets will have jicama on hand.

BOK CHOY

Commonly found in Asian cuisine, bok choy is also known as Chinese cabbage. All of it is edible and found in stir fries, ramen, spring rolls and dumplings. It can be pan fried or grilled. Healthline says that it is a good source of vitamins C and K and also contains a good amount of fiber. It can be found at most supermarkets.

SWISS CHARD

Swiss chard is a leafy green vegetable often associated with spinach but with a bitter taste. The Spruce Eats says that cooking it can lessen the bitterness and is used in soups, omelets and salads. Swiss chard is typically sautéed and can be paired with meat or fish. It has a huge amount of vitamins K and A and can be found at most supermarkets.

FRUITS

STARFRUIT

Known for its fun star shape, the starfruit has become very popular and can be eaten both ripe and unripe. Delish says that the unripe taste is tart while the ripe version is sweet and sour. The flesh is crunchy and juicy and the fruit can be eaten whole when ripe. The unripe version is usually used in cooking. Healthline reports that it is also a good source of vitamin C and fiber. It can be found in the aisles of most supermarkets.

TOMATILLO

Tomatillos are green in color and frequently used in sauces in Mexican dishes, said Delish. Tomatillos have a tart taste and are most frequently used in salsas, like salsa verde. They can also be roasted in the oven or pan fried. Sauces with tomatillos can be paired with meat and fish or used in gazpacho. Organicfacts.net reports that the fruit has high levels of dietary fiber and is low in fat. You can find them at most supermarkets.

CHERIMOYA

Described as a very sweet fruit, cherimoyas are sometimes referred to as a “custard apple,” says the Farmer’s Almanac. It has been compared to other sweet fruits like peaches or bananas and its center flesh can be eaten with a spoon after removing the seeds. Once puréed, this fruit is good to enjoy as a smoothie or parfait, or even in a cobbler with some cinnamon, according to the Produce for Better Health Foundation. Healthline says the fruit is high in antioxidants and has a high level of vitamin C. You can find the fruit at Whole Foods.

KUMQUAT

This fruit is unique because you can actually eat the entire fruit, skin and all, unlike many other citrus fruits, said Delish. Originally from China, kumquats are now grown in warm climates like Florida and California. It’s a small fruit about the size of the grape with a sweet skin and tart juicy flesh, said Healthline. They have a high level of fiber and vitamin C. You can find them at farmers markets or specialty grocery stores.

JACKFRUIT

Known as the largest fruit in the world, the jackfruit has the taste of a tart banana, said Delish. Once seeded, a ripe jackfruit can be eaten raw with desserts. What’s most interesting about the jackfruit is in its unripe state, it is extremely versatile as its texture can be compared to pulled pork so it’s often used as a substitute for meat by vegetarians and vegans, said The Spruce Eats. So, the unripe jackfruit can be used in recipes like curries, stir fries or salads. It’s high in protein and fiber and filled with a lot of nutrients. It can be found in Whole Foods or Asian markets.

LYCHEE

Once you peel off the red and bumpy skin, the inner part of the lychee is sweet with a floral scent, said The Spruce Eats. It is commonly used in fruit salads, smoothies, juices and desserts. They are grown in warmer climates and are high in antioxidants, vitamin C and potassium. If it’s cocktail hour, you may also enjoy a lychee martini or margarita! You can find them at many supermarkets or Asian grocery stores.

PROTEINS

FROG LEGS

While many Americans may be squeamish about eating the edible legs of this amphibian, frog legs are actually a very popular dish in French and Chinese cuisines. The taste is described as similar to white meat chicken or fish, according to The Spruce Eats. They are usually sold already skinned. In France, a very popular dish is called “cuisses de grenouilles à la Provençale,” which is where the legs are sautéed after being dredged in flour and combined with butter and garlic, said the Spruce Eats. They are a good source of omega-3 fats. Certain butchers will sell frog legs, and they are also sold online.

BISON

Bison is also a great substitute for beef as most bison roam free and have no hormones or antibiotics, said Muscleandstrength.com. Lower in saturated fat, bison is described as “slightly sweeter, richer and with more robust flavor.” Lower in calories and fat, bison are great sources of iron and zinc. Preparation of bison is almost identical to beef as it can be eaten in steaks or ground beef. Along with venison, bison can be purchased online.

ALLIGATOR MEAT

Alligator meat is lean and very popular in Southern states. According to the Florida Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services, it is low in fat and cholesterol and “is available in a variety of cuts, including tail meat fillets, ribs, nuggets and wings.” In fact, alligator tail is a popular menu item at many Florida restaurants. It can be used with any recipe calling for meat, including chicken or pork. Alligator meat is sold online.

VENISON

With a tender texture, venison or deer meat is said to have a similar taste to beef. It is lower in fat than beef and does not have antibiotics or hormones. Since it is a very lean cut of meat, grilling is likely the best preparation, said The Spruce Eats. You can find venison at licensed game meat farms online. Locally, Ward’s Supermarket also offers a selection of wild game meat.


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