These days we are all about food porn. Whether it’s a restaurant dish or a home-cooked meal, we need to snap a picture of our food and share it with the world. For vegans, it feels even more important. Not only do we want to virtually share meals with friends but we want to show the world just how incredibly delicious and beautiful vegan food can be. Posting pictures of our gorgeous food is a type of advocacy. Most vegan food is stunning, colorful and highly photogenic. But what about the less attractive fruits and veggies? Don’t they deserve their time in the spotlight as well? There are fruits and veggies which may not be so colorful or symmetrical; in fact, they might even be called “ugly” by some. Beauty, however, is in the eye of the beholder and in the taste buds of the eater. Plus, many of these veggies are packed with nutrients and that is a beautiful thing. Here are some not so appealing fruits and veggies that are delicious and good for us too.
Rutabagas look like big turnips and is often called a Swedish turnip. It’s a cross between a white turnip and cabbage. They may not be the prettiest veggie but they are healthy. Rutabagas are packed with vitamins A and C, and beta-carotene. They have all the healthy benefits of other cruciferous vegetables. They also contain phytoalexins which have been shown to fight tumor growth, encourage brain cell growth and be antimicrobial. Rutabagas are slightly sweet and starchy, earthy and a bit tart. You can use rutabagas wherever you would use potatoes, sweet potatoes or turnips. Shave them raw for salads, roast them, grill them, make fries with them, slice them up for gratins and boil them with potatoes and carrots for a colorful mash.
To make Mashed Rutabagas: peel and chop 1 large or 2 small rutabagas Add them to a large saucepan and boil them in salted water until tender, about 35 minutes. Drain the rutabagas and return them to the pot. Mash with a potato masher. Add 1 Tbs. vegan butter, 1/3 cup non-dairy milk or cream, kosher salt, and black pepper to taste. Mix well and garnish with fresh chopped chives. More recipes include these Super Rutabaga Fries and Winter Kale Vegetable Stew with Rutabaga Noodles.
2. Celery Root
It’s hard to look at celery root and imagine that it can be so creamy and delicious. Celery root, or celeriac, is a member of the celery family but only the root is used for cooking. Also called turnip rooted celery and knob celery, celery root is also pretty healthy with several minerals and vitamins especially vitamin K. Celery root has been shown to improve immunity, help blood cell production and bone health, and prevent free radical damage with its antioxidant properties. Studies are also showing there may be a relationship between eating celery root and fighter cancer. Celeriac tastes similar to celery but a little more herbaceous. Try celeriac in this Mashed Potato and Celery Root, Cheesy Leek and Potato Gratin and Root Veggie au Gratin.
3. Jerusalem Artichokes
Jerusalem artichokes or sunchokes are not really a type of artichoke, but they do belong to the same plant family. They look like knobby heads of ginger and may not look appetizing at first glance. Sunchokes received the name of artichoke because their taste was thought to be similar. The taste is actually a cross between an artichoke and a potato, which makes Jerusalem artichokes a healthier stand-in for potatoes. In fact, Jerusalem artichokes are very healthy as they are filled with iron, inulin and potassium, making them ideal for boosting energy, regulating blood sugar and lowering blood pressure.
Sunchokes are easy to cook too. You don’t even have to peel them; just scrub them clean. Heat caramelizes their sugars which gives them a sweet, nutty flavor and velvety texture when cooked. Alternatively, you can eat them raw by shredding them into a slaw. Slice them super-thin and bake them with rosemary to make healthy sunchoke chips. My favorite way to eat them is to roast them in a 425 degree oven tossed with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Cook them with parsnips and bell peppers in my Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes with Braised Garlicky Kale and enjoy them in this Jerusalem Artichoke Soup With Truffle Oil which is amazing.
If you have never seen kohlrabi, it looks sort of like a cabbage whose outer leaves are at the ends of long stems. Personally, I think it’s kind of pretty but I’m biased towards purple things. It actually looks like a purple alien veggie that just happens to be high in potassium and vitamin C. It’s also known as a “German turnip” and it tastes like a cross between cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli stems. It sounds like an identity crisis waiting to happen but the truth is, kohlrabi is a very versatile veggie. It can be shred raw into slaws and salads for a mildly spicy crunch or use them instead of potatoes to make latkes and fritters. It can also be used to make Raw Carrot Sushi. Kohlrabi can be roasted until creamy and used in side dishes or turned into soup. Kohlrabi pairs well with mustard, dill and celery seed and it is also a common ingredient in Indian cuisine. The greens on the ends of those long stems can also be sauteed and eaten like any other dark, leafy green.
Any vegetable that can be turned into fries is a favorite of mine. To make Baked Kohlrabi Fries, peel 2 heads of kohlrabi and cut them into French fry-shaped sticks, 1/3 inch wide by 2 inches long. Toss the kohlrabi fries with olive oil and your favorite spices. I like ground cumin, garlic powder, chile powder, cayenne pepper, and kosher salt. Arrange the fries in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 425 for 20 minutes, flip the fries and bakefor another 20 minutes until crisp and browned. Serve with your favorite condiment. Another delicious way to eat kohlrabi is to make noodles out of it like this Kohlrabi Spaghetti alla Foriana.
Jackfruit is a tropical fruit that you can use to cook savory dishes. It’s related to figs, mulberry and breadfruit and grows on the largest trees in the world. Jackfruit looks like a durian on steroids; it’s huge. When it’s cracked open, there are pods that are often called “seeds.” However, there is a fleshy coating around the actual seeds and this is the part that we want to eat. When jackfruit is ripe, it has a sweet taste and can be used in desserts but when it’s unripe, the flavor is savory. You can buy jackfruit whole and do the work of breaking it down yourself or you can buy it with all the work done for you. Jackfruit can be purchased frozen, dried or canned either in brine (for savory dishes) or in syrup (for sweet dishes). Jackfruit is a great source of dietary fiber, minerals, and vitamins A and C and it contains no saturated fats or cholesterol.
The texture of jackfruit is similar to chicken and pork and it has been commonly used as a meat substitute throughout Asia for many years. The jackfruit in brine is often called “vegetarian meat.” Try it in this Jackfruit Philly Cheesesteak, Jackfruit Ropa Vieja, BBQ Jackfruit and Super Simple Fiesta Jackfruit and Polenta. Click here for more recipes like Pan-Fried Jackfruit over Pasta with Lemon Coconut Cream Sauce and Moo Shu Jackfruit.
Poor prunes – people are also making faces at them and saying they are only good for old people. Not true! I love prunes; they are just sweet enough to make a yummy snack for me. Even though they are a deep, dark purple, they look like wrinkled, shrunken heads. Prunes are healthy, however, with lots of fiber and antioxidants. Read The Fruit That Delivers a Whole Package of Nutrition for Your Bones to find out how else prunes can benefit your health. Then make this Almond and Prune Finger Cake, Nutrient-Dense Vegola Granola Bars, and this Almond Prune Danish. You can also use prunes to make vegan chocolate cake!
I remember going to the beach as a child and the seaweed would wrap itself around my legs, causing me to scream. If you had told that one day I would regularly eat that slimy green stuff, I would have thought you were crazy. Seaweed, which includes kelp, nori, kombu, spirulina, dulce and wakame to name a few, is really healthy. It’s full of iodine and fiber and is great for hormone regulation, thyroid function and our immune systems. Find out everything you ever wanted to know about these sea veggies in Seaweed Decoded: Why It’s Essential on a Vegan Diet and All You Ever Wanted to Know About Sea Vegetables: Kelps, Noris, Oh My! I use seaweed whenever I need to add a “fishy” flavor to vegan seafood dishes such as Tempeh “Fish” Fillets, Vegan Tofu Scallops and Chickpea “Tuna” Salad. You can also eat the seaweed in its whole form in this Easy Seaweed Salad, Vegan Chili Thai Kelp Noodles to Die For, Kelp Noodles in Peanut-Miso Sauce, and Spring Rolls with Wakame.
To me, all fruits and veggies are beautiful because they are healthy and cruelty-free. The next time you go grocery shopping, don’t just look at the prettiest produce. Give some of these a try and you’ll see we shouldn’t judge a food by its looks alone.
Lead Image Photo: Jerusalem Artichoke Soup With Truffle Oil