When it comes to the grocery store, we’re often in a hurry to get what we need and get out as soon as possible. But sometimes I like to linger in the produce section and take a closer look at the colorful fruits and veggies that I would otherwise pass by.

Right under our noses, there is so much delicious and nourishing food to experience and discover. Just by picking up a few new things at the store, we can get out of a rut and expand our palates. The strongest indicator of a quality diet is diversity, so I love to branch out and look for nutrients from colorful, new places.


These are my six favorite unique fruits and veggies: what they taste like, how to prepare them and why they’re good for us. Next time, don’t pass them by!

1. Mamey Sapote

MameySapoteAlex Crab/iStock

The mamey sapote is best eaten raw, straight out of the skin (but don’t eat the skin!). When ripe, the mamey sapote flesh is soft, creamy and sweet. (I think it tastes like a cross between a cooked sweet potato and a cooked pumpkin.) It’s brown on the outside, bright orange inside, and looks like an orange avocado when you cut into it. I love to throw it into smoothies or milkshakes for some added color and a nutritional boost. Try it in this Pumpkin Protein Smoothie, this Orange Sweet Potato Smoothie, or this Sunshine Smoothie.

Native to Central and South America, it’s said that this fruit was enjoyed by the Mayans, long before it became a popular crop grown in South Florida. There are many varieties of sapote (or sapodilla), including the (very exciting) chocolate sapote, but you’re most likely to come across the mamey variety around the U.S.


Nutrition highlights: One cup has 38 percent of your daily value of fiber, meets 67 percent  of your Vitamin C needs, and is a good source of potassium.

2. Collard Greens

Collard GreensKristin Lamy, Art Director at Lighter


Collard greens resemble all-popular kale in many ways, but they have a distinctively earthy, sweet and bitter taste. They’re thicker than other leafy greens, but they’ve got a nice crunch that makes them easy to rip through, even when raw.

OK, so collard greens aren’t exactly uncommon, but they are way underappreciated! I learned about collard greens growing up in the South, and they are, of course, the classic way to get some greens in your soul food. But they’re also great for many other types of dishes! My personal favorite: removing the thick stem and using the large leaves to make an amazing, gluten-free, plant-based (literally) wrap for veggie burritos. Use collard wraps in this Curried Black-Eyed Peas and Collard Greens dish, this Thai Tempeh Collard Greens Wrap, these Hummus Collard Wraps, or these Super Simple Collard Burritos. For some guidance on how to make collard greens delicious in general, check out 5 Flavorful Ways to Cook Collard Greens.


Nutrition highlights: Collard greens are incredibly rich in Vitamin K and a good source of calcium and manganese.

3. Plantains

Plantain Kristin Lamy, Art Director at Lighter

I like to think of plantains as the banana’s starchier sister. Plantains are a staple across many of the tropical regions of the world, but they pop up most often in Central or South American cuisine. You can find them in stores across the country, and they’re very easy to cook!

If you think you’d prefer a sweeter plantain, look for the ripe ones with the yellow peel and brown spots. For a drier texture and mild flavor, go for the green. (Or, try both!) They’re delicious when baked, fried, or steamed and mashed. Personally, I love them pan-fried until they’re soft and browned.

Try plantains in this Vegetable Curry With Plantains, in these Plantain Sweet Potato Tacos, or in this Dominican-Style Mashed Plantains dish. If, on the other hand,  you feel like satisfying your sweet tooth, try plantains in these Chewy Plantain Sesame Cookies, this Coconut Plantain ‘Rice’ Pudding, or in these Plantain Brownies.

Nutrition Highlights: Like bananas, plantains are a great source of energy. They’re also high in Vitamins A and C.


4. Parsnip

ParsnipKristin Lamy, Art Director at Lighter

Parsnips basically look like white carrots, but they’re much sweeter. (In fact, fun fact: Parsnips were actually used as a sweetener in Europe before cane sugar became available!) They also have a little bit of spice to them, like a mix between cloves and peppermint.

It’s common to find parsnips in grocery stores, but I don’t often see them on restaurant menus, and I’ve never seen anyone make them at home. So, I didn’t know that I was missing out until the first time I roasted parsnips in my kitchen. The whole room smelled incredible, and I was blown away when I took the first bite. They tasted like Christmas!

Because they’re a root vegetable, parsnips will store well in your fridge. For my favorite version, rinse, chop and roast them with a little bit of oil and salt (just as you would with potatoes). Steaming and pureeing works well too. They’ll add a sweet creaminess to all sorts of soups or sauces.

Try parsnips in these Fish-Style Parsnip Fillets, Cauliflower Parsnip Coconut Curry, in these Parsnip Mushroom Tacos With Coriander Crema, or in this Curried Carrot and Parsnip Soup.

Nutrition Highlights: Parsnips are a good source of fiber, potassium and folate.

5. Endive

EndiveKristin Lamy, Art Director at Lighter

This leafy green veggie comes in many beautiful forms, but the two main varieties are curly (or frisee) and escarole. With its bitter and slightly tangy flavor, endive is perfect for adding to salads, sautéing, or mixing into hot veggie soups. The tightly packed, pale yellow leaves can be cultivated in a specific way to create the Belgian Endive (pronounced “on-deeve”), which is most popularly enjoyed as little boats for yummy appetizers.

Use endives in this Belgian Pear and Endive Salad or these Endive Boats With Sun-Dried Tomato Cheese.

Nutrition Highlights: One head of endive meets 23 percent of your iron needs (which is really surprising and cool, I think), and is high in Vitamins A and C.

6. Soursop

6.SoursopPaulo Vielela/iStock

This is my all-time favorite fruit! Seriously, I highly recommend everyone try it at least once in their life.

True to its name, the soursop is both sweet and sour. Native to Central and South America and commonly found in Southeast Asia, the soursop looks pretty crazy and totally unappetizing when sold whole in stores. (But don’t let that stop you!) It tastes like an intense combination of pineapple, strawberry, and tart citrus, but has the texture of a soft, fibrous, mashed banana.

To eat it, rinse the fruit and chop it in half. Then remove the thick, stringy, starchy center. I like to savor it by the spoonful, removing the inedible seeds as I go. But you can remove the seeds and use the flesh for all sorts of dishes.

Add soursop to smoothies for some added fruity goodness! Try it in this Superfood Raspberry Smoothie, this Sunshine and Tropics Smoothie, or this Tropical Raspberry Kiwi Smoothie.

Nutrition Highlights: Soursop is high in fiber, magnesium, and Vitamin C.

And there you have it. Six unique fruits and veggies you may have normally passed in the grocery store but now you know their whole story! Will you be adventurous enough to try one of them? If you do, let us know what you made in the comments!

Lead Image Source: Paulo Vielela/iStock