5 Unique Ingredients to Mix Up Your Cooking August 26, 2016
Share the produce love with some unsung heroes of the vegetable world by giving these five unique ingredients a try.
Today, we’re pushing you far out of your produce comfort zone. Because however much we love the classics, there’s a whole world of colourful and unique ingredients out there begging for your attention at the grocery store. Not only are they a feast for the eyes, but their bright bold hues indicate the nutritional goodness within.
Here’s the lowdown on the nutritional benefits of eating the rainbow:
- Red foods contain lycopene, a phytochemical that helps protect against breast and prostate cancers.
- Orange foods are loaded with beta-carotene, which the body converts into Vitamin A to keep the immune system, eyes, and bones healthy.
- Green foods contain isothiocyanates, a compound that helps prevent cancer and clears toxins from the body.
- Blue and purple foods are chock-full of heart-healthy antioxidants that also work wonders for your brain.
Don’t worry, we won’t make you say a tearful goodbye to your tried-and-true favourites forever – just a “see ya later” as you venture out for a bit into the colourful world of unusual produce. Here are some suggestions:
1. If you like carrots, try parsnips!
Appearance: Parsnips, which belong to the carrot family (and are also closely related to parsley) have a creamy white skin and thick stump which thins out towards the end.
Taste: The first frost of the year converts the parsnip’s starch to sugar and gives it a pleasantly sweet flavour similar to that of carrots. However, unlike their orange counterparts, parsnips boast an earthier, nuttier flavour – perfect for winter.
How to prepare: Parsnips can be baked, boiled, sautéed, or steamed.
Season: These root vegetables are available year round but peak during the autumn and winter.
Fun Fact: Parsnips can become sweeter during a frost, because the low temperature converts starch found in the root to sugar.
2. If you like normal potatoes, try Jerusalem artichokes!
Appearance: These lumpy, light brown-skinned tubers bear a slight resemblance to ginger.
Taste: Jerusalem artichokes have a nutty and slightly crunchy taste reminiscent of artichokes. They contain far less starch than traditional potatoes (although we still love them too).
How to prepare: Prepare these bad boys just like you would normal potatoes. Roast, boil, bake, steam, or saute with or without the skin. Feel free to also toss them raw into salads for a delicate bite.
Season: Although they are available year-round, the peak season for planting Jerusalem artichokes is from November to December.
Fun Fact: Despite their name, Jerusalem artichokes, are not artichokes. They’re the root of the sunflower!
3. If you like sweet potatoes, try purple sweet potatoes!
Appearance: As the name suggests, purple sweet potatoes are a stunning shade of violet that intensifies when cooked.
Taste: Purple sweet potatoes have a denser and richer taste than their orange counterparts but are still just a sweet as the ones we’ve come to know and love.
How to prepare: Prepare purple potatoes exactly how you would orange ones. The only difference? Their dense flesh takes a bit longer to cook. For the best result, scrub the skin before wrapping it up tight in aluminium foil. Place on a baking tray and bake at 180°degrees for around 45 minutes, then split open and enjoy their fluffy flesh!
Provinance: Over 70% of Australia’s sweet potatoes come from Queensland farms.
Fun Fact: Sweet potatoes aren’t actually potatoes! They’re one of the few edible plants within the morning glory family of flowering plants.
4. If you like broccoli, try purple and orange cauliflower!
Appearance: Purple cauliflower gets its vibrant hue from anthocyanin, an antioxidant also found in red cabbage, blueberries, and red wine. The colour of orange cauliflower comes from a genetic mutation that allows it to retain more beta carotene. Both varieties have the same firmness and texture as their white counterpart.
Taste: Although orange cauliflower is dubbed “cheddar” cauliflower, it tastes nothing like cheese and instead boasts a mild, creamy, and slightly sweet flavour. Similarly, purple cauliflower is mild and slightly sweet with a subtle nutty bite. Yummmmmmm…
How to prepare: It’s easy! Prepare coloured cauliflower just like you would white cauliflower by roasting, steaming, mashing or – our personal favourite – ricing!
Season: Look out for coloured cauliflower during the autumn months.
Fun Fact: Its name comes from the Latin caulis (stalk) and floris (flower).
5. If you like red radishes, try horseradish!
Appearance: Horseradish, which is related to mustard, cabbage, and broccoli, is cultivated primarily for its tapered roots. Although the rough exterior is brown, the inside is creamy white.
Taste: This root has a powerful and pungently spicy flavour.
How to prepare: Simply cut off the brown peel before shredding or grating it into sauces or condiments for fish and roasted meat. Be aware, though, that once it’s exposed to air, horseradish will darken in colour, lose its pungent flavour, and may have a tendency to become bitter. Treat it with respect!
Season: This unique root is at its best in autumn and winter; however, it stores well into the spring.
Fun Fact: Ironically enough, horseradish is poisonous to horses – so don’t get any clever ideas :/.