27 Uncommon and Uncommon Greens to Develop This Season

Tomatoes, zucchini, and kale are fun crops to grow, but maybe you want to spice things up. Whether you’re an adventurous foodie or a curious plant nerd, the vegetable world is full of exotic flavors, textures, colors, and shapes you’ve probably never heard of before. Surprisingly, you don’t have to grow in a tropical greenhouse to experience the eclectic vibrancy of global cuisine. Most rare and unusual vegetables can grow as annuals in your regular garden beds!

From alien-like celeriac to psychedelic cauliflower to oyster-flavored roots, there are dozens of rare and downright strange vegetables to satisfy your craving for novelty in the garden. Let’s explore 27 weird, odd, and delicious veggies to try this season!

27 Unusual Vegetables for the Adventurous Gardener

Creativity and experimentation can open a world of fantastic color and flavor in your garden.

As an organic vegetable farmer, I have grown almost every “regular” vegetable you can imagine. Rather than planting a hundred acres of cabbage or corn, the veggie farms I’ve worked with prioritize diversity above all else. On one Oregon farm, we grew over 100 different varieties of 50 different crops in one season! 

Needless to say, maintaining a vibrant farmer’s market stand year-round requires some creativity and experimentation. Plain old potatoes and sweet corn get boring fast, and they don’t offer many opportunities for crop rotation. Moreover, cooking becomes a lot more exciting when you have unique global ingredients to play around with.

These unique and weird vegetables may not be mainstream in America, but they make broccoli and carrots seem comparatively boring. If you’re tired of growing the same thing every year, or you want to expand your recipe options, don’t miss out on these 27 rare and unusual vegetable crops!

1. Celeriac

Emerging from the rich, dark soil, a thriving celeriac plant displays its unique, bulbous form. The green stems and branches gracefully fan out from the top, adorned with vibrant green leaves, promising a bountiful harvest.
This alien-looking relative of celery can thrive in cold weather and is a breeze to cultivate.

This celery relative looks like an alien planted it in your garden! It is cold-hardy, easy to grow, and perfect for autumn and winter stews or roasts. This root tastes like a cozy, savory chicken soup, with a flavor between potatoes, mushrooms, turnips, and celery. The texture is starchy and smooth when cooked, like a potato and turnip had a baby.

Celeriac is also known as celery root, knob celery, or turnip-rooted celery. It is a traditional winter vegetable grown throughout Europe. It can be used in a huge variety of cold-weather recipes, from soups and stews to gratins and slaws. The starchy white flesh and knobby yellow-green skins are funky and asteroid-like. The tops look similar to celery or parsley.

The best celeriac varieties will reduce pithiness and maintain a solid heart. The plants don’t face many pests or diseases if properly rotated with other crops that are not in the parsley family. Best of all, these roots add diversity to your winter storage brigade. When you’re tired of eating butternut squash and potatoes all winter, celeriac comes to the rescue! With proper harvest (leaving some of the stem base intact), these roots can be stored in the refrigerator for a whopping 6-8 months. 

This is a long-season crop requiring up to 100 days to mature. Be sure to sow in late spring after the chance of frost has passed, and temperatures are consistently above 55°F. Like celery, celeriac requires consistent moisture and fairly mild weather. It loves loamy, well-drained soil with plenty of compost.

2. Cucamelon

A close-up reveals a lush green branch adorned with cascading cucamelons, resembling tiny green mouse melons. Their petite size is complemented by the vibrant green leaves, creating a picturesque scene of nature's abundance.
Training the vines upwards is recommended to keep cucamelon fruit off the ground.

Also known as gherkins or Mexican sour gherkins, these adorable grape-sized fruits look like baby watermelons and taste like tart cucumbers. The 1” fruits grow on vines that grow up to 10 feet long—perfect for a vertical garden or patio trellis! You can enjoy cucamelons fresh or pickled, but I especially love popping them in my mouth straight off the vine. They have a tangy citrus overtone that is refreshing on a hot summer day.

This cucumber family crop is native to Mexico and Central America. It is sometimes called sandía ratón (“mouse melon”) or sandita (“little watermelon”). Perfect for container gardening, just a few vines will produce an abundance of little treats all summer. 

They prefer warm weather and loamy soil, and you can grow them like cucumbers. The vines are best trained upwards to keep the fruit off the ground. Try the cultivar ‘Mouse Melon’ for quick-maturing, high-yielding vines. At just 70 days to maturity, they’re perfect for short-season areas.

3. ‘Red Kuri’ Squash

A close-up view captures the 'Red Kuri' Squash, with its vibrant orange hue hanging from a verdant branch. The broad green leaves cradle the squash, creating a stunning image of nature's bounty.
The ‘Red Kuri’ squash from Japan is flavor-packed and has a vibrant orange color and distinctive teardrop shape.

This Japanese winter squash has a rare teardrop shape and vibrantly orange color. The sweet flavor and creamy texture are the perfect substitutes for squash or pumpkin dishes. You probably won’t use pumpkins again once you puree a ‘Red Kuri’ squash into your soup or pie. In Japanese, kuri means “chestnut,” a perfect tribute to this squash’s uniquely nutty-tasting notes.

‘Red Kuri’ is sometimes called ‘Orange Hokkaido’ or ‘Baby Red Hubbard’ and is native to Argentina and Uruguay. This frost-sensitive squash is grown exactly like other winter squash varieties. The 4-6’ long vines are compact enough for a small garden and can be trained to ramble where you please. The vigorous plants take about 95 days to mature their pear-shaped fruits, which average 3-7 pounds, and have bright orange skin with yellow-orange flesh.

4. Sorrel

A close-up of vibrant sorrel leaves, thriving in dark, fertile soil, showcases the plant's rich green foliage. The large, healthy leaves epitomize nature's vitality, inviting thoughts of freshness and growth.
Sorrel is a vibrant green leafy vegetable that has been a favorite in England and France for centuries.

This green has been popular in England and France for centuries but is hardly known in the U.S. Sorrel is one of the first greens in the spring and the last in the fall, competing with spinach for the prize of cold-hardy greens. But these leaves have way more zest than spinach! The bright, lemony flavor is tangy and enticing.

The arrow-shaped crinkly sorrel leaves grow 6-8” tall and take 60 days to mature, or quicker if you prefer baby greens. As a member of the Polygonaceae, or buckwheat family, sorrel is great for crop rotations because not many other crops are related to it (except rhubarb and buckwheat). Container gardeners should prioritize this high-yielding, compact green for a citrusy spring surprise!

Whether you choose red-veined or standard green varieties, these spring greens are extra high in vitamin C and grow very well in colder zones. Sorrel is the perfect compliment to fish or salads and tastes delectable, fresh or sauteed. Many mixologists even incorporate the zesty citrus leaves into cocktails! 

5. Mache (Corn Salad)

A close-up of Mache (Corn Salad) leaves, glistening with moisture, reveals their lush green color. The fertile, dark soil provides the perfect foundation for these thriving leaves, symbolizing the beauty of natural growth.
This robust plant faces minimal insect and disease problems.

Mache is a delightfully tender cold-weather green that survives temperatures down to 10°F. When I farmed in the Pacific Northwest, this was our most decadent winter green. I first discovered mache while working for a German horticulturist. In her hometown in the countryside of northern Germany, this green often sprung up in winter corn fields, which is reportedly how it got its nickname “corn salad.”

The buttery-smooth, rounded mache leaves are a pleasure to eat, fresh or slightly wilted. I love a simple mache salad with olive oil and balsamic. The rosettes can be harvested whole at ground level, or you can cut 2” above the ground for a consistent “cut and come again” harvest. The plants easily regrow and provide omega-3-rich salad greens throughout the cool seasons.

A member of Caprifoliaceae, or the honeysuckle family, this is another green that is great for crop rotation as not many vegetables are related to it. Mache has virtually no insect or disease issues to speak of, and it performs exceptionally well in winter, spring, and fall. It grows easily from seed. Avoid growing it in the summer! 

6. Kohlrabi

On a wooden table, whole kohlrabi bulbs are displayed, featuring green skin and delicate shoots emerging from the sides. The scenery reveals the essence of earthy produce ready for culinary delight.
Kohlrabi’s bulbs typically sport a layer of robust cabbage-like leaves on top.

You may have seen these funky sputnik-shaped veggies at the farmer’s market. Many people are turned off by kohlrabi because they don’t know how to cook it or harvest it too big.

I prefer baby kohlrabi (about tennis-ball size or smaller) because it is more tender, crisp, and juicy than the large ones. When you harvest them small, they have a mild cabbage-like flavor with nutty undertones and the sweet texture of an apple. I am obsessed with kohlrabi coleslaw! 

Kohlrabi is a member of the Brassicaceae family, along with broccoli, cabbage, turnips, and kale. The name kohlrabi comes from the German term for “cabbage turnip.” The bulbs can be green or red and usually have a layer of stiff cabbage-like leaves up top. If you’ve ever grown turnip or rutabagas, kohlrabi is a breeze to seed and tend. It is a great, diverse addition to your fall crop repertoire.

Try ‘Purple Vienna’ kohlrabi or mix things up with ‘Purple Kohlrabi Sprouts’ that you can grow as nutrient-dense microgreens. 

7. Cardoon

A close-up of the cardoon plant unveils its captivating light purple flowers and unique structural heads. Sturdy branches and vibrant green leaves provide a striking contrast in this display of nature's artistry.
Cardoon is an exciting addition due to its giant and visually appealing stature.

You’ve heard of artichokes and pricked your finger on gnarly thistle, but have you heard of artichoke thistle? Also known as cardoon or Cynara cardunculus, this edible Mediterranean vegetable is closely related to both plants but has more prized culinary uses in southern Europe and North Africa.

The inner leaves and stalks are usually blanched, yielding a mildly sweet, earthy bite with a flavor similar to celeriac, sunchokes, or artichoke hearts. You can also enjoy them raw as a crunch celery-like appetizer with dip. 

Cardoon is exciting in the garden because it is a giant, aesthetically pleasing plant with ornamental value. It is perennial in zones 7-10 or an annual in colder climates. You can technically eat the spiky purple flowers, but the stalks are a culinary delicacy. French chefs often serve olive-oil marinated cardoon stems instead of artichokes in many dishes.  

Small-space gardeners, beware! Cardoon is a massive plant that needs at least 3-4 square feet of space per plant.

8. Shiso

On a wooden surface, Shiso leaves are prominently displayed, showcasing their vibrant green color and serrated edges. The leaves' exquisite detailing adds a touch of elegance to the scene.
Shiso grows in medium to rich sandy soils, creating a dense mat resembling mint.

No herb garden is complete without this versatile Asian delight! Sometimes called Japanese basil, beefsteak plant, or perilla, this herb is delicious, whether fresh or pickled. If you enjoy cooking Japanese, Korean, or Vietnamese cuisine, this unique flavor is one of the secret ingredients to make it taste like the sushi, tempura, or noodles you love at authentic restaurants. The distinctive clove or cinnamon-like flavor is complemented by a spicy cumin flare. 

Shiso is an aromatic herb in the mint family. It has heart-shaped leaves with jagged edges and a gorgeous upright growth. You can grow it in medium to rich sandy soils, forming a thick mat similar to mint. Fortunately, it’s not nearly as aggressive as mint, but it readily self-seeds and may spread in areas with mild winters. The easiest prevention is growing in a container or regularly harvesting so the flowers don’t form seedheads.

Shiso comes in green-leaf and red-leaf (purple) varieties. These ‘Green and Red Shiso Perilla’ seeds make it easy to enjoy a blend of both! 

9. ‘Romanesco’

A close-up captures the mesmerizing Romanesco head, adorned with its light green, fractal-like structure. Dark green leaves elegantly encircle the head, creating an image that's both visually captivating and appetizing.
It’s important to note that ‘Romanesco’ doesn’t perform well in scorching summer temperatures.

Some farmers joke that ‘Romanesco’ looks like a cauliflower or broccoli that takes acid. The psychedelic swirls and fractal patterns of ‘Romanesco’ are surely a sight! 

These uniquely conical cauliflower heads are typically neon green and oh-so-tasty! The flavor is similar to broccoli but more mild and nutty. The texture is like cauliflower but even more crispy when roasted or baked, thanks to the pointy edges (don’t worry, they won’t prick your mouth).

First cultivated by 16th-century Italian gardeners, ‘Romanesco’ is now a fan favorite amongst gourmet chefs. This Brassica-family crop is perfect for planting in late summer for a fall harvest.

You can grow it in the spring, but the heads may have trouble forming if the weather warms too quickly. This is not a good crop for areas with extreme summer heat! Like its broccoli and cauliflower cousins, ‘Romanesco’ enjoys cool weather, fertile soil, and consistent moisture.

10. Sunchoke (Jerusalem Artichoke)

A hand holds Sunchoke (Jerusalem Artichoke) tubers, each covered in brown soil. In the background, the fertile soil provides a reminder of the plant's humble origins, highlighting the tubers' natural appeal.
Sunchokes are prolific tuber producers and will happily return year after year.

A relative of the sunflower, sunchokes or Jerusalem artichokes are an incredible multifunctional plant to add to any garden. They yield quality carbohydrate-rich tubers underground and supply pollinators with abundant flower pollen aboveground. These unusual sunflower relatives are very prolific and low-maintenance. The plants don’t fall victim to many pests or diseases; they reliably come back yearly!

An herbaceous perennial, it grows up to 10 feet tall and remains wintery hardy in zones 3-9. Above the soil level, sunchokes look like a little well-branched sunflower forest with vibrant yellow blooms. Some people say the flowers smell like chocolate or vanilla! But the edible tubers are what we’re really after. They taste nutty and starchy, like a potato mixed with a mushroom. The slightly sweet undertones are similar to water chestnuts. 

They are very inulin-rich and sometimes lovingly dubbed “fartichokes” because you may be a little gassy if you eat too many! This can be great for anyone who needs to rev up their digestion, but you don’t want to overdo it. Still, they are a tasty and easy-to-grow food staple worth adding to your garden if you have space and a means of containing them. 

11. Watermelon Radish

On a wooden table, a whole and a sliced Watermelon Radish are displayed, revealing their stunning pink centers. Against a backdrop of lush greenery, the radishes' vibrant colors stand out as a testament to nature's diversity.Watermelon radishes boast a slightly sweet and peppery taste with a satisfying crunch.

If you’re bored with regular red radishes, watermelon radishes are a cheery heirloom addition to spring or fall harvests. This heirloom variety of the Chinese daikon has a super bright pink interior with pale greenish-white skin, hence the name reference to watermelons. 

These radishes taste slightly sweet and peppery with a crisp bite, perfect for cheese boards, dips, pickles, salads, soups, and roasting. I especially love thinly sliced watermelon radishes with goat cheese slices and red wine! Yum!

Unlike extra-elongated white daikons or spherical golf-ball salad radishes, watermelon radishes are somewhere in between. They’re stout, hardy, and easy to grow in the cool seasons of spring or fall. These roots have harder skins than regular salad radishes, so you can store them in the refrigerator for several months through the winter. 

12. Taro

On a wooden table, large taro roots are presented, some sliced to reveal their light pink centers. The taro roots exude a sense of earthiness and culinary potential, surrounded by large, green leaves.
This tropical plant performs well in gardens in zones 8-10 but is also grown as an indoor houseplant.

You may have heard of taro if you’ve ever had boba tea. This tropical wetland plant is popular in Africa and South Asia. Taro root looks like a hairy ringed potato with pink or white flesh. The corms (offshoots of the central tuber) are eaten steamed, boiled, fried, roasted, or mashed, yielding a similar texture to potatoes. Taro is also used as a paste, powder, and flour. Hawaiians eat taro at traditional luaus in a mashed dish called poi. The leaves are also edible!

The gigantic, beautiful foliage of taro is reminiscent of many tropical houseplants. This sweet root is a member of the Araceae, or arum family, along with pothos, philodendron, and calla lilies. This tropical native grows in zones 8-10 or can be kept as a houseplant. 

Mature plants reach up to 3-6 feet wide, so you need plenty of room for this rare veggie!

13. ‘Chioggia’ Beets

A vibrant red Chiogga beet bulb rests on a gleaming wet stone tray, showcasing its earthy allure. Three delicate Chiogga beet slices lie beside the bulb, revealing their captivating concentric rings of red and white.
‘Chioggia’ has distinct striped flesh that really stands out.

Beets aren’t anything unusual, but these candy-cane striped beetroots are a striking ingredient in roasts, gratins, and any sliced vegetable dish. This pre-1840 heirloom comes from Italy and is sometimes called candy stripe beet or bullseye beet. The alternating concentric rings of red and white are fun to look at, but the sweet taste is even better!

‘Chioggia’ are milder and more tender than regular red beets. They cook more quickly and don’t stain your countertop! Like all beets, the greens are also edible. The key to successful beet growing is consistent water and temperature moderation. I like to put a row cover over early seedlings and irrigate with drip lines.

14. Chayote Squash

A single chayote squash dangles gracefully from its sturdy vine, its vibrant green hue glistening in the sunlight. The lush leaves surrounding it create a natural canopy, providing shade and shelter for the ripening fruit.
The advantage of growing chayote is that it’s perennial and a heavy producer in zones 8-11.

Add this squash to your cucurbit patch if you love traditional Latin cuisine! Chayote is a nobby pear-shaped squash that tastes similar to raw zucchini but also crisp and subtly sweet like a cucumber. It was first cultivated in Central America and is very popular in Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras. Chayote is also used in many Asian stir-fry dishes and lends itself well to nearly any recipe where you’d use zucchini.

The benefit of growing chayote in addition to your summer squash is it is a perennial plant in zones 8-11. The plant naturally prefers tropical areas with hot summers but can also grow in warmer microclimates of temperate regions. 

The plant loves loamy, well-drained soil and requires a sturdy trellis to hold all its weight. One plant averages up to 60 pounds of pear-shaped, delicious fruits!

15. Nopales

A cluster of green nopales thrives under the warm, golden sunlight, their paddle-shaped leaves glistening in the rays. Each cactus sports sharp, needle-like spikes, ready to protect the succulent plant from potential threats.
Prickly pear nopales are used in various culinary applications once their spiny skin is removed.

We commonly think of cacti as houseplants or rock garden ornamentals, but these cacti are delicious superfoods! Nopales is the culinary name for the pads of the prickly pear cactus. The cacti are often grown as ornamentals, and pads (fleshy leaf structures) can be harvested with gloves, then pickled, juiced, or cooked. 

Some cultures use prickly pear nopales for jams, candies, syrups, jellies, and wines. Once the spiny skin or bristly hairs are removed, the interior of these cacti pads is remarkably tasty

This is a very large genus with nearly 60 species of great diversity:

  • Opuntia humifusa is a cold-tolerant, sprawling, prickly pear cactus native to the Eastern U.S.
  • Opuntia microdasys is sometimes called “angel’s wing” and is native to the Southwestern U.S.
  • Texas prickly pear (Opuntia engelmannii) is popularly used in nopales tacos and juices.

Depending on the variety you choose, this giant perennial can reach up to 4 feet wide and 10+ feet tall! This is the perfect plant for a xeriscape or irrigation-free ornamental bed where you also want to harvest edible goodies. Like most succulents, the plants are undeniably drought-tolerant and easy to propagate.

16. Black Spanish Radish

Two freshly harvested black radishes rest on a bed of rich brown soil. The radishes appear plump and robust. Green leaves crown the radishes, providing a vivid contrast to the dark, root vegetables.
‘Black Spanish’ radishes have a unique, extra-spicy flavor and rare black skin.

The spicy ‘Black Spanish’ radish is another unique Brassica root that differs greatly from its easter egg radish cousins. These are extra spicy and crisp with dark black skin—black is a rare color in the plant world! I love them sliced thinly with a topper of cheese or hummus spread to balance out the kick! They’re also great when thinly grated into a slaw. They aren’t as spicy as a hot pepper. Rather, they have a sharp flavor reminiscent of horseradish.

‘Black Spanish’ radishes take about 50 days to mature and enjoy the cool weather of spring or fall. Hot weather will make them even more spicy, but cooking reduces the intensity of the root. Nutritionists and doctors favor this type of radish for its exceptional digestive and liver benefits, but we grow it for its extra spicy flavor and rare black color! 

The leaves are also edible and fairly hot, like mustard greens. Sow ‘Round Black Spanish Radish’ for prolonged winter storage of this root.

17. Salsify

A bundle of salsify, slender and earthy, rests on a surface. Its long, tapered roots resemble delicate wands emerging from the soil. These root vegetables promise a delightful culinary adventure.
Salsify has a flavor resembling oysters and is related to dandelions.

If you love to make chowder or mock oyster soup, this is a root you need to grow! Salsify is sometimes called the oyster plant or vegetable oyster because its flavor is reminiscent of the saltwater mollusks. White salsify is the “true salsify” (Tragopogon porrifolius) that yields thin, sometimes forked white roots that look like parsnips.

Though it has long carrot-like roots, salsify is actually a relative of the dandelion. The plants are best directly sown in the late spring and harvested up to 120 days later before the first fall frosts. A biennial, the plant grows pretty grass-like leaves in the first season and produces purple flowers. 

18. Scorzonera (Black Salsify)

Fresh scorzoneras  lying on a rustic wooden table, showcasing their earthy, dark skin and long, slender form. Surrounding the scorzoneras, yellow and deep purple leaves contrast beautifully with the table's warm, natural wood grain.
A dandelion relative, black salsify is a versatile root vegetable with a unique asparagus-like flavor.

To make things a little confusing, “true” white salsify also has a “false” counterpart called black salsify or scorzonera, which comes from an old French word meaning “snake.” This entirely different species (Pseudopodospermum hispanicum) produces roots that look like long, thick brown carrots and have a faintly oyster or asparagus-like flavor. Scorzonera is popular in Russia and Eastern Europe as a delicious cold-weather culinary ingredient.

This is also a dandelion relative in the Asteraceae family. Black salsify is grown in the same loamy, well-drained soil as white salsify and forms deep, tapering taproots harvested in the fall. You can enjoy the roots steamed, baked, boiled, or sauteed. Some people eat the young shoots like asparagus. 

19. Fioretto

A close-up of fiorettos, a unique type of broccoli known for its petite white florets and slender stalks. These tender greens boast a mild, slightly nutty flavor, making them a delightful addition to various dishes. 
Fioretto resembles bolted cauliflower but offers easy prep with its elongated stalks.

You’ve probably heard of broccolini or sprouting broccoli, but have you had sprouting cauliflower? These sweet, tender stalks and white florets are so delicious you may not want regular cauliflower ever again. 

The heads look almost like bolted cauliflower with elegant elongated stalks, but the flavor remains sweet and mild (unlike a bolted plant). I especially love fioretto because you can chop it once on the base of the stalk, and all your prep work is done! The spears fall away from the base and are ready to grill.

Fioretto means “little flower” in Italian, but the Brassica-family vegetable actually originated in Japan, where it is called karifurore. Grow it like cauliflower (but with more heat tolerance!) and cook it like broccolini.

20. Radicchio Variegato di Castelfranco

A close-up of a radicchio reveals its striking features - a pale yellow background adorned with vibrant red spots, creating a visually captivating contrast. The vegetable leaf's intricate structure forms a delicate rosette, showcasing nature's artistry at its finest.
Plant this radicchio in late June or later for a fall harvest in mild and cold climates.

If you aren’t on the radicchio train yet, you probably haven’t been to the Pacific Northwest! But long before these bitter greens became the favorites of Oregon and Washington farmers, radicchios were a staple food in Italy as early as the 15th century. 

Radicchios are members of the chicory family, related to escarole and endive. While “bitter” has a negative connotation in America, the greens have an incredibly complex taste perfectly complemented by olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and cheese. Bitter foods stimulate and improve digestion, so they were often incorporated into aperitifs and digestifs to enjoy before or after traditional European meals.

Named for its origins in a northern Italian town ‘Variegato di Castelfranco’ is akin to winter salad royalty. This stunning head of greens is particularly unique because of its red and purple speckling on the whitish-yellow leaves that look like a little rosette. Castelfranco is one of the most tender and mild (least bitter) radicchios, perfect for enjoying raw. 

Plant radicchio around the summer solstice or later for a fall harvest in mild and cold climates. This is a cool-weather crop not recommended for southern growers. The seed will go dormant at temperatures above 77°F.

21. Puntarelle

Puntarelles with their green leaves tightly bundled together. The crisp puntarelles glisten as they catch the golden rays of sunlight, creating an appealing visual display of freshness and healthiness.
Puntarelle is excellent raw in Italian dishes with an anchovy dressing.

Another fascinating bitter Italian chicory, puntarelle, looks like a wild bundle of short asparagus-like stalks with frilly pointed leaves. Originating in Rome, this elegant green tastes like a cross between a lightly bitter dandelion or endive and a mild fennel. The inner heart has a starchy texture like celeriac. 

Puntarelle is often served raw with an anchovy, olive oil, and white wine vinegar dressing. This vegetable is technically a cluster of small sprouts from a special variety of Catalonian chicory. It can be added to a wide variety of Italian dishes and will form cute little spirals if you soak thinly sliced strips in ice water

22. Belgian Endive (Witloof)

A rustic wooden crate brimming with freshly harvested Belgian endives. The roots of the endives are scattered beneath the crate, a testament to the freshness of this farm-to-table produce.
This vitamin-rich, bitter vegetable is commonly served braised with other dishes.

To round off the rare and underrated chicory category, Belgian endive is a weedy-looking plant related to dandelions and loaded with vitamins. Also known as witloof, meaning “white leaf” in Dutch, this lightly bitter vegetable is often served braised with steak, potatoes, and parsnips. 

The witloof head is achieved by digging up the plants in the fall after a few light frosts, storing the roots like carrots, and then “force sprouting” in darkness until the heads become dense. This produces delicate pale yellow and white heads of chicories without any green chlorophyll. While undeniably a strange and complex plant, it is certainly worth a try for the adventurous gardener and European foodie enthusiast.

23. Glass Gem Corn

Delicate fingers gently peel back the husk of a glass gem corn, unveiling a kaleidoscope of colors within. The corn remains nestled on its sturdy stalk, showcasing its natural beauty and connection to the earth.
‘Glass Gem’ corn is a colorful and historic crop for decoration and food.

You may have grown colorful popcorn varieties before, but this Oklahoma heirloom is a staple for any corn patch. The distinctively rainbow kernels appear almost glass-like and make beautiful fall decor. When popped, they taste like any other popcorn and retain much of their vibrant color.

This heirloom is a vital part of American history and a great conversation-starting crop. While it is mostly grown for ornamental uses, ‘Glass Gem’ can be dried for popping, cornmeal, and tortillas! Harvest the ears when the rainbow kernels appear glossy and hard and the husk has mostly dried. 

24. Cassava

A close-up of cassava roots glistening in the warm sunlight, their rugged texture and earthy colors coming to life. The blurred background gently hints at a lush, green environment, emphasizing the natural beauty of this staple crop.Cassava, a versatile root vegetable, is a global staple crop with a neutral flavor.

This ancient root vegetable has exploded in popularity for its use in gluten-free flour, bread, and tortillas. But cassava (also called yuca) has been grown for centuries in Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia. It looks like a thick-skinned sweet potato with a neutral flavor amenable to various dishes. The deliciously nutty and subtly sweet tuber is a staple food for farmers and peasants worldwide. 

This is a tropical perennial woody shrub with a starchy tuber that resembles a fat-rooted mini tree when harvested. The swollen tubers are enjoyed much like a sweet potato or potato. Cassava requires up to 8 months of warm weather, so don’t try it in cold climates unless you have greenhouse protection or movable grow bags.

25. Jicama

A variety of jicama vegetables, ranging from small to large, are neatly arranged in a group. Their beige, rough-textured skins hint at the crisp and juicy white flesh hidden within. 
The sweet, tender Jicama tubers are best harvested small.

Jicama is not particularly unusual, but it is rare in home gardens. I think that should change because this fragrant vine is delightfully attractive and produces sweet roots that taste like an apple. A member of the Fabaceae (bean) family, this tuber looks similar to turnips and tastes similar to water chestnuts. 

Jicama is a frost-tender vine cultivated for thousands of years in Central America. It is an evergreen perennial in zones 10-12 but can be grown as an annual by starting indoors in colder regions. It does well in southern zones because it enjoys hot weather and humidity. The tubers can grow to a whopping 50 pounds, but they are best harvested small for tender texture and mildly sweet flavor.

26. Peruvian Purple Potatoes

Pink sacks overflow with an abundant harvest of Peruvian purple potatoes. The colors and shapes of these potatoes signify the diversity of nature's bounty, a testament to the beauty and variety found in agriculture.
Their purple skin, violet flesh, and earthy flavor are perfect for roasting.

We’ve all had colorful potatoes, but these fingerlings are unique enough to mention. ‘Peruvian Purple’ has extra dark purple skin and vibrant violet-colored flesh with a dry texture. They have a lovely earthy, nutty flavor far more complex than a regular ole’ Russet. The elongated, knobby fingerling shape is preferred for roasting and has a waxier butter-like taste than a regular potato. 

Unsurprisingly, these unique spuds originated in the high mountain slopes of Peru and Bolivia. They are more adapted to cool summers than other potatoes, but they still can’t tolerate frost. I love growing them for delicious baked purple fries— a memorable side dish for any party!

27. Turk’s Turban Pumpkin

Two Turk's Turban pumpkins, with their distinctive orange and white striped skins, bask in the warm sunlight, showcasing their unique and eye-catching appearance. These vibrant pumpkins stand out against a backdrop of lush green weeds.
This variety of squash has a sweet texture that can be used for cooking.

The final outlier in our weird veggie bunch is the turban squash, often called ‘Turks Turban.’ This heirloom vine grows like any other winter squash but yields strikingly odd fruits that look like a mutant pumpkin growing out of another pumpkin.

These squash’s striped skins and big turban “caps” are fun to look at and make unforgettable soup bowls! You can also roast or bake them like regular pumpkin or butternut squash. They have a nice sweet texture, and yes, you can eat the protruding squash “butt!” 

Final Thoughts

With the standard rotation of familiar supermarket vegetables, we often forget there’s a whole world of diversity to try! If you want to expand your culinary flavors and garden crop rotations, try some traditional and international unusual vegetable crops. You’ll “wow” your neighbors and may even find a new garden staple that few grocery stores sell

My only advice is, don’t judge a book by its cover! Many of the weirdest-looking foods are the most delicious!

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