Have you noticed your produce department doesn't look the same as it did, say, 10 years ago? There is a new game in town with new stuff hitting the shelves daily. We all know what broccoli, green beans and lettuce look like, but what about some of the more obscure vegetables? Let's make a list of some little-known veggies you may have seen lurking in your produce department that you know nothing about. We'll start with A and end in Z. Here is A through H:
• Arugula is a wonderful salad green that has a distinctly peppery taste, sort of radishlike. That's because it's related to radishes. At only 20 calories for 3 cups, this nutrient-rich green is wonderful mixed into your lettuce for a salad with a lot more flavor.
• Bok choy is a Chinese cabbage that looks like the celery and cabbage decided to have a baby together. I find baby bok choy to be a little tastier. The leaves on bok choy taste more like cabbage while the stalks are much milder. You can add bok choy to your stir fry to boost your intake of beta carotene, vitamin C and iron.
• Collard greens. A traditional Southern green (along with turnip greens, creasy greens, etc.) these huge cabbagelike leaves have a very distinct flavor and do well to be handled like kale: tough stems removed, chopped, steamed, then sauteed in olive oil and garlic. Collards, like all greens, are high in folate, vitamin C, beta carotene and calcium.
• Delicata. Delicata is a thin-skinned winter squash with a yellowish skin. This oblong squash lives up to its name with a sweet, delicate flavor. Another nutrient rich veggie that will give you lots of fiber, vitamins A and C, as well as potassium and thiamine! Yum!
• Escarole. If you're not careful, you could mistake escarole for a head of green leaf lettuce. Escarole is mild in flavor and is delicious sauteed in olive oil, garlic and sprinkling of pine nuts. Another nutrient-rich veggie, it's high in fiber, too.
• Fennel. Do you like licorice? If so, you will love fennel! The huge bulb and dill-looking leaves can be eaten raw or cooked. I love it sauteed in olive oil until caramelized and topped on my fish. The flavor is terrific a lot of bang for your buck!
• Ginger. Nothing beats fresh ginger. It's weird looking. I've often said it looks like an alien root-mass of sorts. But the very thin skin doesn't even need to be peeled! Just wash it well, grate it like you would cheese and then add it to your stir fries. You will never go back to dried ginger again. I store mine in a freezer quality zip-top bag in the freezer. It works. Ginger is good for an upset stomach, too.
• Haricot verts. These are, essentially, green beans (if you took French 1, you'll remember this as a vocabulary word). They aren't just any green beans though. Traditionally, haricot verts are beautiful, skinny, luscious green beans that require no string removal, no steaming, just a quick saute in your skillet with a generous portion of garlic, a little butter and olive oil and some salt and pepper to finish. Honestly, these green beans are simply delicious!That's all for now. Stay tuned, we've got more veggies coming your way next week!
Leanne Ely, aka Dinner Diva, is the author of the best-selling "Saving Dinner" and "Saving Dinner the Low Carb Way" (Ballantine). What's for dinner? Go to www.savingdinner.com and find the solution!