Everyone knows that veggies are important to a balanced diet, but it can be pretty easy to fall into the same routine—broccoli, carrots, rinse, repeat. The good news is, we’re getting into primo veggie season, so the variety and choices at our disposal feel almost endless.
I chatted with local dietitians Lisa Jones, Krista Yoder Latortue and Deanna Segrave Daley to find out which veggies we’re missing out on, why we should add them to our diets, and how to prepare them. Check out the round up below to see their terrific recommendations.
A member of the cabbage family, kale has made its way into a lots of recipes lately, from breakfast smoothies to ice cream. When consumed raw, it tends to have a slightly bitter flavor; when cooked, the bitter taste subsides. Kale is pretty hardy and easy to grow, so if you have a home garden, this might be a great plant to grow yourself.
Why it’s great: This green is super rich in potassium and calcium. While kale should be avoided if you take certain medications like anticoagulants (the high level of vitamin K interferes with those drugs), it’s great for preventing inflammation and aiding digestive health. The best part? It’s so easy to incorporate into your favorite dishes and is available year round!
Recipe to try: Red Peppers Stuffed with Kale and Rice [via Eating Well]
Okay, okay. I know we’ve been hardwired since kids to hate spinach. [Insert flashback to painful memories of not being able to leave the table until you cleaned your plate.] It’s time to retool your thinking. Spinach is an extremely versatile green that can make for some amazing kitchen creations. Just ban those memories of the soggy green slop you were served as a kid.
Why it’s great: Dietician Krista Yoder Latortue raved about dark green veggies like spinach as way to add new life to salads, pasta, soups and more. The leafy green is also a great source of folate, which is essential to all you ladies in your child bearing years.
Recipe to try: Easy Crab and Spinach Frittata [via Fresh Juice]
When I think of Brussels sprouts, I think of one thing: their funky smell. And apparently I’m not alone. I talked to dietician Lisa Jones, and she told me that the unappetizing smell of Brussels sprouts is usually what turns people off. But being the veggie-savvy expert that she is, Lisa came equipped with a solution: Try cooking them with garlic or lemon. She’s swears it results in a flavor that is mouth-watering.
Why they’re great: Brussels sprouts are filled with compounds that help prevent cancer, and they’re known to have cholesterol lowing abilities. Sweet!
Recipe to try: Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts [via Detoxinista]
I’m assuming these veggies are so unpopular because most people don’t know what they are. (Truth: I hadn’t even heard of them before I talked to Lisa.) Fiddleheads are actually young fronds of a fern, harvested for our consumption. They come curled in a tight spiral, which makes them fun to look at. They’re great with any Asian-inspired dish, like stir fry. They tend to be a little pricey, though (according to Earthy, 8.8 oz runs for aroun $14.50), so they may not be a regular part of everyone’s shopping list.
Why they’re great: Fiddleheads are brimming with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and they’re rich in antioxidants, fiber and iron, too. While there are rumors floating around that these guys may be carcinogenic, Jones says that nothing has been proven, and it’s perfectly safe to eat fiddleheads in moderation.
Recipe to try: Fiddlehead Cashew Stirfry [via Fiddleheads.ca]
At first glance, you might get these confused with artichokes, which makes sense since they are from the same family. The difference? It’s the stalks that are eaten. This veggie is also considered a spring crop, so it’s in season right now.
Why they’re great: Cardoons are filled with vitamin A and fiber. They’re also high in potassium and only have 17 calories per 100 grams.
Recipe to try: Honey Cardoons with Pine Nuts and Thyme [via Hunter Angler Gardener Cook]
This veggie is perfect during the warmer months and is often referred to as a “delicacy of spring.” Lisa tells me ramps are a perfect way to add great flavor to soups with their garlic and onion-like taste.
Why they’re great: In addition to being high in vitamins A and E, ramps are also filled with tons of minerals such as iron, magnesium and chromium. They are known to fight cancer, improve the immune system and lower bad cholesterol.
Recipe to try: Assertive Green Salad with Ramps, Bacon, and Blue Cheese [via Food52]
Many people stray away from this mushroom because of rumors that they can be toxic. Lisa gave me the low-down: While Morels are not safe to eat raw, they are extremely delicious, nutritious and safe when cooked.
Why they’re great: A 2008 Study by Amala Cancer Research Center in India showed that eating more mushrooms can improve liver function. In addition, mushrooms are full of fiber and antioxidants and are great for cardiovascular health and weight-loss support.
Recipe to try: Pollo con Jugo de Morillas [via My Recipes]
Like, ramps these veggies are great for onion lovers. They can look a bit intimidating to prepare (according to Deanna, they resemble green onions on steroids), but don’t let that turn you away! Prepare and cook them the same way you would onions or garlic for a milder, buttery flavor that goes well in soups and quiche.
Why they’re great: Like many other members of the onion family, leeks are full of antioxidants that reduce risks for certain types of cancer. They also have a decent amount of vitamins A and K.
Recipe to try: Braised Leeks [via Simply Recipes]
Some may be confused about how to prepare this vegetable, but according to Deanna it’s super easy. (She’s right—Bon Appétit has a great tutorial.) The flavor of fennel is similar to licorice and is great for adding a pop of taste to soup, rice and pasta. You can also enjoy this veggie raw, much like you would celery, and use the fronds at the top as an herb.
Why they’re great: Fennel is filled with a variety of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C. It’s also a great source of fiber!
Recipe to try: Poached Fennel Salmon Over Linguine [via Teaspoon of Spice]
You may get this one confused with an albino carrot, because they pretty much look the same. While you can’t really eat these guys the same way you would carrots, Deanna tells me they are absolutely delicious when roasted. Like rutabaga, they can also be mashed like potatoes.
Why they’re great: Parsnips are full of vitamins and minerals, including fiber, folate and manganese.
Recipe to try: Roasted Rosemary Parsnips [via Teaspoon of Spice]