Eight Exotic Vegetables - Benefits & Pictures
Arracacha, chayotes, crazy carrots and dulse kick off my series about exotic vegetables. See photos, watch videos and get great recipe ideas!
Also Known As...
Arracacha has many aliases. These can help you understand its flavor and texture. Here's a sampling.
- In Brazil, the arracacha's homeland, it's also called batata-baroa (a specialty potato) and mandioquinha ("little cassava").
- Venezuelans refer to arracacha as apio criollo (Creole celery).
- Ecuadorans call it zanahoria blanca ("white carrot").
Roll your rr! Arracacha is fun to say and good to eat. This starchy root vegetable has the appearance of a potato but the consistency of a carrot crossed with celery. Basically, you can regard it as a very tasty potato alternative. People cook it potato-style, using it in recipes for arracacha chips, purees, soups, salads and dumplings.
The interior of an arracacha root may be purple, white or yellow. Its flavor has been likened to roasted chestnuts combined with celery and cabbage. The arracacha's leaves look parsley-esque and are edible too; you can eat them raw or boiled.
For the Whole Familia
A cooked arracacha puree can be served bland for a baby and made sweet or savory for adults. Because it's so easy to digest, the puree is a popular baby food in South America. This vegetable is a good source of calcium, iron, vitamin A and starch.
Arracacha Soup Recipe
Here's an easy recipe for arracacha soup. It involves pureeing boiled arracacha and combining it with an aromatic onion-tomato sauté.
- Peel one pound of arracacha.
- Boil the vegetable in a flavorful stock until it's soft. (I like the organic veggie stock by Imagine Foods.)
- Blend the softened arracacha until it's smooth.
- Sauté two large onions (yellow or white) and two large tomatoes. Add salt, pepper, garlic or whatever seasonings you like.
- Add your onion-tomato creation to the arracacha puree. Garnish with chopped scallions. Beautiful!
Arracacha Chips Recipe
The Spanish language video below shows how to make arracacha chips.
If you don't understand Spanish, no problem. Basically, first the chef prepares salsa from tomatoes, salt, garlic, oil and other typical salsa ingredients. Then he fries thinly-sliced arracacha chips until they're crispy.
How to Make Arracacha Chips (in Spanish)
Learn to Grow Chayote - A Seven Minute Lesson
2. Chayote, Sounds Like Coyote
Chayote, a bright green squash, has at least three names in English: vegetable pear, christophine and mirliton. Although the picture here shows a smooth chayote, the ones I've seen grow in Northern California aren't so pretty. They are very bumpy and have random indentations. Yet however a chayote looks on the outside, it's a tasty source of vitamin A, fiber and potassium.
You can serve chayote raw or cooked. It has a mild flavor that's been likened to a medley of zucchini, cucumber and turnip. Its single seed is edible and flavorful too. This vegetable can be grated, grilled, steamed, stir-fried and baked. You could even scoop out the insides, chop them into a mix, and make a stuffed chayote.
Tip: Unless you're making a stuffed chayote shell, be sure to completely peel the vegetable prior to cooking.
I've posted two chayote videos here. One teaches you how to grow chayote in your backyard or greenhouse. Another features a chef making a chayote salad
How to Make a Chayote Salad
Grow Your Own
3. Colorful Carrots
People have been eating carrots of various colors for thousands of years. People ate purple and yellow carrots in Afghani dishes more than a millennium ago and the colorful roots hit Europe by the end of the Crusades. You can still grow or buy red carrots, orange carrots, yellow carrots and purple carrots. They're good for your eyesight and have other health benefits.
Special Benefits of Colorful Carrots
As argued in various diet books, it's probably smart to eat natural foods from all parts of the color spectrum. Here are some special health benefits offered by each carrot color.
- Orange: Beta carotene supports eye health
- Purple or black: Anthocyanins are powerful antioxidants
- Red: Lycopene is believed to protect against certain cancers and heart disease
- Yellow: Xanthophylis supports eye health
So, eat various carrots! They're almost magical. Shred them into salads and slaws, steam them, or just peel them and serve with reasonably nutritious dips.
Party Tip: Colorful carrots let you simply bring vegetables & dip to a party yet seem somewhat creative.
Dulse is a spicy seaweed that people sometimes eat straight off the rocks in Ireland, Iceland and Canada. "Dulse season" is from June through September. You can also buy it preserved.
Just a handful of dulse provides a day's supply of iron, fluoride and B6 plus lots of potassium and B12. You can boil dulse, fry it or enjoy it dried and crunchy. Try it with soups, salads and sandwiches.
Instead of making BLTs, the chef in the video below makes dulse-avocado-tomato or "DAT" sandwiches. I like her idea but I'd add some Fakin' Bacon.
Another very easy way to use dulse: Stir dried dulse flakes into instant miso soup. They'll add flavor and lots of nutrition. To make the soup even more interesting and nutritious, add dark mushrooms and tiny cubes of tofu.
Tip: The smaller the tofu pieces, the more quickly they'll absorb the tastiness of miso and dulse.
Make a Dulse-Avocado-Tomato Sandwich
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