If they weren’t so darn tasty, artichokes almost wouldn’t be worth the trouble. Prepping, cooking, then the actual eating part—which requires working past spiny leaves and fuzzy inedible bits to get to the prized heart—demands dedication and perseverance.
It may be dark and nubby on the outside, but what’s beneath an avocado’s skin makes up for its appearance. Cutting into an avocado reveals a creamy flesh that melts in your mouth. The avocado’s buttery taste and texture are due to its “good” fats—mono-unsaturated fats that may lower cholesterol levels. Avocados are also rich in potassium, fiber, folate, and vitamin K.
What’s the brightest way to jazz up healthful summer recipes? Just add beets! June to October is the best time to buy this rough-skinned root vegetableand certainly the easiest time to find locally grown beets and heirloom varieties such as snowy white albino, amber-colored golden, or candy-striped Chioggias. Plus, there are so many ways to enjoy them. Serve roasted beets in place of potatoes. Grate raw beets into a slaw the way you would carrots. Toss steamed beet slices with vinegar or lemon juice, and use as a salad topping or sandwich filling. You can even substitute puréed beets for applesauce in low-fat baked goods, such as the moist Red Velvet Brownies.
These antioxidant powerhouses include blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, cranberries, and more. While they're great on their own, berries are perfect additions to desserts and salads.
Look for bright green sprouts with compact heads. To maximize their nutritional benefits, don’t overcook them: opt for a quick sauté, or steam for 5 minutes and toss with lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper.
Irish eyes may smile to see a plate of boiled cabbage (it’s their version of comfort food, after all), but for the rest of us, that particular preparation gives cabbage a bad rap. So we’ve taken the versatile, nourishing vegetable and given it a five-recipe makeover, using inspiration from cabbage-cooking traditions worldwide.
Carrots, a member of the parsley family, contain a wealth of beta-carotene, which provides protection against age-related cataracts. The root veggies are also rich in vitamins C and K, potassium, and fiber. Deliciously sweet rainbow carrots, born from heirloom yellow, purple, and red seeds, contain several different disease-thwarting antioxidants (including lycopene and lutein), making them worth seeking out at farmers’ markets.
Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine showed that thiocyanate, an antioxidant found in cauliflower and broccoli florets, can protect the body’s cells from inflammation-related damage.
Heart-shaped, purplish Bing and Lambert cherries are sweet varieties you’re most likely to find in supermarkets, with blush-tinged Rainiers and Royal Anns not far behind. Sour Montmorency and Morello cherries are harder to come by, but their tart, firm flesh makes them a sought-after commodity among bakers and jam-makers.
Most North Americans associate chile peppers with Mexican cuisine, but the cultivation of the flavorful pods originated south of the equator. Chile peppers are native to the Amazon jungle, with a history dating back more than 6,000 years. Capsaicin, which gives chiles their heat, has anti-inflammatory properties; it’s used to alleviate arthritis symptoms and chronic pain. Anti-inflammatory compounds prevent clots from forming and help prevent strokes and heart disease.
While black currants are sold year-round frozen, dried, and in juice and syrup forms, you can get them fresh at farmers' markets and specialty foods stores in July and August. Look for berry clusters that are plump and mold-free, with a subtle berry aroma. Black currants are delicatewait to wash them until just before using, store in the fridge, and eat as soon as possible.
Even though they’re sold alongside dried fruit, dates are actually freshthey appear dried and have a long shelf life due to their low moisture content. Shop for Deglet Noor and Medjool dates in supermarkets, or order lesser-known varieties online.
Dulse also enhances the flavor of soups, including miso soup and even minestrone. Try adding dulse to your next batch of guacamole to amp up the rich flavor of the avocados. High in trace minerals including iodine and potassium, dulse gives a little nutritional boost whenever you use it.
The great-great granddaddy of grains, kamut also is known as Egyptian wheat but it should not be confused with ferik, a green, unripened wheat popular in the Middle East. To reduce the cooking time of the kamut by half, soak overnight in cold water.
Leeks provide a host of health and taste benefits, but are often overlooked in favor of their not-so-distant cousins, garlic and onion. All are members of the allium vegetable family, which boast nutrients from B-vitamin folate, to flavonoid kaempferol.
The juice of half a lemon perks up soups, stews and sauces in a single squeeze. A teaspoon or two of lemon zest can make a box of yellow cake mix taste like a from-scratch confection. Lemon juice works small miracles on other fruits—a sprinkling keeps apples and pears from browning (the citric acid does it) and brightens the flavor of not-quite-ripe berries and so-so stone fruits.
Lettuce is the broad term that could apply to a wide variety of leaves. The taste and texture of lettuce varies so choose a type that works best for your recipe. Romaine, butterhead, cress, escarole, radicchio, endive, and arugula are just a few.
Mangos have a bright orange mango flesh and a spicier, more exotic taste than that of a peach, but a similar texture, so you can use it in place of the stone fruit to jazz up salads, salsas, crumbles, and ice cream.
Except for their ivory color and generally wider girth, parsnips look a lot like carrots. Nutty and slightly sweet tasting, these root veggies are at their best when the weather turns chilly. Raw parsnips tend to have a tough, woody texture; cooking makes these veggies more palatable.
Peppers include a wide variety that differ greatly in heat level and taste. Bell (green, yellow, red, and orange), poblano, jalapeno, anaheim, serrano, and habanero are a handful of peppers to enhance your savory recipes.
A ripe pineapple has an aromatic, subtly sweet smell. If it smells too sweet, there is a good chance the pineapple is past its prime and has begun to ferment. Use pineapples in desserts, salsas, and stir-fry recipes.
Prunes can be incorporated into a variety of sweet and savory dishes, such as yogurt, stuffing, bread pudding, braised cabbage, hearty stews, muffins, and tarts. Use prunes as a base for chutney, or whip up a quick dessert by poaching prunes in fruit juice, wine, or even green tea and serving with frozen or Greek yogurt.
Rhubarb is indeed the stalk of a plant, much like chard or celery, cultivated for thousands of years. The leaves are toxic, but the edible stalk is scrumptious and versatile. Rhubarb is best when cooked, as the heat reduces much of its tartness.
Besides being a terrific source of iron and phytochemicals, many seaweeds—such as alaria, dulse, kelp, nori, spirulina and agar—are good sources of minerals, including magnesium, calcium, iodine, iron and chromium, as well as vitamins A, C, E and many of the Bs. Talk about superfoods!
Think of winter squash as the MVP of the vegetable world: It’s inexpensive, nutrient-packed, easy to keep and store, and pretty enough to double as a party-table centerpiece. Each variety has its own special qualities, yet they’re interchangeable in most recipes.
Even when fresh tomatoes are out of season, you can still load up on lycopene, the antioxidant that makes tomatoes red. In fact, a bit of heat exposure—like that involved in the canning process—helps break down tomatoes’ cell walls and increases lycopene absorption.
This green summer squash is versatile and can be roasted, grilled, sautéed, or fried. While it's great simply chopped and added to pastas, sandwiches, and stir-fries, it's also a popular choice to be "spiralized" in noodle form.