There are an estimated 50,000 edible plant species—from apples to zucchinis—on this big, beautiful planet. Yet only a few hundred species contribute significantly to what humans consume.
That means you’re probably missing out on a veritable cornucopia of luscious fruits and vegetables—each with its own color, flavor, texture and aroma…not to mention unique nutritional benefits. And you’re probably walking right past these items in your grocery store. Five lesser known fruits and vegetables that will enrich your diet…
Also known as celery root, the gnarled, hairy celeriac may not be the prettiest of the pack, but it delivers a powerful punch of flavor and nutrition. Celeriac is a type of celery, which is in the same family as parsley and parsnips, but it’s grown for its underground root rather than its stalks.
Beneath its rough skin, you’ll find crisp white flesh with a hint of celery flavor that you can use in a variety of dishes.
Why it’s good for you: Celeriac provides a trove of nutrients, such as fiber…vitamins C, B-6 and K…phosphorus…manganese…and potassium. This means that the root is particularly good for your bones, heart and blood pressure.
How to enjoy it: Add grated raw celeriac to salads or slice it into sticks and dip into hummus. You also can cook and purée it for soups…or mash or roast it as a side dish.
This prickly plant with a bright fuchsia peel and greenish scales and horns may resemble a dragon, but its fruit is delicately sweet and tender. Dragon fruit thrives in warm regions, including Southeast Asia, Mexico and the Caribbean.
Why it’s good for you: Dragon fruit is rich in antioxidant compounds and fiber, offering benefits such as a reduced risk for certain types of cancer. Even the seeds contain essential fatty acids, which may help lower cholesterol.
How to enjoy it: Simply slice it in half and discover the tender white flesh studded with black edible seeds—scoop it out with a spoon and enjoy this delicately sweet fruit that has a kiwilike taste. You also can slice the fruit into wedges and add it to a tropical fruit platter or dice it to top off a bowl of granola or liven up a deep green salad.
A versatile staple native to India and Southeast Asia, jackfruit is in the mulberry family and grows on trees to gigantic proportions—reaching up to 80 pounds. It is sweet when ripe, so it’s often used in jams, juice and desserts.
When the fruit is unripe, it yields a stringy, chewy texture and red color, similar to that of pulled meat. Jackfruit can serve as a meat alternative when marinated in flavorful sauces.
Why it’s good for you: Jackfruit is a good source of fiber…vitamins A and C…riboflavin…and minerals, such as magnesium and potassium. The fruit is also rich in phytochemicals, including carotenoids, which have been linked to cancer protection, heart health and reduced risk for age-related eye problems, according to research published in 2019 in International Journal of Food Science.
How to enjoy it: Jackfruit can be found as a whole fruit (ripe and unripe) or canned (unripe) at most specialty Asian or natural-food markets. Enjoy sweet jackfruit in desserts or as a spread over toast. Try simmering unripe jackfruit in flavorful sauces, such as curry or barbecue. For a meat alternative, serve this simmered, saucy version of jackfruit with steamed whole grains, such as quinoa or couscous.
This intensely sweet, flavorful fruit is delicious served fresh and when used in cooking. While there are hundreds of varieties of persimmons, the Japanese persimmon is what we usually see in the US—the acorn-shaped Hachiya is the most common of this variety.
Like many persimmons, Hachiya is astringent, so it must be fully ripened to a very soft flesh before you can eat it. The tomato-shaped, nonastringent Fuyu persimmon, on the other hand, can be eaten when it is crisp and firm.
Why it’s good for you: The persimmon is rich in beta-carotene, as well as manganese, fiber and tannins, plant compounds linked to reduced blood cholesterol levels. Preliminary research also has found that persimmon may help guard against thyroid cancer, according to a study published in British Journal of Nutrition.
How to enjoy it: The persimmon is best enjoyed as a fresh, seasonal whole fruit, but you also can add it to baked goods, such as breads, cookies and muffins. Or for a tasty, colorful treat, toss some sliced persimmon into your oatmeal, yogurt bowl or a hearty salad.
At first sight, you might suspect that a pomelo is really an enormous grapefruit. Indeed, it is closely related. Pomelo is the largest of the citrus fruits and one of the original citrus species, originating from China and Southeast Asia. Like grapefruit, pomelos can vary in color (green or yellow) but unlike their cousins, they can grow to the size of a small bowling ball.
When comparing tastes, the pomelo’s flavors range from sweet and sour to tangy and tart, which makes this fruit wonderfully adaptable. The pomelo is considered a symbol of prosperity for the Chinese New Year, and it’s easy to see why—when you dig through its fragrant skin and thick membrane, you uncover a fresh, jewel-like fruit treasure.
Why it’s good for you: Pomelo is an excellent source of vitamin C, potassium, fiber and beta-carotene. Citrus fruits, like pomelo, are beneficial for heart, bone and brain health, as well as cancer protection.
How to enjoy it: Pomelo is extremely versatile, due to its unique flavor and texture. It pairs well with herbs, such as mint, cilantro and basil…fruits, such as pineapple, coconut and mango…and spring vegetables, including carrots and radishes. Heat can make pomelo bitter, but you can add this fruit to hot dishes at the end of cooking. Pomelo is delicious in salads, fruit platters and breakfast bowls. You also can try pomelo juice in recipes that usually call for lemon, such as pasta, roasted vegetables and salads.