With the focus still on #HeritageMonth and all the foods that go with it, don’t ignore the veggies in SA that you might be hearing about for the first time.

Terry Harris, a dietitian at Discovery Vitality says our heritage roots should extend to veggies.

“Vegetables and fruit contain plenty of beneficial nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, fibre, and phytochemicals, which are plant compounds that help protect against cancer,” she says.

There are many lesser-known veggies that are often overlooked, but are just as good for you as those cool cucumbers and showy carrots.

Here are some of the unusual veggies and ideas on how to use them.

Save a spot for celeriac

Knobbly, mottled beige in colour and oddly-shaped, celeriac is the ‘ugly duckling’ of vegetables that transforms itself through cooking.

Its celery-like flavour has nutty overtones, and as a root vegetable, it takes well to roasting, boiling and mashing.

To use: Peel, cube, boil and mash to incorporate into a veggie burger patty. You can also roast and puree celeriac to serve with any type of fish.

Fancy some fennel

This mildly sweet herb is equally tasty raw or cooked.

Its light, feathery leaves and yellow flowers have the distinctive flavour and fragrance of liquorice.

To use: Thinly slice and add to salads for a refreshing crunch, or braise with apples and pair with chicken.

Get to know fennel

Cuddle up to some kohlrabi

Stout and squat, with antenna-like shoots, kohlrabi is part of the cabbage family and also comes in green and purple varieties.

It is similar in texture and taste to a broccoli stem or cabbage heart, but milder and sweeter. Both the stem and leaves are edible.

To use: Grate the raw vegetable for use in a slaw, slice and add it for crunch to a stir-fry, or roast it and add to pasta.

Bite into a Belgian endive

Belgian endives are leafy vegetables that form part of the chicory family.

They have narrow, creamy white or pale yellow spear-shaped leaves that wrap tightly around the head.

To use: The crisp leaves of a Belgian endive can be eaten raw (as you would lettuce) in salads, sandwiches or wraps. You can also sauté it in olive oil and enjoy it as a side to grilled fish or chicken, or dip the leaves in hummus and enjoy it as a snack.

Let rhubarb rub off on you

Rhubarb has distinctive red stalks. Its bright green leaves shouldn’t be eaten, as they are high in oxalic acid and will make you ill. However, the stalks are perfectly safe, and are often used in pies.  

To use: Rhubarb works equally well stewed in desserts or as an accompaniment to meats. For desserts, choose stalks that are deep red, as these are sweeter and will allow you to cut back on the amount of sugar needed to combat its tartness.

Taking a chance on these unusual veggies will do more than broaden your palate. The intake of fruits and vegetables is associated with many health benefits, including a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.

Interested in trusted recipes to help you turn all these vegetables into tasty, healthy dishes?

Get them at the Seasonal Delights cooking course hosted by the Discovery Vitality HealthyFood Studio. The course explores some lesser-known fruits and vegetables and helps people create delicious, light meals from the abundance of spring produce.