When you think of the plants you’d find in a vegetable garden, which ones come to mind?
There’s a good chance that when trying to think of a garden vegetable, you think of the usual suspects like green beans, carrots, or tomatoes. However, there are a ton of other more unique, weird vegetables that could potentially call your garden home.
In this list, we’re outlining some of the more unique vegetable types you can find around the globe. These veggies look a lot different from the common vegetable varieties you may be familiar with, but we promise they’re just as delicious and nutritious.
Unusual Vegetables You Might Not Know
Ready to get started? Here are some of the most unique vegetables found around the world.
Black radishes are a unique root vegetable belonging to the same family of plants that includes veggies like broccoli, romanesco, and horseradish.
A black radish has a stronger flavor and smell than other radishes. It’s similar in flavor to horseradish, with a sharp, bitter, slightly spicy taste. As such, they aren’t too enjoyable raw, but are great in salads, and become milder when cooked.
Dulse is a type of red seaweed that grows on rocks in cold ocean waters. It’s used as a popular cooking ingredient, either fresh, dehydrated, powdered, or as flakes.
It has a slightly salty taste and a ton of health benefits thanks to high levels of omega fatty acids, potassium, and iron. Dulse doesn’t need to be cooked before eating, and is popular for use as flakes over eggs and sandwiches, or incorporated directly into soups and stews.
Romanesco broccoli, also called roman cauliflower, is a hybrid between the broccoli and cauliflower plant, belonging to the cruciferous vegetable family. This is one of the more unusual vegetables on our list, chartreuse in color with geometric florets.
Romanesco broccoli can be prepared and consumed raw or cooked just like cauliflower or broccoli! It also tastes like a cross between the two, with a cauliflower-like texture that has a slightly earthy flavor.
Okinawan Purple Sweet Potatoes
Purple sweet potato, also called Japanese sweet potato, is a beautiful root vegetable known for its striking purple color. Purple sweet potato is incredibly similar to the common sweet potato, similar in taste, with a slightly drier and denser texture.
These potatoes are delicious, and a great way to add some exciting color in the kitchen while still enjoying sweet potato.
Salsify is one of the more weird vegetables on our list, looking more like a stick than a vegetable at first glance, but we promise, it’s edible. This root vegetable is super similar to parsnips and can be cooked in a variety of different ways.
Many people note that when cooked, this vegetable tastes similar to an oyster. This is why it has the nickname “oyster plant.”
Chinese artichoke is a winter root vegetable often used in Asian dishes and French cuisine. These little tubers are often pickled, but can also be eaten raw or boiled/sauteed like other root vegetables. Chinese artichokes are similar in taste to the common artichoke, with a bit more sweetness.
Jerusalem artichokes, also called sunchoke, are another unique vegetable that is quickly becoming a staple at farmers markets and health food stores. While a Jerusalem artichoke looks super similar to ginger, they are actually a root vegetable that is more similar in taste to a potato or water chestnut.
One thing to note here is that Jerusalem artichokes, while delicious, are also known to have some gassy side effects. As a result, these unusual vegetables have earned the lovely nickname “fartichoke.”
Kohlrabi is a cruciferous vegetable, like broccoli or cabbage, that’s rather versatile in the kitchen. This bulbous vegetable can be eaten cooked or raw, and has a taste similar to broccoli stems, but with a more mildly sweet flavor.
The kohlrabi bulb can be steamed, boiled, baked, grilled, roasted, or grated… the possibilities are endless! You can also eat the leafy ends, preparing them as you would other leafy greens.
If you’ve ever gone foraging for food in the U.S. or Canada, you may have encountered the popular fiddlehead fern. Fiddleheads appear in the spring and are usually found at farmers’ markets for a limited time.
Fiddleheads are the coiled tips of the ostrich fern and are known for their slightly nutty flavor that is similar to asparagus. Fiddlehead should not be eaten raw and is usually enjoyed boiled or steamed.
Jicama is a bulbous root vegetable with brown skin and starchy white flesh. It’s loved for its fresh, crunchy texture, with a taste that is similar to a potato mixed with an apple. Jicama can be eaten raw or cooked and is a wonderful addition to salads and other dishes.
Ramps are a kind of wild onion, sometimes called a wild leek or spring onion. These look similar to scallions, but they are smaller and feature two distinct long leaves. They are also much stronger in flavor, with a pungent, garlic-like taste.
Ramps are a unique vegetable that has to be foraged, making them a popular farmers market find for cooks. You can use them raw or cooked to add a unique onion/garlic note to dishes.
Samphire is a vegetable known by many names (Sea beans, sea asparagus, or pickleweed to name a few) and has become a popular garnish in cooking! This plant is normally found on the coasts of the United Kingdom and has a unique salty/fishy flavor. It’s popular to pair samphire with fish dishes on the dinner table.
Nopal cactus, also called prickly pear cactus, is a popular vegetable in Mexico and parts of the United States. Nopal cactus is used in a number of ways, both raw and cooked, in everything from savory dishes to juice and tea. Nopal has a texture that is both crunchy and slimy, similar to Okra, with a flavor that is tart and citrusy.
Oca tubers are small root vegetables from the oca plant. These unusual vegetables come in a ton of different colors (red, yellow, purple, pink, orange) and have a distinct chubby, bobbly look. They are extremely popular in South America and were a staple food in many ancient cultures.
Oca is similar to potatoes and carrots in terms of texture, with a good crunch. Its flavor is fresh and lemony when eaten raw, and becomes nuttier once cooked.
A tomatillo is a small, green fruit that originates in Mexico, most famously associated with its use in making salsa verde. Tomatillos have a husk that is peeled away before use, are firm in texture, and have a flavor that is tart, earthy, and quite acidic. When consumed raw you can taste the bright acidity, but when cooked tomatillos are much more mellow.
The yardlong bean, also called Chinese long beans, asparagus beans, or snake beans, is a popular legume used in Chinese cuisine. Yardlong beans can grow up to three feet in length, growing like climbing vines. These beans are similar to traditional green beans, and are worth a try if you’re a green bean fan!
Shiso leaves, also called Japanese basil or perilla, are a popular herb used as a garnish and ingredient in Asian cuisine. These leaves are popular for their use in sushi in Japanese bento boxes, separating sushi from ginger and wasabi to keep the flavors separate.
It’s not only a garnish, though, and can also be used to make syrups and juices, and be used as a garnish when dried. Its flavor is fresh with notes of mint, citrus, and clove, and a texture similar to mint leaves.
The tiger nut is one of the more unusual vegetables on our list. These small tubers are about the size of a chickpea, with a distinct textured exterior, chewy texture, and flavor profile that is similar to a coconut and almond combined. They can be eaten fresh or cooked (they’re typically roasted or boiled) or even juiced to make nut milk.
Chinese Water Spinach
Chinese water spinach is a leafy green that is found around Southeast Asia and is super popular for its use in stir fries and soups. It tastes similar to spinach or watercress, though slightly more bitter and earthy.
Though spinach is in the name it is not related to the spinach plant. Chinese water spinach is an aquatic plant with leaves and hollow stalks, both of which can be eaten.
Cassava, also called manioc or yuca, is a root vegetable native to South America. It is a super starchy vegetable with a nutty flavor and a ton of unique uses.
Cassava is most commonly used to produce flours and starches, including tapioca and garri. It can also be cooked and baked on its own and can be turned into bread, chips, fries, and more. It’s also becoming a popular health food as it is gluten free, and fairly nutrient dense.
If you’ve ever been to Germany, there’s a chance you’ve encountered the much-loved white asparagus!
White asparagus is essentially the same as green asparagus. Its coloring is due to a lack of chlorophyll in the plant that comes as a result of a unique harvesting process. It also tends to be slightly sweeter and more tender when compared to green asparagus.
Dragon carrots are also called purple carrots because they’re, well, purple! Dragon carrots are similar in texture to orange carrots and share their sweetness, but also have a slight peppery note as well. Purple carrots can be consumed raw or cooked, and are often found at the farmers market.
Lotus root is an aquatic plant that is popular in Asian cooking. These vegetables can grow up to 4 feet long and are harvested and sliced to prepare them for cooking. The flesh of this vegetable is similar in texture to a raw potato and is cooked and prepared much the same.
Celeriac is actually the bulbous root of the celery plant, similar in texture to a potato, with an earthy taste. People love to use this celery root in all kinds of dishes, turning it into a slaw, mashing it, adding it to soups and stews, and even deep-frying it.
Kail Lan, also called Chinese kale, is a green vegetable in the same family as broccoli. This unusual vegetable looks extremely similar to traditional broccoli, though it features more leaves, fewer florets, and longer stalks. It tastes similar to broccoli, but with a more bitter taste, and can be used as a broccoli substitute for many dishes.
Bamboo shoots are the newly sprouted canes that eventually grow into bamboo stalks. They are native plants in many parts of Asia, and a popular addition to stir fries and other dishes.
People love bamboo shoots for their crunchy texture, and a taste similar to corn. While many people buy canned bamboo shoots, it is possible to find them fresh in some markets.
Broccolini is a plant that was made by crossbreeding Chinese broccoli and regular broccoli. They have the distinct florets found on broccoli, but with much longer, skinnier stems. It also tends to have a less bitter taste than regular broccoli, with more of a mild sweetness and crunchy texture.
Winter squash refers to a ton of different varieties of squash, including butternut squash, spaghetti squash, blue hubbard squash, and more. All of these different squashes have unique looks and textures, and are great for use in soups and stews, or roasted and eaten on their own.
Winter melon, also known as an ash gourd, is a vegetable that grows in China during the winter. Despite the name, winter melon is not a fruit, but a vegetable. It is super versatile, used in stir fry dishes and soups, and has also become popular for use in teas and juices.
Winter melon will have a mild flavor, similar to the rind of a watermelon. Its mild and bland flavoring is what makes it so adaptable to both sweet and savory dishes, and good at taking on different flavors.
Bitter melon, also called bitter gourd, is a plant related to vegetables like cucumber and zucchini. They have a super unique look, with long bodies covered in distinct bumps and spikes. As the name implies, this vegetable has a bitter taste that is slightly alkaline and has a crunchy texture. It can be eaten raw or cooked.
Calabash is also called a calabash gourd or bottle gourd, with smooth green skin and white flesh. It is popular in Indian cuisine, used in different curries and soups. Its taste and texture are similar to other gourds, only more mild and bland, which makes it so useful in savory dishes.
Glass Gem Corn
There aren’t many vegetables out there that are quite as beautiful as glass gem corn! Glass gem corn is known for its distinct coloring, with different colors of corn kernels that look like tiny gems. This vegetable was made by crossbreeding several different corn varieties, to give its own corn stalk multiple colors. It is similar in taste to regular corn, but a bit starchier and harder, with less sweetness.
Garlic lovers would do well to seek out garlic scapes when they’re at their next farmers market.
Garlic scapes are the stem and flower that top garlic plants. Usually, when growing garlic, farmers will cut off these curly green stems before they flower to allow the bulbs to continue to grow uninterrupted. You can then take these garlic scapes and use them as you would chives or scallions, to give dishes a soft garlicky flavor.
Daikon is a root vegetable that is popular in Japanese food and other kinds of Asian cuisine. It looks similar to a carrot in shape but is white in color, with a flavor comparable to a radish, only slightly sweeter. This vegetable is great as garnish, can be pickled, and is commonly added to soups and savory dishes.
Rat Tail Radish
Rat tail radish is a variety of radish native to Indonesia. These vegetables have distinct long and bumpy pods, similar in appearance to a rat tail, which is where it got its name.
Though most radishes are root vegetables, this variety is eaten for its pods, which have a mild, peppery taste. They are crisp and crunchy when eaten raw, but take on a more chewy texture when cooked.
The Armenian cucumber is another unique vegetable, closely related to melons, though it tastes similar to a cucumber. This is a curved tubular plant with ribbed light green skin and is becoming a popular inclusion in many gardens because of its versatility and easy growth.
Brusselberry sprouts are closely linked to traditional Brussel sprouts, but stand out thanks to the beautiful purple coloring on their leaves! They also have a slightly different taste, with more sweetness than traditional Brussel sprouts.
Chioggia beets are a type of garden beet that offer a nice splash of color on any plate! These beets are unique due to their distinctive red and white rings inside of the fruit, which is why they’re so popular for use as a garnish. They also have a milder taste than other beets.
Mashua (Tropaeolum tuberosum)
Mashua tubers are a small tuber crop, similar to potatoes or other unique tubers like oca. Like most tubers, you can cook mashua similar to how you’d cook potatoes. They have a similar taste, though a bit more cabbage like, and their leaves taste similar to mustard greens.
Indigo Rose Cherry Tomatoes
If you’ve ever wanted to try a new kind of tomatoes, you could go for some indigo rose cherry tomatoes. These are one of the first varieties of tomatoes in the world bred to have distinct black/purple coloring, thanks to the presence of anthocyanins in the fruit, making it rich in antioxidants.
White eggplant is similar to their purple cousins, with some slight differences. White eggplants have thinner skin, which means it’s much less bitter in taste compared to purple skin on purple eggplant. This lack of bitterness makes this eggplant a popular choice among cooks who can find it, using it instead of purple eggplant in dishes.
A delicata squash is a type of squash that is long in shape, with yellow skin and green/orange stripes. Its flesh is super similar to butternut squash, but its skin is much thicker than other squash varieties.
This thicker skin and uniform shape make this squash a great cooking ingredient! Many people love to cut the squash for simple oven roasting or grilling.
Taro root is a root vegetable popular in Asia, but it can now be found around the world! It has a brown exterior with flesh that is white with purple specks.
Cooked taro root is similar in texture to potato, and is often prepared in similar ways. Taro root can be mashed, fried into chips, cut up for stews or curries, and much more.
Despite the name, sea kale does not need to be grown near the sea, nor is it a form of kale. Sea kale is more closely related to cabbage, with florets similar to broccoli and large green leaves. Many people prepare and eat sea kale the same way they do broccoli, and they have a taste similar to mild asparagus.
Luffa (Silk Squash)
Silk squash is one of the more unique vegetables on our list, because of how it is used. Grown in Asia, luffa silk squash is a dark green vegetable that looks and tastes similar to zucchini, but it is a bit spongier and foamy inside. This texture makes it great for soaking up liquid and flavor.
The most unique thing about this vegetable is that it can be dried. If you dry out this plant and cut it, it becomes a great natural sponge alternative, with a texture ideal for exfoliating skin.
Fennel is a super popular vegetable to use in Italian cuisine! This is a bulbous plant that is layered, like an onion, but with a flavor more closely compared to licorice. This plant can be eaten raw or cooked, great on salads, in slaws, or oven-roasted.
Thai eggplant is one of the most popular vegetables used in cooking in Thailand, used in a huge range of dishes. This vegetable is like traditional eggplant but much smaller, coming in the form of small and round balls. They are a bit more crunchy and mild as well and can be eaten raw or cooked.
Malabar spinach is a unique leafy green, and a great addition to any garden. This leaf is similar to spinach, but unlike spinach, comes in the form of a creeping and growing vine. It also has a more peppery taste.
Cardoon is a thistle-like plant found in the Mediterranean and is closely related to the artichoke. This plant is known for its distinct silver-grey leaves and beautiful purple blossoms, but the part you actually eat is its thick stalks. Cardoons are similar to artichokes in flavor, and are wonderful on their own or added into soups and stews.
Purple Sicily Cauliflower
Purple cauliflower is one of the most striking-looking vegetables on our list, with beautiful deep purple florets surrounded by green leaves. Purple cauliflower is nearly identical to regular cauliflower, with their purple coloring caused by an antioxidant called anthocyanin that makes them even healthier.
Purple cauliflower also has a sweeter, nuttier taste when compared to white cauliflower. However, they are still very similar and both can be cooked and prepared the same way.
Hey, I’m Joey. I’ve been cooking since I was a little kid and love everything about it. You can find my writing about food, kitchen appliances (such as blenders) and much more. Thanks for stopping by!