Food under the radar: Here are 7 weird winter vegetables and why they’re so good for you

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If you’re in a vegetable rut and tired of string beans, peas and carrots, it could be a good time to try some unusual but healthy vegetable picks this season.

They can energize your dinner repertoire, boost your salad routine, and add color and texture to your soups and stews this season.

Three registered dieticians shared their secret picks for winter vegetables with Fox News Digital so that you can have a more bountiful vegetable game plan.

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Check out these yummy food offerings — and be on the alert for them next time you’re at the grocery store or farmers market.

Rutabaga

Sweeter than its turnip cousin, this root vegetable boasts a creamier consistency when cooked, said New Jersey-based Julie Lopez, RD, owner of Virtual Teaching Kitchen. 

“In their raw state, rutabagas are also more yellow in hue and oblong in shape,” she said. 

This nifty veggie has nutrition perks like fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C and potassium, Lopez said. 

When shopping for this vegetable, there is something you should know: Rutabagas, when sold in grocery stores, are often coated with a wax exterior to increase their shelf life. 

Rutagaba/Swede

“If you’re buying those, be sure to peel away the wax and skin before cooking,” cautioned Lopez. 

“Choose softball-size rutabagas with smooth skin and no cuts or cracks.”

Rutabagas will keep for months in the fridge or in a cool, dark place like a basement or garage, said Lopez. They can be served mashed or roasted, Lopez suggested. 

Romanesco 

Versatile and nutritious, this vegetable should be treated the same way that broccoli or cauliflower would be cooked, said Lopez.

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“While it’s green and looks like a spiky broccoli, it has a more earthy taste like cauliflower,” she said. 

Romanesco is packed with nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin K, folic acid, potassium and fiber.

romanesco

At the supermarket, select heads that are light and bright in color, said Lopez.

“The stem should show no signs of wilting; it should be firm and not floppy,” she continued. 

“And look for heads that still have perky leaves attached, as that’s a good sign of freshness. If the leaves have been removed, there’s a greater likelihood that the vegetable is older. Heads should feel dense and heavy for their size.”  

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Romanesco is easy to store. “Keep unwashed romanesco in a plastic zip-top bag in the fridge; you can chop it into florets, but rinse just prior to using,” she said.

The veggie can be served raw, sautéed, roasted, blanched or pickled — and can dress up your recipe routine. 

Celeriac root

For a vegetable that may not be on your radar, celeriac root packs a healthy punch of vitamin K, vitamin C and fiber. 

Choose grapefruit-size roots that feel heavy and don’t have too many knobs or roots sticking out, said Lopez. 

“A smoother exterior means less waste after the thick peel has been cut away,” she said.  

Celeriac root

Once purchased, celeriac root will keep for two to three weeks in the crisper drawer of the fridge or any cool, dark place, she also said. 

“Store in a paper bag to prevent any grit from dirtying the storage space,” she said.  

Prepare sautéed or roasted as a weeknight side dish. 

“Once peeled, celeriac can be used raw, like a carrot, or cooked like a potato,” said Lopez. “Celeriac’s flavor is sweet and nutty with a distinctive celery flavor.”

Jerusalem artichoke

Also known as the sunchoke, the Jerusalem artichoke is a type of sunflower root vegetable, said Nikki Kuhlmann, RD with Anne Till Nutrition Group in Raleigh, North Carolina. 

“It has a lumpy, uneven surface and a light brown to reddish skin,” she noted. 

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“Jerusalem artichokes have a sweet and nutty flavor and the texture is crisp when raw and becomes tender when cooked.”

Among the nutritional highlights of Jerusalem artichokes: They’re rich in iron and potassium, as well as inulin, a prebiotic, which can foster a healthy gut, Kuhlmann said.

Jerusalem artichoke

Once you buy these in the grocery store, maintain the crispness of Jerusalem artichokes by storing them in a cool, dark place or the refrigerator, she advised, and consume within a week or two for optimal freshness. 

Explore the nutty flavor of Jerusalem artichokes by roasting or sautéing them. 

“For a refreshing twist, slice them thinly and enjoy them raw in salads,” suggested Kuhlmann.

Parsnip

Root vegetables closely related to carrots, parsnips have a tapered shape with a cream-colored skin and a sweet, earthy flavor, said Kuhlmann. 

“Parsnips have a sweet and nutty taste. The texture is starchy and becomes tender when cooked.”

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Often underappreciated, parsnips offer a good dose of vitamin C, vitamin K, and dietary fiber, and can contribute to a well-balanced nutritious diet, she said.

To store at home and to preserve the sweetness of parsnips, keep them in the refrigerator, ideally in a plastic bag. 

Parsnip

Aim to use them within two weeks for the best flavor, she noted. 

This versatile and affordable veggie is easy to prepare. 

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“Roast parsnips with a drizzle of olive oil and your favorite herbs, add them to soups or mash them with potatoes for a flavorful side dish,” Kuhlmann told Fox News Digital. 

Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi is a member of the cabbage family, featuring a round bulbous stem with pale green or purple skin and stems, said Kuhlmann. 

“Kohlrabi has a mild, slightly peppery flavor, and the texture is crisp and juicy, akin to a radish or jicama,” she noted. 

The vegetable offers a unique appearance and is rich in vitamin C, B-vitamins, and dietary fiber, making it a nutrient-dense addition to your winter meals, she said. 

Kohlrabi

Extend the shelf life of kohlrabi by storing it in the refrigerator, either wrapped in a damp cloth or in a plastic bag. 

Use within two weeks for optimal taste, according to Kuhlmann.

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Some ideas to try are to peel and slice kohlrabi for a crunchy and refreshing snack, shred it into slaw or incorporate it into stir fries and soups for added texture and flavor.

Kabocha squash 

This winter squash is rich in antioxidant beta-carotene as well as vitamin C and potassium.

It’s also a good source of fiber, said Jessica Cording, MS, RD, an author and health coach who practices in New Jersey and New York. 

Kabocha squash

“Its slightly sweet flavor makes it very versatile, and it can be enjoyed prepared very simply on its own.”

She suggested trying it steamed, roasted or used “in more complex dishes like soups, chili, stews or curry.”  

Store Kabocha squash as you would other squash varieties by peeling and keeping it in the refrigerator in airtight containers or zipped bags. 

You can also freeze this vegetable for future use. 

Another health-centric idea, said Cording, is that kobacha squash “can be a delicious, lower-carb substitute for sweet potatoes and even works beautifully in desserts.”

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