10 Rarest Vegetables in The World

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While vegetables like broccoli, carrots and brussel sprouts have been common fare on dinner tables for generations, there are a lot more vegetables out there with which to expand your palette. Chock full of nutrients and available in an array of colors, shapes and flavors, rare vegetables deserve a plate of their own. Read the list below to learn about some of the most uncommon vegetables throughout the world to add to your shopping list.

  1. Chinese Water Spinach
  2. Place of Origin: China
    Ideal Habitat: Wet and/or swampy areas
    Flavor Profile: Spinach with a touch of sweetness
    Chinese Water Spinach
    photo source: The Woks of Life

    Chinese water spinach is mostly grown in Asia and the United States. Despite the name, it is not related to the spinach family at all— although its dark green leaves do look like spinach. It grows best in watery areas, hence its name. Chinese water spinach comes in white and green stem varieties. The white stem version is lighter in color and has more pointed leaves. Both versions taste similar to one another, with the only major difference being that white water spinach is more tender and requires a shorter cooking time.

    Did you know

    Chinese water spinach is classified as a noxious weed in the United States so its growth and cultivation are highly regulated, which means it could become a lot more rare in the coming years.


  3. Kohlrabi
  4. Place of Origin: Northern Europe
    Ideal Habitat: Cooler climates and even, moist soil
    Flavor Profile: Peppery and vegetal
    Kohlrabi
    photo source: Health Journal

    Kohlrabi gets its name from the German words for cabbage (“kohl”) and turnip (“rabi”), which makes sense given its appearance. Although native to Europe, kohlrabi is grown in several places around the world, including the United States. It’s also available year round and grows well with other vegetables. Despite this, it’s still considered a specialty food and isn’t in many regular grocery stores. If you want to taste this funny looking vegetable, the best places are higher end grocery stores or farmers’ markets. Properly storing kohlrabi requires the leaves to be removed from the bulb to prevent wilting.

    Did you know

    In Germany, Kohlrabi is a popular snack that’s usually eaten raw and dipped into an herb dressing.


  5. Okinawan Sweet Potato
  6. Place of Origin: The Americas
    Ideal Habitat: Tropical/Humid
    Flavor Profile: Subtle Sweetness
    Okinawan Sweet Potato
    photo source: downtoearth.org

    The Okinawan sweet potato is quite the international traveler. It originated somewhere in the Americas and, through trade, ended up in Japan. From there, it became a popular ingredient in several dishes. Today, it’s also found in Hawaii. Okinawans have multiple health benefits. The compound that gives them antioxidant power makes their insides a vibrant purple. Finally, the term sweet potato is a misnomer as the Okinawan sweet potato isn’t a potato at all, but part of the morning glory family.

    Did you know

    Like other so-called sweet potatoes, the Okinawan sweet potato requires a lengthy, warm growing season. It should also be planted in a mound of soil to allow for better growth and protection against weevils.


  7. Green Shiso
  8. Place of Origin: Japan
    Ideal Habitat: Warm, humid climates
    Flavor Profile: Spicy and cinnamony
    Green Shiso
    photo source: Urban Cultivator

    Green shiso is an herb found throughout Asian cuisine. It offers a spicy kick to any dish and also tastes great when pickled. While the leaves are most commonly used as herbs and garnish, the entire plant is edible. Its seeds can be ground into a medicinal oil that allegedly prevents cancer and anemia. In a culinary capacity, it’s often found in sushi dishes.

    Did you know

    There is also a red variety of shiso known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.


  9. Sunchokes
  10. Place of Origin: North America
    Ideal Habitat: Warmer, mild climates
    Flavor Profile: Starchy and nutty
    Sunchokes
    photo source: cookinglight.com

    Sunchokes are knobby, tubular root vegetables comparable to a potato. Another common name for them is Jerusalem artichoke, although they don’t originate from Jerusalem nor are they related to artichokes. The outside of a sunchoke looks like ginger, but the inside is white instead of yellow. It also has a subtle flavor, similar to a potato but slightly nuttier. They’re difficult to find in regular supermarkets, but, if you manage to locate some, they taste great mashed or roasted.

    Did you know

    Sunchokes are resilient plants, but will rot in wet soil. Make sure they’re planted in an area where water drains easily.


  11. Oca
  12. Place of Origin: South America
    Ideal Habitat: Slightly warmer climates but can last through the winter
    Flavor Profile: Sweet, tangy, nutty
    Oca
    photo source: iStock

    While ocas are fairly rare around the world, they’re quite common in the Andes and in New Zealand. They did not begin as a wild vegetable, but were specifically cultivated by humans. They resemble potatoes in look and texture and are often served with lamb in New Zealand. They have a high nutritional content and go well in hearty stews.

    Did you know

    Although oca isn’t as well known outside of South America and New Zealand, it is the second most commonly grown crop in Peru and Bolivia.


  13. Fiddleheads
  14. Place of Origin: North America
    Ideal Habitat: Shady forest
    Flavor Profile: Sweet and grassy
    Fiddleheads
    photo source: Organic Authority

    Fiddleheads are rare because they only grow a few times out of the year and, more often than not, are foraged instead of sold in stores. This special kind of fern has a thin green stem that curves at the top with feather-like leaves. They’re found throughout the Northernmost regions of the Americas in shady forests. They have a short harvest window of about two to three weeks and shrivel up in the summer months.  Importantly, they should only be consumed after cooking since they are toxic while raw.

    Did you know

    According to a national survey conducted by Green Giant in 2019, broccoli is “America’s favorite vegetable.”


  15. Dragon Carrots
  16. Place of Origin: North America
    Ideal Habitat: Multiple
    Flavor Profile: Subtly sweet and spicy with a hint of earthiness
    Dragon Carrots
    photo source: specialtyproduce.com

    These vibrant carrots red carrots are human manufactured from the danvers variety of carrot. Underneath their reddish purple skin, they are vibrant orange with a yellow core. They are hardy plants and do well in most environments, but they are not commercially available. This is most likely a result of a few factors, including their unique origins and the fact that non-orange carrots don’t sell as well in supermarkets. They are ideal vegetables for a home garden and seeds can be found online.

    Did you know

    Dr. John Navazio created the dragon carrot. He is also a founding member of the Organic Seed Alliance.


  17. Salsify
  18. Place of Origin: Central and Southern Europe
    Ideal Habitat: Colder climates
    Flavor Profile: Similar to asparagus or, possibly, oyster
    Salsify
    photo source: Specialtyproduce.com

    Salsify is uncommon outside of Europe so few have tasted its interesting flavor. From the soil up, it resembles a sad parsnip and, if left alone, will flower. However, chefs care more about what’s underneath. Salsify root is creamy and carrot shaped. In general, it’s likened to an asparagus in terms of flavor, but others posit it has a distinct oyster taste. In fact, when it was brought to the Americas in the early eighteenth century, many colonists used it as a replacement for oyster.

    Did you know

    Salsify is usually enjoyed cooked with a dairy product of some sort, such as cheese, butter or cream sauces.


  19. Samphire
  20. Place of Origin: England
    Ideal Habitat: Wet marshlands and shorelines
    Flavor Profile: Similar to asparagus, but more salty
    Samphire
    photo source: Searching for Spice

    Samphire is one of the rarest vegetables ever. It is a sort of seaweed found throughout the British coastline and marshes. It does best in its cold, wet natural habitat, making samphire difficult to grow in a controlled environment. They taste most like an asparagus, but with a strong saltwater flavor. They are edible both raw and cooked and, apparently, pair well with butter and lemon juice. Samphire looks like a bundle of green twigs with flexible stems.

    Did you know

    Samphires are also known as Mermaid’s kiss and glasswort.

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