Are you ready to be introduced to some “weird” edible plants? You are probably familiar with the benefits of crops such as potatoes, beans, rice, etc. However, are you familiar with the benefits of a yacon? How about a quamash? These are crops that you may or may not have heard of before, but they are for sure worth trying! Check out these 25 Uncommon Food Crops You’ll Want To Try.
A variety of cacti, prickly pears thrive in hot and dry climates. The fruits have a long oval shape with a thick green shell that turns yellow, purple, or red. However, they need careful handling since the shells are covered with tiny, sharp needles. Prickly pears can be eaten raw or combined with other fruits to make a simple dessert.
Also known as nashi pears, bapples, Korean pears, sand pears, or apple pears, the Asian pear is a superb fruit with a wonderfully refreshing taste when slightly chilled. It can be eaten on its own or in a salad. The color of its skin varies from yellow to bronze and retains its nutritional benefits, even if stored for several months.
The cape gooseberry is one of the many varieties of the plant genus Physalis that were mostly used as a garnish in England. Wrapped in a delicate papery husk, the yellow-orange fruits can be eaten raw, but they can also be used for sauces, jellies, jams, and tarts.
Japanese Raisin Tree
A deciduous tree from a wide distribution range in Japan, China, and the Himalayas, the fruits of this tree taste like raisins and literally melt in your mouth. Introduced to the West in the 1920’s, recent research showed that the extract of the Japanese raisin helps lower blood pressure and can be used as an ingredient for anti-diabetic goods.
Tomatillos are low in calories, contain antioxidants such as vitamin A, C, and E, and have a very good sodium to potassium ratio. Though these plants do not contain lycopene like tomatoes, they have phyto-chemicals known as withanolides, which have anti-cancer and anti-bacterial benefits.
Silverthorns are easily grown, tolerate drought well, and are undisturbed by pests or diseases. They produce a sweet-tasting berry that is safe to eat. Some of its species ripen their fruits in April and May, before any of the seasonal fruits ripen.
An evergreen tree from Chile, the Monkey Puzzle can take 91 to 100 years to reach its ultimate height of 20m and spread of 10m. It’s a good thing this tree has a lifespan of about 900 to 1,000 years. The female species produces a delicious, almond-sized fatty seed that can be eaten raw, cooked, or used in baking.
The quinoa plant has seeds that look like millet and are coated with saponins, a bitter substance that prevents the birds from eating them. Its young leaves are as tasty as spinach, and it’s high in fiber, protein, and is gluten-free.
Just like quinoa, the annual lupine plant has edible seeds. The seeds have the same nutritional value as soybeans but are higher yielding and a lot easier to grow in moderate climates.
A deciduous tree from China, the gingko tree is a flourishing tree that produces yellow, plum-like fruits in autumn. Though they give off a pungent and foul odor, the seed within the fruit is considered to be a delicacy in China. Moreover, the Ginkgo fruit has many nutritional and health benefits, including the increase of memory, concentration, and reduced side effects of menopause.
Morama beans grow in sandy, arid to semi-arid areas and taste like cashews when toasted. Besides their large edible tubers, the beans have pods that contain one or two protein-rich seeds that have the same nutritional value as peanuts and soybeans.
A member of the mint family, Anise Hyssop is primarily grown in the North American region. The leaves of the Anise Hyssop have a rich aniseed flavor, which is delicious in salads. It is also known as a cleansing herb that helps relieve cough and catarrh, regulates blood pressure, improves digestion, and acts as an effective tonic.
A Mediterranean plant that is known for its lovely, blue harebell flowers, the Campanula is an evergreen perennial with edible leaves that have a mild, slightly sweet flavor that can be added to any vegetable salad.
Iron Cross Plant
A bulbous plant that is primarily cultivated in South America, the Iron Cross plant is known for its edible leaves and flowers. The flowers have a lemony flavor that can be added, in small quantities, to salads. Why small quantities? They contain oxalic acid, which shouldn’t be consumed in large amounts. Its tap root can also be eaten raw or cooked and has a texture of a crisp apple but with little flavor.
Mallow leaves have a very mild flavor that can be added to salads. The leaves have also been used as an anti-inflammatory agent for the respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract, and skin.
Chinese artichokes have small, fiddly roots and a crisp, juicy texture, coupled with a pleasant flavor. They can be cooked, eaten raw, or chopped up and added to salads. The artichokes are low-calorie vegetables that are rich in minerals, starch, and sugar, which make them an excellent source of energy.
An edible root cultivated in South America, yacon grows about 3 ft. tall and is grown and harvested like potatoes. Though the yacon has low nutritional value, it has a high content of carbohydrates in the form of inulin. Inulin can be converted to fructose, so yucon can be made into a sweetener that is safe for diabetics.
Another edible plant from the west, the Indian potato grows about 15 cm tall on open mountain sides and ridges, specifically in gravelly or sandy soils. Its roots have a pleasant, crisp taste, though the outer skin is slightly bitter.
Though it is often grown in the flower garden, the Tiger Lily is cultivated as an edible bulb in the Orient. Its bulb tastes like a potato when baked and can be used as a remedy for uterine problems. In traditional Chinese medicine, where it has been used for the past 4000 years, it is utilized to treat respiratory problems, like bronchitis.
An herbaceous clinging plant that can grow to about 4 ft. tall, the ground nut belongs to the pea and bean family. Its roots are high in protein and have a very pleasant taste when baked. It can also be eaten raw, though it may be tough to chew.
Also called camas, camassia quamash is a perennial herb grown in North America whose bubs can be slow cooked and eaten. They are popular among Native Americans and taste like a sweet potato.
A native plant from South America, Oca is as hardy as a potato. It has a pleasant, acid-lemon flavor, which can be eaten raw or cooked. A 100g serving provides 40mg of vitamin C, and it’s low in calories, so it’s perfect for those who want to lose weight.
A rare, native plant found in Great Britain, earth peas are a starch-rich tuber that is quite delicious when baked. As a perennial plant, they can reduce soil erosion caused by tilling in between crops and can be grown easily at home. They are not high yielding, so they can be costly in grocery stores, but they are nutritious and taste great.
This is not actually a nut but another tuber that grows in the tropics and sub-tropics. It’s about the size of a peanut and eaten raw as a convenient snack while traveling. Tiger nuts have been recognized for their nutritional benefits since they have high contents of oleic acid, soluble glucose, minerals, and vitamins C and E along with its high energy content from fats, starches, proteins, and sugars.
There are many varieties of yam, but they all offer the same protection against cardiovascular diseases. They also contain a unique substance known as steroidal saponins, which includes the chemical, diosgenin. Diosgenin is not only helpful in lowering the risk of osteoporosis but also in controlling menopausal symptoms in women.