I grew up with two brothers. All three of us have traveled around the world. Both brothers traveled extensively with the Navy. They were exposed to a lot of different cuisines, often involving things they would rather have not known about. The youngest brother, Mykal, is more conservative when it comes to trying new things. J, on the other hand, is down for nearly anything. We have “double down dog dared” each other (yeah, it’s a thing) to try the weirdest foods, maybe not Andrew Zimmern weird, but weird nonetheless. Both my daughter and my nephew Cavin, are carrying on the tradition of stretching their palettes. Sometimes my daughter grosses out her peers with sour cream, and onion flavored crickets. Cavin, now in the Navy himself, is ferreting out local cuisine in Japan and discovering the weird and wonderful foods of another culture.
So how adventuresome are you? Are you ready to try some new nutritious foods that are foreign to you?
It’s all the rage on vegan platforms, but if you aren’t a vegan, you might not be familiar with this strange fruit. It’s a favorite meat substitute, and vegans have mastered using seasonings to turn jackfruit in to “pulled-pork.” Jackfruit is a member of the fig family and the national fruit of Bangladesh but is also eaten in other places like Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, and Brazil. A mature tree can produce 100-200 fruits a year. On the outside, it is bumpy and can grow up to 100 pounds.
People often describe the aroma of jackfruit to that of pineapple and bananas depending on the variety and ripeness. On the inside, it is full of arils (bulbs). It’s starchy, and the flesh is fibrous. The bulbs are soft and buttery. The flavor is what you would expect from a fruit; it’s sweet and tastes like mango, pineapple, banana smoothy…kind of. Jackfruit is good for you too. Jackfruit is a terrific source of vitamin-C, niacin, riboflavin, and folic acid.
What do you think? Ready to try it? Let me know your flavorful description.
I know, it looks like a Jackfruit had a baby. Durian is a freaky little fruit with a sharp, prickly rind. There are over 300 varieties of durian. Durians can grow to about a foot long. It’s the odor of durian that makes it one of the weirdest fruits. Durian can smell sweet, or it can smell utterly revolting. The scent is so strong that it is banned from the subways in Singapore. Some have described it as having a sweet vanilla custard flavor while others describe the flavor as rotten onions. The taste can vastly range from variety to variety. If you wait for the fruit to be as ripe and pungent as possible, the flesh becomes creamy, slightly alcoholic. The durian is native to Indonesia and Malaysia. Although it is not native to Thailand, every year they have the World Durian Festival.
Durian is superfruit, rich in fiber. It’s also high in vitamin-C and B-complex vitamins like niacin, riboflavin, B5, B-6, and B-1. It’s full of minerals like manganese, copper, iron, and magnesium. Fresh durian fruit is a delicious source of potassium as well. Maybe you should pick one up the next time you go to the store.
If you need a beverage to wash down your fruit, what about Birch Water? Made from the sap of the Birch tree. The water has a hint of sweetness and a thin syrupy consistency.
Birch water is full of minerals like manganese, calcium, and zinc. Birch water helps lower cholesterol, and is said to support weight loss, eliminate toxins in the liver, promote clear skin, heal wounds faster, provide joint-pain relief and reduce cavities. I think it tastes reminiscent of maple syrup. Try it and see what you think.
Maybe you’ve seen Kefir at Whole Foods. It’s a fermented dairy product. (Think drinkable yogurt.) It has a sour-tangy flavor. Kefir has been a staple in European countries for hundreds of years. It is prepared by combining dairy (cow, sheep or goat) with kefir grains (yeast fermentation starter). Originally kefir was made in goatskin bags that were hung in a doorway; the bag would be banged around as people passed through to help stir the kefir.
The benefits of Kefir are pretty decent. It contains nutrients like biotin and folate. It also contains an insoluble polysaccharide shown to lower cholesterol, blood pressure and be useful in the fight against candida. Kefir also contains vitamin K2 and probiotics to improve nutrient absorption and promote a healthy gut. I know my take on it, what’s yours?
This interesting vegetable is as if a cauliflower and broccoli had a baby. Although it may be new to you, the Italians have been growing it since the 16th century. C’mon, it looks something from a psychedelic garden. The fractal coolness alone makes you want to try this. The best way to cook it is to steam it. The flavor is mildly nutty. It’s an excellent source of protein and particularly ideal for vegetarians and vegans.
According to Daily Super Food romanesco is “naturally antiviral, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial, antidepressant, anti-microbial, anti-cancer, and anti-carcinogen. Though it’s full of anti-stuff, don’t put it on your anti-food list.
If you have already tried the purple potatoes, onions, and carrots, why not try purple asparagus? Purple asparagus is similar in flavor to its green counterpart. The gorgeous violet stems are eye-catching. The purple is really only skin deep. Purple asparagus is known for being more tender and sweeter than the other asparagus varieties. Cooked purple asparagus develops notes of artichoke and almonds.
I know asparagus can weird some people out with the way their urine smells after they digest it, but purple asparagus is packed with nutritional benefits. They are full of anthocyanins (responsible for the UTI-fighting power of cranberries) which are potent antioxidants that also aide in the fight against cancer. Give them a try!
Enokitake (Enoki) mushrooms are probably one of the less intimidating weird foods. If you have ever had Miso soup, you know what they are. Enoki grows naturally on the stumps of the Chinese Hackberry tree, September to March. Cultivated enoki has not been exposed to light, resulting in the long, slim, pale mushroom we are the most familiar with in the U.S.
These mighty mini mushrooms have been used in Chinese medicines for centuries. They contain antioxidants properties like ergothioneine, which is being studied in the development of vaccines and cancer immunotherapy. The stalk of mushroom contains a large quantity of a protein that helps regulate the immune system. Try them in soup or stirfry.
Garlic plants produce flower stalks in spite of not producing flowers. The stalks on hard-neck garlic are known as garlic scapes. They are notably delicious. When garlic scapes first shoot up, they grow somewhat straight. As they grow, they start curling. Most gardeners clip the scapes off the plants as leaving them diverts energy away from the growing bulb. They taste like mild garlic. You can use garlic scapes in recipes as a green onion substitute. Scapes are mainly available in the spring and summer.
Garlic scapes contain 4 grams of protein in a half cup. These lovely little curls contribute vitamin C and calcium to your diet. Much like the garlic bulb, scapes boost your immune system, reduce inflammation, said to aid in the prevention of high cholesterol, heart disease, high blood pressure, and cancer. Grab some at your local natural grocers.
Chia seeds aren’t just for sprouty little terracotta pets anymore. The chia comes from a desert plant that grows abundantly in southern Mexico. You might be surprised to know it is a part of the mint family. Oddly, mixed with water they can be used as an egg replacement for vegans.
Chia seeds were an essential staple in the diet of the Aztecs and Mayans diets. They are a protein-packed source of omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, iron, calcium, and fiber. They also hold their own when it comes to manganese, magnesium, and phosphorus. The health benefits are pretty mind-blowing when you consider how small this seed is. An ounce a day just might keep the doctor away. You can buy a bag of these at almost any grocery store.
I am just going to put it out there, I am a big fan of nutritional yeast. It makes a deliciously cheesy, nutty topping on popcorn, pasta, and baked potatoes. Think of it as a vegan substitute for cheese. Do not confuse this with Brewer’s yeast, which will not be nearly as tasty sprinkled on your food. Grown on molasses, nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast. After the live yeast is harvested, it is washed, and dried with heat to “deactivate” it. Usually, it is sold in the form of bright yellow flakes. It’s nutritional gold.
Nutritional yeast is really good for you. It is full of B-complex vitamins, chromium, amino acids, over a dozen minerals, and several other vitamins. Often times it is also extra fortified with vitamin B12. There are also 9 grams of protein per two tablespoons. Are you ready to give nutritional yeast a try?
Trying new foods can be fun. Live a little. Take your taste buds on an outing. I double down dog dare you!
What’s something weird you have tried? Did you like it? Share your experience in the comments below.