Crazy Fall Vegetable Varieties You Didn't Know Existed
While we'll always love the traditional vegetables of fall, there's a bumper crop of unique varieties with unexpected colors, zesty flavors and surprising textures just waiting to be discovered. Expand your palate with these must-try fall produce picks.
Whether you're an avid home veggie gardener or a farmers' market maven, it's easy to fall in the habit of seeking out the same fall vegetables again and again. And while there's nothing wrong with tried-and-true favorites, there's always room in your garden-and on your plate-for a bit of adventure.
Bust out of your fall produce rut and add these surprising fall vegetable varieties to your culinary bucket list. You likely won't find these unusual veggies in the produce aisle of most supermarkets. Your best bets are at farmers' markets and roadside stands or in your CSA. But if you can't find it, grow it! Browse specialty seed websites like Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Johnny's Selected Seeds, Renee's Garden, Row 7 Seed Company and Seed Savers Exchange for these and a plethora of other uncommon produce. Before purchasing seeds, study the requirements and instructions for prospective plants to ensure they will be successful in your growing conditions.
1. Honeynut Squash
(Photo: 898 squash/Row 7)
Honeynut squash was developed only several years ago in an effort to breed a "butternut squash to actually taste good." It packs a sugary punch that makes it ideal for fall desserts. Plus, its compact size (approximately 5 inches long) works well in small gardens where traditional squash would otherwise take over. Today, an experimental vegetable from Row 7 Seed Company-so new it's only referred to as "898 squash"-aims to improve upon the Honeynut with an even sweeter flavor and longer shelf life. You won't find this one at the garden center, though-you'll have to purchase your seeds online. Enjoy either variety roasted for a simple side or in a Winter Salad with Roasted Squash & Pomegranate Vinaigrette.
2. Veronica Romanesco Cauliflower
This funky cauliflower features lime-green spirals that form pointy florets. But don't let its alien-like appearance scare you away-it boasts a sweeter, milder flavor than traditional cauliflower. Try it in a Cauliflower, Romanesco & Broccoli Gratin.
3. Purple Dragon Carrot
(Photo: M.studio/Adobe Stock)
This twist on the traditional carrot features a striking purple hue on the outside with an orange or yellow center, and will add a burst of color to any fall recipe. But even more intriguing than its skin? Its complex flavor that borders on both sweet and spicy. These carrots make a beautiful addition to any appetizer board.
Try them in these: Healthy Carrot Recipes
4. Peppermint Swiss Chard
(Photo: Park Seed)
This striking Swiss chard showcases stalks that darken from white to pink with an ombré effect. Plant it as an ornamental for an unexpected pop of color, or in your vegetable garden to enjoy in dishes like Penne with Braised Squash & Greens.
More recipes: Healthy Swiss Chard Recipes
5. Asparagus Pea
(Photo: Amkha Seed)
A low-growing legume with bright red blooms, Asparagus Pea (also known as "Winged Pea") features frilly edges and thrives in sandy soil. As its name suggests, the flavor more closely resembles asparagus than peas. Pods are best enjoyed steamed and eaten whole.
6. Long Island Cheese Pumpkin
(Photo: Only Fabrizio/Adobe Stock)
This East-Coast native scores points with gardeners for its pumpkin pie-friendly texture and resemblance to a wheel of cheese (but, sadly, no actual cheese flavor).
7. Okinawan Purple Sweet Potato
(Photo: Jonathan Austin Daniels/Getty Images)
These deceptive varietals look like a regular sweet potato on the outside, but reveal marbled purple flesh on the inside. Commonly grown in Japan and Hawaii, purple sweet potatoes contain high amounts of anthocyanins, which may help prevent cancer.
8. Chioggia Beet
(Photo: olgabondar/Adobe Stock)
This beet variety, also known as the Candy Stripe or Bull's Eye beet, features red-and-white rings. It hails from Italy and dates back to at least the 1840s. Enjoy them in a Roasted Beet Salad or featured on a Beet & Goat Cheese Tartine. Save the greens and prepare them as you would spinach or chard.
9. Garden Peach Tomato
(Photo: Sow True Seed)
Extend stone fruit season with this tomato that looks and feels like a peach, complete with slightly fuzzy skin. Garden Peach tomatoes can be picked right up until frost in the North, and enjoyed well into the fall in the South. Can and preserve your harvest or enjoy their sweet flavor in your favorite tomato salad or salsa recipe.
Related: How to Grow Tomatoes in a Pot
10. Black Spanish Round Radish
(Photo: jvezzani/Adobe Stock)
Grown in Europe since the 1500s, Black Spanish Round Radishes pack a pungent flavor on par with horseradish. Serve them as a tangy topping for winter salads or soups.
11. Round Romeo Baby Carrots
(Photo: cheche22/Getty Images)
There's no need to buy baby carrots when you can grow your own. These carrots feature thin skin that doesn't require peeling, and best of all, their small size makes them an ideal choice for container gardens. Eat as-is from the garden or dip them in hummus.
12. Multicolor Cauliflower
(Photo: travelbook/Adobe Stock)
Although white cauliflower is the most common, there are varieties with vivid colors-including orange (also known as "Cheddar cauliflower"), purple and lime green (also called broccoflower, a cross between broccoli and cauliflower). The colored varieties have the same sweet and nutty flavor and crisp texture as their white counterpart. Cauliflower is loaded with cancer-thwarting compounds. Orange varieties provide beta carotene for a stronger immune system, and purple types dish up anthocyanins, substances that can help keep your brain sharp. Use it to create colorful Cauliflower Rice.
Try these: Healthy Cauliflower Recipes
WATCH: Learn How to Make Maple Roasted Sweet Potatoes
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Some additional reporting by Lisa Kingsley, EatingWell Vegetables.