Italians on Italians
Beyond Toscano

Italian vegetables you’ve probably never heard of

Italian vegetables you’ve probably never heard of
For every juicy carrot, cob of corn and stem of broccoli, there’s another vegetable that didn’t make it to the tables of the modern world. Most vegetables started out as wild plants that have been selectively bred over time for maximum tastiness and appeal. But along the way, there have been several popular varieties that seem to have dropped off the radar for many people, but in parts of Italy, are still going strong.
Similar to horseradish, rampions have a crunchy, white root, making them a once popular way to add a little heat to salads.
Also known as a choko, the chayote was originally introduced from Mexico and is common in Southern Italy. Green and pear-shaped, with thick skin, it’s a member of the gourd family, similar to a squash. Cook lightly to keep crisp or soak slices in lemon and add raw to a salad for a crunchy surprise.
An ugly root vegetable, salsify is either black, purple or white, with an unusual flavor that’s part oyster and part artichoke.
A bitter green vegetable that’s like a tall droopy broccoli and features in many southern Italian dishes. The leaves, stems and yellow flowers can all be eaten or used to add a nutty taste to dishes.