If you love food, you should be visiting farmer's markets. You're supporting farmers directly, shopping locally, and getting quality products. But there's an added bonus—the jaw-dropping array of unusual vegetables on display. Most of these veggies are heirloom varieties, and it's simply not cost-effective for supermarkets to stock them. Stuck at your desk? No problem. We've gathered up nine of our favorites so you can gawk (virtually) at nature's vivid imagination.
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These purple beauties are basically the same as red new potatoes, but with a vibrant violet interior. They keep their color when cooked and are a great addition to potato salads or as a colorful mash. Pro tip: Add some lemon juice to make the color even brighter.
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Chioggia beets, often called "candy cane" beets because of their playful red and white stripes, are a touch sweeter than the red variety. They'll keep their color if roasted or steamed, but for maximum vibrancy, try slicing them thinly in a carpaccio-style salad. And these beauties aren't just eye candy—they're chock full of fiber, folate and potassium.
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About 30 years ago, a farmer in Canada discovered orange cauliflower in his white cauliflower field. The cause? A genetic mutation allowed the plant to absorb more beta-carotene (the pigment found in carrots), turning the bulbous head a bright orange. It can be prepared in the the same way as the white variety—plus it's got a whopping 25 times more vitamin A.
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Dragon Tongue Beans
These funky heirloom beans are best eaten raw or steamed (but they lose their magic color if cooked). The raw beans are crunchy and a bit spicy, while cooking makes them a little sweeter. Like other beans, they've got plenty of iron, potassium and vitamin B.
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Don't let the color throw you off—these purple carrots taste just the same as the orange variety and can be cooked in the same ways. Warning: The pigment can bleed a bit, so you may end up with a pink-hued salad. Worth it!
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Though they're smaller than the traditional purple eggplant, these white aubergines can be prepared the same way (they're perhaps just a touch sweeter). Eggplant, which is known to be helpful in reducing high blood cholesterol, is also packed with fiber and B vitamins; try them roasted or sautéed in Thai or Italian dishes.
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Green zebra tomatoes
OK, we're cheating by categorizing tomatoes as a vegetable, but these Green Zebras were too tasty to leave off our list. When fully ripe, they resemble tiny watermelons, and their flesh is pleasantly tart. They're lovely when breaded and fried, or use them raw in a salad.
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Purple Spring Garlic
Good at warding off vampires, better at making your food delicious. This colorful garlic plant is a member of the allium family, and you're much more likely to find that it's grown locally. (Much of the white grocery store variety is grown overseas, and isn't nearly as fresh.) Garlic is well-known for its health powers, which range from preventing cancer to scurvy (it's packed with vitamin C).
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Misleadingly named a "broccoli," this veggie is actually a curious-looking, bright-green cauliflower studded with conical shapes (fun fact: the formations resemble a natural fractal). It keeps its green color when cooked (try roasting it), and can be prepared the same way as regular white cauliflower. The texture is relatively tender, with a milder and sweeter flavor than the white version. Bonus: It's bursting with vitamin C, fiber, and carotenoids.