Lesser Known Vegetables

India, the haven for vegetarians, flourishes, in a large number of lesser known but high on nutritional value vegetables. It is these vegetables like asparagus, kale, parsley and leek which are at present being consumed mostly in five-star hotels and restaurants and a few individuals kitchens to add variety and flavor to the Indian delicacies.

It is obvious that commercial exploitation of vegetables will not only solve nutritional problem but also reduce our dependence on traditional vegetables which make us the second largest producer in the world. Popularly known as spears, asparagus has tender, succulent and fleshy shoos. Eaten fresh or used in canned foods, asparagus serves as a table delicacy. It is also used in making soups and other vegetable products. A 100 g serving of the asparagus provides only 26 calories and 5.0 g of carbohydrates. It has a very low fat content (only 0.2 g). Being grown in India for nearly 50 years, the produce of asparagus is negligible compared to Germany, the USA, Spain, France and Taiwan. Green asparagus production is less dependent on the type of soil than white and blanched type. In European countries, Germany, the Netherlands, France and Italy blanched asparagus is produced mainly for fresh market, whereas canned white asparagus is imported from Taiwan. In the USA and Canada, only green asparagus is cultivated for fresh market and processing. India has market for blanched asparagus only. Asparagus is highly perishable. It should be processed (canned) immediately or else it loses its quality. ‘Large early white’, ‘green giant’, perfection’ and ‘Mary Washington’ are cultivable varieties of asparagus. Kale, a rich source of vitamin A, B and C and minerals, is a winter vegetable. The tender leaves of Kale are consumed before they become tough or stringy. The long, crisp brittle-green and tender leaves make it a very tasty delicacy. Leaf stalks after cooking also make a soft, juicy and delicious vegetable. The leaves of Kale may be stored for a long time as they do not wilt quickly like those of lettuce and spinach after harvesting. Dwarf green, curled scotch Louisiana sweet, dwarf blue curled scotch and tall green curled scotch are suitable varieties for cultivation. Parsley is used for garnishing and flavoring salads, soups and stews. An excellent source of vitamin A, it is dried and eaten with meats The smell of parsley absorbs the intoxicating fumes of wine, preventing any unusual effect of over-indulgence. Some of its varieties are ‘moss curled’, curled leaf and hamburg. Leek, closely related to onion, is a vitamin-rich and low in calorific value vegetable. The leaves of leek are used as a base for soups. They are boiled, steamed and eaten raw in salad.

The leaves are slightly sweet with mild favor compared to those of onion and garlic. The tender leaf stalks are ideal for consumption. The plants after cutting are trimmed and arranged in bunches. American flag, broad London, conqueror, large American flat, and London flat are some known varieties of leek. Brussels sprouts, named after Brussels in Belgium, are a rich source of vitamin A, B and C, calcium and iron. The miniature heads developed from its plants are known as sprouts. A temperature range of 15-18 degrees celsius is needed for the production of sprouts. Brussels sprouts are cultivated like cauliflower and cabbage. They are ready for picking 90-100 days after transplanting. Hilld’s ideal, cat-skill, jade cross, half dwarf improved an early dwarf are some of the cultivable varieties. Another lesser known vegetable is the globe artichoke, perennial in nature. A rich source of iron and iodine, its immature flower heads are a delicacy. It is boiled, baked, fried or stuffed. Young stems and leaves are sometimes used as a pot herb. Tender flower buds of globe artichoke are tastier than young ones. They should be picked up before they mature.

Early purple, green globe and large green globe are some of the cultivable varieties of globe artichoke. Globe artichoke fetches premium price in urban markets. It is highly suited for hilly region. The crop can be planted staggered to get a continuous supply, especially as an off-season vegetable. Broccoli or calibers like cauliflower, is tastier and more nutritive than cauliflower. In Broccoli, a main head is produced terminally on a fleshy, branched and elongated stem. Its head – a cluster of flower buds – is eaten as vegetable. The head fully developed and firm, having tightly closed flower buds which are not yet open, are picked up. The flower buds before becoming yellow are ideal for consumption. After harvesting main or central head, small side branches also produce small heads of broccoli. Premium, topper, green comet and criterion are improved varieties of broccoli.

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