Okinawa Sweet Potato Want something new and exciting for dinner? Try these lavender Okinawa sweet potatoes...or the dozens of other exotic and heirloom vegetables we present for your consideration. Photo courtesy of




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ELIZABET TRAVIS is an Editorial Intern at THE NIBBLE.



July 2008

Product Reviews / Main Nibbles / Vegetables

A Glossary Of Exotic & Heirloom Vegetables

Page 5: Exotic & Heirloom Corn Types


CAPSULE REPORT: This is Page 5 of a 15-page glossary of a glossary of exotic and heirloom vegetables. Click on the black links below to see other pages.



We’ll keep adding to this glossary as we find new types of corn.

Corn Get To Know Me

Baby Corn

Grown in Thailand and originating in Asia, baby corn is hand-picked as soon as the silks emerge from the ear tips. It is undeveloped enough to make the cob edible along with the kernels. Taste and texture remain the same whether raw or cooked, making this corn popular in salads and stir frys.

Available year-round.

Baby corn available from

Bloody Butcher Corn

An heirloom variety grown in the U.S. since 1845. It is best used for flour or corn meal, but can be enjoyed as corn-on-the-cob when very young. Most often dried and used as ornamental corn in autumn decoration.

Bloody Butcher

Earth Tones Ornamental Corn

Earth tones corn is a hybrid corn with pink, yellow, green, turquoise and bright blue kernels. It is perfect for autumn decoration, and also can be ground into flour.

Earth Tones

Sweet Red Corn

Sweet red corn is soft, sweet and tender just like yellow or white corn. It is most often enjoyed on-the-cob, but the kernels can also be used to add flavor and color to salsa, chutney and salads. When grilled, the kernels retain their maroon color, but when boiled or steamed, the kernels become blue or purple.

Available February to March & July to September.

Sweet Red

Chinese Eggplant

Long and lavender, this eggplant is sweeter and more tender than a typical American eggplant. Its skin is soft, and so it is rarely peeled. Interchangeable with almost any regular eggplant recipe.

Available year-round.

chinese eggplant

Indian Paint Eggplant

These eggplants are known for their sweet flavor. They are small and round with smooth skin and a light purple color with white stripes. Due to their size, they may fall apart when roasting, but are perfect for stuffing and baking.

Available April to September & November to January.


Japanese Eggplant

Similar to the Chinese eggplant, they have thin skin and a sweet, delicate flavor. These eggplants are slender and can be green, pink, white, lavender or purple. Their calyus, or stem, is most often dark purple.

Available year-round.

japanese eggplant

Pingtung Long Eggplant

Long, dark purple eggplant that is very tender and sweet. It is a very popular variety in Asia, and is named after its native town of Ping Tung, Taiwan. They are best prepared grilled with salt and olive oil.


Thai Eggplant

Golf-ball sized eggplants that are much more bitter than American eggplants, especially the seeds which should be removed before cooking. They come in a variety of colors, but are typically green with yellow or white stripes. They are often cubed and used in hot chile or curry dishes.

Available year-round.

thai eggplant

White Eggplant

Eggplants got their name because they were originally all small and white, and so looked like eggs hanging from the plant. Today, the white eggplant has a tough skin and a creamy, delicate flesh.

Available year-round.




Amana Orange Tomatoes

A huge orange beefsteak tomato that can grow up to two pounds. The flavor is mild and pleasant. This heirloom variety is named for Amana, Iowa.

Available year-round.


Azoychka Russian Tomato

A Russian beefsteak variety with a deep yellow color. The flavor is unusual, and unlike any American tomato. It is pleasantly sweet with a citrus taste.

Available year-round.


Banana Legs Tomato

Meaty tomato with few seeds and a good flavor. Most are solid yellow, but some have light green stripes. They are low in acid and are great for slicing into salads.

Available year-round.


Big Rainbow Tomato

A large beefsteak tomato with slight ribbing. It has a molted orange and red exterior with brilliant colored red and gold meat. A low-acid, firm, meaty and juicy variety.

Available year-round.

Big Rainbow

Black Brandywine Tomato

This is a black tomato with an oval shape and indeterminate size ranging from small to very large. They are best known for their potato-like leaves and true tomato flavor.

Available year-round.

Black Brandywine

Black Seaman Tomato

This is a medium to fairly large and slightly flattened tomato. It originated in the Ukraine. The tomato is mahogany with olive shoulders and a stunning inner coloration. It has a dense center, making it perfect for slicing and enjoying on sandwiches.

Available year-round.


German Johnson Pink Tomato

An heirloom variety from North Carolina. It is a huge beefsteak tomato with very few seeds, and can weigh up to 1.5 pounds. They are wonderful for slicing or canning.

Available year-round.


German Red Strawberry Tomato

An heirloom variety from Germany. They are shaped and colored like strawberries, but can grow as large as one pound. Flavorful, and meaty with few seeds, these tomatoes are wonderful in salads and on sandwiches.

Available year-round.


Gold Medal Tomato

These vibrant tomatoes grow large and yellow with red streaks. They are sweet in flavor and low in acidity. Perfect for slicing.

Available year-round.

gold medal

Green Grape Tomato

They are named for their similarity in appearance to clusters of Muscat grapes. Their sweet flavor and bright acidity make them great for appetizers when sliced in half and topped with creamy goat cheese and black pepper.

Available year-round.


Purple Russian Tomato

This heirloom tomato was introduced to the U.S. from Ukraine in 1980. They are purplish-red in color with an egg shape. The delicious taste makes them suitable to be eaten fresh or prepared in salsa and sauces.

Available year-round.


Red Lightning Hybrid Tomato

A bright orange tomato streaked with deep red, this heirloom variety is derived from the Red Zebra tomato. It has a rich tomato flavor and is beautiful sliced or in a salad.

Available year-round.


Siberia Tomato

This bright red tomato is best known for ripening fast and growing in conditions as cold as 38°F. Smuggled out of Russia in 1975, they have a smooth tomato flavor and are suitable for a variety of dishes.

Available year-round.


Snowberry Tomato

With a creamy yellow color on the outside and white on the inside, this is a unique variety. They are very sweet and flavorful. Excellent as snacks, in salads or with gourmet meals.

Available year-round.


Tangerine Tomato

These tomatoes have recently become popular as being the variety with the highest antioxidants. They are golden in color and very sweet in taste.

Available year-round.


Tolstoi Hybrid Tomato

They were developed by breeders in India. Tolstois are grown in giant clusters, with big juicy flavor. Wonderful in salads where they are perfectly complemented by balsamic vinegar.

Available year-round.


White Potato Leaf Tomato

Small, yellow-white (ivory) beefsteak tomato. They have a creamy texture and mild sweetness with a slightly tart flavor. They are named after their leaves, which look like those of a potato plant.

Available year-round.


Green Zebra Tomato

A medium sized tomato that ripens to a green color with cream and yellow spots and stripes. They have a a wonderful tomato flavor with a sweet and spicy zing.

Available year-round.



A tall plant with broad leaves; it produces many thousands of seeds. The leaves can be eaten like spinach, and the seeds are most often ground up for flour. A very popular vegetable in Mexican cooking.



An aromatic salad green that is also known as rocket. It has a peppery flavor. A wonderful addition to salads, pasta, pesto or pizza.

Available year-round.


Belgian Endive

A small head of cream-colored bitter leaves that are grown in the absence of sunlight to prevent them from turning green and opening. They can be prepared in salads, stuffed, baked and are delicious cut in half and grilled.

Available September to May.

belgian endive

Bok Choy

A member of the cabbage family. They have long white stalks and green leaves. Mild in flavor, and becoming bitter the further down the stalk you eat. A succulent addition to stir-frys or a healthy side steamed on their own.

Available year-round.

bok choy

Bright Lights Swiss Chard

A colorful swiss chard with electric coloring from yellow to deep violet red. It is delicious and good for you. Most often, it is prepared steamed, used as a wrapper for meats or other vegetables or served in a salad.


Early Jersey Wakefield Cabbage

An American heirloom cabbage with small, one pound heads. It has a scrumptious flavor, and is pleasing steamed or shredded for coleslaw.

earl jersey wakefield cabbage

Gai Choy

A mustard green with thin, ribbed stalks and leaves stemming from its base. It has a pungent flavor that combines well with garlic and ginger. Popular in soups and stir-frys.

Available year-round.

gai choy

Gai Lan

Also known as Chinese broccoli. It has glossy, blue-green leaves with crisp and thick stems. They are mild in taste and the stems are crunchy, while the leaves become chewy when cooked. Most commonly used in Chinese and Vietnamese cooking.

Available year-round, but peak is in winter.

gai lan


From the German for cabbage (Kohl) and turnip (rabi). They are fresh and crunchy with a spice like a radish. The bulb can be eaten in salads or boiled and peeled, served with butter, pepper and salt. The leaves can be cooked and eaten like greens.

Available year-round, but peak is June to July.



A Japanese vegetable with dark, glossy, green feathery leaves. They have a sweet mild mustard taste, and are great for fresh winter salad.


Napa Cabbage

Oblong leaves that are flat and wide. It is sweeter and milder in taste than regular cabbage. Often used as a dumpling wrapper.

Available year-round.

napa cabbage

Ong Choy

Also called water spinach, it is a semi-aquatic tropical plant. Mild in flavor, it tastes like a cross between spinach and watercress. Prepared minced with garlic and chile pepper, it can be stir-fried and served over rice.

Available year-round.

ong choy

Primero Cabbage

Round head and deep red color. Primero has a sweet taste and tender texture that makes it perfect for sauerkraut.



Also known as broccoli rabe, it is a common vegetable in Chinese and Italian cuisine. It is nutty, bitter and pungent in flavor. Rapini is most pleasing grilled or sautéed with olive oil and garlic.

Available year-round.


Salad Savoy

An ornamental kale flushed with fuschia and white. The leaves are sturdy and tender with a milder flavor than green cabbage. While the stems are slightly bitter, the leaves are fresh and sweet. Cooking it with vinegar or serving it raw with a vinaigrette will preserve the vibrant color.

Available year-round.

salad savoy


Grown in or around water, it is used as a peppery green or a garnish. Watercress is extremely high in fiber, folate and vitamins A and C. A popular and classic finger food is the watercress sandwich. To prepare, spread white bread with plain cream cheese, cucumber, pepper and watercress. Then cut into small squares.

Available year-round.


Chinese Long Bean

This is a long, thin Asian bean that can measure from one to three feet in length. It has a mild taste, similar to a string bean, and is grown in a variety of colors. This bean is not as crisp or moist as a string bean, so avoid overcooking because it will become mushy.

Available year-round.

chinese long bean

Chinese Red Long Bean

The red variety of the Chinese Long bean, it has a slightly stronger flavor, but adds depth of color to any dish.

Available in September.

chinese red long bean

Soy Beans

These beans are native to East Asia, and are used to make many Asian food staples, such as tofu, miso and soy milk. The bean grows in various sizes and hull colors that include green, black, brown and yellow.


Sea Bean

This bean literally comes from the sea. They are long and pencil thin with a flavor that reflects their origins. They may taste salty or even fishy, but become more mild in flavor when soaked. They are wonderful in stir-frys with mild tofu or vegetables.

Available year-round.

sea bean

Snow Peas

These peas have a bright, flat, green pod, and are best when picked young and crisp. They are sweet and tender, and so can be enjoyed with the shell on raw or cooked.

Available year-round.

snow peas


(For more exotic mushroom varieties, see the Mushroom Glossary)


Black Trumpet Mushroom

A popular mushroom in French cuisine, the very fresh ones smell of apricots. Its rich, smoky flavor is a wonderful accompaniment to meats or sautéed as a side dish.

Available June-September


Lion’s Mane Mushroom

This variety is named for its cascading mane and treasured for the benefits it offers toward brain function and the nervous system. When cooked, they taste somewhat like lobster, so they are wonderful when cooked with a little butter.


Lobster Mushroom

This is actually not a true mushroom, but rather a parasitic mold that grows on mushrooms, turning them the bright orange/red of a cooked lobster. They have a seafood-like flavor and a dense, meaty texture. They make a great substitute for lobster or as a filler in chowders and bisques.


Matsutake Mushroom

This is a type of Japanese mushroom with a significant spicy aroma similar to cinnamon. They are meaty like portobellos and add wonderful dimension to a cream of mushroom soup.


Chinese Leeks

Also known as Chinese Chives, they have a delicate garlic-chive flavor. They can be chopped and prepared in a variety of dishes, but are best tempura-fried or grilled whole.

Available year-round.

chinese leeks

Cippolini Onion

A flat Italian onion with a solid white flesh and sweet, mild flavor. They are traditionally served roasted or baked, but also work well on kebabs.

Available year-round.



This plant is also referred to as a wild leek. The entire plant is edible and tastes like a strong combination of onion and garlic. They are extremely popular in the cooking of Quebec and are often fried, but can be adapted to a variety of dishes.

Available March to May.


Red Baron Scallions

These onions are so pretty that they could qualify as an ornamental plant in a garden. However, they are also pungent and flavorful, and can substitute for green scallions in any meal.



(For Chile Peppers, see the Chile Pepper Glossary)


Corno di Toro Pepper

A standard heirloom pepper that comes from Italy. As the largest of the sweet stuffing peppers, it's excellent fried, cooked, roasted or stuffed.


Friggitello Pepper

These are also Italian heirloom peppers that are small and tapered. Their skin is mild, making them ideal for a salad.


Golden Baby Belle Pepper

A small bright yellow pepper that is crisp and sweet. They make great bite-size stuffed appetizers.

golden baby belle

Marconi Pepper

An Italian grilling pepper with a tapered green plant that turns red after it matures. It has a sweet, smoky flavor.


Purple Beauty Pepper

These peppers start out purple and will turn red if left to ripen. These are a thick fleshed, sweet pepper, perfect for slicing, stir-frying or adding to salads for color.


Black Radish

An heirloom vegetable with a rough black root that must be peeled before being eaten, this radish has a distinctive bitter taste. It can be shaved into salads, but is also good boiled and mashed.

Available year-round.

black raddish


This is cultivated for its slender roots, and is most popular in Asia. Usually soaked to remove the dirt flavor, they are then a crisp and sweet vegetable that is high in fiber and most often braised.



Celeriac has a large tap root and a celery flavor that is often used in soups or stews. They are edible raw or cooked, but are best eaten peeled.



A mild-flavored East Asian white radish. It is most prevalent in Japanese cooking, where it is often pickled and used as a garnish or condiment. In Chinese cuisine, it accompanies the small plates one eats during a meal of Dim Sum.

Available year-round.



Jicama is native to Mexico and Central America. The interior is creamy white with a crisp texture that resembles a raw potato or pear. Sweet and Spicy, they add great crunch to a salad, or eaten traditionally with a little lime juice and chile powder.

Available year-round.


Lotus Root

This is the root of the Lotus Water Lily. On the inside are several large air pockets that run the length of the root and give the Lily buoyancy A crisp fibrous texture with a mild distinctive flavor similar to an artichoke makes them great mashed or fried.

Available year-round.

lotus root


These vegetables come from some of the oldest root crops in the world and were first cultivated in the Caribbean and Central America. Resembling a yam, the flavor is earthy, and has a similarity to nuts.

Available year-round.


Maroon Carrots

This carrot is a deep wine color on the outside with a brilliant orange within. They are rich in flavor and have smooth, edible skins. Sweeter and crunchier than the orange variety, they add color and flavor to salads or soups.

Available year-round.

maroon carrots

Name Root

Shaped like a long sweet potato, the flesh is creamy or yellow in color while its skin can be light brown, dark brown or tan. It is somewhat nutty with a slightly chewy texture similar to a potato. It can be baked, boiled, steamed, scalloped, fried or stewed.

Available year-round.

name root

Parmex Carrot

Originally from France, these carrots are wonderfully tender with a very smooth skin. They are crunchy, sweet and bite-size, making them most tempting when sautéed in butter.


Parsley Root

This vegetable is most popular in European cooking. They are shaped like carrots and are ivory in color. Their leaves have a slightly more bitter flavor than parsley. They have an earthy taste and rich texture. Great in cassoulets or alongside pork.

Available year-round.

parsley root


A superb sweet and nutty flavor, parsnips are smooth skinned and slender. They can be roasted in olive oil along with other root vegetables and served as a side dish or a main dish over rice.

Available year-round.


Purple Dragon Carrot

What a color contrast with the purple outside and striking orange on the inside. The carrot itself is sweet and a little spicy. They are lovely chopped into salads.



Originating in the Mediterranean, it is known for its oyster-like flavor, and is also thought to be similar to the artichoke. It has the texture of an artichoke heart, and the shoots can be used in salads.

Available year-round.




White Satin Carrot

This is one of the most mild flavored carrots, with a sweetness to it and a crispy texture. They still share the same nutritional strength of their orange cousins.



(For more exotic squash varieties, see the Squash Glossary)


Bennings Green Tint Squash

A variety of patty pan squash, with a uniform saucer shape and scalloped edges. They have a fine-textured flesh and good flavor.


Flying Saucer Squash

This variety is best when young and tender. Their neat saucer shape and vibrant colors make them a lovely and flavorful dish sautéed, stuffed or stir-fried.


Japanese Cucumber

A few white spines appear on this cucumber’s light green skin, which encloses a crisp white flesh and very low seed content. They can be a substitute for English cucumbers.

Available year-round.

japanese cucumber

Mo Qua

A squash of Chinese origin and a relative of winter melon. It looks like a zucchini covered in fuzzy white hairs. Inside, the light-colored, slightly firm flesh is mild  and will absorb the flavor of whatever food it is cooked with.

Available year-round.

mo qua

Papaya Pear Squash

A bright yellow squash that is tasty raw or cooked. The white flesh is firm and flavorful and the shape makes it ideal for stuffing.


Pul Qua

A squash that originated in southeast Asia. It is long and thin with smooth skin and a yellow-green color. They are a great source of vitamin C and calcium.

Available year-round.

pul qua

Sugar Hubbard Squash

This squash is best cooked diced or cubed, since the rind is bitter and difficult to cut through.



A tropical sweet potato popular in Hispanic communities, it is fluffier, drier and less sweet than a traditional sweet potato. It has a pink to burgundy skin and a white or cream-colored flesh.

Available year-round.


Cranberry Red Potato

This potato will hold its rich cranberry-red color through cooking. They have an earthy, buttery flavor and a silky-smooth flesh that makes them great for potato salad.



Grown in the Central and Southern Andes, the flavor is slightly tangy and the texture is crunchy until cooked when it can become mealy.

Available June to October.


Okinawa Sweet Potato

A Hawaiian sweet potato with white skin and lavender flesh. They are best served baked.

Available spring through fall.

okinawa sweet potato

Peruvian Purple Potato

From the South American Andes Highlands, it has a purple skin and flesh. They are the mealiest of the fingerling potatoes and so are best served fried.


Cassava Root

This root serves as the third largest source of carbohydrates for human food in the world. The root is long and tapered, and the vegetable is also referred to as Yuca. When raw, Cassava tastes like a mix between potato and coconut, but once it is cooked it takes on a delicate flavor and could replace potatoes in many dishes.


Chinese Celery

The stalks are thin and hollow and the color can range from white to dark green. They have a strong bitter flavor and are seldom eaten raw.

Available year-round.

chinese celery


A vegetable that comes from the Prickly Pear, and is exposed when peeled to remove the spines. Native to Mexico, they have a light, slightly tart flavor, and a crisp, gluey texture. Popularly served with eggs or in tacos.

Available year-round.


Continue To Page 6: Eggplant



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