Travel and increased exposure to international cuisine has brought many changes in the food served at our dinner tables. We now see exotic vegetables such as broccoli, asparagus, baby corn, cherry tomato, rosemary, thyme, red cabbage, coloured capsicum, etc being served alongside our time honoured vegetables such as bottle gourd, pumpkin, potatoes, okra etc.
Most of these exotic vegetables are best grown in India’s winter season . The seeds are sown in October-November for best results. Many of them grow well in partial sunlight, and some of them can withstand full sunlight, at least in winters. The plants need a well-drained soil and organic manure.
Here is a list of exotic vegetables in India that you can grow in your kitchen garden for this winter along with their health benefits
This cabbage family vegetable has become very popular in Indian kitchens. Unlike cabbage & cauliflower, a single plant can give you many broccoli heads throughout the harvesting season. Broccoli is a good source of fibre and protein, and contains iron, potassium, calcium, selenium and magnesium as well as the vitamins A, C, E, K and a good array of B vitamins including folic acid
These are non-pungent varieties of bell pepper available in yellow, red, orange colors. Seeds are better sown in a late monsoon for proper harvesting in winters. Coloured capsicums are good for your heart, improves metabolism, lowers the risk of cancer.
This is a small distinct variety of tomato, treated as a different vegetable. The plant is weak and it forms cherry tomatoes in bunches during harvesting season & needs a support of a trellis. Cherry tomatoes are rich in lycopene, which is great at fighting free radicals that cause disease. Lycopene can also limit UV damage to your skin from sun exposure and promote better heart health. Cherry tomatoes are also an excellent source of Vitamin A, C, E and Potassium.
Although referred to as cabbage, this vegetable belongs to a different species & is more closely related to Turnip. This is often used in Chinese cuisine and salads.
Chinese Cabbage is packed with many antioxidant plant compounds and is an abundant source of soluble and insoluble dietary fiber. Scientific studies suggest these compounds are known to offer protection against breast, colon, and prostate cancers and help reduce LDL or “bad cholesterol” levels in the blood.
You can propagate the plant from both seeds and crowns. A pot that is around 18-20 inches deep and 12 inches wide is ideal for growing asparagus. However, growing in pots results in only 2-3 seasons of harvest once the plant has established. The plants need at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight. Choose a well-draining soil, rich in organic matter. The soil ranging from 6.5 to 7.5 in pH is good for the growth of these plants. You can also go with loamy or sandy loam soil.
The fleshy green asparagus is succulent and tender, and considered quite a delicacy. Often called one of nature’s perfect foods, asparagus is packed with many health benefits. It’s great for detox diets, and can reportedly reduce the risks of cancer and heart disease, reduce pain and inflammation, and even has anti-ageing properties!
This variety of summer squash belongs to the same species that of other squashes & pumpkin. The fruit is usually cooked and presented as a savory dish or as an accompaniment. This is a very low-calorie vegetable and doesn’t contains cholesterol and saturated fats. It is a rich source of dietary fibres that prevents constipation and shields you from colon cancer. Eating zucchini is also a healthy way to lose weight.
This is a variety of Chinese cabbage that does not form heads and has smooth, dark, tasty green leaf blades instead. Also known as Pok-Choy, this leafy green can be harvested in 60-70 days from seed sowing. It is an exotic vegetable which is well known for its high nutrient content. It is a member of the cabbage family and is a rich source of Omega-3 fatty acid and zinc. This exotic vegetable is a powerhouse of phenolic antioxidant which has anti-cancer properties. Rich in iron, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin K and magnesium, Bok-Choy builds and maintains your bone structure
Closely associated with the onion and garlic family, leeks have a sweet yet moderate flavour that adds a subtle touch to any dish. The white elongated bulb at the base of a bunch of green leaves is widely used in salads, and the green leafy tops make an excellent flavouring agent for soups and stews. Plant leeks during the cool weather of early spring and fall. They grow well in raised beds, containers, and in-ground gardens.
Space leeks 6 inches apart in an area that gets 6 or more hours of sun daily and has nutrient-rich, well-drained soil. Improve native soil by mixing in several inches of aged compost or other rich organic matter. Harvest leeks at any time once they are large enough to eat.
Leeks are packed with vitamins and minerals and are an excellent source of fibre, making them a great choice for maintaining overall health. Leeks are also a good source of vitamin A, beta carotene, folate and lutein.