Five lesser-known fruits and veggies from around the world

Add a little international flavour to your usual roster of fruits and veggies with these nutritious plants from outside of Canada.

kabocha melon


Also known as Japanese pumpkin, this winter squash is butternut squash’s smoother, sweeter cousin. It’s common in Japanese, Korean and Thai cuisine.
Health benefits: It has fewer calories than butternut squash and is an excellent source of vitamin A.
How to use it: Add it to curries, purée it into soups or serve it simmered or roasted. Even the peel is edible.
lotus root

Lotus root

The edible stem of the lotus flower has the starch of a potato and the texture of taro. It’s found in Chinese, Japanese, Indian and Bangladeshi cuisine.
Health benefits: Lotus root is an excellent source of vitamin C and high in fibre. It also has healthy amounts of minerals such as copper, iron, zinc and magnesium.
How to use it: Try it in soups, salads or stir-fries.


Originating from Africa and the Mediterranean, these “lady-finger” pod vegetables are fuzzy on the outside and squishy on the inside.
Health benefits: Okra is high in fibre and vitamins C and K. It’s also a good source of folate and vitamins A and B.
How to use it: A staple ingredient in gumbo (a spicy Creole soup), it can also be boiled, grilled, fried and cooked into soups and stews.


These greens — also called Chinese broccoli or Chinese kale — have crisp stems like broccoli and flat leaves like collards.
Health benefits: An excellent source of folate and vitamins A, C and K, kai-lan is also a good source of calcium, fibre, thiamine and riboflavin.
How to use it: Add the greens to sautés and stir-fries, or boil both stem and leaves and drizzle with oyster sauce for a traditional side dish.


The insides of this tropical fruit from Southeast Asia (no relation to mangoes) look like garlic, but the sweet, tangy flesh tastes like lychee.
Health benefits: Mangosteen is rich in fibre and a good source of vitamin C.
How to use it: Try it in ice creams, custards and juices, or eat it fresh from the shell.