When we think about fruits and vegetables, vibrant colors like red, orange, and green often come to mind. However, there's a group of produce that is just as nutritious and intriguing, even though it wears a more subtle hue – white. White fruits and vegetables may not always steal the spotlight, but they have unique charm and health benefits, making them a valuable addition to any plate.
Why are they white?
White vegetables and fruits, like cauliflower, turnips, and white nectarines, display their pale color due to various factors.
One key factor is the presence of pigments or lack thereof in their cells. White produce often contains lower pigments, such as chlorophyll (which gives plants their green color) and carotenoids (which provide red, orange, and yellow hues).
This absence or minimal presence of pigments allows these fruits and vegetables' natural white or cream-colored flesh to prevail.
Additionally, certain varieties are selectively bred for their specific colors, including white, to cater to culinary preferences and offer diverse options in gastronomy. These white varieties, while visually understated, often possess a unique and subtle flavor profile that distinguishes them in the culinary world, making them prized ingredients in various dishes and cuisines.
Top 10 White Fruits and Vegetables
Origins: Cauliflower originates in the Mediterranean region, where it has been cultivated for over 2,000 years. Initially, it was a wild plant known as "wild cabbage." Through selective breeding by ancient farmers, the cauliflower we know today evolved from this wild ancestor. Its journey then took it to various parts of the world, including Asia and Europe, where it became a staple in traditional cuisines. In the 16th century, cauliflower made its way to North America with European settlers.
- The name "cauliflower" comes from the Latin words "caulis" (cabbage) and "flos" (flower), describing its appearance.
- Cauliflower can come in various colors, including purple, orange, and green, but white is the most common.
How to Use in Cooking:
- Try making Vegan Cauliflower and Potato Soup for a delicious and satisfying meal.
- Roast cauliflower florets with olive oil and spices for a crispy, flavorful side dish.
- Blend cooked cauliflower to create a creamy and low-carb alternative to mashed potatoes.
- Make cauliflower rice by blending the florets in a food processor.
- Roasted Cauliflower Tacos with Romesco Sauce is a delicious plant-based meal.
Many potato varieties, such as russet and Yukon Gold, have white flesh and are used in countless dishes like mashed potatoes and fries.
Origins: The white potato, scientifically known as Solanum tuberosum, originates in the Andes Mountains of South America, particularly in present-day Peru and Bolivia. Indigenous peoples in this region cultivated and domesticated the wild potato around 7,000 to 10,000 years ago. The potatoes they cultivated came in various shapes, sizes, and colors, including white, red, and purple. Spanish conquistadors brought potatoes back to Europe after their voyages to the New World in the late 16th century, and the potato gradually spread across the continent.
- There are thousands of potato varieties worldwide, each with unique flavor and texture.
How to Use in Cooking:
- Make classic mashed potatoes by boiling them and then mashing them with vegan butter, milk, and seasoning.
- Try your hand at crispy homemade French fries by cutting potatoes into strips and frying or baking them in an oven or air fryer.
White onions are a common onion with white flesh and a pungent flavor.
Origins: White onions, like other onion varieties, have a long history of cultivation and use in various cuisines. They are believed to have originated in Asia, particularly in regions around modern-day Iran and Pakistan. Over thousands of years, onions were cultivated, selected, and eventually spread to different parts of the world through trade and exploration.
- Onions have been cultivated for over 5,000 years and were highly regarded by the ancient Egyptians.
How to Use in Cooking:
- Caramelize white onions slowly for a sweet and savory topping for burgers, sandwiches, and pizzas.
- Dice them finely and sauté them as the flavorful foundation for countless savory dishes, from soups to stir-fries.
- White onions are part of Mirepoix, a classic French aromatic base made from a simple combination of diced onions, carrots, and celery, used to add depth and flavor to countless dishes.
While technically not a vegetable, garlic bulbs have white cloves with a strong, aromatic flavor used to season countless dishes.
Origins: Garlic, scientifically known as Allium sativum, has a rich history dating back thousands of years. Its origins are in Central Asia, in regions encompassing modern-day Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. From its point of origin, garlic spread throughout the ancient world, finding its way to the Middle East, Egypt, and the Mediterranean. It was highly regarded in various cultures for its culinary and medicinal properties. Garlic was even mentioned in ancient texts like the Egyptian Codex Ebers, which dates back to around 1550 BC, and the Sanskrit texts of India.
- Garlic has been used for its medicinal properties for centuries and is said to have been used by ancient Egyptians to boost laborers' stamina.
How to Use in Cooking:
- Roast whole garlic bulbs to create a sweet and savory spread for bread or as a flavorful addition to sauces and dips.
- Use garlic in dips, soups, stews, pasta dishes like Mojo Picón (Garlicky Red Pepper Sauce) and Vegan White Lasagna Soup.
Varieties like white button mushrooms, cremini, and portobello mushrooms have pale-colored caps and are used in various culinary applications.
Origins: White mushrooms, scientifically known as Agaricus bisporus, have a European history. They are believed to have originated in the grassy meadows and forests of Western and Eastern Europe. The first documented cultivation of white mushrooms dates back to the late 17th century in France, where they were grown in underground quarries near Paris. This led to the development of controlled cultivation methods, and eventually, white mushrooms became widely popular in Europe. In the late 19th century, European immigrants introduced white mushroom cultivation to North America.
- Mushrooms are technically fungi and are not considered plants. They belong to their own kingdom in biology.
- The largest living organism on Earth is a honey fungus in Oregon, covering over 2,385 acres (965 hectares).
- Commonly cultivated varieties like white buttons are available year-round.
- Mushrooms are incredibly versatile and can be used in a wide range of dishes, from soups and stews to pasta, stir-fries, and omelets. Try it in Open-Faced Mushroom Sandwich, Vegan White Lasagna Soup, and Vegan Mushroom Gravy.
- They add depth of flavor and umami to vegetarian and meat-based dishes alike.
Jicama: This root vegetable has crisp, white flesh and a slightly sweet, nutty flavor. It's often used in salads and slaws.
Origins: Jicama, scientifically known as Pachyrhizus erosus, is native to Mexico and Central America. It has a long history of cultivation and use in these regions, dating back thousands of years. Indigenous peoples in Mexico and Central America were among the first to cultivate and enjoy jicama, appreciating its crisp, juicy texture and slightly sweet flavor. Jicama is believed to have been domesticated in pre-Columbian times and was a valuable food source for ancient civilizations like the Aztecs and Mayans. Spanish explorers later introduced jicama to the Philippines and other parts of Asia during the colonial period.
- Jicama belongs to the legume family and produces beautiful white flowers.
- Its crisp, juicy texture and mild, slightly sweet flavor make it a popular ingredient in Latin American cuisine.
How to Use in Cooking:
- Slice jicama into thin strips for a refreshing addition to salads or slaws.
- Jicama's neutral flavor pairs well with citrus and chili powder, making it perfect for a crunchy snack with a zesty twist.
Daikon radishes are large, white radishes commonly used in Asian cuisine, both raw and cooked.
Origins: Daikon radish, also known as Raphanus sativus var. longipinnatus, is believed to have originated in Southeast Asia, particularly in regions encompassing modern-day China and Japan. Its cultivation and use date back over two thousand years, making it one of the oldest vegetables grown in this region. Daikon radish was highly valued for its versatility in Asian cuisines, where it was used in a wide variety of dishes, from pickles to stews. Over time, it spread to other parts of Asia and eventually found its way to Europe and North America through trade and exploration.
- "Daikon" is Japanese for "big root," which describes this large, elongated radish variety.
- It has a mild and slightly sweet flavor, different from the peppery taste of smaller radishes.
- Daikon radish is typically a cool-season crop, and its peak season varies depending on the region. In many places, it's available from late fall through early spring.
- Daikon radish can be enjoyed raw in salads, sushi, and as a garnish due to its mild flavor and crisp texture.
- It's often pickled to create a crunchy, tangy side dish known as "tsukemono" in Japanese cuisine.
- Daikon is an ingredient in various Asian soups, stews, and hot pots.
- It's a key component of kimchi, a popular fermented side dish in Korean cuisine.
- You can also stir-fry, sauté, or roast daikon to soften its texture and enhance its flavor.
White turnips have a mild, slightly peppery flavor and are used in soups, stews, and mashed as a side dish.
Origins: White turnips, scientifically known as Brassica rapa subsp. rapa, have a long history of cultivation and is believed to have originated in Europe and Western Asia. They have been grown as a food crop for thousands of years and were a staple in the diets of ancient civilizations such as the Greeks and Romans. White turnips were among Europe's first cultivated root vegetables and were likely domesticated from wild turnips. Over time, they spread to other parts of the world through trade and exploration.
- Turnips are a root vegetable and belong to the Brassicaceae family, which includes cabbage and mustard.
- The plant's root and the greens (turnip greens) are edible and have been used in various cuisines worldwide.
- Turnips are primarily a cool-season crop and are typically in season during the fall and winter, from late summer through early spring.
- The turnip's root can be peeled and eaten raw, sliced into salads, or used in stir-fries and slaws.
- They can be roasted, mashed, or boiled and mashed in a manner similar to potatoes.
- Turnip greens are nutritious and can be cooked as a side dish or used in soups and stews.
- In some regions, turnips are used to make pickles and are a common ingredient in traditional dishes like "neeps and tatties" in Scotland.
These asparagus spears are grown underground, producing a pale color and delicate flavor. They're often served as a gourmet vegetable.
White asparagus, also known as Asparagus officinalis var. alba, is believed to have originated in the eastern Mediterranean regions, including Greece and Egypt. Its cultivation dates back to ancient times, with records suggesting that the ancient Egyptians cultivated asparagus as early as 3,000 years ago.
White asparagus became a prized delicacy in ancient Rome, Greece, and other parts of Europe, and it was enjoyed by the aristocracy. Over time, its cultivation spread to European countries, including France, Germany, and the Netherlands.
- White asparagus gets its pale color because it's grown underground or covered with soil to prevent exposure to sunlight. This process inhibits the development of chlorophyll, which gives green asparagus its color.
- It has a milder, slightly sweeter flavor compared to green asparagus.
- White asparagus is typically available during the spring season, specifically from April to June, although the exact timing can vary by region.
- To prepare white asparagus, peel the tough outer skin and trim the ends. It can be steamed, boiled, roasted, or sautéed.
- It's often served with a rich hollandaise sauce, melted butter, or creamy soups.
- Try it roasted with herbs de Provence.
- White asparagus makes an elegant addition to salads, omelets, and pasta dishes.