Ugly vegetable plants that deserve a chance in the garden

The choko is more than its looks.
The choko is more than its looks.

When it comes to fruit and vegetables there are the good, the bad and the ugly.

It is the ugly ones that are often overlooked purely based on their appearance, but looks can be deceiving.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and these vegetables are more than gorgeous as an addition to your dinner plate.

For example, kohlrabi may not look all that attractive with its large swollen stem that grows atop a cabbage-like root, giving the appearance of swollen turnip with a rosette of blue-green leaves.

The name is German and translate to "cabbage turnip" but it is not a root vegetable. The stem of kohlrabi grows above ground and can be purple, white or green depending on variety.

Ugly or cute depending on your perspective, kohlrabi makes a great conversation piece in the garden and the inner flesh can be eaten raw in salads, roasted or stir fried.

Celeriac is another ugly plant punctuated by its rather unattractive name. Celeriac is related to celery and the foliage looks remarkably similar, but unlike celery the leaves are rarely eaten. Celeriac is grown for its swollen root tuber which has a knobby outer appearance with tightly twisted roots.

The flavour is remarkably like celery and is ideal as a mash, in soups, stews or roasted.

Salsify would have to be one of the unluckiest vegetables when it comes to appearance, looking like nothing more than a brown stick.

What salsify lacks in appearance, it makes up for in flavour with a mild oyster taste. This makes it a versatile vegetable to use in the kitchen.

It requires a deep soil enriched with organic matter to fully develop long tapered carrot-like roots for harvesting. Be careful if you grow salsify as it can become weedy in some areas.

One ugly fruit that has the capability of polarising gardeners is the humble choko, not so ugly, as it looks somewhat like a pear, albeit with a knobbly appearance. Choko was in fact renowned as the poor man's pear some 50 years ago.

The beauty of choko is that it takes on the flavour of whatever else it is cooked with, so it makes a great extender for apple pies and in stews.

If you decide to plant a choko, be warned, they are vigorous tendril climbers and can take over.

Despite their appearance some of the ugliest vegetables can be the most flavoursome and are well worth a second look.


  • John Gabriele is a horticulture teacher with a love for green spaces.
This story Beauty is only skin deep, that goes for vegies too first appeared on The Canberra Times.