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The most expensive vegetables in the world

When we think of vegetables, a few adjectives come to mind: healthful, abundant, clean, and maybe even gross, depending on your age and relationship with leafy greens. It is rare that the first word we associate with vegetables is "expensive".

However, expensive is the only way to describe the vegetables on this list. Here are five of the most expensive vegetables in the world.

Pink lettuce

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The latest food to fall victim to the "millennial pink" craze—which included expensive pink Kit-Kats, the return of rosé and Unicorn Frappuccinos from Starbucks—pink lettuce has been brightening up salads and Instagram accounts around the globe. Pink lettuce is, in actuality, pink radicchio and is traditionally grown in the Verona region of Italy and Southern France, where it is known as Radicchio del Veneto or La Rosin del Vento.

Pink radicchio has recently begun to be grown in Pennsylvania and South Carolina, which has made it more accessible in the United States but has not done much to drive down the price. In stores like Whole Foods, pink radicchio costs about $10 per pound, approximately 10 times the price of regular lettuce.

Yamashita spinach

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Yamashita spinach is a Japanese-origin spinach that is cultivated about 40 miles outside of Paris by Asufumi Yamashita. The spinach is grown in one of the 12 greenhouses he maintains on his properties alongside 50 other Japanese vegetables.

Yamashita has taken years to perfect his produce. He tweaked both his aubergines and tomatoes for seven years before he felt they were ready to be sold. His intense pursuit of perfection has given him the nickname of the “Haute-Couture” vegetable grower, and his crops appear on the menus of some of Paris's most exclusive restaurants.

Most of Yamashita’s vegetables sell for two or three times the prices in the region, but Yamashita Spinach sells at 10 times the price, at about $13 per pound. Vegetables aren’t the only expensive food that Yamashita sells. A single melon produced in one of his greenhouses sells for about $80.

Wasabi root

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If you are a fan of the spicy wasabi served with sushi, get ready for an unfortunate surprise: Almost all wasabi served in American sushi restaurants is an imitation, made from horseradish and green food coloring. Actual wasabi is difficult and not cost-effective to grow, making the small amount grown in the mountains of Japan and Europe expensive stateside.

For the first time, some farmers in the United States have begun trying to grow and harvest their own wasabi root, but the price has remained high. Wasabi root can cost as much as $75 per pound. It is worth a try, however, if you are lucky enough to find some. Expect a smoother, cleaner, and more plant-like experience with slightly less heat from actual grated wasabi root than from the horseradish-based substitute.

La Bonnette potatoes

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This exceptionally rare species of potato would be extinct if it weren't for the dedicated efforts of French farmers on the Isle of Noirmoutier, the only place in the world the La Bonnette potato grows. Seaweed is added to the soil that the potatoes grow in, and the potato reveals notes of lemon, Earth, and sea to the palette.

The potatoes are hand-cultivated, and only 10,000 pounds are harvested each year. They can be bought only between May 1 and May 10, and if you make it in time, expect to shell out some cash: La Bonnette potatoes can cost around $300 per pound.

Hop shoots

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Hops, one of the base ingredients in brewing beer, are quite common. However, hop shoots, the bit of the vine that doesn’t get used to brew beer, are not seen as often. This is because they are very difficult to harvest. Hop shoots don’t grow uniformly. They require the harvester to lean over in awkward angles and are so small it takes hundreds to fill up a normal-sized bag.

They lack flavor while raw and taste like nettles with an unpleasant mouth-drying sensation. The leaves aren’t much more appetizing and taste like grass. However, when cooked, the shoots take on a kale-like quality and flavor. Be careful that you cook them correctly, however. Hop shoots cost $500 per pound.