Gardens are overflowing and the Farmer’s Markets are full of produce, ready to fill your vitamin and mineral needs! I’m sure we all snagged up the strawberries over the last couple of weeks. Maybe you got some early lettuce or beans…but what about all those mystery fruits and veggies?? We all see unknown produce and simply pass on by without giving it a second thought. The next time you see something unfamiliar, buy it! Make it a mission to learn 1 or 2 ways to use it. You will probably like it, AND you’ll have something new to incorporate into your regular meal/snack rotations to keep it from getting boring. As an added bonus, you will introduce your body to vitamins and minerals that you may not currently be getting! Let’s get started:
Yu Choy (yow – choy)
Go past any Asian stand at a farmer’s market and you’ll likely find Yu Choy. This Chinese green is most identifiable by their yellow flowers, which are edible! Yu Choy (or rapeseed) are primarily grown to produce canola oil, but also have a sweet taste that make it perfect to sautée, stir-fry or add to soups. Yu Choy’s flavor is a sort of cross between spinach and mustard greens. Grab a pound of Yu Choy, stir fry in some oil and garlic and then steam in ¼ cup of chicken broth for about 3-3.5 minutes until the stems are softened. Say Nǐ hǎo to something new!
Kohlrabi (cole – RAW – be)
In German “Kohl” means cabbage and “Rabi” means turnip; this green or purple bulb like vegetable is commonly eaten in German speaking areas and in Vietnam. However, it is slowly becoming more mainstream here in the U.S. The bulb can have the green skin cut off (knife or vegetable peeler) and the inside, sliced or cut into sticks and served alone or with a dip like hummus. It has a nice, crisp taste with a slight cabbage flavor. Some may be surprised to learn that the greens on the top of kohlrabi can be used like kale or collard greens. Look for smaller size bulbs to ensure they are not “woody” as often found in the larger grown vegetable. Use kohlrabi in other ways too, such as pureed in soups, roasted, or steamed. Any time you get a veggie where you can eat the root and the greens you’ve got a bargain!
You might have noticed we’ve included a few root vegetables in this post, in large part because unless it is a carrot or potato most people tend to steer clear of this category. What a shame! Because the roots are generally the major source of absorption for vitamins and nutrients from the soil, these veggies (beets, rutabagas, ginger, etc) pack a big nutritional punch! Geosmin, a compound produced by microbes in the soil, is what gives beets their earthy taste and seem to polarize so many into beet lovers or beet haters, but even beet haters may be pleasantly surprised by the flavor of golden beets! These golden beauties have been described to taste like sweet corn when cooked, and are well-known for their high fiber, potassium, iron, and folic acid. One bonus is they don’t “bleed red” and stain your clothes or teeth. Beets also have the highest sugar content of any vegetable, which is why they can be found in some desserts (like beet brownies!). Beets can be enjoyed roasted, poached, or boiled.
Jicama (HE – ka – ma)
Although you won’t find jicama grown locally as it needs 9 months frost free, you can generally find it in most supermarkets. It’s traditionally grown in Mexico and South America. Also known as a Mexican turnip, Jicama is in the legume family and the brown, bulbous root vegetable we are used to seeing is just that – a tuberous root at the bottom of a large vining plant. Jicama is most commonly enjoyed raw and tastes like a savory apple, a crunchy, juicy, and slightly sweet snack. Just cut the skin off (it’s too thick for a vegetable peeler) and cut into sticks or slices. Other ways to enjoy jicama are stir-fry (like water chestnuts), julienned into spring rolls, and even diced into salsa or a coleslaw!
Fennel (FEN – null)
Fennel is crunchy and slightly sweet – closely related to parsley, carrots, and dill. It is fully edible, from its bulb to the leaves, and has high concentrations of phytonutrients which make it an antioxidant powerhouse. Fennel has been repeatedly studied for its ability to reduce inflammation and fight cancer. Many associate the taste to black licorice, however if black licorice isn’t your thing, when the bulb is chopped and sautéed (many like it sautéed with onion) or braised, that licorice-type taste almost fully dissolves into a complementary side dish primarily for fish or other seafood. The stalks can be used in soup and the leaves can be used as an herb. Search pinterest or google some recipes and give it a shot!
Venture into the Farmers’ Market or grocery store with a little extra confidence this week, and proudly request some new produce with the correct pronunciation and a sense of accomplishment! When it comes to diet, one particular principles with regards to exercise is extremely applicable: if you are bored, you won’t stick with it very long. Explore new fruits and veggies to boost your vitamins and minerals, make your meals more enjoyable, and wow your friends and family!
Until next time…Happy Harvesting!