Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Weird Vegetables

I was recently reading Richard Blunt and he lamented that most Americans only eat about a dozen different kinds of vegetables. So Maggie and I brainstormed what they might be. Maybe:
green beans
green pepper

Those are the kinds of veggies that are readily available at most grocers, most of the year, maybe in the freezer, and often in the produce section or as canned goods. But variety in the diet is good. It's good for our nutrition intake. It's also good for the cook's attitude so that she doesn't get bored out of her gourd. So Maggie and I brainstormed again. What else do WE eat (or should we eat)?

bok choy
brussels sprouts
summer squash
winter squash (including pumpkin)
greens (collards, turnip, kale, mustard, etc)

Then I realized that only a couple of items on this second list are available at Aldi or Super-Walmart (the grocery stores around here). But they're all available at Woodmans. My friend Tammy mentioned that she was missing the kinds of veggies she could get where she used to live; they just don't sell much variety here.

This year we joined community-supported agriculture. There are the benefits of getting good, fresh, organic foods. But one of the other attractions is that we get a variety of veggies that aren't sold in local grocery stores. And you gotta figure out what to do with them. (For instance, we got beets in our veggie-box this week. Several people sat down at the table with wrinkled noses. But you know what? Steamed beets with a slathering of little butter and salt tastes really good.) We're fine until October, but what happens when we have to start depending solely on the local grocery store for veggies again?

Looking at the seed catalog today, thinking about what kinds of shrubs and trees and raised beds we'll want to start next spring, I noticed all the weird fruits: the gooseberries and pawpaws and aronia-berries and currents. Maybe it would be better to plant those than apples. Apples are readily available. Blueberries and raspberries and Concord grapes and strawberries -- they're available but pricey. And some fruits are simply not available at all.


  1. I love beets. :) They're one of my favorite veggies. We didn't do the CSA this year because our garden is bigger, but I want to do it next year. It's a lot more variety.

    what seed catalog do you have? I'm looking for suggestions.

  2. I like Jung's. They're nearby for us. And I've had good luck with everything I've bought from them so far. Well, except maybe the asparagus... But there's only so much you can do with clay soil.

    Oh, and Maggie wants to add to the list:
    water chestnuts

  3. I just love jicama. We put it in our salads for crunch.

    Cut your beets up and put them in a jar with some vinegar, a little sugar, and some cloves. Let them set a day or so. They are yummy. Oh, you have to put them in there already cooked.

  4. The CSA available here is $400/year, but there's also a few roadside stands I try to remember to stop at.

    Gives me lots of incentive to keep expanding my veggie plot here at home!

    I *love* Brussel sprouts. YUM.

  5. Maggie and I were talking about American Girls on the way back from the movies last week, and to explain how to pronounce "Josefina," I used jicama as an example of Spanish J that sounds like H.

    Not many 13-year-olds would understand how to pronounce an American Girl's name because of an obscure vegetable... and such a yummy vegetable it is...

  6. From what I remember back in my days near where you live, roadside stands were good! Fresh foods at decent prices. But in Janesville and in Walworth County, it seems roadside stands usually charged an arm and a leg. They knew they could because people would pay it, maybe for the charm and nostalgia associated with "roadside stands," maybe because they were used to higher prices in their Chicago grocery stores. Whatever it was, though, I had to be really careful with those stands (and usually just drove right past them) because I'd often end up paying way more than I would at the grocery store.

  7. Rachel, maybe Maggie's mother should've been pronouncing Josefina correctly all along. Oooooooops!

  8. Try baking a mixture of beets and sweet potatoes coated in olive oil and sprinkled with rosemary. Yum! (Sorry--I can't tell you how long to bake them or at what temperature--but if you can figure that out you're in for a treat.)

  9. Back again to say I misspoke (miswrote?) before. I meant to say beets and butternut squash. But sweet potatoes will work too.

  10. My Dad's favorite pie was gooseberry.

  11. Glenda, we had wild gooseberries growing in the treeline between fields out behind the old house. Philip would try to pick them, but between the wicked thorns and the evil mosquitoes, it was almost impossible to harvest the berries. So we tried transplanting those thorny boogers. But they never took in the new spot I made for them. Bummers.