by Expat Chef
It would seem like once you get to be an adult, and an adventurous eater at that, new foods would require a passport, extra bag fees and various immunizations. Truth is, that exotic vegetable experience was as close as a trip to the farmers market — or delivered in my CSA box. Here’s just a few of the new foods that have ruined me for the megamart.
1. Heirloom tomatoes. Okay, the trend has passed. It’s so five years ago. But I’ll never be able to look at a store bought tomato again. Much less eat one. Even with my voracious appetite for all things veg, I still have roughly 500 more varieties to still try. Favorites from under 100 samplings? Green Zebra, Cherokee Purple, German Stripe, Sungold Cherry, and the Technicolor kaleidoscope of tomatoes, Mr. Stripey.
2. Kale, collards and chard. Unless you grow up a bit further south, the only greens you see are kale leaves used as a garnish on a buffet. Forget the chicken-fried whatever on top. Eat the kale, especially if it is the sexy purple kind or the kind with the little yellow flowers, or the luscious baby kale mix from my CSA. Best prep? For collards, a quick sauté with bacon. Kale chips are the family favorite, but kale and white beans with garlic are my pick. Chard can substitute for spinach, and tastes even better.
3. Heirloom winter squash. I have a small problem with these. If you can call 300 lbs. of the stuff a “small” problem. You’ll need to ditch the canned stuff, get a sharp knife, and a few ethnic cookbooks (try Caribbean, Mexican and South American for starters) to understand just how many amazing recipes you can make with these. My picks? I’m a bit of a Francophile when it comes to winter squash. French heirlooms such as the Musquee de Provence and Rouge Vif D’Etampes (sold as Fairy Tale and Cinderella, respectively).
4. Weed. Okay, I’m not in THAT kind of CSA. The feds won’t be knocking to take away my foraged goodness. The fact is, many a plant referred to as a “weed” is really an edible delight. Not ALL, mind you. So don’t head out to the yard with a fork unless you have an educated forager/farmer along for the meal. Dandelion greens would be the most familiar in this category, but hold the Roundup if you plan on harvesting your own. Other sexy salad greens disguised as weeds? Miner’s lettuce, pursulane, and some varieties of amaranth — also known under the far less sexy name of pigweed.
5. Purple haze. Nope, no weed induced visions here. Wrong weeds. Purple just keeps showing up in new ways when I eat local. Purple cauliflower, carrots, bell peppers, hot peppers, tomatillos, tomatoes not to mention all the extra purple shades of eggplant that are not, well, eggplant-colored.
Expat Chef is Beth Bader, co-author of upcoming The Cleaner Plate Club: Advice and Recipes for Getting Real Kids to Love Real Food.