We've officially "sprung forward." The days are now starting to feel legitimately longer and maybe, just maybe, warmer weather is around the corner. With that in mind, I thought I would introduce you all to some lovely, if unfamiliar, vegetables that you may see pop up at your springtime farmer's market.
Description: Originating from southern Europe and the Mediterranean, artichokes are now also grown in the USA. Artichokes are large thistles and are high in fiber, folic acid and vitamin C.
Taste: Mild vegetable flavor. Kind of like a brussel sprout or asparagus, but less strong.
How to eat: They can be eaten cold or hot. The edible portions of the buds consist primarily of the fleshy lower portions of the individual leaves and the base, known as the "heart." Leaves are often removed one at a time, and the fleshy base eaten, with hollandaise, vinegar, butter, mayonnaise, aioli, lemon juice, or other sauces. The fibrous upper part of each leaf is usually discarded. They can also be sautéed and grilled.
Description: Known as a “German Turnip,” kohlrabi is part of the cabbage family. Originally European, kohlrabi is now grown throughout the USA. They contain wonderful phytochemicals that are highly regarded for their antioxidant properties. They are a good source of Fiber, Copper, Potassium, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Manganese, Thiamin, Folate, Magnesium and Phosphorus.
Taste: Mild and slightly sweet. Think broccoli stems and cabbage flavor, but lighter and sweeter.
How to eat: Remove the thick outer layers to reveal the tender, crisp center. You can eat kohlrabi raw or cooked. The greens can be cooked like kale.
Description: Known also as wild leeks, ramps are wild onions that grow in North America. They are high in vitamin A, vitamin C, selenium and chromium.
Taste: Strong garlic-onion flavor.
How to eat: The entire plant is edible. Usually sautéed, roasted or grilled. Raw for the daring.
Description: Its history dates back to ancient China, and is now also grown in Europe and the USA. Rhubarb is grown for its red stalks (similar looking to celery stalks). Contains vitamin C, potassium, fiber and some calcium.
Taste: Strong tart taste. Often cooked with sugar for use in desserts.
How to eat: Only eat the stalks, not the leaves. Rhubarb stalks can be eaten raw or cooked. They are most commonly known for being combined with strawberries in pies or tarts. To be creative, use them in drinks such as a rhubarb margarita or rhubarb bellini. They can also be roasted and used in sauces, chutney, or salsa.
Description: Plants with tiny little hair-like stingers on the leaves and stems that make touching them unpleasant. Never fear, cooking removes the sting and leaves only the delicious leaves behind. (Wear gloves if handling raw.) They are rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, calcium, potassium, flavonoids, iron, and protein. (Yes, protein! They are up to 25% protein!)
Taste: Green and earthy flavor. When cooked, they are more flavorful than their cousin, basil.
How to eat: Cooked. Usually boiled or blanched. Can also be consumed as a dried herb.
Description: A root vegetable. The root is high in vitamin C and fiber. The leaves are high in vitamin A, folate, vitamin C, vitamin K and calcium. Like rutabagas, turnips contains bitter cyanoglucosides that release small amounts of cyanide. Some people who are sensitive to cyanoglucosides may find turnips and other cyanoglucoside-containing foods intolerably bitter.
Taste: Turnips have a pungent, bitter flavor similar to cabbage or radishes when raw, but become mild when cooked.
How to eat: Both the root and the leaves are edible. Typically, turnip roots are peeled and can be eaten raw or cooked. If the flavor is too strong raw, then cook the root. They are commonly roasted, steamed, boiled and sautéed. The leaves are commonly sautéed or steamed.