So my friend Amy has been living a healthier lifestyle lately and just recently blogged about overcoming her aversions to the rabbit food (my words not hers) so in honour of that post I have decided to make mine today about fruits and veggies that are not staples, and ones I think people should at least try once. I have also made a lifestyle change in the past months, I’ve abandoned industrially processed meat after watching both Food Inc. & King Corn. Both amazing documentaries that really opened my eyes to the cruelty and crap that goes into bringing us our mass consumption of burgers, steaks & abnormally large chicken pieces. I will admit though that after craving a donair for a very long time I gave in and ate one of those the other day, became mighty sick afterward, but enjoyable while it lasted. Also a lot of guilt for the cow forced to eat grain his rumen wasn’t made for. Sorry Bessie, I’ll try harder in the future. I still do eat fish and seafood on a regular basis, as long as they do not come from fish farms because they are also fed (generally) a corn diet packed with antibiotics, and I’m pretty sure fish usually don’t climb up on land to eat corn on the cob & get flu shots so that’s not a natural diet for them, & I don’t want it in my body. Eggs and cheese come from the farmer’s market where they come from organic farms where their animals are put out to pasture when the weather is good for it and grain fed without animal blood and bones or antibiotics in it. Feeding chickens with chicken blood sounds pretty nasty & if not imagine humans eating soup made with human blood & ground bones, not too appealing right, well I highly doubt that the chickens would want to eat their family if they had evolved brains like us either. It hasn’t been that difficult of a transition for me since I have never really been a meat eater anyway, and if we truly want a steak then we can visit the market not a real biggie. So, now that I’ve elaborated far too much on this subject I’ll move on to the real purpose of this blog, the fruits and veggies you stare at but are not likely to pick up on your own.
Dragonfruit: Might also be labeled under pithaya. It should have a bright pink skin, firm to the touch but with gentle pressure you can still push in on it. No blemishes on the outside, and green tinges on the spiny parts (not sharp). I wish I could explain how this tastes, but it has white flesh ( there are also some a deep red but I haven’t seen these so cannot say if they taste any different) with edible tiny black seeds interspersed within. It has a crisp, clean taste, and if you entertain often you can ball it like a melon, and in slices is beautiful. The unfortunate thing about this fruit is the price (in Canada, anyway). They generally sell for about $7-$9 a pound, but if you’re lucky enough to have a shop that sells exotic produce often you might actually get them on sale. Anyone living in Halifax, Pete’s Frootique puts them on for $4 a pound which is awesome!!
Mango: I have never cooked with the smaller green mangoes used for savoury cooking, but I do love to eat fresh mango just like that. A ripe mango should be very juicy and should give slightly when gentle pressure is applied. Different regions will call their mangoes different things but I am most familiar with two types. A smaller yellow mango that we usually call an Ataulfo mango, and the usual green & orange (or red) variety which we call the Kent mango. The smaller yellow one is more firm & less juicy than the other and much more tart, if you prefer sweet go for the larger green and red one. Eat it however you like, some stores will cut it for you if you are someone who gets overwhelmed with how to eat things. I am not one of those people however and will peel off the skin and eat it out of hand, juices running down my face and arm. If you like those fruity sauces you put on meat and things, mango can make an amazing relish & salsa.
Passionfruit: Or another type the granadilla. The granadilla is orange colour and feels very light, skin should be smooth, whereas the passionfruit is a smaller purplish red and should get wrinkly skin for maximum sweetness. Not too wrinkly or the seed sacks will dry out inside. I first tried the granadilla because it is cheaper than passionfruit. DO not be alarmed, there is supposed to be green slime in there, and it tastes awesome. I am big on the texture of things, and this seriously grossed me out when I put it in my mouth, it is chunks of green slime with crunchy black seeds. Once I got to the crunch it got better for me, but I give you fair warning the sliminess is tough to get used to. I prefer the granadilla to the passionfruit, mostly because it’s larger, but the passionfuit is more sweet and I really enjoy tart fruit. I urge people to at least try at least three bites. Why three you ask, well it’s my (expert) opinion that the first time your brain is still fighting against the new thing, the second is a tester & by the third bite you’ll truly know if you like it or not.
Mangosteen: Not to be confused with mangoes, the mangosteen has a dark purple skin about the size of a clementine, and should have a cap of leaves attached to the stem on top. Interestingly enough the cluster of leaves on the bottom will tell you how many sections of fruit you will get inside. Pretty neat, huh? The skin is pretty firm and when you cut into it, you don’t want to cut through the fruit inside so you will only make a cut less than a cm, and take it all around so when you separate it the fruit segments will lie in one half. Only the white sections are edible, and they have a creamy almost citrus taste that is unlike any other. Unfortunately they are tough to find in North America since they do not travel well but if you are lucky you can hunt them down. But you might pay a pretty penny for them 😦 Also just an FYI, you will not likely find the bright green leaves on them here, the begin to turn a brown colour.
Kumquats: These tiny oranges are amazing! Note though, do not remove the peel or you will have perma-pucker for days. The sweetness lies in the peel, so you can just pop the whole thing in your mouth, or if you’re like me and don’t want to have to spit seeds bite them in half remove the seeds and then happily eat the other half. They are VERY acidic however, be forewarned. The seeds are also pretty huge for such a tiny fruit, about the size of grapefruit seeds, and the fruit is only the size of your top thumb segment. Because you are eating the rind as well don’t forget to give these a good wash since many other people were digging their hands around in there picking their own. Make sure you go for firm ones, once they get squishy it’s an icky feeling. They say if you roll them between your fingers before you eat them it releases the sweetness, sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t but they taste great regardless.
For today I’m going to stick to 5 & 5, but since there are so many more out there I might return to this another day.
Celery Root or Celeriac: This is one of the ugliest veggies you can find out there, but really tasty. It tastes very similar to celery, but it looks like a mandrake from Harry Potter. You will have to peel about half a cm or more before you get to the stuff that isn’t woody, and it’s very firm and smells amazing. I like to use it in stir fry’s and add it to a pot of mashed potatoes with Mascarpone cheese. It also brings a nice aroma to soups and stews. I decided to try it after smelling it at the store I was working at, I like celery but I hate the strings so I rarely use it in anything that’s not being blended, so when I saw this I decided to try it in a stir fry with a couple other veggies I hadn’t tried before. It was really good, leave it with a slight crunch and voila!
Lotus Root: I don’t recommend eating this raw, it is slightly bitter though I’ve heard from the sushi makers that it is good raw when it is immature, but that is rare to find in North America. I’ve actually only used this in stir fry’s but a former co-worker told me about baking it with sushi rice stuffing the holes, but it takes a lot of time and effort so I haven’t gotten around to that. Also heard they’re really good deep fried, but I don’t do that so I don’t know, sorry. Make sure you peel it, since a lot of the bitterness comes from there, and it is a root veggie so it will be very tough to slice. I cut pretty thin slices for stir fry because I don’t want to wait forever for it to cook through enough, in all honesty it’s a pretty bland veggie, but I find it reminiscent of water chestnuts in stir fry (which I love) and they are beautiful once cut. Word to the wise though, they turn brown very quickly so as you are slicing it, throw them into a bowl of lemony or vinegar water.
Okra: This is one I actually am not too fond of, flavour is good but it is a slimefest to eat. People rave about fried okra though so I’m adding it here because it’s something I would personally like to try. It was okay in stir fry, but only if eaten immediately. If it sits for any amount of time, or taken as leftovers the next day it becomes disgusting. The okra itself is covered in hairs, scrubbing does remove most of them, and the inside is a slime with seeds but unlike the passionfuit the slime is not contained in small membranes it is just slime and seeds. Seeds aren’t crunchy either so you really can’t avoid the slime, but that doesn’t bother some so I suggest trying it and seeing what you think. Perhaps preparation is everything for this, so I am willing to try it again in a different way, but not something I am running out to try a hundred recipes on. I also just noticed that you don’t see slime in the pic so maybe it’s a cooking thing?
Kale & Chard: I’m including these two together 1. so I don’t take up another spot & 2. you’ll find them pretty close to each other at the store. These are leafy veggies that really have to be cooked to be enjoyable. I love roasting them, they are also good in soups and smoothies. If you want to roast them you have to remove the hard spine, it just doesn’t work out well. A little olive oil, and some salt and pepper it’s like eating a yummy flimsy chip. Yummy!! I’d like to do some other things with this because they are supposed to be really good for you, but I can’t help it I almost always want to roast them. :-S Just a note the last one is a collard green which I haven’t tried yet, but have wanted to for a very long time, but I’d love to try them in the South where if TV is right, they are all the rage.
Eddoes: They are quite good mixed up in your potatoes, creamier texture than potato and highly starchy. I’ve also cut them up raw and put in salads. I just recently found a Caribbean recipe that I’d like to try which boils then mashes and then fries them with some onion and other yummy things. Looks really good so I think I’ll eventually try that one day.
Most grocers are willing to cut something open for you to see and taste so never be afraid to ask. If you do want to try something, don’t forget that the internet is a wonderful place for finding out how to cook or eat something you’ve never tried before. I will fully admit that I am more likely to try an exotic fruit than a veggie, simply because it takes less work, but I will try just about anything 3 times.
Today’s blast from the past is food related but nowhere near as healthy as the above items. I was looking for something I used to get all the time. They came in a square container with a paddle for eating it with. It was half chocolate cream and half vanilla cream and I loved it. I used to buy it at the Forwell’s in Waterloo, going to have to ask Leah to see if she might remember it. But since I couldn’t find that I went with button candy. I used to pretend I was taking my pills when I ate these, and even though they all tasted the exact same I never wanted share a certain colour, probably blue, lol.