Dont you just LOVE making new discoveries with your food? I sure do! After all, every day there is always something new to discover.
Thats exactly how I feel when I pick up my weekly organic veggie box. It is a local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program from MeadowSweet Farm in Gormley, Ontario.
Every Wednesday afternoon is like unwrapping a present Christmas morning. I open up the box to find an array of microgreens, baby-leaf salads, unique herbs, and heirloom vegetables. There is nothing fresher than food is picked the day before! In the last year, I have made plenty of food discoveries in these boxes. These are exotic foods youre not going to find in your average grocery store.
Here are some of my favourites:
If you are a chef or food blogger, youve likely heard of rampsalso known as wild leeks, wood leeks, and wild garlic. They are a delicious vegetable from the onion family, and they look a lot like a green onion too. Ramps are also the first plant that grows in the spring. They are now my favorite food! I chop up a few in a salad, add them to my morning smoothie, and they also taste great in a soup or pesto!
Dont let the name fool youthey are not artichokes, or from Jerusalem. These root veggies are also called sunchokes or Canada potatoes, and they are packed with health benefits. First off, they are good source of the prebiotic fiber called inulin that helps stimulates healthy bacteria growth. They are also a medium GI food, and are considered appropriate to help reduce blood sugar levels. Also, they look similar to a potato, and you can eat them that way too! I like to put them in the oven like fries for a treat, but you can also mash them, steam them, or pair them with leeks in a soup.
Every week I get an array of herbs in my CSA box. One week Ill get some basil, or rosemary. However, other weeks I got something a little more exotic like the horseradish flower. Horseradish belongs to the Brassica family, and the flower also tastes a lot like broccoli with a horseradish aftertaste. I like to eat the white horseradish flower raw in a salad. Other fancy herbs periodically added to weekly CSA boxes also have included nepitella, lovage, and radish flower.
I am a big fan of garlic, and I eat it almost every day! Needless to say, I was excited when I first saw green garlic in my CSA box. Green garlic is also called spring garlic, and it also looks similar to a green onion. It is considered a younger garlic that is harvested before cloves begin to mature. Like regular garlic, it is full of the sulphur compound allicin. In other words, you are not likely to get sick when green garlic is on your plate. I like to chop it, sauté it, and add to a rice and quinoa pasta!
Is it a cauliflower? Is it a broccoli? Well, its actually a cross between a broccoli and cauliflower, although I thought it was an alien spaceship when I first laid eyes on this Brassica veggie. Despite its out this world look, its very visually appealing. The romanesco is also loaded with health benefits. According to a paper that reviewed 74 case-control studies published in the journal Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, a heavy intake of Brassica veggies and its glucosinolate content is linked to reduce the risk of cancer. How to enjoy this unique veggie on your plate? The romanesco is cooked the same way as other Brassica vegetables, but it is ready in a shorter time. You will often see the romanesco in season in the late summer or early fall.
I definitely learn a lot from my food every day, especially from my local farmer. Does your local farmer grow a unique vegetable or herb that you enjoy? Maybe theres a food you grow yourself. Let me know in the comments what exotic food discoveries you have made during the growing season!
Van Poppel, G., et al., Brassica vegetables and cancer prevention. Epidemiology and mechanisms, Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, 1999; 472: 159-168.