I have a reputation for bringing unusual vegetables to market, and this week I aim to uphold that reputation. What counts as unusual is region-relative, of course, but here are two vegetables that certainly count as unusual in this part of the world.
The first is celtuce (or celery lettuce or asparagus lettuce or stem lettuce or wosun …). As some of those names might have suggested, it is, in fact, a kind of lettuce. But it is a lettuce that was bred for the stems rather than for the leaves. The leaves can be eaten as well, but tend to be more bitter than regular lettuce and so are best used for cooking rather than for salads. The main attraction, however, are the long stems of the plants. They look rather rough and not all that promising as food. But once you peel away the fibrous exterior, the heart of the stems are amazingly silky smooth, with a mild but unusual flavour. Like a smoky lettuce with a hint of sunflower, perhaps? Celtuce can be eaten both raw and cooked. The flavour can vary, depending on variety, weather, and age. Milder ones are excellent raw; if they have developed a stronger flavour, then use them cooked. Forager Chef has lots more excellent information about celtuce and ways to use it.
Perhaps even more unusual than celtuce is rat’s-tail radish. Perhaps not the name best designed to make you salivate, but if you see the pods hanging on a plant, you’ll immediately know that the name is apt. And, yes, with this family of radishes, you eat the pods, not the roots. The pods also have the radish spiciness, and add a lovely zesty touch to sandwiches or salads. They can also be used in stir-fries.
If you’re looking for something more familiar, I should also have lots of new potatoes this week. The lack of rain recently means they haven’t been sizing up quite as quickly as I hoped, but I still expect to dig lots of them. — Sydney
This week’s items
Items we plan to have at the market this week (an asterisk indicates unusually limited quantities):
- Bok choy*
- Dry beans and cowpeas (assorted varieties, including Tiger’s Eye beans, Peregion beans, Red Kidney beans, Pinto beans, and Black Crowder peas)
- Fava beans*
- Granola (Pecan Cushaw Granola)
- Herb plants
- Mustard greens
- Potatoes (new)
- Radishes (Rat’s-tail)
- Spinach (mature)