With farmers’ markets in full swing, their resplendent tables overflowing with colourful produce, it’s a perfect time of year to try a new vegetable. Influenced by international cultures that immigrated to Canada, local farmers sometimes cater to demands for vegetables used in Persian, Mexican, Chinese and Indian cooking. Be adventurous and do a little google research to discover how to cook one of these newly harvested vegetables.
1. Jicama: Originally from Mexico, jicama (pronounced HEE-Kah-mah) is like a slightly sweet, starchy turnip, but is low in sugar, and is usually eaten raw. It can be seasoned with various spices. It is high in fibre, vitamin C, antioxidants, and “prebiotics,” and is a great crunchy addition to top salads and stirfries.
2. Endive: Unlike frisee endive, Belgian endive (or escarole) can be eaten raw or cooked. Belgian endive is grown from chicory roots in a dark environment (without sunlight), while frisee endive is grown in fields as a green curly lettuce. The Belgian variety is crunchy and slightly bitter in salads, but the flavour mellows when cooked. Endive is high in fibre, B vitamins and vitamin A (beta-carotenes). It boosts the blood due to its iron content and a whopping 289% of the daily recommended vitamin K.
3. Golden (Yellow) Beets: Golden beets taste a bit sweeter and mellower than red/purple beets. Although they’ve been cultivated since the 1800s, few farmers grew them until recently when they became an acceptable and even gourmet version of red ones. Golden beets contain lots of fibre, iron, potassium and folic acid. Although red/purple beets may be higher in liver purifying antioxidants, golden ones are higher in vitamin C, vitamin A, and eye-healthy flavonoids and zeaxanthin. (And golden beets won’t stain your countertop or hands.)
4. Chinese broccoli (also known as Gai Lan): If you’re not fond of broccoli, try this lanky vegetable with long leaves, small florets and slim stalks, all of which are edible. It is milder and sweeter tasting than broccoli — and much cheaper than Broccolini which was created by combining Gai Lan with broccoli. Chinese broccoli is high in vitamins A and E, like other brassica vegetables, which increase the immune system, preventing everything from viral infections to cancer.
5. Chinese mustard greens (also known as Gai Choy): Chinese mustard greens taste similar to the North American version, slightly peppery, so if you can’t find the exotic variety at market stalls/produce stores, just try the local type (which is often included in premade salad “field greens”). Chinese cultures braise, saute and even pickle Gai Choy. Like other greens, it has lots of calcium, magnesium, folic acid and vitamin K.
RECIPE: Beet & Endive Salad with Walnuts
Here is a new twist on a French classic. We have added jicama for extra crunch, and goat cheese for rich creaminess that complements the sweet beets and tart endive.
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 garlic clove, pressed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper
SALAD FOR TWO
4 yellow beets, roasted, peeled, and cut into wedges
3 small Belgian endives, rinsed and sliced into quarters
3 tablespoons walnuts, slightly roasted (not browned, just for 5 minutes to bring out the flavour)
1/3 cup jicama, sliced into thin 2-inch-long strips
1 tablespoon red onion, finely chopped
2 ounces mild goat cheese
2 teaspoons herb of choice (dried rosemary, fresh tarragon or fresh dill work well)
Optional: 1/2 an avocado, sliced
Combine dressing ingredients in a food processor. Set aside. Toss cooked, cooled beets with herbs. In a large bowl, combine beets, jicama, onions and walnuts and dressing. Lay endive slices on two plates and top first with beet, jicama, onion, walnut mixture. Then sprinkle with cheese. Just before serving, garnish with avocado slices, if desired.
Note: How to Make Bitter Veggies More Mellow