Growing unusual vegetables and fruit fascinates
me and it is always fun trying to find out the best way of eating them
Traditionally this herb has only
been used in it's crystallized form for cake decorating in England, but
other countries boil the young stalks to eat. Some peoples even eat the
young stalks raw like celery. Leaves can be stripped from the stalks and
boiled as you might Spinach. A leaf or two can be added to soups. All
parts of the Angelica are ant-acid and as such are useful to add to cooked
Rhubarb to remove the need for adding sugar. Be warned Angelica has an
Aniseed type flavour, is very bitter, and as a herb carries a health
warning not to use in excess. Indeed, pregnant women should not eat it at
An asparagus stalk may well be tough at the lower end, so
before cooking take a sharp knife and gently press the blade across the
stalk working along the length starting from the cut end. You will reach a
point where the knife easily slides through the stem and this is where to
cut the edible from the inedible. There are many ways of cooking this
delicacy, but it is easily overcooked which makes it soft and mushy.
Steaming for a few minutes is probably the easiest method before serving
with a little butter on it.
Cape Gooseberries – Edible Physallis
These bright orange berries develop and ripen in their lantern like cases when the case turns very pale brown and dries to a papery texture. Fruits should be removed from their protective cases and given a little wash to remove their waxy feel before serving in fruit salads, or
used as an ideal accompaniment to a fresh, ripe, sweet, Melon. The plants will die as harder frosts come in the Autumn, but often the berries will carry on ripening on the dead and drying plants protected from some of the cold by their papery cases. The crop is always a bit hit and miss in Britain due to our sometimes cold Autumns.
Courgettes are on sale everywhere and most people
either fry them sliced, or bake them in the oven. However, sliced
thickly and placed on a Micro-waveable plate they can be cooked very
easily in 3 minutes in a Microwave. (See
This is another root vegetable that is not very popular and
grows in much the same way as beetroot, but is rather larger. Usually
costing one pound or more each in the shops, it is a worthwhile crop to
grow if you like it's unusual taste. Cooking/use is much the same as for
Swede or Turnips, but you are unlikely to want to cook a whole one at
once! When you slice a piece off for cooking you need to cover the cut
end, or treat with Lemon juice to prevent browning.
Not to be confused with Jerusalem Artichokes that are completely
different. This member of the Thistle family produces the typical
Thistle like head, but unlike other family members this one is edible.
The “Globes,” should be harvested before they start to open and boiled
in salted water for some 20-30 minutes. To eat them the outer scales
should be removed while hot, coated in butter and then the base of the
inner ones can be nibbled with more being eaten the nearer you get to
the "Heart" and “Choke,” at the centre of the “Globe.” The Central,
undeveloped part of the “Globe,” the "Heart," is edible, but do remove
the fluffy "Choke," or else you will! The flavour is said to be reminiscent of Asparagus whose season it follows.
Another way of cooking the Globes is to peel away nearly all of the Scales
until you get to those that have little colour to them. This will reveal
the "Heart" and "Choke" and then with a sharp knife clean away the remnants
of the scales from around the stalk and peel the top of the stalk also
removing the "Choke." This will leave the "Heart" that can then be
well steamed, or boiled until soft. This method of preparation makes the
Globes much easier to eat. Indeed, you can buy Artichoke Hearts pickled
in tins at most Supermarkets.
Are a small, knobbly alternative to potatoes that not
only grow in a similar way, but can be used in all the same ways after
initially scrubbing their skins before cooking whole. Cooking time
generally and boiling is perhaps a little longer at 20-30 minutes. If the
Artichokes are at all damaged they should be roasted, or baked to prevent
their insides from spilling out. Alternatively they can be oiled and
microwaved for a few minutes until soft. Their
odd, flavour gives a different twist to ordinary mashed potato. Jerusalem
Artichokes are also said to help improve kidney function.
Some varieties of this easy to grow Winter vegetable have tougher central leaf stalks that need to be cut out before cooking than others. It can be cooked like and thought of as a Spinach alternative.
This is a member of the Brassica
family and as such has a cabbage like flavour. It can be boiled in its
skin and then skinned afterwards in the same way as you would beetroot.
Boiling time will be at least 3/4 of an hour depending on size/age. After
boiling it can be mashed with butter if soft enough, or else sliced and
coated with butter if a little firmer. It can also be roasted in the tin
with a joint of meat as you might roast Parsnips. For those who like
salads it can be skinned, grated and eaten raw with salads as you might
carrots. (It is not as chewy as carrots.)
This was traditionally grown in Yorkshire until more recent times and
used to make a sweet sometimes called Pontefract Cakes so named from the
area. However, the flavoured roots need to be pressure treated with
Steam to extract the juice which then has to be processed with Molasses
to produce the black sweets. Liquorice root can often be seen dried in
short lengths that can be chewed and used to help wean people off
cigarettes. Fresh roots are yellow in colour (Not Black) and can be used
to flavour dishes in a "Bouquet Garnet."
Oca - Oxallis Tuberosa
This member of the Clover family produces edible tubers late in the Autumn that can be scrubbed and eaten raw like a Radish if they are small, or if they are bigger, boiled like a New Potato, or Yam. They have a Lemony tang and are very refreshing raw, but somewhat blander after cooking. The tubers are light coloured, but have very attractive red markings that make them look nice in a salad.
These are a root crop that grow in the same way as carrots,
but are longer and thinner and rarely grown although seed is
freely available. The big advantages over other roots are that mature
plants can be left in the ground all winter and they have no real pest
problems, but they do need good, stone-free and deep soil. Cooking
can be done in several ways, but they are best scrubbed, cut into short,
2 inch lengths and then boiled in water with a little salt and lemon
juice, before gently peeling by "squeezing," the skins off. If
they cool off too much while skinning they can be popped back into
boiling water for a few seconds before serving with some melted butter,
as you might Asparagus.
The plants are very leafy, but it is the stalks that you eat.
Before harvesting the Celery like stems the plants should be covered
with something like a bucket to exclude the light from mid Winter
onwards. The stalks are best lightly steamed as they don't take much
cooking and are very similar in taste to Asparagus, but come a little
earlier in the season.
Basically this is another
Spinach type of vegetable in the way that you cook it, ie loosely chop and
steam/boil the leaves in their own moisture. (Microwave in a bowl for 3
Mins - Stir and zap again for 2 Mins, then stir and warm before serving.) However, when you are
preparing the leaves by cutting out the central stalks from the leaves,
the stalks can also be cut into suitable lengths, boiled separately and served
up with mixed vegetables, or used in any other way that you might use
This close relation to the cape Gooseberry is even more unlikely to fully ripen outside in the U.K. but good use can be made of the large green fruits in their paper cases by making Green Salsa with them.
(See Salsa Verde Recipe)
This is slightly tender and grows very much like a Dahlia with large
edible tubers that look like Sweet Potatoes or Yams. In a good year you
will get a bucket full of usable tubers from one plant. The tubers can
be peeled and then sliced or diced and boiled/steamed, or even roasted
like your would a piece of Squash. They are very sweet, but their sugars
are indigestible to humans so the tubers have no calories and are
therefore ideal for Diabetics. Indeed research is being done for various
dietary applications and one already commercially available is a