When was the last time you took a stroll through a fruit and vegetable store? Or even looked around the fruit and vegetable section of the supermarket? Or been to a farmers market and seen all the wonderful fresh fruit and vegetables grown by farmers?
If it’s been a while since you truly looked around, then you might be surprised by how much is actually out there. There’s more to fruit and vegetables than just the regular varieties you buy each week. And there’s definitely more than what you can get in packets, tins, cans and processed products.
I’m all for using packets and tins and cans because they are very convenient, especially for mid week cooking, but I try to stay away from the processed tins, cans and packets. I use about 3 tins of diced tomatoes a week, use canned peaches on my breakfast and buy packets of washed lettuce. But even though I do that I also take the time to walk around the fresh fruit and vegetable sections when I’m out and about.
Farmers Markets are a must
If you’re in Melbourne it can be great to walk around the Queen Victoria Market or South Melbourne Market. There’s also farmers markets on here and there, like at Flemington on a Sunday. Or you can go out of town to find a farmers market: I’ve been to Healesville and Bendigo for that reason (plus to have a day in the country). If you’re interested in farmers markets there’s a website for Victorian markets so you can see where they all are and when.
If you’re not from Victoria then there are still plenty of farmers markets you can visit. In Canberra there’s one on each weekend at EPIC and then there’s the Fyshwick Fresh Food Markets and Belconnen Markets too. In Sydney you’ve got Paddy’s market (in 2 locations) as well as the Bondi market every Saturday and then every Friday at The Rocks there’s a foodie market as well as their usual markets on Saturdays and Sundays. Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth also have similar markets, as I’m sure our local area/region would too if you’re not from one of the big cities.
What should you look for at a farmers market or when you take a stroll through the fruit and vegetable store?
Well, there are plenty of different types of fruit and vegetables you could try. Let’s talk about the vegetables today, and I’ll cover the fruit in another upcoming post.
New vegetables to try
These come in white, yellow and purple as well as orange. And there’s baby carrots as well as large carrots you could try (you know, the thin orange ones with the green storks still attached). Try to get some more colour on your plate and use a couple of different colours in your usual salad or as colourful roasted vegetables to accompany that Sunday roast.
There’s more to radishes than just those little round red globes with white centres at the supermarket. Have you tired the white globe radishes or those long white cylindrical radishes called daikon which are used in Asian cooking? There’s also the watermelon radish; white on the outside and purple in the middle!
Everybody knows the standard long purple eggplant but there are actually a few other types you can get as well, such as round ones and long ones that look like purple zucchinis (but aren’t). You can find eggplants that come in a variety of colours such as white, pale purple and black. There’s even a small round type that’s a blotchy mix of purple and white.
Ever heard of a Lebanese zucchini? They are shorter, fatter zucchinis that are a paler green colour than the usual green variety. They are good stuffed with rice, meat and nuts and baked in the oven. You can also get yellow zucchinis too. And don’t forget zucchini flowers are also edible (most people seem to fry them in batter). There’s also the round zucchinis that look like little green balls.
Cauliflower and broccoli
Broccoli comes in its usual green variety but you can also get broccolini which has longer stems that are just as edible as the head. Broccolini is used a lot in Asian cooking too so are great added to a stir fry.
In terms of cauliflower you’ve got the usual white heads, but did you know you can also get purple headed cauliflower? And if you’re really lucky to find it you can get green and orange headed cauliflower as well.
With onions being such a common vegetable people often tend to buy one type and stock to it. The brown variety is the most common in Australia but there’s also white and red (called Spanish) onions available too. Then you can get the smaller varieties such as shallots, escallots and spring onions.
Even among white potatoes there are a few different varieties, with some being chalky or waxy in consistency when cooked. Some potatoes have pale skin, others are brown and others are pink. Sometimes the skin colour relates to the colour on the inside, as some ‘white’ potatoes are really yellow on the inside while others are actually white. I grew up eating pink skinned potatoes that were yellow inside, but now eat pales lined potatoes that are white inside.
Then you can get the other types of potatoes like kipflers. Kipflers are small potatoes that are about the size of a finger. They’re no different to white potatoes. But sweet potatoes (sometimes called kumara) are different. These sweet potatoes are sweeter in flavour and less starchy than white potatoes. I bet you didn’t know there were 3 varieties of sweet potato either; white fleshed, purple fleshed and the most common orange fleshed.
So if you haven’t been to a fruit and vegetable store in a while, or taken the time to get to a farmers market, and you feel like you’re in a bit of rut with your cooking, buying a few new vegetables might just be what you need. In the past its been what has helped inspire me to make a few new recipes, or to spice up the recipes I already know how to make.
What other unusual vegetables do you cook with? Or which strange vegetable would you like to take a chance cooking with?