Stroll through farmers markets on a regular basis, and you’re bound to come across some unusual bounty. Here are a few crops I otherwise would never have known had it not been for my trips to New York City farmers markets.
Say ‘I Love You’ with a Quince
Quince — a cross between a pear and an apple — is a fruit that the Romans and Mediterranean people gave to their fiancées – “their intendeds” – as a symbol of their love. As one farm stand put it last year, it’s “what Adam gave Eve.”
The fruit is an odd choice for a token of love. It’s tart, very tart, and best used in making jelly and jam. Quince also makes great stuffing for pork and chicken, and because it’s fragrant also makes a good air freshener. One farmer said he throws them into his car and keeps them near radiators in his home.
Nutritional tidbits: good source of vitamin C
Shape/color/texture: lima-bean green, anomalously round and coated with light fuzz, just like peaches
These off-white root vegetables look like Wentletrap seashells. The crunchy little twisted “tubers” have a water chestnut flavor and go great in salads. They can also be roasted, pickled or sautéed in light butter. If you buy them, though, don’t wait too long to eat them, a farm vendor advised me. They lose their crunchiness quickly. Crosnes originated in the French village of can you guess? Crosnes.
Nutritional tidbits: three ounces contain about 2.5 grams of protein and 17 grams of carbohydrates.
Shape/color/texture: off-white, smooth textured, and shaped like small Wentletrap seashells
Celeriac: Pug of the Vegetable World
Celeriac – also known as celery root or knob celery – is probably one of the ugliest root vegetables around. It’s knobby and deeply furrowed – the pug of the vegetable world. Celeriac, which tastes like celery, is used in casseroles and baked dishes and as a flavoring for soups and stews. It can also be eaten on its own, usually mashed. Celeriac varies in size. They can be as small as an Idaho potato and as large as a melon.
Price: anywhere from $2 to $5 each; also priced by pound
Nutritional tidbits: very good source of Vitamin C and phosphorous
Shape/color/texture: dirt-colored; knobby, knotted ball with a tangle of roots on the surface
There’s more “Freaky Fruit” to come, so stay tuned.