If you grow your own veggies, you have greater access to the entire plant to use for food. Joining a CSA gives you more of the plant's parts than a farmer's market, which gives you more than an organic produce section, which has more plant parts than the grocery store, and in turn which has more plant parts than vegetables sold at convenience stores or pre-bagged.

Yes, I know buying bagged, pre-chopped produce is a time saver. I, too, have purchased bags of coleslaw mix and broccoli slaw mix to use for making egg rolls, Thai rolls, and adding bulk to soups and stews when I run out of my own.

The point of this isn't to disparage convenience shopping, it's to encourage and support those who shop for veggies as close to raw and natural as possible, with most or all of the plant parts present.

Take cauliflower. Did you know that the giant leaves that overlap the white heads are edible, and deliciously so? They taste soft and silky, sweet, with a hint of the cauliflower flavor. Sauteed with sweet onions, they make a lovely accompaniment to any meat dish. Chopped, they add a delicacy to many soups. Steam them to soften some and fill like cabbage rolls - it's milder and sweeter than cabbage. Chiffonade them and use in stir fries. It's a shame these can rarely be bought, for they are delicious.

Most people cut off broccoli stems and discard them. If they're into recycling and composting, so many edible stems end up in the compost that the worms eat better than the people! Peel the skin from these stems, shave the inner stems paper thin, toss with lemon zest and perhaps a squeeze of lemon, and scatter on some Parmesan for a quick, delicious salad. Or julienne slice the inner stems and freeze to add to stir fries, soups, ramen noodles, or sandwiches.

When I was young and Star Trek new (the original Trek), I designed a Plomik Soup of greens few people ate then and even fewer eat now, but it amazed the people I managed to cajole into eating it. I made it from kale, collards, Brussels sprouts leaves, chard, mustard, beet, radish, and turnip greens, with a stir in of spinach, and thickened with sweet English peas. I seasoned it with summer savory, lavender leaves, tarragon, cubebs, coltsfoot, and a splash of vinegar, then garnished it with batter fried nasturtium blossoms. Everyone asked for seconds because it tasted deliciously exotic.

A lot of people join CSAs hoping to add more vegetables and fruits to their diets, then are dismayed by the "debris" those foods generate. It's not debris at all - most of it is edible, and most of that is deliciously edible.

You know nasturtium flowers are edible, but did you know the leaves are, too? They are spicy, and shredded into a salad adds hint of fire. Chiffonaded and sprinkled over a cream soup, the contrast is shiveringly delicious. It makes your tongue dance. The seed pods of the nasturtium can be pickled and used in place of capers.

Brussels sprouts leaves, those palm-sized greens, make for a sweet, slightly cabbage-y addition to soups, or as a greens side dish, and to make teeny little "cabbage" rolls.

The woody ends of asparagus can be cooked and pickled into a sweet relish.

Celery leaves are one of my favorite greens, it enriches any stock or broth, makes gravies and even delicate sauces mysteriously exotic, and best of all, if you chop the leaves very fine and toss with a good sea salt or finishing salt, makes for a marvelous celery salt seasoning to add to sandwiches, hot dogs, hamburgers, and salads.
Wine can be infused with peach leaves, then sweetened and added to Cognac to pour over ice cream. Watermelon seeds can be toasted for a crunchy topping to salads and soups. Cilantro flowers hold the same pungency as the leaves but without the soapy flavor so those who can't eat cilantro leaves can probably enjoy cilantro flowers. Broccoli seed pods can be "popped" like black mustard seeds and added as a seasoning to almost any savory dish. Tough late summer lettuces can be tamed with wilting under a bacon-vinaigrette or sauted with radishes and onions in a cream sauce.

Corn stalks contain a sweetness much like sugar cane and can be chewed in the same way for a sweet snack.

Green strawberries can be harvested, cured in beds of salt and sugar, then served up in drifts of whipped cream with cucumbers and tiny marshmallows.

Carrot, celery, and fennel leaves and parsley can be finely chopped as a garnish or seasoning for creamed soups, potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, squashes, or salads, and makes a great addition to salsa verde or salsa picante.

Chard and collard ribs can be simmered in white wine and water with lemon zest until tender, then drained and dressed with olive oil, a splash of lemon juice, and a coarse finishing salt. They can also be baked with a creamy cheese sauce and topped with a crispy crumb, or baked with a stock or broth, then drained and served with a hollandaise sauce.

Corn cobs can be simmered in stocks or added to soups or chowders.

Peel off the hard green part of watermelons and use the white inner rinds like cucumbers in salads and cold soups. It makes a unique and tasty white gazpacho. Chop it fine for adding to a ranch style dressing or salsa or relish. It can also be pickled.

Tomato scraps can be collected into a sieve and salted, with a bowl beneath to catch the thin red juice. This can be added to mixed drinks, gazpachos, and risottos, or anywhere you want a subtle tomato flavor.

Tomato leaves can be simmered in soups and sauces for additional depth of flavor, but then must be discarded because their prickles are pretty nasty. I usually wrap them in muslin as the prickles tend to escape cheesecloth bags, but the additional flavor is worth the effort of making a "tea bag" of them for the pot.

Most people already know about baking or frying potato peels. I only mention them here for the few who hadn't encountered them yet.

Ditto for the zest of any citrus fruit - and the really thin skinned tangerines and satsumas can be oven dried at 200ºF and stored to season tomato sauces or stews.

Garlic scapes can be sautéed and lightly caramelized and served with a scatter of coarse salt, or cut up and tossed with penne pasta then served with a cream sauce.

Onion scapes (and shallot and leek scapes - scapes are the part that grows and developes a bud or seed head) can also be caramelized like the garlic scapes, but being juicier, they spit and spatter, so use a spatter screen. Also, being juicier, onion scapes are an excellent choice to use as a bed for roasting chicken, beef, venison, pork, or large fish.

These are the things that might be most common in your CSA boxes or at an organic farmer's market. There are bound to be more and other things - like blackberry and raspberry leaves (excellent to dry for teas), and sweet potato sprouts and leaves (edible, unlike white potato sprouts and leaves which are toxic).
elleth: a ship sailing away from the Return of the King, with the text "To Sail Beyond the Sunset" (Gen: Some Like It Hot)

From: [personal profile] elleth


Hi -

I just came across this on the Latest Things page and just wanted to say thank you for writing all this up. I can't wait to try out some of your suggestions.
ariestess: (Default)

From: [personal profile] ariestess


I knew some of these things, but not all of them. Thank you for this great, informative list!
.

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