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Lick the Produce: Scraping the bottom of the barrel

I’ve been Licking the Produce for over a year now, and damn is my tongue sore. I’ve tried countless new fruits and vegetables. Well, you actually could count them, but I’m too lazy to go back through the archives and do that. Let’s just say there have been a lot. Here are some more.

Yellow Plum

Yellow Plum

The yellow plum really did start out yellow, but turned a nice shade of red by the time I took a picture. It tasted like a plum. What I enjoyed most about the plum was that it came from Chile, which made me think of Kyle, (Hey, Kyle!) and how cool it is that blogging has allowed me to meet people in countries that export tropical fruits to the US.

Assorted Squash

Assorted Squash

Last fall I tried all of the squash pictured above – an acorn squash, a gold acorn squash, a white acorn squash and a delicata. They all tasted like squash. That’s why I didn’t blog about it.

In the past two months I’ve desperately been searching the produce section for fruits and vegetables that I haven’t tried. I was hoping some mutant product of Argentina would pop up between the oranges and the apples so I wouldn’t have to buy this…

Rutabaga

A rutabaga. Anything but the rutabaga.

Rutabaga

It’s certainly not the most attractive of the root vegetables. During my previous trips to the produce section I would always spy it in the corner, between the butternut and acorn squash. It loomed over me, waiting patiently, my dark destiny. Finally, in a desperate grab for blogging material, I purchased one.

Then I let it sit in my fresher drawer for a month.

Yes, literally a month. I would open up the drawer, spot the grey, waxy, rock in the corner, and then I’d grab a peach or a pear and mutter, “I should really cook that before it goes bad.” I did this week after week. Waiting. But the damn rutabaga refused to go bad. Damn you, root vegetables, and your long longevity! I looked at the rutabaga last night and realized I wasn’t sure I’d know if it had gone bad. Was that white stuff a layer of wax or was it mold growing along the skin? I took out a paring knife and started to slice into it and was relieved to see that the inside of the rutabaga was a much more attractive and normal-looking orange color. So, I cracked and finally looked up instructions on how to cook rutabagas. I peeled it, cubed it, and boiled it in a skillet with some margarine, salt, pepper and a bit of chili powder and brown sugar.

Assorted Squash

It was good! I was shocked! It tasted sort of like potato. I suspect I enjoyed the meal not so much because of the rutabaga itself, but because the rutabaga served as a delivery device for the margarine, salt, pepper, chili powder and brown sugar. I’ve noticed there are lots of vegetables that can be used as a bland, base, filler ingredient which you eat solely so you can coat them in the tasty stuff that you really want to eat: celery and cream cheese dip, squash covered in butter and garlic, zucchini dipped in hummus. Add rutabaga to the list.

It also gave me an excellent opportunity to use my new skillet, retail value $60.00, but purchased at Marshalls for only $24.99. I walked in there looking for a pair of jeans and walked out with cookware, a huge metal wall hanging, and two pretty shoe boxes.

As for the Lick the Produce series, I might be able to hit a Mexican grocery store next week. If not, I’m going to have to look up a local Asian grocer, because I am completely out of material here. I ate a rutabaga for God’s sake.

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40 Comments

dabaum • April 7, 2008 at 8:08 am

My only comment about the rutabaga is that I, like you, ignored them in the grocery store. I still have never eaten one.

On another note, I’ve been thinking about your steady weight. Have you ever considered going and having your body fat analyzed, not relying on your home scale? My guess is that it is lower than you think since you do so much exercise and strength-training. I bet you’re more in the 24% than the 26%. Just a thought. At this point, it’s not really about the weight you have, but the composition of your bones/water/muscle/fat. Most gyms and some doctors’ offices have that type of scale. Or you can use the submersion method. Just a thought. Thanks for your blog.

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dietgirl • April 7, 2008 at 9:02 am

Mmm mmm, brown sugar. That has to be the wackiest vegetable name ever… sounds like it should be a reggae band!

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Pam • April 7, 2008 at 9:03 am

My daughter’s new favorite vegetable is Kale. (she’s 13). We cut the leaves away from the ribs,discard the tough ribs. Roughly slice up the leaves, rinse in a collander. Saute some garlic in olive oil, throw in the Kale. Add about 1/2 cup water, saute till everything wilts. Add Kosher salt to taste. It’s good.

Also Brussels Sprouts – trim the bottoms, take the leaves apart as you would cabbage leaves. Again, saute the garlic, add the deconstructed sprouts, about 2-3 TB water, bit of kosher salt. Finish with 1-2 TB balsamic vinegar. This was from Lidia Bastianich. It’s the only way we’ll eat sprouts.

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deanna • April 7, 2008 at 9:26 am

This has nothing to do with the fruit, It’s April 7th, May 2008 s around the corner, are you getting excitied for the book release???!! I am!!!! : )

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egoldstein • April 7, 2008 at 10:41 am

pls venture into the greens. Bok Choy, Swiss Chard, collards, turnip greens, choy sum,etc…. you could be occupied for months

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Louise • April 7, 2008 at 11:03 am

Sounds very exotic! BUT I looked it up and realise now its just a swede! (very common in UK). Not trying to be disparaging, just found it interesting.

Louise

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Red • April 7, 2008 at 11:20 am

Huh, I didn’t realize rutabagas were actually food. I just assumed it was comic relief by groceries everywhere.

Safeway’s way of saying: You may have had a hard day, but here’s a silly name we’ve attached to this rhino dung.

It’s one of those myths you’re sad to see go.

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Charity • April 7, 2008 at 11:33 am

You should try cactus-they sell it at mexican markets. Usually they have a bag pre-diced. This saves on prep time and actually knowing how to cut it up:)

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Heidi • April 7, 2008 at 11:59 am

The rutabaga is very underrated. It is EXCELLENT when prepared with other roasted vegies. (Carrots, sweet potatoes, parsnips, winter squash, etc roasted at about 400 for about an hour (or until everything is fork tender). It is nice too that it lasts as long as it does in the vegetable crisper.

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Kyle • April 7, 2008 at 12:25 pm

Woot woot, thanks for the shout out!

By the way PQ, did you know that Chilean produce tastes SO much better IN Chile? *hint, hint hint*

I could introduce you to a whole slew of new fruits and vegetables my friend…a whole new world, a dazzling place you’ve never been :)

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Kyle • April 7, 2008 at 12:26 pm

ok, I just re read my comment and I really hope that you’ve seen Aladdin, or else you’ll just think I’m nuts.

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PastaQueen • April 7, 2008 at 12:31 pm

Yeah, I’ve been busy doing all sorts of stuff behind the scenes. If you want to keep up on book stuff, I’m keeping most of that stuff on the book site http://www.halfassedbook.com/ so people don’t get sick of it over here.

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Sher/ Stuckinafatbody • April 7, 2008 at 1:13 pm

Rutabaga is just a fancy word for turnips. I prefer to eat them mashed together with carrot and some butter, a wee bit of brown sugar, salt and pepper… I could eat that till the cows come home… Mhhhh…. cows…..

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PastaQueen • April 7, 2008 at 1:33 pm

I can’t tell if you’re joking or not, but turnips and rutabagas are definitely different vegetables. I’ve had both of them now and while they taste similar, they look different.

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victoria • April 7, 2008 at 1:38 pm

I came across a GREAT recipe this weekend & it made me think of you:

Smoked trout

Watercress

Endive

Persimmon (or similar tasting fruit in season — I used kiwi fruit & it worked great)

Vinaigrette of sherry vinegar, olive oil, & shallot

You break the trout into largissh size pieces, and arrange on a bed of watercress & endive, adonring the top with the pretty fruit. Dress with the vinaigrette.

This recipe has a lot of advantages:

1. A reason to try smoked trout, which is dense, salty, delicious. I’d never before experienced this tasty food. Whole Foods has it.

2. Easy: No cooking. Minimal prep time.

3. Nutritious, low-carb, low-fat.

4. Elegant, pretty, luxurious, unusual, & guest-appropriate or for when you’re just feeling fancy.

5. Inspiration to find a seasonal substitute for persimmon. Kiwi is delicious and pretty, but a really sweet blood orange, or mango, or melon might work, too.

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G.G. • April 7, 2008 at 3:45 pm

Have you tried celeriac yet? It looks like a rutabaga’s ugly cousin, but it’s really good boiled and mashed up with potatoes.

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Andrew is getting fit • April 7, 2008 at 3:46 pm

That’s a great looking skillet. Having the right tools really makes cooking a pleasure.

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Nancy • April 7, 2008 at 4:02 pm

It’s amazing what we find that we like! I will keep this in mind for the next time I hit the store. I’m happy that my city holds a farmers market every saturday from May until somewhere in the fall. I can get big bags of grapes for a dollar! You just can’t go wrong!

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emi • April 7, 2008 at 4:35 pm

Here is a list of further produce suggestions for you, in case it helps. I’m also too lazy to check out the archives, so although I’ve read all your Lick the Produce entries, I’m probably going to repeat something.

Dinosaur Kale (aka lacinato kale or black kale). Sautee onions and garlic, add kale, = delicious. Find at Whole Foods.

Lychee/Litchi – delicious tropical fruit. Find at Asian market or sometimes Trader Joe’s. I think you might have tried this one.

Passionfruit! SO AMAZING. I tried this in Hawaii, I don’t know where to get it on the mainland.

Kohlrabi – Asian market. yum yum. Looks ugly, tastes like jicama crossed with broccoli stems. aka delicious. very good raw.

then there are lots of asian greens – gai lan, bok choy, napa cabbage. . . chinese broccoli, thai broccoli. . . I get them at the farmer’s market.

and japanese sweet potatoes are similar in taste to ours, but white (instead of yellow), and more delicious (and sweeter).

and watermelon radishes taste like normal radishes, but are GORGEOUS. hot pink on the inside.

That is all for now, but I know lots more :) I LOVE the farmer’s market.

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Cate • April 7, 2008 at 4:40 pm

Rutabagas are not only excellent roasted, as already commented, but also just mashed like potatos, with lots of butter and cream or milk. I could eat a whole one at once that way!

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Cindy • April 7, 2008 at 5:23 pm

Hi PQ,

I love rutabagas…just so I can say rutabaga! I often use them in soups and stews, replacing potatoes (less starchy). Try them with a little butter, mashed, too (not margarine, PQ! Haven’t you heard that butter is better, in both taste and in health?!). Sorry for the lecture, but really, butter has had a bad rap for so long that I feel the need to support it whenever I can. For a fun veggie, have you tried fennel? Roast it after slicing and coating with a little olive oil…in a hot oven for ~45 minutes. Mmmmmm! Delicious! Veggies are underrated. THey are endlessly interesting and delicious in so many ways. Keep licking the produce section!

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JEM • April 7, 2008 at 5:42 pm

Never had one, I am interested in trying it now. Thanks for thw review.

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Bethama • April 7, 2008 at 5:49 pm

If you find an Asian grocer, buy a kabocha squash and a Japanese sweet potato. I’m more than a little obsessed with both, and they’re really simple to prepare – just split and roast. (You can also use the kabocha to make amazing soups.)

…seriously. More than a little obsessed.

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K • April 7, 2008 at 6:36 pm

We eat that vegetable* quite often, usually mashed like a potato. It’s good and warming in the winter. Actually, mashed “neeps” are a traditional accompaniment to haggis, along with mashed potato, but we often forget about the potato and just eat it as a side dish.

*This has to be the vegetable with the most varied names in English. An American rutabaga is a swede in England but a turnip in Scotland. “Turnip” in England refers to a completely different vegetable. My (English) husband and I mostly seem to call it turnip, but I’m trying not to be confusing here!

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alexandra • April 7, 2008 at 7:15 pm

That is my favorite vegetable of all times! We’re Irish Americans and we always called them turnips – yellow turnip as opposed to white turnips. I had no idea they were called rutabagas until I grew up – and I still resist calling them anything but turnip!

They do taste great mashed with butter – but also with a bit of bacon fat – you don’t need much, but Lord it is delicious!

By the way the checkout clerks never know what it is when I buy one!

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PastaQueen • April 7, 2008 at 7:52 pm

Thanks for the name clarification!

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origamifreak • April 7, 2008 at 8:53 pm

Hey, I can vouch for that. I just got back from a trip to Chile a couple of weeks ago, and they DO have very nice produce! (The conference was actually about Rosaceous fruits like apples, peaches, strawberries, etc.)

But I liked the seafood the most. Caldillo de Congrio, anyone? ;-) Well, that, and of course the Pisco Sours…

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origamifreak • April 7, 2008 at 8:58 pm

What I really came on here for (before getting side-tracked by Kyle’s comments about Chilean produce) was to say that I did a few personal squash taste-offs last fall and came up with buttercup as the winner. Not butterNUT, but butterCUP. There is a difference. ButterCUP is way sweeter.

In fact, it was bred as a northern Midwest alternative to sweet potatoes, which apparently do not grow well there.

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PastaQueen • April 7, 2008 at 9:02 pm

K just informed me that in parts of the world rutabagas are called turnips, so I guess we’re both right!

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starbird • April 7, 2008 at 11:09 pm

I’ve read the same studies and articles about health benefits of butter over margarine. Reminds reading that filter cigarettes were just as bad if not worse than regular cigarettes. I was glad I never took the filter-route before I quit entirely.

I’m so glad butter has been rehabilitated. I never ate margarine instead even during the time when butter was totally demonized, but did use olive oil in its place for several years. Now I used both olive oil and butter, sometimes mixed together.

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Merry • April 8, 2008 at 2:15 am

I’m with Cindy… it’s fun just saying ‘rutabaga’ (Yeah, well, color me easily amused ;)

You reminded me of the old Far Side cartoon about how to tell when mayonnaise goes bad. (Cartoon shows a fridge door being opened upon a shocking scene: the jar of mayo, with a bandana pulled up over its label, has just pulled a gun on the other condiments and is saying something like ‘hand over all your money!’)

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kathy • April 8, 2008 at 4:07 am

SCORE!!! :)

Ok, to impress your Mexican grocery clerk, the following is in season now: mango (mahngoe), guarabana (goo are bah nah), mamey (mah mei), and maracuya (mar ah cooya) might be coming into season. Guyaba (why aaba) is always in season. That’s not EXACTLY how you pronounce them but that should get you understood.

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Red • April 8, 2008 at 8:46 am

My grandfather used to grow those in his vegetable garden, and when I was a kid we would walk around in his yard, pick them and eat them raw. They did have a different flavor to them, as I remember kind of onion-ey, but a little sweeter. The way you prepared them does sound pretty good, I’ll have to try that.

BTW, LOVE the threaded comment thing!!

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AG • April 8, 2008 at 3:30 pm

“Served as a delivery device…” hee hee. Yeah, I might need to think about how much butter and parm I’m putting on my asparagus!

AG

http://www.100daysinbed.blogspot.com

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Joshua • April 8, 2008 at 8:10 pm

I love rutabeggas. When I became a vegetarian and quit eating candy, people started giving me alot of fruit and vegetables in place of easter baskets, valentines, etc. So, I am the only person I know who has ever gotten a rutabegga in an Easter basket. Also, as for the last person, I’m hoping I’m mistaken, but you were picking up rutabeggas and eating them raw? They are hard as diamonds until you cook them.

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Sher/ Stuckinafatbody • April 9, 2008 at 3:01 pm

haha

I dont care if I’m right or not but upon my travels in safeway yesterday, my grocer informed me that they did not have any turnips but that I could use a rutabega and that they were pretty much the same thing. Of course turnips dont sound as appetizing as rutabega…. Mhhhh. rutabegas…..

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Sonya • April 9, 2008 at 7:35 pm

Thanks for the link. I’ve been wanting to check it out since you mentioned it, but lost the link and then was too lazy to look for it when I check in here. :)

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Red • April 9, 2008 at 11:52 pm

@Joshua: Yeah, my brother and I would pick them out of my grandfather’s garden (with his permission, of course) and eat them like apples. I do remember them being harder than apples, but definitely not too hard to eat (and I don’t have like, jaws of steel). Maybe they’re a little softer when they’re freshly picked?

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Mark • April 11, 2008 at 10:46 am

Have you done broccoli rabe yet?

It tastes best in pasta … maybe that’s not on your diet.

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Joshua • April 11, 2008 at 8:00 pm

Well, I’m adding rutabeggas to my garden this spring. Well, maybe, I’m not sure where to get the seeds??? But, I am intrigued. I would like to try them like that.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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