Familiarity is often equated with comfort, and sometimes unfamiliarity is equated with discomfort. But that’s not always the case — the unfamiliar can offer exciting and enriching new experiences.
And, what is unfamiliar to one person (or culture) may be the most familiar to another, so it’s quite a relative designation. This week, ASAP is highlighting some potentially more unfamiliar items at tailgate markets right now.
When stopping by Lee’s One Fortune Farm’s booth, it’s almost certain you’ll hear someone ask about bitter melon. It’s a unique looking produce item — bumpy, oblong, and bright green — and its flavor is quite explicitly in its name. You can eat it raw, and you can cook it, but for a palate unfamiliar with its stark bitterness, some folks advise pickling it first. The bitter flavor won’t fully go away, but it can be balanced by the addition of tart and sweet. Find Lee’s One Fortune Farm at Asheville City Market, East Asheville Tailgate Market, Asheville City Market – South, or West Asheville Tailgate Market.
Celeriac is a variety of celery cultivated for the root of the stalk instead of the stalks. Only a few farmers grow and sell it, but you can find celeriac from Gaining Ground Farm (North Asheville Tailgate Market and River Arts District Farmers Market) and New Roots Market Garden (West Asheville Tailgate Market and Asheville City Market). Originating from the Mediterranean region, celeriac has a strong celery flavor and is similar to turnips or beets in texture. It’s great roasted or grilled with nothing but some oil and salt. Another wonderful celeriac recipe: mix some into mashed potatoes for an uncommon and unexpected flavor.
Likened to looking a little alien, kohlrabi is a related to broccoli, cabbage, and other cruciferous veggies. It’s much the same to broccoli stalks in both flavor and texture. Kohlrabi can be eaten raw in salads or slaws, or cooked and used in any application you would broccoli. It’s used in the culinary traditions in parts of Germany, India, and Vietnam. Visit Ten Mile Farm (Asheville City Market and River Arts District Farmers Market) to pick some up for your next slaw.
Chayote looks similar to bitter melon, but less bumpy and more squat than oblong. It’s related to squash and is a crisp vegetable with a mild flavor good for roasting or sauteing. Despite it being fairly uncommonly found in WNC, it’s eaten around the world in countries and cultures across Asia and the Americas. You can find chayote from Lee’s One Fortune Farm.
There are also unfamiliar, or less commonly known, varieties of something familiar such as chioggia beets or white sweet potatoes. Keep an eye out for these and other finds on your next market trip.
Are these familiar to you? Visit area farmers tailgate markets to discover your own new and unfamiliar produce. Find foods at market to expand your sphere of familiarity, by making something previously unexplored into something known and tried.
Area farmers tailgate markets take place throughout the region. As always, you can find information about farms, tailgate markets, and farm stands, including locations and hours, by visiting ASAP’s online Local Food Guide.
Prepared by Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project.