Here is an alphabetical list of vegetables and a few related facts about each one. We hope you find it of use and maybe get to enjoy eating a few veggies you never knew existed.
Artichoke – There are two vegetables with the name artichoke and they are quite different from each other. The ‘Globe Artichoke’ is a tight head of fleshy leaves, delicious steamed or boiled and eaten with lemon butter or hollandaise sauce. The tips of the leaves are too tough to eat even after cooking and the fiberous ‘choke’ is also inedible, but the ‘heart’ is wonderfully buttery in texture with a great flavour. The ‘Jerusalem Artichoke’ is a knobbly tuber like a small malformed potato. It has a smoky flavour and is delicious and healthy but has a tendency to cause flatulence in most people so don’t eat too much of it.
Asparagus – tender green tips available during a short growing season. Asparagus plants continue to produce new shoots every year and can last more than a decade, producing a crop each spring. There are two major forms; the green asparagus (very popular seasonal treat in the UK) and the white asparagus. Both are delicious.
Beet – Tubers with rich, nutty, earthy flavours. A sweet variety of beet is grown commercially in europe and asia for sugar manufacture. Red beetroot is often sold pickled. The red colour can stain almost anything and has been used in clothing dyes for centuries. ‘Borscht’ is the classic beetroot soup from eastern Europe.
Brussels sprouts – traditionally eaten with Christmas Dinner in the UK. Brussels sprouts are small and green and look like mini-cabbages. They grow well in northern Europe and frosts do not damage the unharvested vegetables, hence their popular.
Cabbage – the king of vegetables. Easy to grow almost anywhere. Cabbages generally come in white, yellow, green and red colour schemes. In Germany the pickled ‘Sauerkraut’ is pretty much a national dish and in Korea a similar but spiced ‘Kimchee’ has equal status in the national cuisine.
Carrot – Introduced to most of Europe by the Romans, carrots have been popular for 2000 Years. However the orange colour is a comparitively recent addition. The first orange carrots were cultivated in the Netherlands in the Sixteen Hundreds.
Chicory – A bitter vegetable that is ‘forced’ (grown in darkness) and so has white leaves.
Jerusalem Artichoke – It isn’t an Artichoke and it doesn’t come from Jerusalem. The jersalem Artichoke is actually related to the sunflower. The bit we eat is an ugly little tuber (like a small thin and knobbly potato) that tastes amazing. It has a smoky taste that really excites the palette.
Mushrooms – not technically a vegetable, but a far older member of the plant kingdom. Mushrooms do not use sunlight to produce energy, hence they have a completely different range of tastes than any other vegetable. Did you know that the largest single living organism on earth is a mushroom called Armillaria Ostoyae, the biggest of which is up to 8,500 years old and carpets nearly 10 square kilometres of forest floor in northeastern Oregon, USA. One variety was available in cultivated form for much of the 20th century, but in the 21st dozens of mushroom varieties have been successfully grown in commercial yields and can be purchased in the shops.
Okra also called ‘ladies fingers’ or gumbo is a wonderful pungent vegetable from the same family as hollyhock. It probably was first cultivated in Ethiopia and is still a North African staple, but has become popular in Europe, Asia and America too.
Onions Onions have been eaten for tens of thousands of years and we still aren’t bored of them. White and Red are the common colours for onions and they can vary in size from a few millimetres to almost a foot across.
Parsnips The sweet, starchy parsnip was a very popular european vegetable before the arrival of potaoes and Sugar Cane from the Americas. Although not the prize it once was, the Parsnip is a classic root vegetable, particularly popular in more northern lattitudes.
Peppers – These are the fruit of the Capsicum family of plants. The hotter tasting ones (due to more Capsaicinoids in the flesh) are usually refered to as chillis.
Radish – rich in ascorbic acid (vitamin C), folic acid (folate), and Potassium, the raddish is a peppery vegetable popular in western and asian cookery. We usually eat the taproot, but the leaves can also be eaten in salads.
Rhubarb – A plant with large leaves that grow out of thick succulent stems with a very particular floral scent. These stems are popularly eaten as a fruit once sweetened and cooked. Rhubarb was originally native to China but has been popular in Europe since Roman times.
Rutabaga – Alternative name for Swede
Sweet potato Ipomoea batatas (related to the morning glory) produces a starchy tuber. In the USA the red variety of sweet potato is often called a yam, although yams are a seperate vegetable in their own right.