Guess the Vegetable
How well do you know your onions? Maybe there aren't any onions. Maybe that’s a trick question.
The other week, we found ourselves wheeling Phoenix Farm’s beautiful-yet-hefty market stall down the streets. We were on a mission to puzzle the people of White City with a mystery harvest grown right here in the neighbourhood.
ILLUSTRATIONS - Matt Needle
Loaded on the stall was a selection of the farm’s harvest: a long-leafed turnip, a basket of cucamelons and a handful of bright yellow courgettes. We’d also paid a visit to M. Saleem’s Caribbean Fruit & Veg in Shepherd’s Bush Market and picked up some eddoes, okra and bitter gourd.
Our challenge joined the famous smoothie bike (it blends as you pedal), the lesser-known Disco Bike and other stalls at the neighbourhood’s No Car Day. Here’s the percentage of people who recognised each vegetable, from the popular chilli to the mysterious borlotti bean.
Now the stars of the show: the vegetables themselves. The first seven were grown on Phoenix Farm and the last three selected from M. Saleem's stall. How do you cook a cucamelon? What on earth is an eddoe? Read on.
Turnip. Don't deride these as horse food. Turnips are one of the world's oldest cultivated vegetables, with a history that reaches back four millenia. Eat it: in a hearty stew or with bacon the simple way or more fancy.
Yellow courgette. Surprise! A yellow courgette is just the same as a green one. One of our guessers dubbed these Golden Courgettes and we rather liked that. Eat it: however you like, as long as you don't turn it into courgetti.
Borlotti bean. This was the unexpected tricky customer in the line-up. The pink-ish mottling on the outside is a clue that these pods contain the variegated borlotti bean within, but not a single person guessed this correctly. Eat it: this blogger has plenty of ideas for the sort that comes in pods not cans.
Rhubarb. Did you know? The Rhubarb Triangle is small 23km patch of West Yorkshire whose purple stems are renowned enough that they’re protected by the EU. Perhaps like Bermuda Triangle, except that it’s butter and sugar that go missing and show up as pudding. Eat it: in a crumble. Remember to double the topping for extra crunch.
Chilli. Every day, a quarter of the world’s population eat something with chilli in it. You may be one of them, but this variety is still one to nibble with caution as it’s extremely potent. Eat it: carefully.
Pattypan squash. A shapely cousin of the better-known butternut, this vegetable was frequently mistaken for a pumpkin by the intrepid veg-guessers of White City. Eat it: stuffed with sweetcorn and beans.
Cucamelon. Don’t let the name deceive you: this isn’t the tiny child of a melon crossed with a cucumber. Instead, it’s more like a cousin of both. Crunch on one raw, and it tastes like a cucumber but a little soapy and sour. Eat it: in a salad.
Bitter gourd. It’s the vegetable with more aliases than Moriarty: bitter melon, bitter squash, balsam-pear, goya, karela. Popular in Asian and Caribbean cuisine, it’s long been used as a traditional cure for diabetes. Eat it: stuffed with lamb mince.
Eddoe. You can apparently cook these gnarly root vegetables just like a potato. However, I can vouch that if you mash them and serve them next to sausage stew, the difference won’t go unnoticed. Eat it: in a mushroom frittata.
Okra. The notoriously slimy vegetable is delicious, but only if you treat it right. Eat it: roasted.
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