Friday, March 9, 2012

Weird Veg Quiz IV

Dear class, today we are having a QUIZ!

Yes, your favorite! It's been awhile since we've had a weird vegetable mystery post, so to keep you on your toes, I'm posting this medley and you have 30 seconds to identify the 5 different veggies in this photo.

I'll give you some clues: two are temperate veggies and the other three are specific to sub/tropical regions, like Brazil, where I am at the moment.

Here's some inspirational music to play while you're thinking it over and writing down your bets and final answers. You get one life-line and losers have to send me their first-born tomatoes of the season (I will accept them both canned and fresh). Correct answers are displayed after the video.

Okay, ready?

The two give-away veggies to make you feel good about yourself are: beets and cucumbers.

The others are a bit trickier...

On the bottom edge are manioc chunks. Also known as cassava and yuca, it is a much-beloved tuber here in Brazil, mostly eaten boiled or French-fried, or in the form of a grainy-flour condiment known as farinha or farofa that gets toasted and sprinkled on beans, fish stews, or mixed up with bananas and eggs. I think it tastes like sand but is nevertheless strangely appealing.

I boiled the manioc shown above in salted water then peeled and tossed the chunks with a trickle of olive oil and a sprinkle more of salt. The skin is hard to peel, so it's best to boil it first, then skin after. Also, some kinds of manioc are poisonous when eaten raw, so I like to boil them for a long long time. The taste is like potato, only deeper somehow, more substantial, and ever so slightly sweet (or some other yet-to-be-named taste that lies far on the savory side of sweet).

There are some manioc plants growing right outside my hermit house in Rio, and their roots will be ready to harvest as soon as they get a foot or two taller. The spiky leaves bear a striking resemblance to California's most beloved barely il/legal cash crop.

 Next, the green sauteed chiffonade on the right may look like kale but—GOTCHA—it is in fact a dark leafy doppleganger: the more delicate taioba (tie-OH-bah), the giant leaf of a plant that's related to taro and that I posted about last year.

And finally, the most mysterious of all, so mysterious that even Brazilians at the farmers' market I went to last week were like, "Whhhaaaat, is that?!" (Que que é iiiiiisssso??):


What?? I know, they're so weird. 

Here's more info. Also known as tamarillos, these are tomato dopplegangers that grow on trees and taste slightly tangy but are sweet enough to enjoy raw (though some people add sugar and make a juice from them). The ones I got were a far cry from ripe because apparently they turn bright red or yellow-orange when ripe. These look almost like figs, though the gooey red central seeds remind me a bit of pomegranate. Not realizing these were still incredibly unripe, I tried one, which actually turned out to be quite tasty with easy-to-chew seeds (very soft, those tiny red pods). But thinking of them as tomatoes, I was surprised to find that the rind was too tough to bite into, so that I had to gnaw the yellow meat off as though they were tiny watermelon slices.

And now you're probably griping, "Heeyyyy, that's not fair, those aren't even vegetables," in which case I refer you to the official Weird Vegetables response to this objection, which is to point out that fruits are, in fact, a subset of vegetables, as vegetables are culturally defined as any "edible part of a plant," and fruits are biologically defined as coming from a flower and bearing an enclosed seed. For further explanation, I refer you to the now-seminal Lemon Cucumber post, the interview with WV on the KQED Bay Area Bites Blog, or this slightly embarrassing and potentially career-damaging video of me holding forth about fruits vs. vegetables after a couple glasses of wine and feeling very sweaty and dinner-partied and not entirely realizing I was being recorded at WV chef Leafy Heirloom's Dinner Discussion series, in which people working in food and art get together to talk about, well, food and art. While he serves a tasty dinner of mostly weird vegetables.

Okay, now let's tally up your marks. Tally ho!

0 correct: you need to go to the farmers' market and read this blog more
1 correct: pat yourself on the back with your forefinger. Now go make a salad.
2 correct: mildly respectable. You probably guessed beets and cucumbers, right?
3 correct: good, you have a discerning eye and some awareness about international weird vegetables, and maybe you've been reading this blog
4 correct: verrrrry impressive, companheiro/a. Have you spent time in sub/tropical climes?
5 correct: you are a scientist or a magician. or a farmer, which is a combination of both.

If you missed the previous quizzes, you can find them all here, plus an entertaining Obscure Veggies Quiz from Mental Floss that eventually leads you back home to Weird Vegetables.

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