1. Garlic Scapes. This crazy, curly stalk grows up from the garlic bulb. It’s removed to allow the bulb to continue to grow. The flavor is somewhere near garlic cloves, a scallion’s greens and chive. I love using these in place of regular garlic for a lighter hit of this strong aromatic.
2. Long Beans and Mystery greens. What’s the best thing at the farmers market that you’ve never tried? It just might be the things that have no name in English. At my favorite market there is a Thai family who grows and sells a lot of their native varieties of basil, eggplant, chilies and greens. When I inquire what certain new leafy items are, the youngest daughter smiles, shrugs and just explains there is no name in English, or “It goes well with fish.” She’s always a bit surprised when I nod my head and buy each new item. This edible culture lesson has its rewards. The “fish greens” were sweet and earthy and paired fantastic with grilled halibut. Other “new” greens that folks have been eating for centuries include sweet potato leaves (NOT potato leaves which are toxic), and amaranth. Long beans are a type of Asian green bean, about 10 inches long, with a delicate flavor.
3. Purple Hull Peas. If you’ve only had canned or dried beans, you’ll find the texture and flavor of the fresh variety well worth shelling yourself. If you shell them into a pot and there happens to be a ham hock and some fresh herbs in there, all the better.
4. Pea Shoots. Eats shoots and leaves. And enjoys it. I’ll confess that I never loved canned peas as a kid. Far from it. I figured out that peas, fresh shelled, actually taste good. The pea shoots with delicate leaves and curling tendrils are even better. They work great as a salad green for early spring.
5. Love the lovage? I’d never even tried it until last season. Same goes for chervil, borage, lemon verbena, and a lot of others. There’s just not a whole lot of rack space in that little herb section at the grocery store. Plus at two dollars a package, it costs less to just buy the plant and grow as much as you need, when you need it. Try mixing herbs in with salad greens. Borage can be a bit prickly, but when chopped fine, the flavor — like a tart, tangy cucumber — is perfect with greens and goat cheese.
For more unique produce that you can only find local, you can read this post at Eat Local Challenge. Or, of course, you could just head to your local farmers market and try a few for yourself.