It might be a chicken-egg kind of situation, but it feels like farmers are taking more risks on growing and selling non-traditional produce and more home cooks are willing to buy them and be more adventurous. It doesn’t really matter who influenced whom first – I am just happy to see a surprisingly large variety of unusual vegetables and fruits available. On my latest venture to the Green City Market, I found the following inspiring little things:
Because I was buying stuff for some specific purposes (more or less), I pulled the trigger on the garlic scapes and lamb’s quarters. Often, using these ingredients (at least at first) can just be a matter of swapping out a more commonplace ingredient for a more adventurous one. In my case, I used the garlic scapes, which are just the tender shoots of the garlic plant, like I would scallions – chopped finely into a salad. (Incidentally, I used the lamb’s quarters raw and trimmed, like mixed baby greens).
When I tasted the raw scapes, I felt like the garlicky flavor was a bit too strong and was afraid that they would overpower the rest of the salad. Therefore, I blanched them along with the green beans I prepared; in retrospect, I would skip this step. The salad ended up falling a little flat, lacking the pleasant bite that the raw scapes would have provided.
But, this is the best part of being adventurous! The process of trial and error allows you to develop a relationship with your ingredients, and I think that’s an important thing to foster. Just as a farmer learns over time how to encourage the growth and fruitfulness of his crops, the cook learns through many attempts how to bring out the best in the produce the farmer provides. Get out to a farmers market this weekend if you can – always good for inspiration!