By Julia Howard
Despite cloudy skies, daylight poured into the Wilton Mall illuminating tables filled with locally produced goods this past Saturday. Amongst boxes of carrots, piles of cabbages, and stalks of Brussels sprouts are distinct, yet lesser-known fruit and vegetables. These varieties have unique flavors and unusual patterns and colors. They reflect the variety that grows in our region and they can’t be found in grocery stores – making them exclusive farmers’ market favorites.
Romanesco, a relative of broccoli and cauliflower, is chartreuse in color and has a striking fractal pattern. When compared to a traditional cauliflower, its texture is far more crunchy and its flavor is delicate and nutty. Romanesco can be blanched and added to salads, veggie trays, and cold pasta dishes. It may also be roasted or sauteed in olive oil.
Kohlrabi is another unfamiliar brassica. With a taste and texture that is similar to a broccoli stem or cabbage heart, it’s flavor is milder and sweeter. The young stem can be as crisp and juicy as an apple, although much less sweet. The bulbous part of this vegetable may be used raw in salads or slaws. Even the leaves are edible and can be used in place of collard greens and kale.
Lion’s mane is one of the most interesting-looking and beautiful mushrooms. Its flavor and texture are similar to crab or lobster meat: a sweet-savory flavor, and meaty texture. To prepare, tear the whole mushrooms into bite-sized wedges. Heat a large skillet and dry sauté the mushroom pieces until the edges begin to brown. Add a pat of butter and a clove of finely chopped garlic to the skillet and toss to coat. Cook the mushrooms until they are golden brown and finish with a pinch of sea salt.
Yellow tomatoes have thick skin and are succulent and meaty in texture. Yellow varieties of tomatoes are rather sweet, and often taste milder and less acidic than red tomatoes. Yellow tomatoes are exclusively available at Shushan Valley Hydro Farms throughout the winter.
On your next trip to the farmers’ market, shop spontaneously and try something new. Ask your farmer about these lesser-known fruits and vegetables and how to prepare them – it’s easy!