Down & Dirty Articles

Down & Dirty: Kohlrabi

By • December 14, 2012 • 6 Comments

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We might as well just say it: kohlrabi is a little weird. The name literally means "cabbage turnip" in German (makes sense, right?), and they're as common as cabbages and turnips themselves in Eastern Europe, where they've been around for centuries. Stateside, though, they're a little more unusual -- "you'd think it had just landed on earth," Elizabeth Scneider says in Uncommon Fruits & Vegetables: A Commonsense Guide -- so farmers' markets and CSA boxes are your best bet for the hardy, prolific stems.

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Down & Dirty: Dark Leafy Greens

By • December 7, 2012 • 6 Comments

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Today we're taking a nose dive into the salad bowl with a half-dozen varieties of dark leafy greens. These plants come from a few different plant families -- arugula, kale, and collards are Brassicas, spinach and chard are in the Amaranth family, and dandelion is from the family Asteraceae -- but they share certain essential characteristics in the kitchen: all can be enjoyed raw or cooked, and they're all hardier than the fragile salad greens of spring.

 

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Down & Dirty: Pears

By • November 30, 2012 • 8 Comments

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Pears are so distinct that the only word we have to describe their shape is "pyriform," which means, literally, "pear-shaped"! They've been cultivated for millennia -- there were pear tree groves in China 3000 years ago -- and there are thousands of varieties, many of them decorative or inedible. In the US, you'll find about 10 common varieties, among them Comice, Anjou, Bartlett, Seckel, and Bosc.

 

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Down & Dirty: Celeriac

By • November 23, 2012 • 10 Comments

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Celeriac -- also just called celery root -- has got to be the craggiest, least lovable plant there is. Covered in hairy roots and clods of dirt, it's like the hobbit of the vegetable world. Give it some time, though, and it'll pay you back: celeriac has all the mellow, vegetal flavor of celery and none of the stringy wateriness.

 

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Down & Dirty: Apples

By • November 16, 2012 • 6 Comments

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Apples are arguably the world's most popular fruit -- "the apple of my eye," "as American as apple pie," "an apple a day keeps the doctor away." In many languages, other fruits and vegetables are defined in terms of apples, like pommes de terre in French and sib zamini in Farsi for potatoes, and the Medieval name "love apples" for tomatoes. And let's just say you won't find watermelons in the origin stories of multiple religions.


 

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Down & Dirty: Mushrooms

By • November 2, 2012 • 6 Comments

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Mushrooms aren't vegetables at all -- they're fungi! More specifically, they're the fungus' spore-bearing fruit body, also called the sporocarp, which produces the spores that grow into more mushrooms. While many mushrooms are poisonous, hallucinogenic, or medicinal, the ones we'll be discussing today are all perfectly edible (also, delicious).

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Down & Dirty: Bell Peppers

By • October 12, 2012 • 1 Comment

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Recently, we learned all about hot peppers. Today we turn to their mild-mannered cousin, the bell pepper. Crunchy when raw, meltingly sweet when roasted, bell peppers come in a rainbow of colors. And unlike other peppers, which vary in heat depending on factors ranging from their species to the weather, you'll never find a hot bell pepper: due to a recessive gene, they don't produce capsaicin, the chemical that causes spiciness.

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