Down & Dirty Articles

Down & Dirty: Cranberries

By • January 4, 2013 • 1 Comment

Down & Dirty: Cranberries

Today we're learning all about the jewel-like cranberry as it goes from puckeringly sour in the raw to richly sweet when cooked. Native to this continent and a close cousin to blueberries, lingonberries, and huckleberries, the cranberry is so much more than just a Thanksgiving one-off. As American as apple pie? Try as American as cranberry sauce!

Read More »

Down & Dirty: Brussels Sprouts

By • December 28, 2012 • 11 Comments

Down & Dirty: Brussels Sprouts

There's a lingering stereotype about brussels sprouts that says they're mushy, funky, and to be avoided. Not so! Brussels sprouts, which originated in Northern Europe in the 13th century or so, are actually the greatest of all brassicas: they have cabbage's vegetal sweetness, kale's versatility, cauliflower's nuttiness, and more surface area (which equals more potential crispiness) than just about any other vegetable.

Read More »

Down & Dirty: Sweet Potatoes and Yams

By • December 21, 2012 • 4 Comments

Down & Dirty: Sweet Potatoes and Yams

 

What's in a name? Well, for starters, sweet potatoes aren't really potatoes -- they're actually in the morning glory family. And yams are in a genus all their own, more closely related to lilies than spuds. The naming confusion can be traced to the American South in the 18th and 19th centuries, when African slaves encountered the sweet potato and naturally linked it in their minds with their native yam. But they're both delicious no matter they're called -- nomenclature aside, today we take a close look at sweet potatoes and yams.

 

Read More »

Down & Dirty: Kohlrabi

By • December 14, 2012 • 6 Comments

Down & Dirty: Kohlrabi

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.

Read More »

Down & Dirty: Dark Leafy Greens

By • December 7, 2012 • 6 Comments

Down & Dirty: Dark Leafy Greens

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.

 

Read More »

Down & Dirty: Pears

By • November 30, 2012 • 8 Comments

Down & Dirty: Pears

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.

 

Read More »

Down & Dirty: Celeriac

By • November 23, 2012 • 10 Comments

Down & Dirty: Celeriac

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.

 

Read More »

Down & Dirty: Apples

By • November 16, 2012 • 6 Comments

Down & Dirty: Apples

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.


 

Read More »

Down & Dirty: Mushrooms

By • November 2, 2012 • 6 Comments

Down & Dirty: Mushrooms

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).

Read More »