Saturday, April 24, 2010

赤じそ it ain't

The lovely Carol signed us up for a weekly bag from Two Small Farms. Basically, they drop a bag of stuff for us at an undisclosed location once a week. Since we don't always recognize what's in the bag, we sometimes face a challenge in figuring out how to make the best use of this fresh organic produce.

Such a challenge came to us in the previous week's grab-bag (more properly a drop-bag) in the vegetables you see at right. My first thought when I saw them was "青じそ" which is obviously wrong, since the plant is red (赤) not "blue" (青). Too bad, because I really miss that taste sometimes.

But this plant doesn't have much of a smell. I sauteed a few leaves this morning and scrambled them with some eggs and sliced sausage; they turned everything pinkish. Disappointingly, not much of a taste or aroma. I cut off the thick part of the stems, but these aren't like woody like the bottom parts of some Chinese broccoli stalks; they probably would have been OK to add.

Fortunately, the folks at two small farms have a "What's in the box?" page, where we found that this particular vegetable is called "Mystery" -- well, we clicked to discover that our mystery vegetable is called "orach" -- also known as goosefoot -- pictured at left. According to the Wikipedia article, it was used a lot more before spinach became more favored (I wonder if Popeye the Sailor Man had anything to do with that). There's a lot more information about this plant in this essay from Mariquita Farm.

I can't say I'll look for it in my grocery store. Apparently nobody carries it, but even if they did, the chief reason I'd buy it would be to mystify guests. It doesn't have an exciting taste (like fennel bulbs) or a nolstagia-inducing flavor (as 青じそ would, at least to me); you don't get a lot of volume out of it (like you do with leeks)... but there's nothing to really hate about it, either. It's just not very exciting.

What kind of vegetable are you?
Purple orach.

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