Tender Profile | Napa Cabbage

Cabbage

Napa Cabbage, a.k.a. Brassica rapa, subspecies pekinensis

Who am I?

  • Plant family & botanical details: Brassicaceae. Napa cabbage originated in China, and is more closely related to bok choy than to green cabbage. 
  • Harvest season: Summer and fall
  • Great source of*: Vitamin C

How to care for me:

  • Store me whole in a plastic bag in the crisper section of your fridge for up to a week! Wash me directly before use. 

Pairings:

  • I have a mild taste, and with a neutral palette there are endless options for pairings.
  • I'm great with cilantro, ginger, garlic, scallions, sesame seeds, tofu, vinegar, soy sauce, pork, scallops, and salmon.

How to cook me: 

  • I am delicious raw, but also am a wonderful ingredient in soup, slaws, and stir fries.
  • I can also be preserved, and am a main ingredient in a kimchi or sauerkraut.

Fun Facts:

  • I am the most popular cabbage in supermarkets worldwide.
  • I once was considered the patriotic vegetable of China, and am still a mainstay of rural Chinese winter cooking.
  • The largest cabbage dish ever made was on 19 December 2008 in the Macedonian city of Prilep, with 80,191 sarmas (cabbage rolls) weighing 544 kg (1,221 lbs).

Tender Profile | Spinach

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Spinach, a.k.a. Spinacia oleracea

Who am I?

  • Plant family: Amaranthaceae, sub-family Chenopodiaceae, also known as the "Goose Foot" family
  • Harvest season: April if overwintered, otherwise June for outdoor spinach. Greenhouse spinach can be found year round, but sometimes is only available in spurts. 
  • Botanical details: Spinach is related to beets, and chard.
  • Great source of*: Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, manganese, and, if that wasn't enough, iron! 

*contains more than 10% of the recommended daily allowance for these nutrients

How to care for me:

  • Keep me loosely wrapped in a paper towel inside a plastic bag, I am best if eaten in 5 days!  

Pairings:

  • I have a mild taste, and with a neutral palette there are endless options for pairings. Try matching with fish, lemon and garlic; eggs, mushrooms and cheese; or even ricotta filled ravioli! Try me raw, steamed, sautéed, or baked into a variety of dishes.

How to cook me: 

Fun Facts:

  • In the 1930’s spinach growers credited Popeye with a 33% increase in the domestic consumption of spinach.
  • Medieval artists extracted green pigment from spinach to use as an ink or paint.
  • Catherine de' Medici -- who was from Florence, Italy -- was said to love spinach. That's why dishes that are served on a bed of spinach are referred to as "Florentine." 
  • California produces 74-percent of the fresh spinach grown in the United States.
  • Two U.S. cities claim to be the ‘spinach capital of the world’: Crystal City, Texas and Alma, Arkansas. Each April in Alma, there’s a spinach festival.

Tender Profile | Garlic Scapes

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Garlic scapes, a.k.a. the flower stalk of Allium sativum

Who am I?

  • Plant family: Amaryllidaceae
  • Harvest season: Mid-to-late June
  • Botanical details: Scapes are the shoots that grow from hard-necked garlic. They are harvested in June, once they begin to curl, so that the plant puts the majority of its resources into forming its bulb (i.e. heads of garlic) 
  • Great source of*: Because garlic scapes are generally eaten in small amounts (as is garlic, generally), one wouldn't normally consider it as a source of nutrients. However, scapes are thought to share the benefits of garlic cloves, including antioxidant properties. 

*contains more than 10% of the recommended daily allowance for these nutrients

How to care for me:

  • Keep me in a plastic bag in the fridge, or, if you're planning to use me quickly, with my stems in a glass of water on the counter (make sure the trim the stem right before putting the scapes in the glass). 

Pairings:

  • Scapes are great grilled or sautéed, and pair well with anything that tastes good with garlic cloves, for instance: chicken, beef, eggs, mushrooms, olive oil, and tomatoes. The flavor is a bit milder than that of bulb garlic.

How to cook me: 

Fun Facts (about garlic in general, not scapes, specifically):

  • The word "garlic" is Anglo-Saxon in origin, and translates as "spear plant." 
  • In Ancient Greece, brides carried bouquets of garlic and herbs. 
  • In Bram Stoker's Dracula, garlic is mentioned 21 times. 
  • The city of Chicago got its name from the word "chicagaoua," a Native American term for the wild garlic that grows near Lake Michigan. 
  • The juice from garlic can be used as an adhesive. 

Tender Profile | Asparagus

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Asparagus, a.k.a. Asparagus officinalis

Who am I?

  • Plant family: Asparagaceae

  • Harvest season: May through June

  • Botanical details: It takes three years for asparagus to mature enough for commercial harvest.

  • Great source of*: Vitamin K, Vitamin A, Folate, Vitamin C, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Iron, Copper, and Manganese

*contains more than 10% of the recommended daily allowance for these nutrients

How to care for me:

  • Like flowers! Trim the bottom 1/2-inch of my asparagus stalks, and store me upright in a jar of water, in the fridge.

Pairings:

  • I love butter, whether it's simply melted, mixed with lemon and herbs, or browned. I'm also a great partner for other dairy products, such as heavy cream, chèvre, and ricotta. My tender verdant qualities make me a great match for mushrooms, too. Spruce me up with a squeeze of citrus, and don't forget the freshly grated pepper!

How to cook me: 

Fun Facts:

  • The earliest known depiction of asparagus was on an Egyptian frieze that was created around 3,000 B.C.

  • Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus coined the phrase "Velocius quam asparagi coquantur," which translates as "faster than asparagus cooks." Effectively, it means, "get a move on."

  • The Romans had special fleets to transport asparagus, which they prized highly, and carried it into the Alps to freeze it for later.

  • The "scales" at the tip of the asparagus stalk is actually the plant's leaves.

  • In ideal conditions, an asparagus spear can grow 10-inches in one day.

  • In Bavaria, there's an asparagus museum!