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Asparagus is a perennial vegetable arising from a root system of fleshy rhizomes known as the crown with long feeder roots that can grow to a depth of 1.5-2 metres. In spring the crown sends up spears (shoots), which are the edible portion of the plant.
Most green asparagus is ready-to-go. However, if the base of the stalk is tough, simply run a knife along the stalk until it meets less resistance, then cut the end off at this point. Or simply snap off the coarse ends with your forefinger and thumb.
White asparagus spears are usually thicker than green asparagus. White asparagus also has a thicker outer layer that can be easily removed. Simply use a vegetable peeler to remove the outer layer of each spear two-thirds the length of the spear towards the tip, then snap off the woody end.
Purple asparagus spears are between 10% and 15% wider at the base than green asparagus spears. To select the freshest spears, consumers should look for firm, crisp stalks and compact brightly coloured heads with no trace of softness.Prolonged cooking causes purple asparagus to turn a deep green colour. To retain the vibrant purple colour, it is best to cook purple asparagus just until tender crisp.
Persea americana, or the avocado, is believed to have originated in the state of Puebla, Mexico, though fossil evidence suggests similar species were much more widespread millions of years ago, occurring as far north as California at a time when the climate of that region was more hospitable to them.
The modern English name is not etymologically related to the similar-sounding Spanish word abogado, meaning ‘lawyer’ (as in advocate), but comes through an English rendering of the Spanish aguacate as avogato.
Like the banana, the avocado is a climacteric fruit, which matures on the tree, but ripens off the tree. Avocados used in commerce are picked hard and green and kept in coolers at 3.3 to 5.6°C until they reach their final destination. Avocados must be mature to ripen properly. Generally, the fruit is picked once it reaches maturity; for ‘Hass’ avocados this is approxiamtely 23% dry matter or more. Once picked, avocados ripen in one to two weeks (depending on the cultivar) at room temperature (faster if stored with other fruits such as apples or bananas, because of the influence of ethylene gas). Some supermarkets sell ripened avocados which have been treated with synthetic ethylene to hasten ripening. The use of an ethylene gas “ripening room”, which is now an industry standard. In some cases, avocados can be left on the tree for several months, but if the fruit remains unpicked for too long, it falls to the ground.
The two main varieties grown in Australia are Hass and Shepards.
The ‘Hass’ avocado is today the most common. All ‘Hass’ trees are descended from a single “mother tree” raised by a mail carrier named Rudolph Hass, of La Habra Heights, California. Hass patented the productive tree in 1935. ‘Hass’ trees have medium-sized (150–250 g), ovate fruit with a black, pebbled skin. The flesh has a nutty, rich flavor.
This is a small avocado, has delicate smooth green skin and a pointed. This variety will soften when ripe but unlike the ‘Hass’ variety, the skin WILL NOT change colour. It has an acorn-shaped pit embedded in rich, sticky flesh. A relative of the ‘Hass’, it has its obvious similarities in texture, but with a thicker almost gluey consistency.
The almond is a species of tree native to the Middle East and South Asia. “Almond” is also the name of the edible and widely cultivated seed of this tree. The fruit of the almond is a drupe, consisting of an outer hull and a hard shell with the seed (which is not a true nut) inside. Shelling almonds refers to removing the shell to reveal the seed. Almonds are sold shelled (i.e., after the shells are removed), or unshelled (i.e., with the shells still attached).
While the almond is often eaten on its own, raw or toasted, it is also a component of various dishes. In Greece, ground blanched almonds are used as the base material in a great variety of desserts In Iran, green almonds are dipped in sea salt and eaten as snacks on street markets.
The Jerusalem artichoke also called sunroot or sunchoke It is a species of sunflower which is a member of the daisy family and is native to eastern North America. It is also cultivated widely across the temperate zone for its tuber, which is used as a root vegetable. Despite its name, the Jerusalem artichoke has no relation to Jerusalem, and it is not a type of artichoke. The origin of the name is uncertain. Italian settlers in the USA called the plant girasole, the Italian word for sunflower, because of its resemblance to the garden sunflower.
In Baden-Württemberg, Germany, over 90% of the Jerusalem artichoke crop is used to produce a spirit called “Topinambur (de)”, “Topi” or “Rossler”.
Trim any big bumps to make them easier to peel. Once peeled, they discolour quickly, so place in a bowl of water and lemon juice to prevent browning. Jerusalem artichokes can be cooked in much the same way as potatoes or parsnips and are excellent roasted, sautéed or dipped in batter and fried, or puréed to make a delicious soup.
Bitter melon, bitter gourd or bitter squash in English, has many other local names. It is a tropical and subtropical vegetable from a vine that is widely grown in Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean. The vegetable is extremely bitter. Its many varieties differ substantially in the shape and bitterness of the fruit.
Bitter melon is generally consumed cooked in the green or early yellowing stage. The young shoots and leaves of the bitter melon may also be eaten as greens.
Bitter melon is often used in Chinese cooking for its bitter flavor, typically in stir-fries, soups, and herbal teas. It is very popular throughout South Asia. In Vietnam, raw bitter melon slices consumed with dried meat floss and bitter melon soup with shrimp are popular dishes.
Blueberries are the fruits of a shrub that belong to the heath (Ericaceae) family whose other members include the cranberry and bilberry as well as the azalea, mountain laurel and rhododendron. Blueberries grow in clusters and range in size from that of a small pea to a marble. They are deep in color, ranging from blue to maroon to purple-black, and feature a white-gray waxy “bloom” that covers the berry’s surface and serves as a protective coat. The skin surrounds a semi-transparent flesh that encases tiny seeds. Cultivated blueberries are typically mildly sweet, while those that grow wild have a more tart and tangy flavor.
Fresh berries are very fragile and should be washed briefly and carefully and then gently patted dry if they are not organic. Wash berries just prior to use to not prematurely remove the protective bloom that resides on the skin’s surface. If you know the source of either wild or organic berries try not to wash them at all.