How Many of These Super Rare Vegetables Can You Name?
Honestly, this is pretty hard.
Knowing how to use everything in your CSA box, down to the ramps and kohlrabi, is truly a skill—one that chef Peter Gilmore has not only perfected, but taken to the next level. The man behind the award-winning Quay restaurant in Sydney, Australia is an expert at growing (and cooking with) almost-forgotten heirloom vegetables, from the super sweet Galeux D'Eysines pumpkin (pictured below), whose peanut shell-like protrusions are caused by sugars that leach through the skin, to agretti, a veggie that looks like pine needles, tastes like salty spinach, and is prized to an almost truffle-like degree in parts of Italy.
Gilmore's new book, From the Earth (out this week), showcases some of his favorite under-the-radar vegetables and legumes, along with corresponsing recipes (should you be lucky enough to come across Aztec broccoli or Umbrian wild peas at your local farmer's market). Take a look at some super rare foods that your great-great-great-grandparents may have eaten, below.
Black chickpeas, also known as Ceci Neri della Murgia chickpeas, were a staple for rural families in southern Italy in the 19th century. People eventually stopped cultivating them in favor of more profitable crops like olives and grapes, but a handful of farmers still grow this nutty, rich chickpea variety.
Likely to have originated in China, crystal apple cucumbers are considered an "iconic Australian heirloom," according to Gilmore. True to their name, they're about the size of a small apple, and are so tender they can be eaten skin and all.
The pods that form on the asparagus pea plant, which grows in the Mediterranean region, are lined with four small frills, or "wings." This legume has a flavor somewhere between—you guessed it—asparagus and peas, and is best prepared simply (Gilmore suggests steaming the pods, then topping them with melted butter and sea salt).
Native to southern and western Africa, the super salty ice plant is covered in large bladder cells, which give it a glistening appearance. Ice plants make a crispy, tangy addition to salads.
The Kyoto red carrot, which is prized for its sweetness and tender texture, is often carved into the shape of a plum blossom to represent fertility during Japanese New Year.
Originating in Ecuador, the fastigiata pin-striped peanut has an almost milky flavor similar to a green almond.
From the Earth by Peter Gilmore, $38 at Amazon.com.