Veggie sleuthing

Asian veggies

Part of the Asian/Southeast Asian veggie section at one of the local supermarkets. Most of these vegetables are unfamiliar, some I recognize. I usually scan for unusual shapes and textures when I roll by, but my curiosity is never that high. I suppose you could see them in an exotic, different cultures way; to me, they’re just…more veggies! This time, I decided to take a closer look, and took a pic on my phone (which was also my shopping list!). So what do we have?

ID-ing everything from the labels in photo and searching the interwebs for info, here goes. Top row, left to right: I couldn’t make out what that first plastic-wrapped veg is. Next, bitter melon, my mom grew this in her community garden. Used in Chinese cuisine. Remove seeds, keep skin, slice, use in stir fries. Or steam, or stuff. Next, eggplant, and daikon radish, both familiar, I’ve grown these. Then, squash (long) is what the label says, but this one has several names: opo squash, calabash, bottle gourd, and others. It comes in different shapes, like the decorative hourglass-shaped dried gourd version, or really long, or this stumpier look. For cooking, it’s another summer squash, like zucchini, so raw, steamed, boiled, sautéed, or grilled!

Bottom row, from the left: This long, skinny veg is labeled drumstick (label cropped out of photo), and it’s also called moringa. They’re the pods from the moringa tree, from Southeast Asia, India. Lots of superfood claims. When used as a veg, there are these pods, and also moringa seeds on their own. For the pods, cut up, put in soups and curries. Next, haldi, is another name for turmeric, which I have as a ground spice and use in my standard breakfast red lentils spice mix. Relative of ginger, native to Southeast Asia. Use fresh the same as powdered turmeric, grate or slice and add to soups, rice, whatever you like. Also, pickle (one way: lemon juice, salt, jar, fridge), use in marinades, blend. Then, carrot, purple/red, prepared a little differently with the tops and tips sliced off. And okra, also familiar. Last, the bumpy-textured veg is labeled karela, which turns out to be one of many names for bitter melon, so same as above!

And where are they from, fresh not frozen in the dead of winter? Carrot, daikon, eggplant and okra are from right here in Ontario, the drumstick is from India, and the rest were grown in the Dominican Republic. All of them I think can be grown here in colder country, except turmeric, which needs many months of warm weather (it apparently can be done here with a few months of indoor growing, then moved outside).

Now that I’ve finally LOOKED CLOSER, I’ll probably try some of the new veg. Of particular interest: drumstick and (remembering mom) bitter melon!

Leave a Comment