We’ve been part of a vegie-buying co-op for over 20 years. For much of that time, three of my friends and I would take it in turn to pair up and trudge off to the local wholesale clearance markets on Saturday mornings. To avoid confusion, we devised a roster-system. Each of us went three times in a row, once with each of the others, then swapped over. That sounds more complicated than it actually was – so here’s a table to clarify things:
- No kids
- No calculators
- 7am departure – no matter how cold it is!
- Always take the trolley
- We don’t go to the markets from mid-December to mid-January (too many people!)
- Taste the apples before buying!
Even so, it was all pretty straightforward – and the mental gymnastics of remembering what we’d bought, what it all cost, how it all got divvied up, and who owed what was – no doubt – very character building. Oddly enough, despite the pre-7am scurry, the occasional cold, wet and miserable mornings, and lugging heavy boxes of fruit and veg to and from the markets, it was mostly fun. It was (and is) remarkably good value.
One of the more entertaining aspects was one I introduced fairly early on. I’d regularly see some or other vegetable or fruit I’d been meaning to try or that I didn’t recognise. So one day I randomly added one of them to our standard selection of apples/bananas/potatoes/tomatoes, etc. By ‘one’ I do, of course, mean a BOX of whatever it was; this is, after all, a bulk-vegetable clearance market!
Once they got over the shock, they all took to the idea. Soon, the surprise veggie became a feature. Not every week, but often enough to keep us interested to see whether our veggie box included a vast quantity of some or other unexpected fruit or vegetable. It might be parsnips – or quinces – or eggplant – or kūmara – or kai-lan (Chinese broccoli) – or okra – or pattypan squash… pretty much whatever amused or appealed to the shopper-of-the-week.
Over the years a couple of people dropped out of the group, others joined – then left, until only a couple of market-diehards remain. Since neither of us have children living at home any more, we go far less frequently these days – and instead of going together, we drag our menfolk along to help with the heavy lifting. It’s still worthwhile – and a surprise veggie still shows up periodically.
On my last excursion I paused next to an odd-looking lumpy, purple vegetable, curious as to what it was. I was immediately approached by several people who also wanted to know. They (wrongly) thought I might be able to tell them, based simply on the fact that I was lurking near the lumpy purple pile. We soon realised nobody had a clue and sent a ‘volunteer’ to ask the vendor. Although he was equally mystified, one of his packers suggested it might be something called kohlrabi.
Fair enough, thought I, and bought some.
It turned out that it was indeed kohlrabi. The internets informed me that it’s a relative of wild cabbage and one of the 150 healthiest foods on Earth. Pretty much every part of the plant (other than the peel) is apparently edible, and preparation methods range from baking to frying, tossing in salads or eating it as a low calorie raw snack.
I sent the leaves and stems off to DaughterDearest for her chooks to turn into eggs, along with a kohlrabi of her very own to experiment with at home. Some of ours was oven roasted, along with some sweet potato and carrot. Whilst tasty enough, the flavour of the kohlrabi was somewhat overpowered by the other vegies. So I used the rest up in a salad. It was super tasty – crunchy and delicate in flavour, the kohlrabi well complimented by the apple, nuts (I used pecans instead of hazelnuts) and parmesan.
I’ve added the recipe to my make-again database and will make it as an interesting addition to Xmas lunch (if not before). I wonder what the others made with theirs…