5 Unusual Farmer's Market Veggies And How To Use Them

Unfamiliar produce is the most exciting part of any CSA box.

Now that I've moved back to Ann Arbor, Michigan, my brother and I are sharing a CSA box from Argus Farm Stop, a local grocer that sources its produce from local farmers. We've enjoyed lots of familiar fruits and vegetables so far, including apples, rhubarb, spinach and kale. Lately, though, we've been coming across produce we've never cooked with before.

There's been a lot of Googling, cookbook searching, and texting of recipes back and forth, all in an effort to figure out what to do with the unfamiliar foods. As it turns out, this trend toward unusual veggies is on the rise among our area's CSA boxes as farmers expand their crops and provide their customers with potential adventures.

"People are starting to branch out a lot," says Savannah Koch of the Green Things Farm Collective, a group of organic farmers in Ann Arbor. Green Things offers a CSA box, as well as selling produce at both the farmer's market and its own self-service shop.

"When they see these fresh, cool-looking vegetables, they're definitely drawn to them," she says. "We can explain a little more of what they can do with it."

Here are five unusual veggies you might see pop up during the growing season, and how to put each one to delicious use.

Tatsoi 

Tatsoi is a member of the broccoli family, and it has a taste similar to bok choy, another Chinese green. It is used in roughly the same fashion, Koch says: eaten raw in salads, chopped up for use in stir fries, and steamed for a number of other uses. Koch says she's even seen customers use it in a centerpiece because of its unusually shaped oval leaves. "They love the look of it," she says.

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Ramps

Ramps are a species of wild onion, and they're often one of the first greens to show up in farm share boxes (we had two bunches of them this spring). They have a pungent taste that's much stronger than you might expect from the slender stalks. Ramps have become very popular as a basil substitute in pesto. You can also incorporate ramps into pasta dough. Like many vegetables, ramps are a good candidate for pickling, which allows you to keep eating them after the crop fades away.

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Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi is a cruciferous vegetable, aka a crunchy one, and it's in the same family as cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and broccoli. I always think it looks a little like a spaceship or a fennel that sprouted wings. It tastes like peppery broccoli but it can be shredded like cabbage. I ended up making kohlrabi slaw, though you can also slice it up and roast it like potatoes. Like spuds, these can also can be mashed.

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Daikon

Daikon is the large Japanese radish that you often find in a little grated mound on a plate of pork or chicken katsu. It is another candidate for slaw, and you can slice it and turn it into oven-roasted fries. Daikon can be cut up into cubes, boiled, and seasoned to become a side dish. You can peel it, slice it, and toss it with thinly sliced cucumber for a vinegar dressed salad, or try this rich brown butter recipe. For a fun kitchen experiment, try preserving them using this Japanese fermentation method.

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Celeriac

Celeriac is one of my favorite vegetables, but until recently, I had only encountered it in France. Almost every French food shop has a big bowl of shredded celeriac, sometimes called remoulade, that is dressed simply with a mixture of mayonnaise, mustard, and lemon juice or white vinegar. You might be taken aback the first time you see it, because it is round and gnarled and has sort of a hairy coating. You peel that away to find the flesh inside. If you like jicama, you'll enjoy celeriac, although it isn't quite as sweet.

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