Wednesday, February 27, 2008

No.20: Old Cucumber (Chinese Yellow Cucumber)

Looking leathery, this unusual cucumber is really not as old as it seems!

1. They turn a beautiful, yellow-orangish brown when mature whilst their young fruit is green.

2. Widely used for soup making in Chinese households or restaurants, the yellow cucumber's skin & soft flesh is cut into cubes and boiled.

3. Not only more distinct & milder in taste compared to other cucumbers, the yellow cucumber is juicier as well.

4. Its flesh is creamy white whilst the seeds are surrounded by a thin gelatinous coating.

5. The yellow cucumbers & their lighter skinned varieties are also extensively used to make pickles.

Reference: Rare Seeds, Delicious Asian Food, Oriental Vegetables, Strange Vegetables

Sunday, February 24, 2008

No.19: Sweet Potato

Never judge a potato by its jacket!
These tubers are sweetly popular
from the East to the West!

1. The most common flesh color (or the insides) of a SweetPotato is a vivid orange!

2. George Washington Carver was a
researcher who developed 118 products from Sweet potatoes! He used them to make glue
for postage stamps and a starch for
sizing cotton fabrics.

3. Unfortunately, when sweet potatoes begin to go bad, you cannot just cut away the bad part, since the damage will be reflected in the flavor of the entire potato.

4. Do not refridgerate below 55 degrees F. will chill this tropical vegetable giving it a hard core & an undesirable taste when cooked.

5. They have few natural enemies; pesticides are rarely needed. On top of that, they can also be grown in most poor soil conditions without the need for any fertilisers!

Reference: Wikipedia, NC Sweetpotatoes, Food Reference

Sunday, February 17, 2008

No.18: Bottle Gourd

Bottle gourds are also known as bottle squash, calabash, doodhi, or lowki!

1. The bottle gourd is a vine grown for its fruit, which can either be harvested young & as a vegetable or harvested mature, dried & as a bottle, utensil, or pipe.

2. When bottle gourds are to be used as containers, they may be constricted by bands to make particular shapes.

3. Well-treated gourds become durable containers. The dry hard shells are used for bottles, milk pots, churns, bowls, ladles, spoons, work baskets, floats, pipes, carved objects, and musical instruments.

4. They come in an amazing variety of shapes, sizes and colours. Some may reach 3 m in length whilst others may be up to 2 m round.

5. The bottle gourd is frequently used in southern Chinese cuisine as either a stir-fry or in a soup. In Japan, where it is known as kampyo, it is sold in the form of dried, marinated strips. It is used in place of seafood in a form of vegetarian makizushi (rolled sushi).

Reference: Wikipedia, University of Florida, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

No.17: Artichoke

Go on, have a (an artichoke) heart
this Valentine's!

1. The edible portion of the buds consists of the fleshy lower portions of the bracts & base, is the "heart"; the mass of inedible florets in the bud's center is the "choke."

2. The "vegetable" we eat is the plant's flower bud. If allowed to flower, the blossoms measure up to 7 inches in diameter and are a beautiful violet-blue color.

3.If you're trimming a lot of them, wear surgical gloves as the oils will work into your hands and under your nails making everything you touch taste bitter.

4. The leaves are often removed and eaten one at a time, sometimes dipped in butter, mayonnaise or aioli.

5. If the artichoke feels heavy for its size & when squeezed, you have found a fresh artichoke.

Reference: Wikipedia, Season by Season, Simply Recipes, History of Artichokes

Sunday, February 10, 2008

No.16: Black Moss Fungus (Dried Black Sea Moss)

Fatt Choy or black moss fungus as
it is more commonly known in the
Chinese language, is a primary
ingredient in Chinese New Year dishes!

1. Real fat choy is dark green in color, while the counterfeit fat choy appears black.

2. It grows deep in the ground in desert conditions in Mongolia & Northern China.

3. When soaked, this vegetable has a very soft texture which is like very fine vermicelli, and an appearance very similar to long, black human hair.

4. Some environmentalists are concerned that the harvesting of this plant, which grows up to 3 feet deep into the ground, destroys other vegetation and contributes to soil erosion.

5. The last two syllables of this name in Cantonese sound the same as another Cantonese saying meaning "struck it rich" (though the second syllable, choi, has a different tone) this is found, for example, in the Cantonese saying, "Gung hei faat choi" (meaning "congratulations and be prosperous"), which is often proclaimed during Chinese New Year.

6. Fatt choy is a terrestrial cyanobacterium (a photosyntetic bacteria).

7. Nowadays, people normally buy fatt choy to worship their ancestors, and cook it with fish belly and mushrooms for Lunar New Year feasts.

8. Real fatt choy is greenish grey and elastic after being soaked in water; the fake ones are black in colour and they tend to stick together when squeezed.

Reference: Wikipedia, SF Gate, The Standard, Cyanobacteria, Consumer Council

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

No.15: Bamboo Shoot

Happy Chinese New Year!! Bamboo shoots are so yummy in chinese dishes!

1.Bamboo shoots are the edible shoots (the new bamboo culms that come out of the ground).

2. To prevent them from becoming bitter, avoid keeping them for long periods or exposing them to sunlight.

3.The shoots are harvested before they reach 30 cm (1 foot) in height, generally before they are two weeks old.

4.At harvesting, a shoot may contain as much as 90% water. The edible content of a newly harvested shoot is typically around 30%.

5.Drop into boiling water and cook for about 20 minutes uncovered, to allow bitter substances in the bamboo to dissipate.

Reference: World Wide Gourmet, Invista, Bamboo NMBA
Note: This bamboo shoot is seen holding & hording hong bao in its sheaths.
Hong bao
(Chinese) translates as red packet. Hong bao are usually given to young children or unmarried young adults by married couples or their elders as a gift, symbolic of blessings & good fortune. As the bamboo shoot is the young offspring of a whole network of bamboo plants, it is most suitable for it to be receiving hong bao
from its family members.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

No.14: Pumpkin

Not only popular during Halloween, pumpkins are carving their way into households all year round!

1. Pumpkins consist of 90% water and if you fill a pumpkin with milk and then bake it, you will have a pudding.

2. Pumpkin seeds which can be roasted as a snack are also used for deworming.

3. Pumpkin carving was taken to the US by the Irish, who started carving turnips for their annual Samhain holiday. They soon found that pumpkins were easier to carve than turnips.

4. If your pumpkin lantern shrivels up, you can rehydrate it by soaking it overnight in water.

5. In early colonial times, pumpkins were used as an ingredient for pie crusts, not the filling.

Reference: Wikipedia, Ezine Articles, Farm Bureau Kids, BBC, Pumpkins & More