Chokos are a native of Central America. They were taken back to Europe by the Spanish explorers and from there were introduced to parts of Asia. They grow on a climbing plant and look like a pale green pear with spines.
Chokos have a lovely crisp texture and a bland flavour a bit like a courgette and are great to eat raw or cooked.
They can be stuffed with all sorts of fillings – rice, bacon, tomato, onion, or cheese, cooked and served with any tasty sauce, or used raw in fruit or vegetable salads.
They are available from April to June
Chokos are a good source of vitamin C
These cabbage like plants are native to the eastern Mediterranean or to Asia Minor. They have been in cultivation for so long and have been so shifted about by prehistoric traders and migrating tribes, that it is not certain which of those two regions is the origin of the species.
Kale has a strong flavour and is very nutritious. Predominantly a winter vegetable, it can be used as a green vegetable or added to soups, stews and casseroles. Kale is an ingredient of many national dishes, for example colcannon which is a traditional Halloween dish in Ireland, caldo verde which is a traditional Portugese soup, or as a green to accompany Brazils national dish Feijoada. Germany, the Netherlands and Scotland also have a long history of using kale as part of the traditional diet.
It is available from February to October
Kale is a very good source of iron, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin K and carotenoids.
Globe Artichokes have always been considered a delicacy. They have been grown in Southern Europe for many centuries. The part that is eaten is the immature flower bud before the flower appears and it consists of overlapping green/purple scales. The fleshy base of the leaf is the edible part and they are eaten alone or with the addition of a dip. The plant looks like an overgrown Scotch thistle.
They are available from September through to January.
Globe Artichokes are a good source of folate and some B-group vitamins.
Thought to be a native of Asia, there are many varieties of radish which vary in shape, size, flavour and colour. The Daikon radish looks like a smooth white overgrown carrot and tastes like a radish. It can be used both raw and cooked.
It is available May, June and July
Radishes have high levels of vitamin C. They also contain some fibre, potassium, and folate. The peppery taste is evidence of the phytochemicals glucosinolates and isothiocyanates.
The wild perennial fennel that grows alongside many roads can be used in cooking and contrary to popular belief is not poisonous. However, it is the bulb of the Florence fennel (or finnochio), which is becoming a gourmet vegetable in this country. This is one of the oldest cultivated plants and was eaten by Roman warriors who believed it to be health giving. The characteristic aniseed flavour and aroma make it a delightful vegetable. It is normally sliced and used in salads or cooked as a vegetable in any form appropriate to celery, onions, or asparagus,
Fennel is available during autumn and winter
It is a source of some vitamin C and folate
Celeriac is a variety of celery having a large edible root. It has the flavour of celery without its stringy texture so is much better suited to cooking. It is a well known vegetable in England, Europe, Asia and India. The Naked Chef used it in his televised cooking show several years ago and it stimulated interest in this ugly looking vegetable. It can be eaten raw or cooked and makes a great addition to everything from soup to salad.
Available autumn to early spring
Celeriac is a good source of fibre (around 3 times that of regular celery), also a good source of Vitamin C, folate and small amounts of other minerals including calcium, iron and potassium
The Jerusalem Artichoke is a member of the sunflower family. it produces a knobbly tuber which is a little like root ginger in appearance. A native of North America, it grew in the wild along the eastern seaboard from Georgia to Novia Scotia. The American Indians called them sun roots and introduced these perennial tubers to the pilgrims who adopted them as a staple food. They make a great soup and are a good vegetable to use for thickening stews, casseroles and soups.
Jerusalem Artichokes are available in winter.
They are high in fibre, low in calories and a great source of potassium. Also a good supply of iron, plus a variety of other vitamins and minerals.
The pumpkin is thought to have originated in South America. Buttercup is a small variety with a rich dark green skin speckled and striped in a lighter green to cream. Faster maturing than most pumpkins, Buttercup has a sweet nutty flavour and relatively dry flesh. They store well and are available all year round. They can be roasted, baked and stuffed, made into soups, pies, flans and frittatas, or steamed and mashed.
An excellent source of Vitamin A and carotenes, they also contain useful amounts of potassium and fibre as well as some Vitamin C.
Potatoes are native to South America, arrived here with early European explorers and have been grown in New Zealand for around 200 years. The Urenika is a long potato with dark purple skin and purple flesh that retains its colour when cooked. They are waxy when small and floury when large, Just scrub and cook in the skin, they are great boiled or steamed. Serve with butter when small or make a stunning looking mash when more mature.
Urenika are good keepers so are available most of the time, but more plentiful in summer. Potatoes are high in carbohydrate and fibre, a good source of Vitamin C, some B vitamins and minerals such as potassium, phosphorous, magnesium and the Urenika is also very high in antioxidants.
Also known as Tuscan Cabbage, Cavolo Nero grows in the form of a palm tree with long narrow leaves in a rosette on top of the stem. The leaves are dark green with a dark bluish tinge and bubbly surface and harvesting is done as individual leaves mature.
Cavolo Nero can be used as a cabbage, an excellent choice for stir fries and Asian recipes, also good for cole slaws. Its use by cooks like Jamie Oliver have made it popular once again.
It is available for most of the year and reasonably frost resistant.
Cavolo Nero is a great source of lutein, vitamins K, A & C as well as significant amounts of manganese, copper, calcium, iron, the B vitamins and fibre.