Preparing Veggies - Stalks, Inflorescents, And Legumes
All About Stalk Vegetables
Stalks are a category of vegetables whose stalks or stems are eaten. Stalks are best when they are young, small, and tender. The older and larger the get, the more fibrous and tough to chew they become. When purchasing stalk vegetables, look for those that are firm and smooth, without any discolored spots or bruising. Stalks tend to be very unique and intense in flavor and in most cases cooking mellows the intensity. Some of the better known stalks are celery, rhubarb, cardoons, asparagus, and fennel (although fennel is often categorized as a root.) Stalks are best stored wrapped in a damp paper towel and placed in a perforated bag in the refrigerator.
Getting to Know Inflorescent Vegetables
Inflorescents are vegetables whose flowers or buds are eaten. Some of the more common inflorescents are broccoli, cauliflower, rapini, and artichokes. When purchasing broccoli, cauliflower, and rapini, look for bunches with florets that have compact clusters and avoid any with open flowers or those that are yellow, bruised, or wilted. Artichokes should be compact and heavy for their size with leaves that are tightly packed together. Loosely spread leaves indicate an older, overripe artichokes that is tough with a very large choke. Inflorescents are best when stored in a perforated bag in a refrigerator drawer.
The Ins and Outs of Legumes
Legumes, while not technically vegetables, are often categorized as such. Legumes are plants that produce edible seeds in pods that are often also edible. The legumes that are most often associated with and treated as vegetables are green and wax beans; sugar, snap, and English peas; soybeans and fava or broad beans. When purchasing fresh legumes, always look for pods that are bright green and smooth looking. Avoid any that appear to be bruised, wrinkled, yellow, or spotted. Most legumes do not store well because their sugars quickly convert to starch and they become bitter or tasteless.
Recipe for Success
For details instructions on how to prepare stalk, inflorescent, and legume vegetables, check out the recipes on the right!
About the Author
After receiving degrees from the University of Wisconsin and the Culinary Institute of America, Andrea Rappaport moved into a full-time career in the restaurant business. For over 12 years, she worked in various culinary jobs, including as a cook for Wolfgang Puck at Spago, and ultimately as the executive chef and partner of the highly revered San Francisco restaurant Zinzino. For the past seven years, Andrea has worked as the private chef for one family in the San Francisco area, and continues to expand her culinary portfolio by catering, teaching, and consulting.