The Global Garden: With Many Immigrants Living-And Growing Food-In the West, Unexpected Vegetables Are Being Sold at Farmers' Markets. Good-Bye, Peas and Carrots. Hello, Chilacayote

By Silver, Johanna | Sunset, April 2011 | Go to article overview

The Global Garden: With Many Immigrants Living-And Growing Food-In the West, Unexpected Vegetables Are Being Sold at Farmers' Markets. Good-Bye, Peas and Carrots. Hello, Chilacayote


Silver, Johanna, Sunset


Usually it takes an overseas flight to have a true culinary adventure. Not in the West. Our cultural diversity paired with a mild climate means a field trip of flavors is sometimes closer than you think. In the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, the immigrant farmers who till the soil at the giant community garden in Hayward are introducing locals to a whole new world of vegetables. The farmers--from places like Afghanistan, Belize, China, Lebanon, and Peru--are growing traditional foods from their home countries. What you see here may soon be available at a farmers' market near you.

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BY THE NUMBERS

1977 FIRST YEAR OF HAYWARD COMMUNITY GARDENS (HCG)

127 NUMBER OF FARMERS THIS YEAR

11 COUNTRIES REPRESENTED

98 PERCENTAGE WHO ARE IMMIGRANTS

5.3 ACRES OCCUPIED BY HCG

600 SQUARE FOOTAGE OF A SINGLE GARDEN PLOT

365 FROST-FREE DAYS AT HCG (GOOD FOR SUGARCANE)

86 AGE OF HCG'S OLDEST GARDENER

A world of edibles

Try out these unusual, and lesser-known, vegetables. Some you can even grow

BURDOCK ROOT

Arctium species

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ORIGIN Eurasia; commonly grown in Japan

DEF The burdock root is hard and crunchy, with a sweet, earthy taste. Sold with the dirt still on it; should be eaten right after washing.

SYN Gobo, in Japan

USES Stir-fry, or pickle it and toss with a salad, or slice thinly and add to miso-based soups.

GROW IT Sow the seed in spring or summer; small roots will be ready for harvest in about three months. The plant will go dormant through winter but bounce back for one more season the following summer. The leaves can cause irritation, so protect your skin. Seeds from Kitazawa Seed Company (kitazawaseed.com).

CHILACAYOTE

Cucurbita ficifolia

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ORIGIN Central America and Mexico

DEF A summer squash that can be eaten young, or left to grow large like a watermelon; pronounced chill-a-cah-yo-teh.

SYN Fig-leafed gourd

USES If it's young, cook as you would zucchini. If it's giant, candy it as in Mexico and Central and South America: Peel, then simmer for hours in water with brown sugar and cinnamon until it's coated with gooey syrup. The black and white seeds are baked into a brittle-like candy called palanquetas.

GROW IT While chilacayote is easy to grow--put it in a sunny spot and give it plenty of space--finding seeds is nearly impossible.

GANDANA

Allium species

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ORIGIN South and Central Asia; used in Afghan cuisine

DEF Gandana (gahND-ah-nah) is a perennial leeklike crop with a unique sweetness that makes it an exciting alternative to leeks, chives, or onions. …

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