Michael Ames is a former Mountain Express reporter and is currently working on a plan to photosynthesize his own nutrition. Here are his Five Best Vegetables.
1. Celery Root. Called celeraic by TV chefs and those who wish they were TV chefs, this starchy root bulb is a sneaky smash. It's funny looking; on the top, or fun side, stubs of green celery shoot crazily skyward like a punk's hairdo. But in the nether regions, or Medusa side, a tangle of roots and dirt turn the vegetable-wary to stone.
Pick one out at the grocery store, cart it to the cashier and wait for the inevitable result: a face that simultaneously asks, "What the hell is that? And why would you eat it?
Cubed, lightly sautéed with garlic and thyme and then simmered in an inch of bubbling vegetable broth, celeraic is a powerful side dish or light main course. Turn up the heat and give it a hash-brown crisp finish.
Celeraic also makes cameo appearances in salads and crossword puzzles.
2. Seaweed. This aptly named weed is found mostly in large bodies or water and bulk organic food sections. Depending on the bio-diversity of your local market, you can find several incarnations. Nori seaweed can be dried into thin flat sheaves that are used not only as loose leaf paper in Japanese grammar schools, but also as an inventive gift-wrapping aid. Wakame seaweed can be bought dry and soaked in miso or dashi-moto soup. The weed will slowly expand into intricately designed pre-cut figures from Japanese culture. Hijiki seaweed is a sort of purplish, bitter and twiggy plant that is apparently edible.
3. Cashew. When is a nut a vegetable? No one is quite sure.
4. The vegetable joke: A pair of tomato parents are walking their tomato child down Hot House Street when Little Roma runs off and is hit by an coming zucchini car. Mommy and Daddy tomato take junior tom-tom to the hospital. After hours of anxious waiting, the Eggplant Doctor comes out and says, "Well, I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is, your child is alive. The bad news is ... he will be a vegetable for the rest of his life."
5. Artichoke. The poor man's lobster. The vegetarian's crustacean. This thorny castle of a vegetable is a model of intelligent design (or "evolution" for people who hate God and America). A crown of barbed leaves surround a heart of pure goodness. The artichoke might be Jesus in plant form.
The artichoke takes a bit of effort. Like dozens of lobster tail fins, the leaves pluck out one by one, each to be dipped in an unhealthy condiment of your choice. It's nature's Blooming Onion.
Once through the outer shell, a final internal crown of inedible hairs wards off the uninspired eater. The heart, shaved clean, partitioned fairly and methodically, consumed slowly and reverentially, is the center of any joyous gathering.