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All About Stalk Vegetables

From crunchy celery to leafy Swiss chard to sweet rhubarb, stalk vegetables are as diverse as they are delicious, offering endless flavour possibilities.


Celery

 

Every part of the celery is edible: the stalk, the leaves, and the seeds. Celery had been growing wild for hundreds of years before humans began cultivating it in the 16th century, primarily for medicinal purposes. In the 17th century, celery began to be used as flavouring; later on, it was used in soups and salads. Two varieties were developed at about the same time: celeriac, with its edible turnip-like root, and garden celery, which is most commonly used today in North America.

Characteristics

 

The fleshy stalks and ribs grow above-ground and their base form a crown. The inside ribs of the celery are softer. Some farmers protect their celery plants by shading them to produce lighter-coloured and more tender celery. Celery salt is a mixture of celery seeds and salt.


Culinary tips and advice

  • Choose compact, light green celery with thick ridged stalks and fresh-looking leaves.
  • Cut through and discard the base of the celery, wash the stalks thoroughly and cut to the desired length.
  • Eat celery raw, in salads, thinly sliced in sandwiches, or cut in sticks and serve with dips.
  • Cooked celery is delicious simply braised, with a sprinkle of vinaigrette or au gratin.
  • Add celery to casseroles, sauces for pastas, vegetable and beef stews, quiches, flavoured rice and vegetable stir-fries.
  • Celery leaves are very fragrant and may be used to flavour a variety of dishes.

Expert tip

Use celery to flavour a court-bouillon or a broth.

Availability

 

Celery is available year-round in your METRO supermarket, but more plentiful during the local harvest in summer.

Nutritional Value

 

Celery is an excellent source of potassium, vitamins C and B6 and folic acid.

Storage Life

 

Celery will keep in the refrigerator for several days stored in a perforated plastic bag or in a container with a little salt water.


Fennel

 

In mythology, fennel was considered the food of the gods and whoever consumed it would gain knowledge. The Egyptians and the Chinese have been using it since the Bronze Age, and is one of the main ingredients used in Italian cooking.

Characteristics

 

Fennel's delicate, slightly sweet and very pleasant flavour is reminiscent of aniseed or licorice. In fact, it is often mistaken for aniseed or dill. It is a light green and white, fleshy bulb with layered, intertwining leaves surrounding two or three sturdy stalks. These stalks are topped with very feathery little leaves that look a lot like dill.


Culinary tips and advice

  • Fennel is used raw in salads or dips and cooked, with the tough outer leaves removed. All parts of the fennel are edible.
  • Choose large, firm, light-coloured bulbs with few stalks. Cut and discard a thick slice at the base of the bulb and trim stalks down to about 3 cm (1 inch) from the bulb. Wash thoroughly and peel the outside stalks with a vegetable peeler, if necessary. Blanch fennel before using it in recipes.
  • Use the chopped fennel leaves to season marinades and flavour fish and seafood dishes.
  • Fennel can be boiled, steamed or braised and served with a cheese sauce or added to clear or cream soup.
  • Fennel makes a tasty salad; thinly slice then sprinkle with lime juice or vinaigrette and herbs.
  • For a side-dish, sauté thin strips of raw fennel with a little fresh ginger, or as a main, stir-fry with other vegetables.

Expert tip

Try coating fennel with batter and fry tempura-style.

Availability

 

Fennel is available year-round in the produce section at your Metro supermarket.

Nutritional Value

 

Fennel is a good source of potassium, Vitamin C, iron, folic acid, phosphorus and calcium. It is also rich in Vitamin A and a good source of fibre.

Storage Life

Stalks and outer leaves should be removed. Wrap the fennel bulb in plastic and store in the coldest part of your refrigerator for up to three days.


Fiddleheads

 

Fiddleheads are the ostrich fern's tightly-curled young fronds that are picked early in the spring, before they open and become toxic. They are called fiddleheads because of their fiddle-like shape. They are also sometimes referred to as corkscrew greens.

Characteristics

 

Fiddleheads are picked when they are still tightly curled and do not exceed 2 to 5 cm. Depending on the region, fiddleheads are picked between mid-April and June. Once they have opened, they are no longer edible.


Culinary tips and advice

  • Choose firm, bright-green, tightly curled fiddleheads with their little brown shells still intact.
  • Eat only the curled head and a small portion of the green stem. Remove the blackened tip of the stem with a pairing knife.
  • To prepare fiddleheads, wash them thoroughly in cold water, changing the water several times, making sure the shells are completely removed.
  • Do not eat fiddleheads raw. Fiddleheads should always be cooked, but can be eaten hot or cold. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes by boiling or steaming, followed by pan-frying, if desired.
  • If you prefer a mild taste like asparagus, boil your fiddleheads. If you prefer a somewhat bitter flavour like rapini, steam your fiddleheads.

Expert tip

They are delicious served with a vinaigrette, a pat of butter or coated with a sauce. Serve as a side dish or add to salads, omelettes, pasta dishes and soups.

Availability

 

Fresh fiddleheads are only available for a few weeks in the spring during the harvest at the produce counter.

Nutritional Value

 

Fiddleheads are a super food. They have twice the antioxidant content of blueberries. Fiddleheads are also a non-marine source of omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids. They are rich in iron, fibre, potassium, niacin, zinc and vitamins A and C. They are 3 to 4 times higher in phenolic compound concentration than spinach and contain cancer-fighting agents.

Storage Life

 

Fiddleheads are very fragile and highly perishable. Store them in the refrigerator, immersed in water in a plastic container. If you are careful to change the water every day, fiddleheads will keep for up to two weeks.

 

Fiddleheads are easy to freeze. Simply blanch for one or two minutes then plunge into cold water to stop the cooking process. Freeze in an air-tight container or freezer bag.


Rhubarb

 

Although rhubarb is sometimes mistaken as a fruit, it’s indeed a vegetable and belongs to the same family as sorrel and buckwheat. The word rhubarb comes from the Latin rhubarbarum, which means barbaric root.

Characteristics

 

Rhubarb is a hardy perennial that can grow to a fair size. Only the thick and crunchy stalks of rhubarb are edible. The stalks start off green and mature to a pinkish red. It is best to eat smaller rhubarb stalks as they tend to be more tender and less bitter.


Culinary tips and advice

  • Choose beautifully coloured rhubarb with firm stalks. Cut both extremities of the stalk, wash and slice into pieces. Peel the stalk if it is too stringy.
  • Rhubarb is often eaten raw with a little sugar, or cooked.
  • To purée, cook chunks of rhubarb in a little water at moderate heat until the fibres soften.
  • Rhubarb is a tasty ingredient in cakes, pies, muffins and sherbets. It also lends itself well to compotes and preserves.
  • It’s delicious mixed with fruit such as strawberries or apples. Cinnamon, lemon, ginger and mint also go well with rhubarb.

Expert tip

Rhubarb can also be a refreshing ingredient in saltier dishes and a great accompaniment to white meats and fish.

Availability

 

Rhubarb is available during the summer in the produce section.

Nutritional Value

 

Raw rhubarb is rich in potassium and also contains Vitamin C and calcium.

Storage Life

 

Because rhubarb stalks soften quickly, they can only be stored a few days in the refrigerator. Rhubarb freezes well; simply cut into pieces and store in a freezer bag without blanching or adding any sugar.


Swiss chard

 

Swiss chard is a relative of the beet, but only the stalk and leaves are edible. Greek writings confirm that this vegetable existed as early as the 4th Century.

Characteristics

 

Swiss chard is often compared to spinach in spite of the fact that its leaves are much bigger and have a less pronounced taste. Swiss chard leaves can reach 15 cm in width and can be light green or dark green in colour. The long fleshy stalks are soft and crunchy and vary in colour according to the variety — some are white, others red, and some varieties are even radiant yellow. The more colourful stalks are sweeter.


Culinary tips and advice

  • Choose Swiss chard with firm stalks, and crunchy, spot-free leaves.
  • Wash thoroughly before preparing. If the stalks are fibrous, cut the base and remove the thread-like fibres.
  • Fresh Swiss chard can be served in salads or sandwiches.
  • The leaves may be cooked like spinach and the stalks like asparagus or celery.
  • Cook stalks separately and add the leaves when the stalks are almost cooked.
  • Swiss chard is better steamed or sautéed, and should not be overcooked; the stalks should remain crunchy.

Expert tip

Use Swiss chard with pasta or risotto or serve with a Mornay or Hollandaise sauce.

Availability

 

Swiss chard is available year-round in the produce section.

Nutritional Value

 

Swiss chard is a good source of vitamins A, C, B6, riboflavin, magnesium, potassium, iron, copper and folic acid.

Storage Life

 

Cut Swiss chard stalks and store them separately in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator. Wash, cut and dry the leaves and store them in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator.



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