Friday, March 11, 2005

In the name of fiber, eat your stalks and skins!

I'm the kind of foodie that munches on a raw kale stalk until I can't chew through it anymore. And I discovered last night just how tasty the skins of boiled beets are (washed... not that a little dirt ever hurt anyone). And let's not get started on how healthful broccoli stalks and potato skins are. I like to explore the flavor nuances in every nook of the vegetable -- though some families like Solanaceae (nightshades), Rosaceae (not all almond-looking pits are almonds), and Apiaceae (carrot greens) do have no-trespassing areas.

However, it has come to my attention (mostly through jokes made on my behalf) that this is not normal. Just a few weeks ago a letter to The Ethicist asked, "can I break off and pay for only the mushroom caps," implying that the stem is unfit to bring home to the family. But there is hope for "extraneous" food. If you're one of those people not currently into the tops of leeks or squash skins, then perhaps the recipes at Expendable Edibles (via TastingMenu) may offer you some motivation.

Where we draw the boundary of edibility seems somewhat arbitrary. Beet greens are thought inedible, until you call them chard. My friend Adi took me by surprise two nights ago when she neglected to peel her kiwi and bit right in. Who knew? I suppose it's naive to think of this situation as arbitrary, though. In most cases it comes back to how sugary or effortless a bite is to chew, a great example being the watermelon's crisp white layer -- my layer of choice. And since it hasn't killed me yet, I think I'll continue my informal exploration of forbidden foods.

On the flip side, your compost is probably much better fed, and there's nothing wrong with giving some of what we reap back to the earth.

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