Friday, 28 May 2010

how to break your own heart

Though we may be constantly evolving and changing, certain habits, tendencies, and behaviors we still seem doomed to repeat.

For example, I will continually buy and cook broccoli rapini, and continually be disappointed in my incarnation of this Italian vegetable. A continually breaking heart, with only myself as the culprit.

It's fitting really, to compare heartbreak to rapini. Let's take a look at it for a moment. Rapini: lovely tapered green stalks, heirloom, sought after, not overly common. A chef's vegetable, if you will, not the home cook's. Stylish in its greenery and deceiving in its simplicity. Essentially, rapini calls to me.

So I buy it. I let the delicately curved leaves entice me, I let the floral buds intrigue me. Seduction by a vegetable, at its best.

And then, I cook it, blind to the fact that in the past, I have truly disliked this green creature. I forget that every other time, that I've cooked rapini, I've been dissatisfied. I push forward, saying to myself that this time it will be different.

Then, the strikingly bitter flavor hits me. The characteristic stringyness, undisguised under the vibrant green color, shows itself once more. Any combination of chili, garlic, or anchovies - some of the strongest flavors in the book, I might note - have yet to temper or tame this bitterness for me. Any change of temperature, steam, or heat has yet to change the unpleasant stringiness that assaults my teeth. No matter what I try, I can't seem to force rapini to suit my taste bud's needs. And yet, I keep going back to it.

Of course there is always reasoning. Excuses. Sometimes logical, even: it's a vegetable, so it must be healthy. Hell, it's a beautiful green vegetable, it must be super healthy. But everytime I take that first bite, my heart sinks, and I say to myself: ah yes, I've been here before.

Why it hasn't occurred to me that I don't have to love every green vegetable, I'm not sure. My dinner plate does not have to be an equal opportunity plate, nor is it less of a plate for being so. Picking and choosing what we eat should be part of the fun of showing up in the world every day, or so they say.

If I stuck to my ever loyal Tuscan kale, perhaps I'd be a happier person. But the nature of the garden and the market demands a bit more creativity. It demands us to spread our attentions and seek out new vegetables.

Example: green garlic. This may not be new for some, and is not technically new for me, having discovered this vegetable a year ago. But the beauty of green garlic is it disappeared from my life last spring. I had nearly forgotten about it. And then, like an old friend showing up with a new haircut, green garlic leapt back into my sphere of attention.

Like rapini, it also is a lovely creature. Long green fronds tapering from the slim, pearly heads. A lot of plant that syphoning its energy into a tiny fruit. Concentrated, yet manageable in time, space, and flavor, green garlic is far from ubiquitous, and yet offers so many possibilities.

Minced raw over creamy goat cheese and then drizzled in olive oil, stewed then pureed into a simple potato and leek soup, slivered and then browned in butter - each option approachable and uncomplicated. Green garlic offers its humble self with its dirty little hairs, and its up to you to coax it out of those outer wrappings.

It's healing in some way, green garlic. Some might say grounding. Whether embraced for it's slightly sweet sharpness, or tempered with a close and potent heat, green garlic is something to crave and indulge in while it's here, temporarily available, teasingly showcasing its wares.

It will leap out of my world again soon, I'm sure. But that's part of the beauty. I know I love it, though it's not always there. It will come and go, but with seasonal predictability. It doesn't fool me with desperate beauty, and in fact dares me to overlook it altogether with its potent and humbling stink.

Green garlic is an edible after my heart: lovely and overlooked, rare, yet reappearing.


  1. Fun article, Tess! This is my first year eating green garlic, partially out of interest, partially to free up the garden bed for summer plants. I'm loving it.

  2. We have a similar veg in the Chinese markets and I cook it with oyster sauce and sugar to brighten its bitterness. I also add water to the oil so it steams a bit before it gets sauteed.