Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Weird Food

Hello all! The Fresh Pioneer is back and I wanted to take a little break from the delicious recipes and focus on WEIRD FOOD. Yes, you read that right. Food that we don't really think we should eat but we do anyway (and I don't mean Dove bars).

  Let me say that my husband is the king of weird food. Maybe it's just me, but when you eat stuff out of the lawn, you're getting a little too organic. Let's take a tour, shall we?

This pretty little specimen is a wild cousin of the chamomile plant. It grows in our driveway. Hubby picks it, boils it for about ten minutes and has something like chamomile tea. Smells delicious. The kids love it. I say... weird food. My tea comes in a nice little Lipton packet like it should, thank you very much.
Tomatillos, in their husks. (*Waves at Jan and her pico de gallo.*)They weren't quite ready to come out, but inside, these little gals are like tiny green tomatoes. Weird Food Man roasts, then boils, then blends them (see, right there, you shouldn't have to cook it SO MANY TIMES) for salsa verde. Plus, the way he makes it is just.... hot.
This is our walnut tree. It gives us about 15 pounds of walnuts. Every fall I unleash my inner squirrel and harvest them by the bucket. We start when the peel is splitting, get the rind off, and let them air dry for two weeks, then spend a few days of agony getting them out of their stubborn little shells. It's as if they really don't want to be made into walnut chocolate chip cookies and walnut banana bread and spicy walnut trail mix.  Huh. Weird.
*hugs walnut tree* 
Onward! 
These are red currants. I'm sure you've heard of them. They make great jelly, sort of a cranberry-ish flavor. What? You can't seem them properly? Fine... I just thought everyone would enjoy that sweet face . :)
Better? What is weird about red currants is they just scream, "POISON, DO NOT EAT!" At least, they do to me. I can't look at them without checking over my shoulder for the villain who has dropped this poisonous berry on my plate and is waiting for me to eat it and DIE.
These are our seedless grapes.... tiny champagne grapes that grow golden tan and glow with the setting sun, giving off the sort of irresistable aroma that would make a vintner swoon. Oh, mercy, I want some NOW. Which is why this is here, in the weird food, because the above-pictured sweet faced child eats them months early. We have to have the whole row blocked off or he'll make himself sick. And I tried one. It tasted like a hundred year old pickle dipped in ear wax. Bad, bad, bad. But he loves them. He must have weird food genes.
Uh, this would be a better picture but they're not ready. This is Weird Food Man's Indian corn patch. He has about five different varieties and when they're ripe they look like this...
But here's the weird part. He doesn't eat the corn. He grows them for the SMUT. Seriously. That's what they call it in English. In Spanish it's much nicer. Huitlacoche. (WEET-LA-KO-CHAY) It's an Aztec delicacy, a fungus that grows on the corn kernals.

You can eat the fungus boiled or in tacos. It's apparently very, very good for you and expensive in some areas and in vogue in some restaurants. Don't Google if you haven't eaten lunch yet. I don't care how nutritious it is. It's gross and weird.
This one isn't so bad. This is panocha, or brown sugar made from yams. But can't they put it in a bag? Really, a hard cone of sugar that you sprinkle with water and let sit on the counter for a week or so? Sounds like a kid trap to me. Weird. Anyway, it goes with sweet rice and cinnamon. End result is tasty if you can get past THIS on your counter for a while.
Okay, truthfully, this isn't weird at all. It's gorgeous. Pretty baby! Look at you, so purple and heirloom-y shaped! Mmmmmm.... We'll talk later, you and I.

Next up is a squash blossom. Weird Foody soaks them in salted water (he says for flavor, I say to flush out the many-legged critters lurking inside) and then toasts in a corn tortilla.

We have plenty of these because he plants in the old Aztec way of Las Tres Hermanas (The Three Sisters). You plant your corn (smut!), and your squash (buggy flowers!) and your beans ('nuff said!) together, in one row. So the beans crawl up the corn, and the huge squash leaves shade the ground to keep the soil moist in the hot weather.

Now, we have some napolitos, or cactus leaves. Weird Food Man can't go a week without this stuff.
It takes about 30 minutes to skim the tiny slivers off. (There. That tells me you shouldn't eat it when it has to be DISARMED first.) Ouch.

Next is my prime argument against cactus. When you start cutting it, the cactus begins to OOZE.


It stretches. Think egg whites. Think aloe vera. Think UGH.
But we'll ignore all the signs that tell us DO NOT EAT THIS and slice some onion, some fresh garlic, and cut it into tiny pieces. Into the pot it goes, to boil! (Excuse my dirty floor. And my feet. And my husband's feet. It was a weird food family portrait.)
When it's done, you mix it with your big bowl of fresh beans (you have those on hand, from the pot you made this morning, remember?) and add some pickled peppers from the can on the left. Ta-dah! A weird dinner!

 (And hey, you can see my food in the background. COOKIES. Totally normal.)



Now, before you think I hate anything from cactus, I have to say, I do love a little bit of tuna. That's the fruit that is only in seasons at certain months of the year, usually the rainy season.  (Tuna! Really, that's what the fruit is called. Always makes me laugh. Who knew tuna came from cactus! )Here's some cut.
One red, one green. Looks gory, eh?

They're super, super tasty with a flavor that is hard to describe. Something between a cantaloupe and a kiwi. But lots of tooth-cracking seeds. You just have to suck off the good stuff and spit the rest. Not good for first dates. Unless you're cool with that.
Mmmmmm.....

So, now that you've graduated from the W.F. tour, go out and eat something UNUSUAL. And let us know what it was, and how you liked it.


This is from my 'Joy of Cooking'. How to skin a squirrel. If you ate something like this, please don't tell me. I'd like to think of you all as very sane, thank you very much. :)

Until next time!












44 comments:

  1. Oh,Virginia. You helped me start off my day with a great laugh.

    You have a husband who makes salsa verde with his own tomatillos? Lucky woman!

    My grandmother had a black walnut tree. Again, lucky woman!

    I have tried everything on your weird food list except the corn mold. Probably would eat that too if I wasn't allergic to corn.

    As someone who has eaten everything from snails to pigeon, you would think I wouldn't be freaked by the skinning squirrel part but FREAKY.

    Thanks again. Peace, Julie

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    1. I actually love a lot of weird food myself, but it's not WEIRD to me! I would hate to out myself with a post on the food I, myself, eat, ya know?

      :O

      One thing... I love pickle and peanut butter sandwiches.

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  2. Oh, and cutest young un and tee-shirt ever. And that is saying a lot because I have grandchildren the same age!!!

    :-)

    Julie

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    1. Aw, thanks! And he's my mini-me. All the others are very dark haired and eyes... except for blondie who has green. We're not sure where he came from, the blond one. My husband likes to make cracks about his parentage.

      I just tell him that blondie is the ONLY one that's his. :D

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    2. I was thinking that he looked like you - except that seemed presumptuous because all I know of what you look like is those avatar pics. ;)

      Adorable and makes the food much less weird.

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    3. Yeah, now I know how to poison Mary Curry! Cute kid holding deathly berries...

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    4. Note to self when critiquing - love everything about her books.

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    5. Note to self when critiquing - love everything about her books.

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    6. Well, I don't have a temper, really, so giving me a bad critique wouldn't be the way to get on my bad side. How about...

      Posting your delicious dinner every day on facebook? What is it with those people? Don't they know I'm dieting???

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  3. Wow, Virginia!! I've never heard of some of those things! I guess I've been sheltered. LOL

    I can't imagine eating much out of that list except for that gorgeous purple tomato. And of course I might have to have a nibble on the cheek of that precious little one! He's beautiful!

    I do have a good one to add to your list. My husband's grandmother used to go out in the back yard and pick poke weed to cook for lunch. That's probably the strangest thing I've eaten. :)

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    1. Ok, now I have to Google poke weed. The name itself is making me laugh!

      I was at a neighbor's yard sale once when a Mexican family came up and asked if they could weed her garden. They were just floored but said yes, because hey! Free weeding!

      What they were taking out was something like baby mustard or turnip greens. Which my friend had all over, for some reason.

      Apparently, very tasty when

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    2. Oh my goodness. I just googled pokeweed. And this is what is says on the American Cancer Society website. Check out the last sentence! LOL

      Some research has shown that a protein contained in pokeweed, called pokeweed antiviral protein (PAP), has anti-tumor effects in mice and laboratory studies. In test tube studies, PAP has also shown action against viruses such as herpes and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Clinical trials have not yet determined whether these effects apply to humans. All parts of the mature pokeweed plant contain chemically active substances such as phytolaccine, formic acid, tannin, and resin acid. All parts of the plant are at least mildly poisonous when eaten, although the root is most toxic.

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    3. Oh, and more!! LOL Hubby's grandmother would cook the leaves, and we'd eat just like turnip or mustard greens. Here's what I found on another site:


      Pokeweed is a flowering plant. Pokeweed poisoning occurs when someone eats pieces of this plant.

      This is for information only and not for use in the treatment or management of an actual poison exposure. If you have an exposure, you should call your local emergency number (such as 911) or the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

      Poisonous Ingredient
      Phytolaccatoxin
      Phytolaccigenin
      Where Found
      The highest amounts of poison are found in the roots, leaves, and stems. Small amounts are in the fruit.

      Cooked berries and leaves (cooked twice in separate water) can be eaten (although there is no guarantee that they are safe). The roots should never be eaten.

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    4. I bet hubby's grandmother was picking the early greens - the new shoots in the spring. They probably aren't poisonous...

      Although, you know tomatoes are a member of the nightshade family, so raw tomatoes are poisonous, right?

      Wait, wait - you have to follow this logic. How do I know tomatoes are poisonous? Well, have you ever known someone who eats raw tomatoes and isn't dead, or will die someday?

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  4. I am in awe. Flabbergasted. I'm taking my Duncan Hines cake mixes and GOING HOME.

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    1. HAHAHAHAHA! Oh come on... I know you've got some weird food up your sleeve. Er... in your kitchen. I challenge you to come clean before God and Yankee Belle Cafe and tell us what you eat!

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  5. I'm with Ruthy - in awe. I had no idea you were so talented.

    And patient. I mean, 30 minutes to de-fang your food? Okay, maybe if it's tasty enough...

    I'm also amazed at how much you had to learn to cook for your husband! It must have been an interesting culture blend for both of you :)

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    1. Ummmmmmmm..... I don't cook that stuff.

      Really. I love him, he's a great guy, but I'm not skinning cactus.

      I actually can't cook beans either (I didn't say 'cook worth beans'!) I can never get them right. So, he does that, too.

      I've almost got him trained.

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  6. I'm pretty much speechless.

    But I can't help wondering how differently I'd have turned out if I grew up in your house. I was told I'd poison the family because I gathered lilacs for the breakfast table and put them in a drinking glass.

    Then there was the time my friend and I ate honeysuckle before kindergarten. I had to eat a loaf of bread and drink a quart of milk to "dilute the poison".

    Yeah - not a lot of adventure.

    So, as I was walking the dog this morning (after reading your blog) I noticed something. He likes to pee on all the weeds growing in the sidewalk cracks. Hmmmmm. No tea for me.

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    1. Haha! EW!

      And I've eaten honeysuckle, too! I remember doing that when I was little. Love those trees.

      I love lilacs. Just gorgeous! I didn't know they were poisonous. I put them all over when they're in bloom. :O

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    2. LOL, Mary!!! You just have to learn how to eat honeysuckle. You pinch the green part off, then pull the stamen out. Then you lick the good tasting liquid off. No poison there! :)

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    3. Missy, I was doing it right. It's just that my mother didn't believe me. I was 5 so I guess I can understand..

      Funny thing is, we were talking about this a few weeks ago. She told me what had really freaked her out was not so much the honeysuckle as it was the elderly woman who invited us into her house to eat it. STRANGER DANGER!

      :0

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    4. Oh, how funny, Mary!! I thought you meant you ate the whole bloom. :)

      Your mom was trying not to make you afraid of people, and instead made you afraid of beautiful plants! LOL

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    5. OK, that is some very weird old lady! Don't they usually lure kids in with cookies???

      Then again, I may just turn out like her when I get old (er)...

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  7. LOL -- oh my word -- I'm out of words!!! I have never heard of any of those 'foods' except walnuts and I've only ever seen them all walnut looking in the grocery store! The kidlet was awfully cute though I worry about his young and impressionable digestive tract. :-)

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    1. Funny, there are some things I didn't put in here that are really, truly, gross. Things my husband eats that are from animals (tripe soup, etc.) and I don't let my kids eat it. Which makes everyone crazy because it smells so good.

      Also, we have an old lady that brings us tamales for sale every Saturday. I've let them eat that, but a few times she's brought candied pumpkin. I'm not sure how it's made, but I know it gets to sit for a really long while somewhere not refrigerated. So, none of that, either.

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  8. what's the purple thing- a funky shaped eggplant? I've actually had cactus - napalitos? - work with a couple of hispanics and one guy's wife I'd marry myself if she weren't taken - the woman can COOK! simple things taste good when she does them - cant remember what she did with the cactus but it was ina tortilla - think egg and ham or potato..it looks good in the beans!
    I couldnt' eat fungus - well I eat mushrooms but try not to think about it - so maybe I could get that other down but jsut don't tell me. I insulted coworkers by asking if something was 'regular meat' or 'intestines' 'cause one guy used to bring some weird stuff like menudo and ya'll don't look it up if you dont' know what it is! ooops I see the above posts already mentioned the gross stuff LOL!
    susanna

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    1. Ew, totally. I can't even tell you the scary stuff I've eaten out of politeness.

      And yes, that was an eggplant!

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  9. oops almost forgot! :-) Kroger has these baggies of already cut up cactus! (of course they charge for it!)
    Susanna

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    1. Oh, man, that would be great! I would totally pay for keeping my kitchen sticker-free.

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    2. one day I'm gonna buy 'em - forgot about them when I was there last night plus not sure what I'd do with them with just me - there was quite a bit in that baggy! they were over by the bell peppers and those herb squeeze thingies - garlic paste, ginger paste,etc.

      Susanna

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    3. Our Safeway has that very section, but it just has fresh everything and the herbs, etc. Right next to the packaged salads??

      I wonder if it freezes? Probably not. But I do know you can put it in jars. Not as good...

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    4. this Kroger had it at the end of one section then there's a little section of cut fruit then the salad and pico and chopped onions and stuff like that - kebobs - shoot this kroger even has an olive bar - a section with olives I've never heard of! I know the guy who brought it said you only use a little 'cause it has a kinda laxative effect...I think there were maybe 6 little pieces in the taco I had..now I'm wondering if that was true of if he didn't want me eating the other taco?! :-)
      I have Randalls which sells Safeway stuff - haven't checked there but the sticky cactus they have with those same squeeze tubes but they're in the peppers and mushroom section - the salad stuff is opposite corner - it's not a fancy store though.
      Susanna

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    5. Huh. Laxative? I don't think so if they're fresh... I've eaten them by the bowl when I was really craving some. :O

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  10. Oh, all of this reminds me of my wedding feast in Mexico.

    $500 for a calf, butchered. Into a pit in the ground to roast for 3 days. They just kept heaping hot coals on the wood. Then shredded and made into birria. They served it out of big metal trashcans, lined with plastic. Stacks of tortillas higher than your head.

    And coca cola, for the Americans.

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    1. I'd have called off the wedding I think! esp if I'd known about the fungus on the corn and having to peel cactus..this must be one heck of a dude! :-)
      susanna

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    2. Heehee! Yeah, I knew none of that. Funny thing, I thought he was SO exotic... until I visited his home town. Then I realized he was practically American.

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  12. I keep forgetting to tell you, Virginia. I plant the 3 sisters garden with my 4th graders each year when we study the Native Americans in New York as part of our SS unit.

    We do it in soda bottles or something (and this is NYC) but one girl actually had corn grow on her stalk.

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    1. Oh, Mary! That is SO cool! I actually just thought my husband was a very messy gardner until I had a friend visit. She worked with ESL students and they ahd done a project on it, soo she recognized it right away. I just thought he couldn't plant in a row!!

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  13. You know, Virginia, I've been wondering how to skin a squirrel. I'm so glad you posted that. Now I'm good to go.

    KIDS?! You know that roadkill you've been wanting? :-)

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