Vegetables

Vegetables

Vegetables is a catch-all category that includes many of the edible parts of a plant, like stems, roots, flowers, tubers, and leaves. Some biological fruits that aren't very sweet, like tomatoes, squash, peppers, eggplants, and beans, are considered by cooks to be vegetables.


acorn squash, Des Moines squash, pepper squash
acorn squash
This orange-fleshed winter squash is popular because of its small size--it can be cut in half and baked to make two generous servings. The rind, unfortunately, is quite hard and difficult to cut. To avoid injuring yourself, first slice off both the top and the bottom with a sharp knife, and use the stem end as a base for the more treacherous halving cut. Select acorn squash with as much green on the rind as possible, though most will have a single orange spot on one side.
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Agrinion olive
Agrinion olive
This is a large, green Greek olive with very tender flesh.
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ají panca chili - dried, aji panca chile
ají panca chili - dried
This reddish-brown dried chili is fruity, mild, and a little smoky.
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Aleppo olive
This is a black, dry-cured Middle Eastern olive that's hard to find in the United States.
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alfalfa sprouts, lucerne
alfalfa sprouts
These are too wispy to cook, but they're great raw in salads and sandwiches.
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Alphonso olive, Alfonso olive
Alphonso olive
This large Chilean olive is cured in a wine or wine vinegar solution, which gives it a beautiful dark purple color and tart flavor. Its flesh is very tender and slightly bitter.
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American eggplant, globe eggplant
American eggplant
This is the familiar large, dark purple, pear-shaped variety. Choose small or medium-sized eggplants (these have fewer bitter seeds) with healthy-looking green stems that are firm to the touch, but not too hard. Avoid mushy ones. Store them in the refrigerator.
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Amphissa olive, Amfisa olive, Amfissa olive
Amphissa olive
These are dark purple Greek olives that are hard to find in the U.S. They're great for snacking.
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Anaheim chili, Anaheim chile, California green chili, california red chili
Anaheim chili
These large, mild chiles are perfect for chiles rellenos. Mexican cooks also like to dice or purée them, and then add them to sauces, soups, and casseroles. They have a tough skin, but it peels off easily if you first char the chiles over a flame and then steam them in a paper bag for several minutes. Anaheims are available year-round, but they're best in the summer. You can occasionally find red Anaheims, which are riper and slightly hotter. When dried, this pepper is called a chile Colorado.
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ancho chili, pasilla rojo, pasilla chile, dried poblano, chile color
ancho chili
These mild, dried poblano peppers have a sweet, fruity flavor and are a staple in Mexican cuisine. They're brownish-black and wrinkled, and commonly used in adobos, moles, salsas, and various sauces.
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angled loofa, angled loofah, ridged gourd, ribbed loofah, sinkwa towelsponge
angled loofa
A native of Pakistan, this mild vegetable has a slightly bitter edge that pairs well with sweet and acidic ingredients in stir-fry dishes. You can also eat it raw, or dry it to make a loofa sponge. You can leave the peel on, but some people find the flavor off-putting. Remove any large seeds if you wish to cut the bitterness.
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apple green eggplant, green apple eggplant, applegreen eggplant
apple green eggplant
These eggplant resemble green apples, and are mild and sweet. You don't need to peel them.
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arame, sea oak
arame
This popular seaweed is very sweet and mild, and it's loaded with iron, calcium, and iodine.
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Arauco olive
Arauco olive
These are large green Spanish olives flavored with rosemary.
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Arbequina olive
Arbequina olive
These are tiny green Spanish olives with a mild, smoky flavor. They're hard to find in the U.S.
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arracacha, apio
arracacha
These come from South America. According to the FAO, they taste like a cross between celery, cabbage, and chestnuts.
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arrowroot, arrow root, arrowhead, Chinese arrowhead, Chinese potato, ci gu
arrowroot
The name arrowroot is more commonly associated with a thickener that's made from the plant. A fresh arrowroot tuber looks like a small onion, only without the layers. It should be peeled, and then it can be boiled or stir-fried. Look for it in Chinese markets during the winter.
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artichoke, French artichoke, globe artichoke, green artichoke
artichoke
Artichokes are the unopened flowers and stems of a kind of thistle. You cook them, then peel off and eat the bases of the thick green petals (called leaves). At the center is the heart, the choicest portion of the artichoke, covered by the choke, a hairy pad that should be peeled off and discarded. Their peak season is early summer.
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arugula, arrugola, eruca, garden rocket, Italian cress, Mediterranean rocket
arugula
With its peppery and slightly bitter flavor, arugula is a terrific green to throw into an otherwise boring salad. It can be gently braised, too. Some supermarkets sell it in small bunches, but you're more likely to find it combined with other greens in a spring salad mix.
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Asian eggplants, Chinese eggplants, Japanese eggplants, Oriental eggplants
Asian eggplants
Include Japanese eggplants and Chinese eggplants, have thinner skins and a more delicate flavor than American eggplants, and not as many of the seeds that tend to make eggplants bitter. They're usually more slender than American eggplants, but they vary in size and shape. They range in color from lavender to pink, green, and white.
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asparagus
asparagus
Asparagus has a wonderfully distinctive flavor and a meaty texture. It's often served as a side dish, after being steamed or briefly boiled. Better cooks insist that it be peeled first, but many people skip this step. To remove the tough base, simply snap the asparagus in half with your hands. The stalk should break right about at the point where it starts getting too tough to serve to company. There's a purple variety, but it turns green when it's cooked and so loses its novelty. White asparagus, on the other hand, is more tender than green, and more expensive. Asparagus is often available year-round, but the best time to buy it is in the spring.
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Atalanta olive
Atalanta olive
This is a muddy-green Greek olive with soft flesh.
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bacon avocado
bacon avocado
This sweet, smooth-skinned variety shows up in the middle of winter. It's not as flavorful as other avocados.
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bamboo shoots, bambo sprouts, choke-sun, chun-sun, takenoko, take-noko, tung sun
bamboo shoots
You can buy fresh shoots at some Chinese markets, but you must boil them first to rid them of hydrocyanic acid, a toxin that causes cyanide poisoning. Canned shoots are safer and more widely available. Rinse them well before using. Submerge any unused shoots in fresh water and store them in a sealed container in the refrigerator, changing the water daily.
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banana blossom, banana flower
banana blossom
These are popular in Southeast Asia and India, where they're boiled in water or coconut milk, then eaten like artichokes
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banana pepper , banana chile, sweet banana pepper, banana chili pepper
banana pepper
These sweet, mild peppers with a fruity flavor are easily confused with hotter yellow wax peppers. Sample before using.
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banana squash
banana squash
This variety is so large that grocers usually cut into smaller chunks before putting it out. It's tasty, but its biggest virtue is the beautiful golden color of its flesh.
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bear's head mushroom, bearded tooth mushroom, satyr's beard mushroom
bear's head mushroom
These grow yellow and sour-tasting with age, so buy only white ones. They're best sautéed or gently boiled.
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beet, beetroots, garden beet, red beet, table beet
beet
Beets have a distinctive earthy flavor that's enhanced by roasting, but they can also be steamed, microwaved, or boiled. A beet will be more flavorful and colorful if you leave the peel and some of the stem on while it's cooking. After it's cooled down, the peel comes off fairly easily. Varieties include the familiar red beets, golden beets, which turn a golden orange when cooked and are slightly sweeter than red beets, white beets, and chioggia (pronounced KYAHD-dja) = candy-stripe beets = candy cane beets which have alternating white and red rings inside. Baby beets are sweeter and faster-cooking than larger beets. Select beets that are heavy for their size. Canned beets are a good substitute for fresh.
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beet greens
beet greens
Like their close relative, Swiss chard, beet greens have lots of flavor and a good, sturdy texture. The best ones are young and tender, and sometimes come with small beets attached.
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Belgian endive, Belgium chicory, blanching chicory, chicon, chicory
Belgian endive
These crunchy, slightly bitter leaves are often used to make hors d'oeuvres, but they can also be chopped and added to salads, or braised to make an exquisite (and expensive) side dish. Select heads with yellow tips; those with green tips are more bitter. Their peak season is the late fall and winter.
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bell pepper, capsicum, sweet pepper
bell pepper
Red and yellow peppers are riper, more flavorful, and pricier than the more common green ones. You can occasionally find bell peppers in other colors as well, like brown, white, pink, orange, and purple. Bell peppers are the perfect size for hollowing out and stuffing, or you can slice them into strips for snacking or dipping.
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Bermuda onion
Bermuda onion
These bulb-shaped onions have a sweet mild flavor. They're available in the spring.
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Bibb lettuce, limestone lettuce
Bibb lettuce
This butterhead lettuce has delicate, loose leaves and lots of flavor. The only downside is that it's usually expensive.
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Bintje potato
Bintje potato
This is a creamy, yellow-fleshed potato that's especially good for roasting and making fries
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bitter melon, ampalaya, balsam pear, bitter apple, bitter cucumber
bitter melon
This bitter vegetable is believed to have medicinal properties and is widely used throughout Asia.
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black olives, ripe olives
black olives
These are olives that have been allowed to ripen on the tree. American recipes that call for black olives are probably referring to the Mission olive. Other varieties of black olives are the Aleppo, Alphonso, Amphissa, black Cerignola, Gaeta, black Greek, Kalamata, Ligurian, Lugano, Moroccan dry-cured, Niçoise, Nyons, Ponentine, and Royal.
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black radish, Black Spanish radish, Erfurter radish
black radish
These large, pungent radishes are better known in Eastern Europe than in the United States. With their black peels and white interiors, they can be fashioned into attractive garnishes, or you can peel and cook them like turnips. You can also serve them raw, though it helps to tame them down first by salting and rinsing them.
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black trumpet mushroom, black chanterelle, horn of plenty
black trumpet mushroom
This is a very choice, flavorful mushroom. Dried black trumpets are excellent, too.
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blewit mushrooms, blewitt mushrooms, blue foot mushrooms, blue-leg mushrooms
blewit mushrooms
These are prized more for their beauty than their flavor, which is pleasant but somewhat mild. Dried blewits are even less flavorful than fresh.
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boiling onion, boiler, boiler onion
boiling onion
These are small versions of yellow, white, or red onions. They're up to two inches in diameter, and usually cooked whole.
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boiling potato, low-starch potato, waxy potato
boiling potato
Potatoes in this category hold their shape after cooking, so they're great for making potato salads and scalloped potatoes. They're not good for mashing, baking, or making fries. Types of boiling potatoes are new potatoes, fingerling potatoes, round white potatoes, and round red potatoes.
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bok choy, baak choi, baby bok choy, bai cai, bok choy sum, Canton bok choy
bok choy
Bok choy has crunchy stems and crinkled, spinach-like leaves. It's usually stir-fried with other ingredients, but it can also be steamed or sautéed and served as a side dish. Small heads of bok choy are called baby bok choy (left), and they're more tender than the larger variety. Of the baby bok choys, bok choy sum = Canton bok choy has small yellow flowers (sum is the Chinese word for flower), while Shanghai bok choy is a uniform light green, doesn't have flowers, and isn't as sweet.
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Boniato, batata, batata dulce, batiste, camote, Cuban sweet potato
Boniato
Boniatos aren't as sweet and moist as other sweet potatoes, but many people prefer their fluffier consistency and more delicate flavor. Store them at room temperature and use them soon after your purchase them, since they tend to spoil quickly.
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Boston lettuce
Boston lettuce
This is a type of butterhead lettuce, with soft, tender leaves. It's terrific in salads and sandwiches, or the leaves can be used as a bed for other dishes.
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broccoflower, green cauliflower
broccoflower
This is a green variety of cauliflower.
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broccoli, Calabrese broccoli
broccoli
Broccoli is tasty, good for you, and easy to cook. The florets can be steamed or boiled and served as a side dish, or served raw on a crudité platter, or stir-fried. The stems are good, too, but you should peel them first and cook them a little longer. Select broccoli that's dark green and fresh smelling.
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