With less than a week until Thanksgiving, I’m putting my grinchiness aside and fully embracing the decorative-gourd-adorned, pumpkin-pie-spiced, charred-marshmallow-topped, beautiful gluttony of the holiday. It is truly tempting, since we live in the Northeast, for me to tell you that Thanksgiving is the OG of local, seasonal cooking, but since my goal is not to be entirely obvious with this column, I won’t tell you to eat sweet potatoes, cranberries, pie pumpkins, or brussels sprouts this week–even though that’s where a lot of farms’ energies are going. Instead, as you shop for your holiday meal keep your eyes open for cool, crunchy, healthy things you’re going to want to eat the day after you stuff yourself as big as a Thanksgiving turkey. Also, keep in mind that this week is the last one of the season for many outdoor farmers markets so even if you’re not cooking or hosting, this might be your last chance to stock up on local goodies unless you sign up for a winter CSA or visit the Fair Food Farmstand at Reading Terminal Market.
Note: Headhouse’s Sunday market runs through 12/22 with a special pre-Thanksgiving market this Wednesday. Clark Park runs every Saturday, all year round.
–Kohlrabi This crazy-looking vegetable appears as though it should be a root, grown like carrots, turnips or radishes, but it actually grows above ground. It has a pleasant broccoli-stem flavor and though some people cook it as you would a root, I think it’s at it’s best when left raw, peeled and eaten simply. It’s great cut into batons as a snack with hummus, or grated with apple into a slaw. The greens are tasty, too, so chop them up and fry them with eggs to serve alongside a slice of apple or pumpkin pie for a balanced breakfast.
–Fennel People think they don’t like fennel, because it tastes too licorice-y, but if you can handle the level of anise flavor in most cookies from any number of South Philly bakeries, it’s time for you to step up and recognize something about fennel. Namely, that when you have it raw it has a very mild licorice flavor. Mostly, it’s sweet, juicy, and crunchy. If you’re already crazy about it, go forth and braise away, make it into a gratin, and do whatever else you will. If you’re not yet a convert, try it raw, sliced thinly, in a salad with oranges and olives, or roasted with onion and Italian sausage.
–Cabbage Not just for grandmas or Eastern European immigrants! To be fair, it’s hard to make cabbage sexy. It’s never going to have the righteous trendiness of kale, and nobody is going to dehydrate it into chips and charge eight dollars for it. No matter what, it’s always going to be cabbage. Even so, you have to appreciate it. Cabbage is cheap. Cabbage will last ages in your fridge, and even longer if you ferment it into some sauerkraut or kimchi, which actually makes it even healthier than in its raw form (probiotics, for the win!). It works well with lots of different kinds of foods. Hack off a chunk to use in a stir fry, and then a few days later cook the rest with butter for the perfect excuse to eat pierogi. It’s tangy in slaw. It invented slaw. Cabbage: have some respect.