We’ve been on a vegetable kick at our house recently. We’re receiving a box of organic fruit and vegetables every couple of weeks and I’m on the hook to come up with creative ways to consume large quantities of leafy greens and leeks and sweet potatoes. We’ve been eating a lot of soups.
Vegetables are tricky customers, hiding their identities behind different names, depending on where you are. An American friend of mine once asked me if I’d ever eaten Swiss Chard. “Not that I’m aware of,” said I. But when she brought the chard to the table, it was plain old silver beet. A vegetable that grows like a weed in most NZ gardens. I love it very much, but the exotic promise of the words Swiss Chard was dashed.
I spent years wondering about the mysterious rutabaga, imagining a stern knobbly kind of thing. When I finally found one in Capers in Vancouver, it turned out to be a humble Swede, as grown by South Island farmers as winter feed for their cows. We ate them occasionally when I was a child – they’re mild, slightly sweet and make a good mash.
Just the other day I discovered that, in New Zealand, kale goes by the Italian name of cavolo nero. That’s very cosmopolitan of us.
Zucchinis are courgettes, and courgettes, zucchinis. One French word and one Italian.
Sweet potatoes are kumara (a Maori word) here. And a yam is definitely not a sweet potato; it’s a yam. A small shiny red vegetable which looks rather like a very fat caterpillar.