It seems only fitting to follow up with five of the most delectable of our nation’s vegetables. Why not head to your local grocer or farmers’ market and pick up some of each? After all, healthy eating means enjoying seven to 10 servings of fruits and veggies every day!
5. Bell peppers
Remember how Chairman Kaga, overseer of the original Iron Chef, would lustily bite into a bell pepper during the opening credits of that seminal food-competition show? He’s not the only one with a taste for the sweet capsicum! In Canada, bell peppers are largely greenhouse-grown in B.C., Alberta and Ontario, which means we can enjoy them fresh year-round. When served raw they make an excellent delivery vehicle for a nice, light dip, or toss them into a stir-fry for some extra colour and texture. If you have the time, roast a couple of reds in the oven—or on the barbecue—to really bring out their sweetness, then cut a few strips for a great sandwich or burger topping.
I’m guessing this may be a controversial pick, though fiddleheads have definitely grown in popularity over the past few years. The young curled fronds of the ostrich fern are a springtime delicacy in Ontario, Quebec, and parts of the Maritimes, where they’re generally foraged. They’re a bit finicky to clean, and you’re advised to boil them for at least 10 minutes (some cases of gastrointestinal illness have been reported by people who’ve eaten raw fiddleheads), but once cooked, and paired with some butter and a bit of garlic, you’ll be rewarded with a vitamin-rich dish with a complex, asparagus-like flavour.
These deep-orange (and sometimes white, yellow, red or purple) roots are arguably the most popular snack vegetable, equally great for kids to take to school and adults to serve at social events. A serving of crunchy raw or soft steamed carrots (or carrot juice, if that’s how you roll) packs a healthy punch; the veggie contains valuable amounts of antioxidants such as beta-carotene and lutein, and has been shown to have significant cardiovascular and anti-cancer benefits.
The quintessential late-summer vegetable—shucking cobs of sweet corn for the family dinner table is practically a right of passage for Canadian kids. It may not be quite so packed with nutrients as some other vegetables, but what corn lacks in, say, antioxidants, it makes up for with versatility; you can cook it on or off the cob, of course, and who doesn’t love popcorn and nachos?
Yes, yes. Botanically speaking, tomatoes are a fruit. For cooking purposes, however, they’re most often considered vegetables, and so I have no qualms about claiming them as such for this list. I also have no problem awarding them top spot! Cultivated across the country on farms, in greenhouses, and in home gardens, juicy, subtly sweet tomatoes work terrifically well in so many culinary settings. What would your pasta be without tomato sauce? Lacking a few tomato slices, would your burger, club sandwich or BLT be as satisfying? Your salad certainly benefits from that little extra kick of acidity. And who can resist popping fresh-picked heirloom tomatoes directly into their mouth?
Do these homegrown veggies set you salivating in anticipation for the bounties ahead? Or are you shaking your head vehemently at seeing tomato top my list? Let me know your thoughts.
Craig Moy is an editor at a Toronto-based city magazine. He also writes about all manner of cultural topics, including food culture.