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Stalk Vegetables




Pronunciation:  uh-SPARE-uh-gus   

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.    

Substitutes:  white asparagus OR leeks OR okra OR fiddlehead fern OR broccoli


bamboo shoots = takenoko = take-noko = tung sun = choke-sun = chun-sun   Notes:   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.   Substitutes:  asparagus OR coconut shoots (sweeter)

bulb fennel

cardoon = cardoni = cardi = Texas celery = chardoon    Pronunciation:  kar-DOON  Notes:  This vegetable is very likely an early ancester of the artichoke. Its large, grayish-green stalks are somewhat bitter, but they remain popular in Italy and North Africa.   You can find them in large produce markets in late fall.   Substitutes:  artichoke hearts OR celery (not as bitter) OR salsify   


celery  Equivalents:   1 rib = 1/2 cup sliced  Notes:   Raw celery is flavorful and wonderfully crunchy, and it's a great vehicle for dips or fillings like peanut butter or cream cheese.  Celery can also be sautéed and used to flavor soups, stews, and sauces.  A bunch or stalk of celery consists of a dozen or so individual ribs, with the tender innermost ribs called the celery heart.    Substitutes:  carrots (for snacking) OR fennel stalks (takes longer to cook) OR Chinese celery (This is a good substitute if the celery is to be cooked; Chinese celery has a more intense flavor than conventional celery.) OR bok choy (raw or cooked) OR cardoon (for cooking) OR jicama (for snacking or crudités) 

Chinese celery = khuen chai = kinchay  Notes:   This has a stronger flavor than ordinary celery, and it's often used in stir-fries and soups.   Look for it in Asian markets.   Substitutes:  celery



coconut shoots  Substitutes:  bamboo shoots (not as sweet)

fennel = finocchio = Florence fennel =bulb fennel = garden fennel = sweet fennel = (incorrectly) sweet anise = (incorrectly) anise  Equivalents:  1 cup sliced = 87 grams;  1 bulb = 2 1/2 cups  Notes:   Fennel tastes like licorice or anise, and it's commonly used in Italian dishes.  It's very versatile; you can sauté it and add it to sauces, braise it as a side dish, or serve it raw as a crudité.    Substitutes (for fennel bulb):  Belgian endive + 1 teaspoon crushed fennel or anise seed OR celery + 1 teaspoon crushed fennel or anise seed (celery takes less time to cook) OR  celery + chopped onion + crushed fennel or anise seed (celery takes less time to cook) OR celery + Pernod, Ricard, or anisette (celery takes less time to cook) OR udo OR celery (celery takes less time to cook) Substitutes (for fennel leaves = fennel feathers):  unsprayed avocado leaves OR hoja santa leaves OR parsley  Notes:  For more information, see the Wegman's Food Market's page on Fennel.


fiddlehead fern = pohole = fiddlehead greens = fern   Notes:   When a fern first emerges from the ground, its uncoiled frond is called a fiddlehead.  Edible varieties of fiddleheads include those from the ostrich fern and the less common wood fern.  They're available in the late spring and early summer.   Select the smallest, freshest-looking fiddleheads you can find. Warning:  Fiddleheads from bracken ferns resemble those from ostrich ferns, but are believed to be carcinogenic. Be very careful if you're gathering fiddleheads from the wild.  Undercooked ostrich fern fiddleheads also have been linked to some cases of food poisoning.  Substitutes:  asparagus OR green beans OR spinach   


Florence fennel

garden fennel

hearts of palm = palmitos = palm hearts = swamp cabbage    Equivalents:  1 cup = 146 grams  Notes:  These are peeled cabbage palm buds, and they're terrific in salads or as a vegetable side dish. You can buy them fresh only in Florida, but the canned version is quite good.  Substitutes:  artichoke hearts (to add to salads) OR asparagus (as a side dish)

khuen chai


ostrich fern

palm hearts


pie plant



rhubarb = pie plant   Pronunciation:  ROO-barb  Notes:   Though a vegetable, rhubarb is treated more like a fruit, and it's typically made into such things as pies, tarts, preserves, and wine.  It's very tart, and at its best when combined with berries.  Varieties includes cherry rhubarb and the more delicate strawberry rhubarb.  Fresh rhubarb shows up in markets in the spring.  If you can't find it fresh, frozen rhubarb is a fine substitute.  Don't eat rhubarb leaves; they contain high levels of oxalic acid, a toxin.   Substitutes:  cranberries OR quinces 

swamp cabbage

sweet anise

sweet fennel

udo   Substitutes:   fennel


white asparagus  Notes:   Growers make asparagus white by shielding it from the sun, thus stifling the production of chlorophyll.  The result is daintier looking and a bit more tender than green asparagus.  Substitutes:  asparagus

wild asparagus


Copyright © 1996-2005  Lori Alden