Image courtesy of Fine Dining Lovers
We’re a couple weeks shy of the true start of spring, but the weather is fooling me and a few brave crocus shoots into thinking otherwise. The flowers are on their way, dear readers, and they can be a feast for your taste buds in addition to your eyes. Below are the descriptions of eight delectably edible flowers, some of which you might eat on the regular without stopping to consider their flowery origins. Can you identify each one by its common name? If you can get six or more, consider yourself ready to spring into the season.
- It’s likely that you’ve seen these stuffed with cheese and fried, though they also make frequent appearances in other dishes, from the soups of Mexico to the risottos of Italy.
- Though these might look like berries, they’re actually the buds of a plant, usually pickled and often used in Mediterranean cuisine.
- These bright tropical blossoms make a tart and refreshing pink tea, but they can also be used in jams and sorbets.
- Ray Bradbury knew that you can make wine from the blossoms of this plant, and the French have a special soup made from the yellow flowers called creme de pissenlits.
- Kids on summer vacation learn that you can sample the sweet nectar of this climbing plant, but the entire bloom can also be enjoyed in salads and desserts. (The leaves and berries are mildly poisonous, though, so be careful!)
- These flowers are loved by gardeners for their bright color and insect repelling qualities, but they also have a peppery flavor and can even be used as a substitute for saffron.
- These flowers are most often dried and made into a tea known for its relaxing qualities, sometimes even prescribed as a gentle antidote to insomnia.
- Bakers have been candying these small, purple flowers since the 1800s, but they can also be eaten in salads or even used for infusing fancy cocktails and salad dressings.
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Great balls of chocolate! It’s nearly Valentine’s Day! Are you ready? Take the quiz below to find out if you’ve got the right stuff to select the perfect gift for your paramour. For each listed name, decide if it’s a rose variety, a type of dessert or a brand of wine. These are tricky, but if your results are better than chance (33%), consider yourself Cupid-ready.
- Velvet Devil
- Lady’s Navel
- Honky Tonk Blues
- Etoile de Hollande
- Purple Cowboy
- Floating Island
- The Poet’s Wife
- Mad Housewife
- Poire Belle Hélène
- Golden Wings
- The Wolf Trap
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Now this is man who understands gourds.
In our household, we have an inside joke that goes, “Pumpkin! (Groan!) The most common kind of gourd!” I guess you kind of had to be there.
‘Tis the season for jack-o-lanterns, but leave those groan-worthy pumpkins behind, because this is our ode to less common gourds. Can you name each member of the Cucurbitaceae family described below? These aren’t easy, but pay attention to the contextual clues and use your…well, you know, and you’ll do just fine.
- You might not think it while you’re using it to scrub off your dead skin, but this spongy vegetable is actually a gourd.
- You can eat the seeds of this gourd, and even use them to make a Mexican sweet similar to peanut brittle, but Adam didn’t use it as impromptu clothing as the name might lead you to believe.
- These squashes look a little like flying saucers, but they’re named for the kind of vessel in which you might bake a small cake.
- A lumpy green gourd native to Mesoamerica, it’s also called a mirliton when it pops up in Cajun cuisine.
- These gourds are often dried to make utensils, leading to the nickname “the bottle gourd.” The name also sounds similar to a character from The Tempest.
- This type of melon is good to eat, and though it can be harvested all summer long, it gets its name from its ability to be stored a long time, maybe even until Christmas.
- This squash is very popular in Japan, and its nutty flesh can be eaten many different ways, but it sounds more like a popular Thai dish.
- That commercial pumpkin pie mix you buy probably contains not pumpkin but rather this relative, named for its curved slender top portion.
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Herbs! What’s not to love? Because they’re the leafy part of the plant (rather than the bark, seed or root, which are considered spices), they’re one of the first signs of spring to grace the dinner table. Seriously, if there’s no basil plant sunning itself in your garden or on your windowsill by now, remedy that oversight; it will repay you a thousand times over in herb butter and pesto this summer.
But I digress. Test how well you really know your herbs by trying to name the correct one for each of the fun facts listed below. This is a tough one, guys, so if you manage to get even half, consider yourself a perfect herbivore.
- A belief in ancient Greece held that this herb (whose name comes for the Greek word for king) would only grow if you screamed curses while planting the seeds.
- An English tradition is to plant large patches of this herb as a playground for fairies.
- Some people have a gene that causes them to experience this herb as having a nasty soapy flavor.
- Some mothers take this herb to help with lactation, but a sweet side effect is that it can make their sweat and urine smell like maple syrup.
- This flowering herb prized mostly for its scent was thought to protect the wearer from the bubonic plague when worn around the wrist.
- In ancient Rome, this was the most important medicinal herb, so important that our word for it comes from the Latin term meaning “to save.”
- This herb is associated with the Virgin Mary, because there’s a story that the flowers of the plant got their color after she placed her blue shawl on one of the bushes to dry it.
- This herb has been found in Egyptian tombs dating back to 1000 BC, and Mexicans like it so much that they call it simply yerba buena, meaning “good herb.”
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Admit it: your understanding of Cinco de Mayo history is a little hazy. (No, it is not just the day to get a free biscuit taco at Taco Bell. Nor is it Mexican Independence Day.) Even though I’ve heard the story a few times, I still get a little fuzzy on the details of the Battle of Puebla. I know it involved the French army and some unanticipated ass-kicking by the ill-equipped Mexicans. It’s also somehow mixed up with the story of Maximilian, everyone’s favorite Prussian puppet Emperor of Mexico. If you want a more expert take on this whole thing, check out this podcast about Maximilian, which touches on the historical context of Cinco de Mayo.
But while you’re brushing up on the finer points, you can at least make sure you’re ready for the holiday on the food front. Can you match each of the delicious Mexican foods in this list with its description? (Warning: if you have ever ingested a biscuit taco or even know what one is, this puzzle might be harder than you think.) Viva México!
- Rajas con crema
A. Thinly sliced sheets of meat, marinated and dried in the sun
B. Corn tortillas dipped in a sauce made of pumpkin seeds and filled with hard-boiled egg
C. A soup made with tripe and red chili pepper, often topped with lime, onion and cilantro
D. A non-alcoholic beverage made of corn and fermented cacao beans
E. A small tortilla filled with cheese or meat, then rolled and deep-fried
F. An oblong, fried masa cake, with a variety of toppings including salsa, onions, potato, cilantro and some type of protein (such as ground beef or tongue), finished with queso fresco cheese
G. Roasted peppers, thinly sliced and sautéed with onion, then simmered in cream
H. Toasted grasshoppers, seasoned with garlic, lime and salt
I. Corn on the cob, often eaten on a stick with cheese, mayonnaise, lime juice, salt, etc.
J. A hominy stew, usually involving some kind of meat and chili peppers
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In Greek mythology, Aphrodite’s lover Adonis is killed in a lettuce field, and thus lettuce became a symbol of mourning and impotence. Poor lettuce; it’s the anti-aphrodisiac.
But you can do better than lettuce this Valentine’s Day! Name the aphrodisiac described by each piece of historical lore listed below. And since this is a tough one, you’ll find each of the answers in the photo collage below, though not all the photos will be used.
- The Kama Sutra suggested making this food into a drinkable paste to arouse desire, while the French advised that it be eaten three times the day before one’s wedding.
- Because of its shape and color, this food was a symbol of Venus, the Roman goddess of love.
- Hippocrates recommended this food for sexual vigor, and couples were once advised to drink an alcohol made of it during the first month of their marriage.
- After being scorned by a woman, Zeus supposedly turned her into one of these, and because of its tough exterior, it is a natural symbol for playing hard to get.
- The Talmud suggests that married couples eat this food on Fridays in preparation for fulfilling their marital duties.
- The Aztec word for this food is same as their word for testicle, and it was believed to be such a strong aphrodisiac that virginal women were forbidden from being present while it was harvested.
- This food was once considered an aphrodisiac in Europe, but probably because it was still a rare import from the New World.
- This was believed to be Cleopatra’s favorite fruit, and in ancient Greece, its harvest also marked the time of a…erm, copulation ritual.
- Cassanova supposedly ate fifty of these for breakfast every morning, and Roman doctors prescribed them as a cure for impotence.
- Greek superstition holds that if a woman puts this food under her pillow, she’ll dream of her future husband, and giving it to someone in India is tantamount to making a pass.
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I’m not sure mine brings all the boys to the yard. Oh, well.
It’s true that beans are the musical fruit, but other foods make their way into songs all the time. Take as evidence the lyrics listed below. Can you name the song title and artist (or in one case, the name of the musical) for each song? If you can get nine out of ten (and the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie), consider yourself a winner.
- Sucking on chili dogs outside the Tastee Freeze…
- Follow her down to a bridge by a fountain, / Where rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies.
- Big kosher pickle and a cold draft beer / Well good god almighty, which way do I steer?
- Have some more yogurt, have some more Spam / It doesn’t matter if it’s fresh or canned.
- You are my candy girl / And you got me wanting you.
- I’m gonna give you / Apple and plum and apricot-a too, eh!
- Try the gray stuff. It’s delicious. / Don’t believe me? Ask the dishes!
- A bottle of white, a bottle of red / Perhaps a bottle of rosé instead.
- In February it will be / My snowman’s anniversary / With cake for him and soup for me!
- I love you like a fat kid love cake.
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Poutine made it into Merriam-Webster this year! Well done, poutine.
I recently happened upon this article from the Boston Globe about the new words added to several American dictionaries in 2014. This kind of a thing seems to be a staple of newspapers around this time of year, and every time it strikes me how many new words have to do with food. But then maybe it’s not so surprising—we’re a nation of eaters and eventually the names of our new favorites work their way into the very fabric of our language. I don’t think I’d ever heard of or tasted hummus until I was in high school, but it’s now hard to remember being hummus-less since it’s long been a staple of my refrigerator and my dictionary.
So here’s a little lexicographic puzzle for 2015: can you put the following list of twelve words in the order that they were added to the Oxford English Dictionary? Some of these words are far older in other languages, obviously, but keep in mind that words are only added to English-language dictionaries as many English speakers begin to use them.
- al dente
- pad thai
- five second rule
- mai tai
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Have you met the Wine Queen?
The origin story of Thanksgiving is a little dubious, at least the most popular one that has a bunch of pilgrims and Indians sitting around eating turkey and smiling at each other. Better documented is the one that comes two centuries later, when Sarah Josepha Hale, a magazine editor and abolitionist, campaigned for a harvest celebration and day of thanksgiving, with hopes that it would make the country feel more united. Abraham Lincoln obliged her, making it a national holiday in 1863.
But we Americans are hardly alone in our desire to celebrate the harvest. Can you name which country offers up the delicious days of thanksgiving described below? In some cases, the festivals are specific to a city or region, so extra stuffing for you if you can name any of those.
- During Chuseok, families travel to their family’s homeland and set up elaborate offerings of food called charye for their ancestors. They also sing, wrestle and eat freshly harvested rice and rice cakes.
- After the newly-pressed olive oil is blessed by a priest, everybody digs into a medieval-style feast at a local castle. (Seriously! A castle!)
- The Yam Festival (also called Homowo), at the end of the rainy season, is celebrated with singing, dancing, parades, offerings, and, obviously, yam-eating.
- At the annual Fruit Fair, people build elaborate arrangements of colorful fruits like rambutan and mangosteen and stage a parade with floats made out of fruits and vegetables.
- Locals celebrate Lugh, or the god of the sun, while making a potent potato-based whiskey called poitín.
- At a four-day festival celebrating the gods of sun and rain, people make a sweet dish called pongal out of rice, milk and jaggery (a form of palm sugar) and eat lentils to signify the year’s bounty.
- The harvest has always been a time when priests would bless the first grapes of the season, but more recently it has become a major province-wide carnival, with parades, fireworks and performances, not to mention the crowning of the Wine Queen.
- For Trung Thu, people celebrate the harvest moon but also their children (a different sort of fruit, I suppose). Children are told traditional fairy tales and given star lanterns and sweet treats like mooncakes.
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