Christmas is just around the corner friends!The supermarkets are already roaring with the usual “compulsory” Christmas vegetables and children across the country are filled with dread at the thought of a plate stacked high with festive Brussel sprouts.
So, if you want to give your Christmas vegetables a bit of a different twist and a sparkle this year, we have come up with some quirky vegetable ideas to be eaten this Christmas season or to be harvested in the upcoming season.
Do you think you know your onions? Take this ‘Christmas vegetable tour’ to make sure of it!
Feathery festive fennel
Fennel is a fairly easy to grow and beautiful plant, with its fine feathery foliage in shades of green and bronze making it a fabulous edition to most borders. Herb fennel grows up to 1.5 meters with fine wisps of flavor.
It’s a great herb, a little like dill, which goes very well with sea food dishes and salads. But for a really interesting vegetable you need Florence fennel, which grows a little shorter at “only” 60 – 90 cm. Sow it late in June or July and make sure your fennel has plenty of sun and a sheltered position.
Apart from its aniseed flavor, fennel is also packed full of vitamin C and great to eat. Add the leaves and bulbs to salads for a touch of rich licorice or bake in the oven with leeks for an unusual Christmas vegetable dish.
Succulent sweet potatoesAlthough you have to be a little careful when growing sweet potatoes because they don’t tolerate frost, there’s a lot to love about this peculiar vegetable, and once they get going, they do thrive. You can grow them outside, but you’ll need to keep the roots warm.
They are also a great veggie to grow in containers in greenhouses.A good source of vitamins A, C and B6 as well as fiber and beta carotene, sweet potatoes can add a real splash of color to your Christmas recipes.
When it comes to Christmas Day itself, you can roast them like potatoes, mash them with a bit of butter, serve them as wedges or even make a sweet potato soup for Boxing Day.
Get in the Christmas spirit with Jerusalem artichokes.Jerusalem artichokes are easy to grow and delicious! The plants can be another great addition to your garden with yellow flowers on tall stems and they can also be used to create a natural windbreak for your vegetable patch.
They are tolerant to shade too, like most soils and will improve the soil for future crops. But unless you are very fond of them, when you harvest them in late autumn or early winter, make sure you get every last root out or they’ll be back next year with a “vengeance”.
They’re another vegetable that is versatile and easy to cook, adding a nutty, crunchy flavor to your Christmas vegetable recipes. You can eat them raw, add them to salads or stir fires or bake them, mash them, sauté them or steam them, with or without peeling.
They also go well in soups with parmesan and leek, or baked as a gratin with equal measures of potatoes. Once you get packed with vitamin C, you just might want to make sure that you have scheduled your Christmas walk for later, as they can leave you feeling a little “windy”!
Have the best of your beets this seasonForget for a moment any childhood memories of compulsory beetroot at school because beets have a lot to offer. Available in bright orange and even striped varieties as well as the familiar purple they have an earthy flavor, perfect for a Christmas vegetable.
They do tolerate a light frost and they quite like cooler conditions, so they can be easily planted in the autumn.As with all our quirky vegetables they are a rich source of nutrients and contain: potassium, magnesium, phosphorous, iron, folic acid, beta carotene and vitamins A, B and C.
You can eat the whole plant including the beet greens and they can be used to flavor and color your salad or roasted with a bit of olive oil with your carrots and your sweet potatoes.
Add a South American flavor to your Christmas dishes with ocaA little harder to find, oca tubers are as easy to grow as potatoes although you may have to scour a specialist food market or go online to source them. They are brightly colored, pinkish-red tubers tasting a bit like potatoes but with a pleasant lemony tang.
They have also been described as tasting of chestnuts, celery and even apple, and you can use their clover-like leaves and creamy orange flowers, in your salads or your flower borders.If you decide to grow your own, keep them in the warmth of a greenhouse until they are growing well, and do not plant out until after the last frost.
The tubers will form in late autumn, so they are ideal to harvest in or around Christmas and even into early January. Oca is another great nutritional source of phosphorous, iron and amino acids, and you cook them just like potatoes: whether boiled, roasted, baked or steamed, they taste superb, and you don’t even have to peel them!
Here is an interesting Christmas dish arrangement to get your kids into the habit of loving veggies
A broccoli and tomato “Christmas tree” with pretzel “trunk” and cauliflower “snow” are delicious dippers for a cool and creamy dip for your choosy kids!
Creamy Herb Dip Recipe
- ½ cup sour cream or crème fraîche
- ¼ cup mayonnaise or salad dressing
- 3 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
- ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 small clove garlic, finely chopped
Broccoli Vegetable Platter Recipe
- 3 cups fresh broccoli florets
- 14 grape tomatoes
- ½ yellow bell pepper, cut into strips
- 1½ cups fresh cauliflower florets
- ¾ oz (about 40) pretzel sticks (from 15-oz bag)
- In a small bowl, stir together all ingredients for the dip. Cover. Refrigerate at least 1 hour to blend flavors.
- Rinse and thoroughly dry vegetables. Trim broccoli and cauliflower floret stems.
- Arrange the broccoli florets on a serving platter to form tree shape and tomatoes to form a decorative red chain. Arrange yellow bell pepper (or fried French fries) to form star and cauliflower to form snow at the bottom of the tree (see the photo). If desired, cover and refrigerate up to 4 hours.
- Just before serving, arrange pretzels at the bottom of tree to form trunk. Serve with the dip prepared beforehand.
Kids will enjoy this veggie Christmas season! Happy cooking and very happy holidays to you all!
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