Friday, March 22, 2013

A New Kind of Old Vegetable.

The New York Times in 1913 had a new section with a title that would be unlikely today:


The new kind of woman seemed, however, to be stuck with the old kind of chores, to judge from the content of the articles. On January 12, it was cooking vegetables. At least they were “new” vegetables. The article began:

The United States Bureau of Plant Industry has sent far afield in search of strange foreign fruits and vegetables which are being imported into the United States to add to the ordinary American menu. In addition to this, the same department has been analyzing weeks that grow along roadsides and in back pastures, and has discovered that many of these are good to eat.

One of the vegetables featured was, in fact, new to this old(ish) lady. Do you know it?

The Udo from Japan.
The udo is a vegetable from Japan which is as common there as celery is with us. But udo is crisper than celery and has none of the objectionable fibres of the latter. It has been found adaptable to the soils of the large part of the United States, and is now found in the markets of some of our large cities. It is ready for market early in the Spring and can also be blanched in the autumn. It has a fresh taste like the midrib of a lettuce leaf, with a slight but most agreeable suggestion of pine flavor. Here are a few suggestions for cooking it.
For boiling, peel the shoots and cut them into cubes. Cook for ten minutes in water seasoned with salt. Drain off, then put in fresh boiling water to which salt has been added, and boil until tender – twenty to thirty minutes in all will be sufficient. Serve with a drawn butter sauce. If the shoots are cut four or five inches long instead of into cubes, they may be served on toast like asparagus.
For a luncheon entrée, peel the shoots, and cut into four-inch pieces, and boil for fifteen minutes in water to which a little baking soda has been added. Prepare a meat stock of chicken or beef seasoned with a dash of Worcestershire sauce; then add the stalks and allow all to simmer for three-quarters of an hour. Add a touch of lime or lemon, and serve on slices of toast.
The salad possibilities of udo were discovered by an American girl in Japan. She peeled the stems with a sharp knife, cut them into two-inch lengths, and then split these into shavings about a sixteenth of an inch thick. These were dropped into ice water and left for an hour, during which time they curled attractively, then drained and served with French dressing. The salad must be dressed immediately before using it or it loses its crispness.

For those of you botanically-inclined, the udo is Aralia cordata,  a member of the ginseng family. Do you know it?


Anonymous said...

According to Wikipedia, it can grow 2-3 meters tall! But they don's say much about it. It's not very hardy, though. Maybe that's why I haven't seen it.

I wonder if the long cooking time is really necessary, or if all vegetables were cooked so much back then.

Emma said...

Ooh, thanks for sharing :) I am having a whale of a time reading the New York Times article! What a great resource!

The Old Foodie said...

Thanks, Emma.
Hi Sandra - I think that vegetables on the whole were cooked for a very long time back then, as a sweeping generalisation. I dont have any experience of this particular veg. though.