100 Vegetables and Where They Came From

100 Vegetables and Where They Came From

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A perfect leek from France. Flavorful zucchini from Italy. An infamous potato from Ireland, and a humble lentil from Ethiopia. 100 Vegetables offers a veritable cornucopia of vegetables and stories from around the world—from Argentina to Zimbabwe, from Australia to the United States. William Woys Weaver—veggie connoisseur, gardener, and historian—guides us through a range of peppers, potatoes, peas, gourds, onions, tomatoes, greens, and a whole lot more.

Not every carrot is the same. All beans aren't equal. Take the Petaluma Gold Rush bean, a rugged legume, grown for over 150 years and brought to California by an American whaler from Peru. Or the violet carrot, which the Greeks brought back from India following the conquests of Alexander the Great.

Mixing history, culinary suggestions, practical information, and personal anecdotes, Weaver introduces us to unusual heirloom vegetables as well as to common favorites. He provides answers to general questions, such as the difference between a yam and a sweet potato, and presents lively portraits of one hundred vegetable varieties, which he's grown and harvested in his own kitchen garden.

Organized alphabetically by common name, 100 Vegetables includes beautifully detailed drawings throughout and a helpful appendix of seed resources.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781565122383
Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date: 10/28/2000
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 5.28(w) x 7.28(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

William Woys Weaver is an organic gardener, food historian, and author of eight books—including Heirloom Vegetable Gardening and Pennsylvania Dutch Country Cooking, both of which received Julia Child awards for food reference. He and his kitchen garden have been the subject of articles in the New York Times, Country Home, the Chicago Tribune, and Food Arts. He lives in Devon, Pennsylvania, where he maintains an 1830s-style garden, featuring some three thousand varieties of heirloom vegetables, flowers, and herbs.

Read an Excerpt


Aji Dulce Pepper [Venezuela]

Botanical name: Capsicum chinense

Family: Solanaceae

Aji is the South American word for pepper. Dulce means "sweet" but aji dulce (pronounced AH-hee DOOL-say) possesses two broader meanings, for it is both a variety and a type of pepper. On the one hand, aji dulce can be any one of a number of sweet peppers, and depending on the country where one lives the word may be used interchangeably with aji morrón, morrón, aji colorado dulce, and many other regional variations. This can make reading South American cookbooks a challenge, even for Spanish-speaking readers.

However, in Venezuela, aji dulce means only one thing. It is a native variety of Capsicum chinense that is closely related to the so-called habañero peppers now scattered throughout the Caribbean, but sans the infamous heat. For those who are tired of hot pepper overkill and the sensation of fiery lava flowing through the body, aji dulce comes to the rescue. Best of all, it possesses that unique smoky flavor found in its hottest cousins.

The history of this pepper is obscure, but since wild peppers are naturally hot this variety must have developed as a landrace over the years among farmers by simple selection of seed from milder and milder fruits. Landrace is a term commonly employed to describe noncommercial or "backyard" varieties that have been under cultivation for a very long time. They are the real ingredients of peasant cookery and often provide regional cookeries with their distinctive flavors. In Venezuela, aji dulce is now one of the cornerstones of thenational cuisine, and seed is available from a number of firms here in the United States.

The fruit of aji dulce can be used green or ripe, and it can be seeded and frozen for use over the winter, a technique that also preserves its rich flavor much better than drying. The Venezuelans commonly use aji dulce in preparing hallacas, a mixture of meat, peppers, raisins, almonds, capers, olives, and yellow cornmeal that is steamed or boiled in plantain leaves. This rich and delicious dish is normally served at Christmas. Hallacas flavored with aji dulce made its debut in North America at the 1939 New York World's Fair, and like the apricot tomato it proved wildly popular.

I employ the pepper to flavor a hearty Paraguayan dish called sooyosopig or sopa paraguaya. It is made by stewing chopped meat, chopped onions, chopped peppers, and chopped tomatoes in water. Rice is added to thicken it. Similar rice-and-meat stews are made in other parts of South America, but none of them attain the wonderful character of sooyosopig made with Venezuelan ajíes dulces.

Aji Limón Pepper [Bolivia and Peru]

Botanical name: Capsicum baccatum, var. pendulum

Family: Solanaceae

There is a certain faction in this country, notably in New Mexico, that insists on calling peppers "chiles." This is perhaps influenced by Mexican ways of categorizing peppers, and maybe also by a tad of gringo commercial chauvinism, because the rest of Spanish America does not view peppers in quite this way. South of Panama, peppers are aji (and Chile refers only to a long, narrow country west of Argentina). North of Panama, in Latin American nations like Honduras or Nicaragua, the word chile is not as broad in meaning as it is farther north in Mexico but instead denotes only the hot peppers. So there is no warning at all in aji limón that this little yellow lemon-flavored pod from the western slopes of the Andes mountains is nothing short of an Inca hand grenade. It is a blast of heat and flavor that makes one of the most distinctive salsas in the Western Hemisphere. I am not exaggerating.

The Peruvian original is a sweet but hot yellow salsa that includes mango, generous quantities of aji limón, and mustard. I make my own salsa de aji limón and do not fail to add a little lime basil and desert tarragon. However it is prepared, this fragrant pepper has a rich piquant flavor that matches well with fish, white wines, ceviche (fish marinades), and indeed with any foods that blend nicely with lemon flavors or that themselves have a citrusy taste. Those flavor combinations should be kept in mind when cooking with this pepper. But cooking with aji limón also means wearing gloves, and breathing the cooking fumes can be deadly, so caution is recommended.

We may wonder how it was that the indigenous peoples of the high Andes took pleasure in eating food that was so excruciatingly spicy, but whatever the case aji limón predates the Spanish conquest of Peru and belongs to a species of pepper that has been under cultivation in that region at least since 400 b.c. The speakers of Quechua, the ancient language of the Incas, do not call it aji but rather uchu, a word that adds an additional layer of regional and dialect names for this pepper.

Aji limón is actually one of a triumvirate of baccatum peppers that form the cornerstone of indigenous Peruvian cuisine. It is found in local markets along with a pinkish, orange-yellow pepper called aji amarillo (or aji Cusqueño, meaning "Cuzco pepper") and a long, wrinkly mildly hot green pepper called aji escabeche since this latter pepper is used primarily in ceviche. The amarillo, which is normally sold dried, possesses a rich peach or apricot flavor and losses much of its heat when cooked; the escabeche ripens red and actually acquires a sweet taste that is quite pleasant. Aji limón just gets hotter and more concentrated as it cooks.

All three of these Andean peppers are perennial in their native habitat and can be grown in pots or tubs in North America. They develop woody trunks that can be pruned and shaped into small bushes that are quite ornamental when the fruit is ripening. The aji limón plant, however, is small, rarely growing more than two feet tall, so it is even better adapted to container culture than the others. The plants can be brought indoors to overwinter and can be maintained this way for many years.

The fruit of aji limón is also small, about three inches long, flat, tapered to a point, and somewhat three-sided. The pepper is well named because it ripens to a brilliant, glowing lemon yellow. The pods, which hang in clusters of two or three, come on in such an abundance that the plants are likely to fall over unless they are staked. But one or two plants are plenty for one family because the salsa goes a very long way.


All-Red Potato [United States]

Botanical name: Solanum tuberosum

Family: Solanaceae

Many heirloom potatoes were created by regular folks in backyard gardens, and their homey appeal never seems to wane. I can think of Purple Cow Horn, a wonderful baking potato which came out of a New Hampshire garden about 1905, and such perennially popular multicolored varieties as Candy Stripe, a sport or mutant that David Ronninger of Moyie Springs, Idaho, discovered in a patch of Red LaSodas in 1983. My all-time favorite, however, is All-Red, also known as Cranberry Red.

This is a really big midseason potato, with tall robust plants about eighteen to twenty-two inches high, big dark green leaves resembling those of the famous Brandywine tomato, and what must be one of the largest and handsomest lilac purple flowers found on any potato. It is tempting to grow it just for the flowers, except that the plant needs lots of space, and the best part comes when it dies. Underneath the ground is a veritable cache of huge red tubers, some weighing more than half a pound. What makes All-Red so special is its color, inside and out.

The genes that control color in potatoes also have an unhappy side effect: dark skins or dark flesh are sometimes so bitter from traces of glycoalkaloids that the potato is truly unpleasant to eat. This is especially true of wild potatoes, which use these toxins as protection against wild animals that might eat them. Developing a bitterless red potato, one that is red-fleshed, has been one of those much discussed goals of potato enthusiasts for quite a while. Granted, for a long time Americans only wanted white potatoes, but interest in exotic vegetables and potatoes of many colors has put the discussion of an all-red sort out in front.

It took a lot of careful selecting to find a potato that would hold its red color when cooked and not taste bitter. All-Red passed the test and borrowed its name from All-Blue, a somewhat smaller blue-fleshed potato that is commonly seen in upscale markets. All-Blue was developed as a "marker" potato, which growers planted in potato fields to show where one variety stopped and the other began so that they would not become mixed during digging. All-Red is of a somewhat more noble origin.

All-Red was developed by Robert Lobitz, an avid breeder of plants in Paynesville, Minnesota. In the course of our correspondence, Lobitz explained that his All-Red was a seedling of a popular breeding potato called Bison and that he was the person who gave his creation its original name. After he released it to the public through Seed Savers Exchange in about 1984, the potato was picked up by several seed companies and sold under the name Cranberry Red. Cranberry Red and All-Red are indeed the same potato, although Cranberry Red as a name may have slightly more marketing appeal. The new label might seem entirely appropriate since the skin of the potato is a rich cranberry and, like the French potato Roseval, rather startling in intensity when it first comes out of the ground. Raw, the flesh of All-Red is a powder pink. When steamed, it deepens to a pale beet rose, which looks terrific in potato salads. The flavor is rich, like English walnuts, and fulsome, even a bit earthy. Walnut oil in the salad dressing is a perfect match and a good way to enhance the flavor.

Another nice way to cook All-Red is to cut up the potatoes into thin slices. Sauté some chopped onions with olive oil or butter in a large skillet or sauté pan and when they are soft, add the potatoes. When the potatoes begin to brown, add some chicken stock or well-flavored vegetable stock, white wine, chopped green onions, and minced rosemary. Cover and cook for about ten minutes or until the potatoes are tender, then add salt and pepper and serve with grated cheese sprinkled over the top. Your guests will salute you!

All-Red itself is a culinary salute to the determination of growers like Robert Lobitz who create wonderful new things for the common good without remuneration. In a world where all things seem measured in terms of money, All-Red remains a testimony to a higher opposing value. What Robert Lobitz did not know when he sent his creation out into the world is that his potato is also one of the most drought-resistant varieties around. It has been known to yield an embarrassment of riches even when it does not rain for two months. Farmers who lost everything in hybrid soybeans might want to look more carefully into potatoes like All-Red, and home gardeners who appreciate excellent food will not want to be without it. I still wish Robert had called it something more poetic like Minnehaha or Chippewa Rose. No matter, it's the taste that counts.

Table of Contents

Note to the Readerxv
Aji Dulce Pepper1
Aji Limon Pepper4
All-Red Potato7
Alma Pea11
Apricot Tomato14
Arran Victory Potato17
Banana Shallot or Cuisse de Poulet20
Beauty of Hebron Potato24
Biretta Vermelha Pepper27
Black Pindar Peanut30
Black Taro33
Buena Mulata Pepper36
Cardon de Tours Cardoon38
Chengdu Garlic42
Chieftain Savoy Cabbage45
Chiltoma Peppers48
Chinese Giant Pepper51
Chinese Violet Cress53
Crimson Flowering Fava55
Cutchogue Cheese Pumpkin58
Datil Pepper61
Dinawa Black-Eyed Cowpea64
Dwarf Choy Sum67
Early Champagne Rhubarb70
Egyptian Flat Black Beet73
Ekaterinoslav Bean76
Ethiopian Yellow Lentil78
Flageolet Chevrier Vert Bean82
Foul Misri Fava85
Frijoles Rojas de Seda88
Fuseau Jerusalem Artichoke91
Gbognome Eggplant Collards95
Giant Zittau Onion98
Golden Corn Salad101
Great Red Plantain104
Green Grape Tomato106
Griselle Shallot109
Heritage d'Ore Bean112
Jackson Wonder Bush Lima115
Jaune du Poitou Leek117
Katie's Mustard Lettuce120
Khiva Cucumber123
King of the Garden Lima126
Kuttiger Ruebli Carrot129
Lancaster Lad Pea131
Lark's Tongue Kale134
Little Nubian Pepper137
Long, Red Eggplant or Aubergine140
Louvana Chickling Vetch143
Lumper Potato146
Mary Reynolds's Orange Tomato149
Merlot Lettuce152
Mr. Jack Tomato155
Negresse Potato158
Nunas or Popping Beans160
Oaxacan Green Dent Corn163
Peach Blow Potato166
Pepino Dulce Melon169
Persian Chickpea173
Petaluma Gold Rush Bean176
Profusion Sorrel179
Pskem River Garlic182
Pumpkin Yam Sweet Potato185
Purple Cape Broccoli188
Purple Savoyed Orache191
Purple Yautia194
Queen of the Earlies Tomato197
Red Brazil Sweet Potato200
Re Umberto Tomato202
Rice Bean205
Rishad Cress207
Roseval Potato210
Rouge et Noir Cowpea213
Roughwood Golden Plum Tomato215
Salade de Russie Lettuce217
Shah or Mikado White Tomato219
Shungiku Edible Chrysanthemum222
Spotted Aleppo Lettuce226
Sugar Bean229
Tartar Bread Plant231
Teltow Turnip234
Tick Bean or Feve a Couper237
Toad Skin Melon239
Udmalbet Eggplant or Aubergine242
Variegated Winter Cress245
Victoria Rhubarb248
Violet Carrot251
Violet de Gournay Radish254
Violetto Artichoke257
Wagner's Green Zebra Tomato260
Winter Luxury Squash263
Yam Potato268
Zimbabwe Red Bambara270
Zipser Turkenspitz Pepper275
Zucca Marina di Chioggia Squash278
Zucchini or Cocozelle281
Zucchino Rampicante284
Zwollsche Krul Celery287
Source List for Seeds and Potatoes293

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