At some point before participating in the annual St. Paddy's Day tradition of having alcohol-fueled arguments over the propriety of green beer, stop to consider the staggering fact that as of 2015, Ireland's population still hadn't surpassed what it was in 1840, five years before the Great Potato Famine began. Consider, too, the imperial English dogs who chose to enforce a rigid brand of free-market economics that kept their neighbors and royal subjects starving to death just across the Irish Sea, even though there was no total food shortage.
All this to say: makes you appreciate that baked potato, huh!
Cooking local, seasonal food isn't just a statement your waiter is required by law to deliver before serving your $19 beet salad; it's the way humans have eaten for the vast majority of their history. This March, honor St. Patrick's dedication to local interests (getting rid of all those damn snakes), and eat some of these in-season foods.
There's a terrible kumquat deficiency in most grocery stores, and frankly it's yet another disappointing emblem of a disappointing Obama administration that has forced drone warfare and plain old navel oranges on a weary nation. The American people demand citrus diversity, and they demand it now.
Kumquat is also pretty funny to say and/or shout at people -- turns out it's derived from the Cantonese 金橘, which is probably pronounced "kumquat." Among the many advantages of these giant-olive-sized oranges are that you can eat them whole, muddle them in a drink, and they're loaded with vitamin C.
A biennial plant that can be harvested in the fall of its first year or the spring of its second (look, March is a stretch, OK? Deal with it.), burdock grows abundantly, is high in fiber, low in calories, and inspired the invention of Velcro. Seriously. It's still pretty popular in Asian cuisines, though not so much in the West -- why not try your hand at making a burdock root kimchi? Come on, just do it!
Shrooms of all sorts, but don't be fooled by Big Shroom -- those gigantic portobellos are the exact same kind of shroom as the white button and cremini. You've just taken the red pill and opened your eyes to the lies of Big Shroom. There is no cremini, no white button, no portobello; they are all the same shroom.
Mushrooms are especially useful to vegetarians not only because of their umami meatiness, but because they have B vitamins and trace elements. Have you ever made mushroom balls? Fry up some shrooms with onion, mix those together with bread crumbs, Parmesan, eggs, and whatever herbs you like, then roll them into meatball-esque shapes and bake them at around 400 for 40 minutes or so. Shroomballs!
Oh fuck yeah, it's rhubarb season! Well, not quite, but let this one slide -- you'll start to see stalks of it popping up at farmers' markets and you'll think, "Hey, maybe I'll buy a few and make that strawberry-rhubarb pie I always hear about," but after you take them home they'll wilt in the fridge for weeks until they turn black and stink up your whole kitchen, forcing you to throw them out, because who the hell has time to make a pie these days?
Do yourself a favor and get down with some savory rhubarb dishes that make use of its crisp texture and super-tart flavor. It's kind of like a Montague-Capulet marriage of celery and lemon, but with more heart-healthy fiber and less suicide.
It's a shame such a great name (or potentially a new Guy Fieri project) got wasted on a brownish root that tastes more like an artichoke than anything salsified. One dirty little secret about salsify is that no one knows how to cook it. Just kidding, dummy, of course people know how to cook it. Trying to find and cook salsify gives you an excuse to yell at your local grocery store's assistant manager, demanding that they begin stocking salsify immediately or they're going to lose one customer who's spent at least two years trying to gentrify the neighborhood.
Have yourself a party and braise the shit out of some red cabbage, known in some circles as "purple" cabbage because, whoa, would you look at that, it is indeed purple. Weird. Cabbage is a member of the brassica family, which we're slowly but surely legally emancipating ourselves from as we transition into warmer days, thank God, even if they are the healthiest foods Mother Earth has to offer. That's why you should braise them in beer, to counter some of that healthiness with happiness.
A food that requires gloves to handle because it can sting you sounds like more trouble than it's worth, but, counterpoint: honey. Big deal, you gotta bust out the gloves to get down with nettles; think of the Irish who sweated and bled through a transatlantic voyage in hopes of streets paved with gold, only to find another brutally capitalist, racist nation waiting for them. Hate it when that happens.
The point is that you should quit whining about nettles and cook them up in a polenta, which will be especially useful if you have an enlarged prostate. Also they've got lots of vitamin A, and are pretty hardy in the late winter, making them a solid go-to green. Whatever you do, don't eat them raw, for what should be obvious reasons.
Man, you've been eating a lot of shellfish this winter. Aren't you kind of sick of all the mussel-and-kohlrabi dinners you've forced down your oyster-hole? No? Fair enough, it's your bathroom, buddy. Clams, like other shellfish, are sustainable little suckers that are good sources of protein, omega-3s, and a bunch of other nutrients you don't really care about because who eats like that?
Clams. On. The. Grill. It's a clam bake! Invite your friends over and... eh, actually, it's impossible to gather more than three people together at the same time and place, so enjoy your clams alone as you stare into the abyss and ponder the millions of Irish who had to scratch and claw for every meal, every day of their Godforsaken lives. Yum, those grilled clams just got tastier.
Adirondack Red potatoes
If the Irish had access to the sorts of agroscientists Cornell produces, they would've been buried up to their eyeballs in blight-free tots. In case you don't subscribe to Plant Breeder Monthly, the folks in upstate New York elevated the humble potato into something red, which is just good old-fashioned fun. Plus "health-promoting antioxidants"!
Do you need to be told how to cook a potato? You really can't screw it up.
Fine, fine, this is another stretch, but it's green and it gives you some hope that warmer months are just ahead, possibly FOREVER. Then you'll be able to eat asparagus all year round, provided you can handle the smell. Until then, please don't cook it -- slice it thinly on an angle and make an asparagus salad, which is sure to impress someone, at some point, especially if that person is phosphorous deficient. Just eat your greens, dammit, you don't need an explanation of why they're healthy!
Corned beef and cabbage, like most American traditions, is a bastardization of a culture forced to seek refuge in America. The Irish, who typically enjoyed cabbage and bacon, turned to corned beef for St. Paddy's Day. When you consume it, keep in mind that it might best be enjoyed as a hangover meal... you don't want to suffer the consequences of having to rapidly evacuate a pound of corned beef because of all the Jameson you drank in honor of St. Patrick.
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Anthony Schneck is the Health editor at Thrillist who's buying up Hoboken real estate. Follow him: @AnthonySchneck.