Category Archives: vegetables

vegetables of character

And now for something completely different. Well, not completely. It’s still produce. But kinda sorta different.

It’s not tomatoes.¹


I think this guy looks a bit like a cross between The Shmoo and Lou Costello. That is, If their union somehow resulted in a squash offspring. (This photo was from February of this year.)

I chose this photo to post in a hurry tonight, and it reminded me of the bizarre looking eggplant character I’d shared a while back. Upon digging up that post to link to it, I find that it was a year ago today that I shared that eggplant. And so, a tradition is born. From this day forward, I declare November 21st to be International Day of the Odd Vegetable.²

¹ I have one last tomato post stewing, but don’t have time to wait for it to finish cooking. I have too much other produce to deal with for Thanksgivng.
² This name could use Some Work. Any recommendations? (Day of Peculiar Produce?)

When red + white = blue. (Experiments using red cabbage to dye eggs blue)

Abstract:
+ =

Introduction:
A couple of years ago, I learned that it was possible to dye eggs blue using red cabbage.¹ Typically, we have used a variety of artificial coloring options for our egg-dying needs, whether liquid food coloring or the store-bought Paas-type kits. Last year I was determined to try my hand at doing some natural dyes with vegetables. In the end, I gave up on my plans for using onion skins or artichokes. (The water from steaming artichokes is often an intense bright blue-green, but not from the particular ones I made that day). But I followed through with the cabbage.

I had forgotten how long it took to dye the eggs, but looking back at the photos, I see that it did indeed take a lot longer than the food coloring. So be warned: The eggs took a good couple of hours of soaking to get blue.

Methodology:
I started by cutting up some red cabbage and boiling it in some water.²

The resulting juice was quite purple, and I was doubtful that it would produce blue. It was, however, quite pretty. (6:18 p.m.)

We dunked the first egg and let it soak. 16 minutes later, a peek showed the egg looking somewhat lilac-colored. (6:34 p.m.)

At some point, I added a bit of vinegar to the cabbage juice, inspired by the instructions for dying eggs on the box of food coloring. The purple cabbage juice turned even redder, which made me even more doubtful of achieving blueness. So I poured some more cabbage juice into another glass to have one without vinegar, and dunked another egg to soak.

Here we are, almost an hour after first dunk. Getting to be the kids’ bedtime. Time to break out the chemicals. Here’s Phoebe, squeezing out some blue food coloring. (7:22 p.m.)

I don’t have a time for when the first egg (from the vinegar mixture) came out, but it did indeed come out blue eventually. Having read up a bit on red cabbage (as one is wont to do), I had learned that red cabbage juice changes color based on pH levels. Acid leads to redder colors, and adding something alkaline, and raising the pH, should make it bluer. I then tried adding baking soda to the cabbage juice with the vinegar. The change was instant and dramatic, turning from red to greenish blue.

Here we are, hours after the first dunk. (11:27 p.m.) The two glasses show “neutral” cabbage juice (left), and alkaline cabbage juice (right). In the background are the rest of the completed eggs, mostly dyed with food coloring. (I think the first cabbage dyed one is there in the photo, too. Second row, left, behind a yellow egg.)

Results:
Here are the chemically-dyed (top) and cabbagely-dyed (bottom) blue eggs arranged together. The lighter-colored leftmost cabbage-dyed egg is the one from the baking soda solution. (Blotchiness is due to condensation that happened from putting the previously-refrigerated eggs outside for the egg hunt.)

3 of one, a half half dozen of the other.

Discussion
In the process, I realized why it is that it helps to add vinegar to dye eggs. Egg shells are composed primarily of calcium carbonate. Calcium carbonate is commonly used to neutralize acidity and raise the pH level: it is the main ingredient of antacids such as Tums, as well as agricultural lime. Acids can dissolve calcium carbonate. I’m guessing that adding vinegar starts to break down the egg shell, allowing the color to permeate and bond more quickly to the shell.

This would explain why the redder cabbage juice with added acidity led to a bluer shell (or got there faster) than the bluer-appearing cabbage juice with baking soda added.

Future study:
This year, I’m hoping to try the cabbage dye again, and also to experiment with beets, carrots, berries, and turmeric. I also may play around with acidity levels of the dye solutions again, as well as using brown eggs in addition to white. I wonder if pre-soaking an egg in vinegar would make it more permeable to dyes. (Did you know that you can dissolve the shell off an egg with vinegar? That’s another science experiment for us to do.)

Conclusions:
Can you tell I’ve been wrapped up in academic writing? I need to get to bed.³

References:
More resources on using natural food dyes for eggs can be found at various places around the web:
Natural Easter Egg Dyes on about.com, Making natural Easter egg dye, Three ways to dye eggs, Natural Easter Egg Dyes

Appendix:
Here are all of the photos from above, plus a few more.

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¹ I think it was from NotSoSage, who sadly, has purged her blog archives. I’m pretty sure she also made red/purple eggs using red onion skins.
² That’s not entirely true, I started by buying a red cabbage. And there were steps leading up to that as well. I had to get up in the morning, for example. Sometimes that is the hardest step.
³ Seriously, I need to get to bed.

The Spud Who Loved Me

James Bond: Do you expect me to chop?
Auric Goldfingerlings: No, Mr. Bond. I expect you to dice. And then panfry with some onions.

The Bond Franchise meets the fast food franchise in these lesser-known action movies. Hold on to your seats and grab your ketchup.

  • Licence to Peel
  • From Russia with Latkes
  • Octopierogi
  • Quantum of Solanaceae
  • On Her Masher’s Secret Service
  • Dumplings Are Forever
  • The Living Homefries
  • Dr. Gnocchi
  • Live and Let Fry
  • Thunderbulbes
  • The Hashbrowns Are Not Enough
  • A View Tuber Kill
  • The Man with the Golden Spud Gun
  • Moontater
  • Goldfingerlings
  • You Only Bake Twice
  • Tuber Never Dies
  • Kartoffel Royale
  • Yukon Goldeneye
  • The Spud Who Loved Me
  • Fry Another Tater
  • For Your Eyes Only

No time to include synopses this time, as I’m beat and need to get my synapses some rest. Please feel free to contribute any plot summaries in the comments.

Ceci n’est pas une pomme de terre

(Et ceci n’est pas une vraie blog post, non plus. I have a big deadline coming up this week, and I have to get crackin’. This will have to stand in for my NaBloPoTaTo post of today.)

potato prints

This morning, I decided to do an art project with the kids. Specifically, we made potato prints. (I’ll let you guess what inspired me to do this particular project…) We’re at my in-laws’, and I didn’t want to risk getting paint on the furniture (or walls), so we worked out in the backyard. It was a beautiful day to be outside, but a bit windy for a project involving paper. Phoebe’s tendency to collect piles of rocks came in handy, providng us a ready supply of paperweights.

I can’t remember when I last made potato prints. I’m not sure I have done this as an adult, even. It was a lot of fun. (It would have been more fun if not for the wind.) And I did like the way the prints came out. I loved the way the thick paint made veiny patterns on the prints. (We used some washable Crayola paints that John picked up at the grocery store.)

See the slideshow, below, for more photos from this morning, and this morning’s results. I put even more photos up on Flickr.

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…three potato, four.

Here are the leftover potatoes from yesterday.

  • Here’s a potato riddle, courtesy of this post of potato jokes. (Yes, of course there are potato jokes.):

    A skin have I, more eyes than one. I can be very nice when I am done. What am I?

  • Jamie O’Rourke and the Big Potato: a picture book by Tomie dePaola based on an Irish folktale. Apparently not about small potatoes.
  • The Enormous Potato: by Aubrey Davis. Also a retelling of a folktale. Not actually sure whether it’s the same folktale.
  • How big is my potato? A website that allows you to calculate the size of your potato. I’m serious. There’s even a related blog.
  • potato battery: harness the power of the potato
  • meat and potatoes: the main substance of something. (Also can be used as a more literal description of someones dietary preference, as in “a meat and potatoes kind of guy.”)
  • potato prints: the results of a printmaking technique in which a design is carved in a flat sliced section of potato (usually a half of a potato) to make a stamp. The potato edge is then dipped in paint or ink, and pressed against paper (or other surface) to imprint the design.
  • The Prince Edward Island Potato Museum: “The only museum of its kind in the world.”
  • The Idaho Potato Museum: a potato museum in Idaho
  • Potato Museum: seems to be more of an organization than a location. The real-world location of the museum collection has moved around. They offer up many tidbits of potato goodness. I just lost about 15 minutes doing an online jigsaw puzzle of a potato.
  • For an encyclopedic yet entertaining post on potatoes, their origins, history and etymology, check out potato on polyglot vegetarian. Also find a load of potato poems.
  • Want more potato history? (And who wouldn’t?) You can investigate further with books like Potato (by Patrick Mikanowski), Potato: A History of the Propitious Esculent (by John Reader), and The Potato: How the Humble Spud Rescued the Western World (by Larry Zuckerman).

And if that’s still not enough potatoes, then there are these:

Okay. That was a lot of potatoes. I’m full now.

unearthed

My post of last night, with my flourishing root vegetables, reminded me of a painting I did in an art class a number of years ago. (I think that number may be greater than 10.) I can’t remember what the class was, as I had many classes with the same teacher over several years. For this particular assignment, though, we were to paint something in response to a poem my teacher read to the class. The poem was one by her husband, a poet, and involved memories of his mother and potatoes. (Sadly, I don’t have a copy of the poem, nor do I remember the title.)

Here is what my brain cooked up:

The Potato Madonna

The painting is somewhat modelled after Medieval or Renaissance Madonnas. It wasn’t quite finished, as I’d originally imagined a more ornamental/ornate background. It’s been sitting in my basement for quite a few years, and has curved in the dampness. This was before I started stretching my own canvas, and would just buy whatever cheap canvas or canvas boards. Cheap canvas boards really don’t last well. On the other hand, I think the wrinkling and the warping rather suit the subject matter. As does the musty basement smell…

houseplants

I don’t know about you, but I can’t keep a houseplant alive to save my life. Happily, I have never had the need to, nor can I envision those scenarios. (Well, actually I can envision them. My imagination likes to come up with all sorts of improbable scenarios. Like one in which my very life is tied to the life of a spider plant. Or maybe a ficus. Like some sort of living, leafy voodoo doll. A bug climbs on a leaf, I feel my skin crawl. I get weird cravings for plant food. I forget to water it too long, and suddenly I don’t even have the strength to reach the watering can…I imagine I’d last 2 weeks, tops.)

Seriously, though, we have no houseplants. I have killed many houseplants over the years. I like plants. Don’t get me wrong. I just seem to be unable to consistently remember their existence for a long enough period of time to keep them alive. Pets I could handle, because they would typically make their needs known. Well, not itemizing their needs. But they would make it known that they had needs. By making noise, or looking at me with sad faces, or chewing on things, or getting smelly. Or piddling on the floor. Houseplants are just too quiet and too immobile. They just sit there in a pot. They might drop a leaf here and there, especially when they’ve gone a few weeks without water, but beyond that they don’t intrude. And then before you know it, you happen to glance over at the shriveled corpse of the thing.

Surprisingly, I’ve had some success in my life with gardening. Not that the plants are any noisier, but somehow the greater needs of a garden are easier for me to remember than the occasional needs of a potted plant. I wouldn’t call myself a gardener, by any stretch, but the handful of times I’ve gardened, I’ve kept the plants alive long enough to get some sort of rewards.

I also seem to have a remarkably green thumb when it comes to growing vegetables. Not vegetables that I’ve planted, but those vegetables that I have purchased with the intention of using them as food. But then they grow into plants. In the house.

That makes them houseplants, right?


We kept this sweet potato around for several months, and it was the healthiest looking plant this household has seen in years. It stayed on the kitchen windowsill for several weeks. (Eventually, though, we released it to the wild.)


This is our current project. This rutabaga sprouted while I was in California.

How about you? Have you the thumbs of green? Or are you a plant-killer like me?

mug shots

This shifty-looking character was discovered at a Massachusetts farm stand this September, trying to pass itself off as an ordinary eggplant. It was taken in for questioning regarding the brutal dicing of a carrot, the decapitation of several fiddleheads, and the deflowering of a cauliflower. It was eventually implicated in the death of sweet potato, and was convicted of yamslaughter. While the tubers all demanded that the eggplant should fry, it was instead given a life sentence in the cooler.

It’s after 11:00 p.m., and I needed something to post for my daily posting commitment. I’m trying to focus on work and I need to get to bed so that I can be productive tomorrow. Naturally I did what most people would do: found photos of ridiculous vegetables in my photo library.

Seriously, though, who does this guy remind you of? I do see a bit of Nixon in the top photo, but the profile reminds me of a cartoon character that I can’t quite place.