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10 Unexpected Winter Foods

vegetables
© Ilya Melnikov
From Krembo persimmons for on-the-go snacks to Bukharian radishes to spice up the kitchen, here are ten of the tastiest seasonal treats to eat and cook with in Israel now... 
 
 
Taste a tomato in Israel and you’ll just as soon realize the taste is like nowhere else. Sweet, almost candy-like, fresh produce takes up most of the space on the table in this tiny little country. One of the simplest local pleasures to have is going down to the market and discovering fresh vegetables and fruit from regional farms. 

Head to the Tel Aviv Port Farmer’s Market to check out the new and unexpected produce available. Every day is a feast for food lovers, but weekends have an extended Farmers Market and the Friday market boasts a food extravaganza of unlimited produce and local artisan jams, cheeses, and breads to take home.
 
1. Japanese Cucumber
 

 

Japanese cucumber

© Ilya Melnikov

This slimmed-down version of the cucumber is in a league of its own. With no bitterness and a nice, mild, and easy-to-eat skin, there’s no need to peel them. Take a bite of out of this melon-tasting vegetable and enjoy its light crunch. With its 96% water content, these are also super refreshing. Plus, their cool flavor is a great combination with spicy foods.
 
2. Bukharian Radishes
 

 

Radish

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These white and green plump, large radishes are the answer for people who want to dabble with radishes in salads but hate the bitterness that typically comes with them. These are slightly sweet, not spicy and seem to be a favorite with kids, too. Chop them for salads with a bit of your favorite salt, or just snack on them by the handful.
 
3. Krembo Persimmon
 

 

Crembo persimmon

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This bright fruit has painted the town orange! Although persimmons are always a popular choice in Israel, look out for the Krembo variety : heart-shaped and crunchier, with a less jelly-like texture than your regular persimmons. Named after one of Israel’s national snacks Krembo (a chocolate-coated shell with a foamy cream inside), this type of persimmon is the perfect snack for when you are on the run.
 
4. Plantains
 
Plantains

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Many people might call them green bananas but these tropical favorites are usually found in a multitude of dishes from the Caribbean Islands and Central and South America. Starchy and lacking the sweetness of yellow bananas, they are used fried or cooked.  Make your own  fried plantains, or head over to Totuma (265 Dizengoff St, Tel Aviv) for Venezuelan street food and try the ultra-thin plantain fries alongside a Guasacaca salsa, a Venezuelan version of guacamole with a black bean dip.
 
5. Black Lemon (dried limes)
 

 

black lemons

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Black lemons, AKA dried limes or loomi are basically a lime which has been dried, losing all of its water content in the process.  Ideal for Middle Eastern dishes with a sour flavor, you can use this spice whole, sliced or ground. The strong flavor is a mix of sour citrus with a subtle smokiness. Use in soups or stews for a revitalizing smoky flavor. 
 
6. Gili Corn
 
corn

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This type of corn is sweeter than the regular varieties found in markets. In fact, it is so sweet that it can be snacked on raw. This is a favorite with the little ones, so grab a bag of these when you see them and you can even pretend these are dessert.
 
7. Turmeric Root
 
Tumeric

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The orange color that has been taking the pots by storm in Israeli kitchens has a deeper meaning: to keep us healthy. It may look a bit like the spicy yet soothing  ginger root, but fresh turmeric root is richer in color and possesses a multitude of its own health benefits. Next time you have a cold, just add this to your tea.  (phyllisfood.co.il).
 
8. Etrog
 

 

etrog

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Many are familiar with the citron fruit, known for being one of the four species of Sukkot tradition—but did you know that there is more to Etrog than this?  Etrog jam is not only tasty, but it is also a popular custom to eat it for a smooth childbirth.  Candy them for a citrusy dried fruit treat, or try your hand at making a vodka drink with them. Find Uzi-Eli, the Etrogman, at the entrance of the Carmel Market or in Machane Yehuda Market and down an all-natural juice made with this citrusy delight. (etrogman.com).
 
9. Fresh Yuzu
 

 

yuzu

© Ilya Melnikov

All the rage in Tel Aviv’s local food scene is this citrus fruit is often used in Asian cuisine, resembling a mini grapefruit with a mild, citrusy flavor. Originally cultivated in Central China and Tibet, the fragrant, mandarin-like flavor of this fruit adds a bright touch to any dish. Get a Yuzu treat at Backdoor by Sunny (21 Ha’arbaa St. Tel Aviv), an adorable bakery behind the Nithan Thai restaurant. Try the yuzu marshmallows, or the tarts with red fruit marmalade, coconut and yuzu, and blondies with coconut mousse and yuzu on top.
 
10. Thai Eggplant
 
Thai Eggplant

© Ilya Melnikov

These little round, golf-ball shaped eggplants have a green color that fades into speckles or circles at the bottom. There are many different variants in color, from shades of green to purple and white, and they are often used in Southeast Asian cuisines. Cut them in half or quarters and use them in curries and sauces, or raw in salads. You’ll love the mild flavor and the nice crunch that goes with it.​

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