The typical North American diet when it includes vegetables, is dominated by potato, onion, carrot, broccoli and cabbage. Beans are often the "baked" variety in a sweet sauce and corn can be had in numerous ways, including frozen.
Becoming an émigré in a foreign country is much easier on the cook willing to learn the local produce and recipes. I have been living full time in Costa Rica for three years and have had the privilege of learning many different cuisines from excellent cooks
around the world. Try one or two new vegetables or fruits each time you shop and you can expand your repertoire, forego the less fresh, imported items and enjoy traditional recipes. More on those in my later posts.
We have a variety of "strange" fruits and vegetables in Central America and Mexico, many are used in Caribbean cooking, creole and island cuisines. Root vegetables like Yucca and Camote can be used very successfully in traditional ways, i.e. camote is a
wonderful substitiute for yams at Thanksgiving. Yucca (Tarot root) makes the crispiest, tastiest French fries and both can be added to soups and stews. Just peel, chop and add along with carrot, celery and cilantro.
Chayote comes in several sizes and is either light green or dark. Once peeled and the small white core removed, chayote is very much like a firm squash. A traditional Costa Rican dish mixes cubes of chayote, corn, butter and milk with a bit of salt or bullion
cube. Ah, corn...not exactly what you may be used to. Corn or "elote" in Central America tends to be bright yellow and very hard to chew or digest. Even the canned corn is tough and has a thicker skin than its North American cousin. Be warned. On the good
side, bags of dried corn cost pennies and you can make a large batch of hot popcorn with only a large covered pot, a teaspoon of corn oil and some shaking...the kids will love it too.
Next up, mammon chino, maracuya, and guyabana..stay tuned.