Apparently the Italians only cook and eat the stalk of the vegetable, but since I’m such a penny-pincher, I have no qualms about keeping the leaves and cooking them too—which surprises them. Coste is as much leaf as it is stalk—and while some of the leaves are quite large and thick, the Italians have no use for them because they’re a bit tough and tasteless. I do have to admit that the stalk tastes better than the leaves…
I can tolerate eating the leaves of something like a coste because it seems like a waste to throw them out, but there were a couple of vegetables I really suffered through when I first started trying to live frugally. I’ve made mistakes every time I’ve tried to eat parts of vegetables that are usually thrown away, and I’m truly ashamed of my greediness.
The number one vegetable you must never unleash your frugality on is the artichoke.
In Italy, artichokes are typically sold just as they are harvested. There are two types—one has painful-looking spikes, and the other has rounded leaves with no spikes.
For some reason, I ended up buying the spikey ones and getting painfully poked as I tore off the leaves. The leaves do get softer as you peel further down, eventually reaching the heart. The proper way to eat an artichoke is to boil or otherwise prepare this heart portion, but getting to it requires that you pull off quite a few leaves in the process. You even reach a layer of soft, shaggy choke.
Once you’re there, the artichoke has become quite small—and after you remove the choke, it’s truly tiny. This is where my frugality kicked in, with even the choke looking soft enough to eat, so once I’d peeled it back a good way, I just prayed that the ends of the baby leaves haven’t yet formed into thorns and ate them. And it was awful.
The choke is as pale as a newborn and looks soft enough to eat, when in fact it is made up of leaves with serious spikes. No matter how I prepared them, the thorns were thorns.
Even though I boiled them until they looked soft and delicious, the minute I tossed them in my mouth I got impaled. Those baby thorns had in no way softened. My mouth was getting shredded.
Undaunted by the artichokes, I moved to asparagus. But here again I was nearly brought to tears by my penny-pinching. In addition to not cutting off a big portion of the base of the stem, I didn’t even peel it because I thought I could just eat it. And in the end, my meal was ruined by endless chewing of asparagus fibers.
They really need to come out with improved varietals of these vegetables so that tightwads like me can eat the entire thing without throwing parts of them away!