Gardeners grow red squash yellow beets, other exotics

Thomas Jefferson, that agrarian-epicure, believed that no vegetable was too exotic to plant in his gardens at Monticello. He would certainly be faxcinated by all the new oddities that have recently made their debut in American markets.

He would perhaps have been one of the first to plant blue potatoes, purple cauliflower, golden beets, white broccoli, and black, white, and pink radishes.

Other new vegetables are candystick corn tht is 1 inch thick and a foot long that is ideal for freezing; chop suey greens that looke like spinach but have an aromatic flavor; and apple squash, a type of zucchini that's just as prolific, which can be eaten raw like an apple.

Then there is a gourd that can be stuffed with a meat filling; yellow and white eggplant; big red squash that grows to 100 pounds in weight; Montezuma red beans of a variety over 3,000 years old, and elephant garlic with bulbs weighing a pound apiece that are so mild they won't overpower other flavors.

Sugar snap peas, this year's biggest newsmaker, can be grown from Maine to Hawaii, and at the Portland, Maine, Farmers' Market the vendor told me that he was the first in this area to plant them. In the Northeast they are planted about a week after St. Patrick's Day and are ready for picking in about 70 days.

Another unusual vegetable that is becoming popular is the spaghetti squash, so named because of the "oodles of noodles" that can be pulled from its flesh after cooking. Many people find it a satisfying substitute for pasta. It can be steamed, baked, or served cold as cole slaw with dressing and seasonings. Sugar Snap Peas With Chicken 2 whole broiler-fryer chicken breasts, halved, boned, skinned and cut in bite-size pieces 2 tablespoons margarine 1/2 pound Chinese cabbage, shredded 1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced 1 cup sliced green onions 1/4 cup soy sauce 1 clove garlic, finely chopped 1 1/2 cups chicken broth, divided 1/2 teaspoon sugar 1/2 pound sugar snap peas

In nskillet or wok, place margarine and melt over medium heat. Add chicken and cook, turning, about 5 minutes or until brown. Add cabbage, mushrooms, onion, soy sauce, and garlic. Stir lightly to coat vegetables with soy sauce. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes or until barely tender.

Add 1/2 cup chicken broth and simmer about 5 minutes or until fork can be inserted in chicken easily. In small bowl, mix cornstarch and sugar. Add, stirring, remaining cup of chiecken broth.Pour cornstarch mixture into chicken mixture and stir. Add peas. Cook, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes, or until heated through and sauce is thick. Serve over rice. Serves 4.

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