About a month or so ago, my friend Valerie came to book club with a gift for me – a rather peculiar-looking vegetable. She brought it, she said, in hopes that I would blog about it. Let me start out by saying that this is a really excellent idea, and if any of my other local friends would like to bring me weird produce, I WILL write about it. You may also give me other sorts of weird food – it needn’t be veggies!
Sort of like a short, fat cucumber with an attitude, right? A chubby little green mace! They reminded me of a plant we had growing in our backyard when I was a kid that in never learned the name of, except that those were hollow inside, while this was solid. It’s called a maxixe – pronounced, from what I can tell, as ma-sheesh – also known as burr gherkin. They’re related to cucumbers, but more on the order of cousins than siblings, and were first cultivated in India. These days they’re very popular in Brazil, used in dishes like chicken with maxixe and maxixada, a sort of spicy stew typically eaten over rice and beans.
Alas, I didn’t have quite enough maxixe to try these recipes, so I figured I’d just wing it. First, I tried it raw, just to see what it was like. I cut off the little spines and sliced it up.
As you can see, it was quite seedy inside! The taste was like a cucumber but more flavorful, with almost a citrusy quality. The seeds were a bit hard but surprisingly tasty – sort of nutty. Usually when a cucumber has tough seeds they’re like little slivers of wood, so that was a nice change.
I pondered what to do with the rest and decided to use them a stir-fry, since most of the recipes I found called for sauteeing slices, ala zucchini. I started doing just that, with a bit of garlic, and then basically threw the rest of the leftovers in the house into the mix. In went green beans, some roasted corn, and pork. I threw in the rice and made a sauce of soy sauce, mirin, and ginger to add some liquid. You can see the maxixe peeking out from the rice:
Cooked, the maxixe retained some of its lemoniness but not nearly as strongly. It was a perfectly pleasant addition to my stir-fry, but no more compelling than any other similar vegetable. If I had the chance I think I’d like to try one of the traditional Brazilian recipes, just to see how it would fare, but overall, thanks to Valerie for introducing me to a vegetable I’d never met before! Incidentally, maxixe are a great source of zinc and very low calorie – it could be a fun snack if you’re looking for a change from carrot sticks!