For the first of our "Alternative Brackets," we've decided to run 64 of the most notable fruits and vegetables against each other, and determine the greatest of all time.
- A PlayStation 4
- A banana suit
- A "fruit of the month" subscription
- A tasteful assortment of vegetable garden seeds
Just a couple notes before we get going:
1. I've chosen my winners already, but regardless of how "right" or "wrong" your bracket is, you stand the same chance of winning as everyone else, as it's a completely random drawing. The picks you make will merely stand as a monument of how right or wrong you are.
2. So as to keep the seeding completely arbitrary, I simply seeded each region in alphabetical order. For example, the avocado is a 16-seed, even though it deserves far better than that.
Spencer and I nearly got into a fistfight over this crud. As a consequence of my selections, I expect dissent, resentment, and possibly arson. Here is my preview of the Field of 64. And of course, all y'all are welcome to discuss it in the comments below.
Few fruits fall across such a broad spectrum of quality; our world persistently weathers an avalanche of cruddy cafeteria apples. But few things in the world are as perfect as a Honeycrisp or Braeburn.
Most recently famous for being presented as evidence of a loving God. We know this is not true, because God could have done a lot better than this.
Aesthetically, one of the most beautiful foods in existence. A phenomenal dessert ingredient, but if they're in season, we have no business eating them with sugar.
The Nicolas Cage of fruit, in that you thought you knew how to spell it, and also in dozens of other ways.
The pits can be rather problematic, but if they weren't there to slow you down, you would probably eat Rainier cherries until you died.
Delicious, despite the ludicrous diet it inspired. It is also the only fruit to inspire its own spoon, although if you offered to sell me an apple spoon, I'd probably buy one.
Unpopular as a solo act, but tremendously versatile in a supporting role. The dirty secret of the contemporary culinary set: no matter what you're eating, if you sprinkle some lemon juice on it, it will probably be a lot better.
An indispensable staple of several cuisines, notably Thai and Mexican. When placed in tandem with avocado, for example, it possesses perhaps the best one-two punch of any two items in this bracket.
Is liable to cost anywhere from a quarter to a hundred billion dollars. Versatile. The skin ain't gonna hurt you.
It lacks subtlety, but I usually don't keep its juice around the apartment, because I'll drink the entire carton in 20 minutes.
Fantastic and messy. It is impossible to eat a peach whole without looking like a forest creature.
They probably taste good, but it isn't possible to know for sure, because nobody has eaten a pear since 1987.
An uncertain flavor profile from fruit to fruit, a dozen seeds in every bite, and apparently named after the dying breath of someone who has been shot by an arrow.
Suffers from the Apple Problem: some are absolutely delicious, some are not. The spectrum of quality isn't as wide, but it's more insidious, as strawberries sitting right next to one another can taste radically different.
Might actually be candy.
GREEN VEGGIE REGION.
Many, many people with access to artichoke will never go near it. But it possesses the rarest of qualities in a vegetable -- meatiness -- and it's also the most underappreciated pizza topping.
Also meaty, also begins with "A." It's the only item in this bracket that both a) shouldn't be refrigerated, and b) probably shouldn't be cooked. As such, it lacks versatility. The avocado is a confusing thing, to be sure. For instance, consider that its consistency is rather like baby food, and yet anyone who doesn't like it is a big dumb baby.
Arguably the healthiest common food in existence. Terrifically satisfying texture. Tasty when raw, and a terrific vessel for any number of flavors when cooked. If you can do so, you ought to eat broccoli by the fistful, every day, and without regret.
(9) BRUSSELS SPROUT.
With help, it's a treasure.
The zero point of all foods. Stands out only when served alongside sucky foods such as hot wings and Ranch dressing.
(12) COLLARD GREENS.
If you cook it right, you have spices, terrific texture, and a boatload of nutrients. Could even give the likes of spinach a run for its money.
Refreshing on its own, delicious when pickled. If you're cooking it, you're probably a 19-year-old who just got your own place and decided you know how to cook. "Zucchini" is what you were after. "Zucchini."
(13) GREEN BEAN.
An invaluable component of low-income living. Add red pepper flakes or jarred salsa. Let the world sneer all it wants. It's delicious.
It's good for you, but I can't see the word "kale" without thinking "Whole Foods and bike shorts."
Serves a purpose, but is fickle. The white base of the leaf is bitter and not particularly useful; the end is liable to lose its texture after a relatively brief time in the refrigerator. A thing with such a subdued flavor profile ought to be a little more versatile than that.
Split pea soup is a godsend. Frozen peas can be easily deployed to a wealth of dishes at the very end of the cooking process. Arguably the easiest of vegetables.
Often an afterthought, but if you're planning on cooking an involved dish, you ought to pick some up at the store. They're 89 cents, and there's at least a 50-50 shot they'll work with whatever you're doing.
Another outstanding low-income food: with a little extra care, even the cheap frozen spinach can turn out great. One of the most nutritious foods at our disposal. Make sure to wash it if it hasn't been already: this isn't a mushroom sort of deal, where you can afford to miss a few specks of dirt. The stuff that hitches a ride with spinach will foul up your teeth like a steak knife against a concrete wall.
Yes, it's a one-trick pony, and peeling its paper produces an awful nails-on-chalkboard effect. But in skilled hands, it might make for the best salsa on Earth.
Special, in that it can retain its little bit of pungency while still carrying any manner of flavors you choose to add.
NON-GREEN VEGGIE REGION.
One of two items on this entire bracket that I've never actually purchased before. Rather inflexible, but outstanding if braised.
Not terribly exciting, but nutritious. Pound-for-pound, one of the least expensive items on this bracket. An essential component in many soups and stews, the carrot is among the greatest of winter vegetables.
Has drawn the interest of mathematicians, who note its unusually complex fractal dimension. Is profoundly nutritious and surprisingly versatile; in many scenarios it can substitute for starches.
If you're an American, a vote for this is a vote for probably around 87 percent of your body.
Unique texture, noted sponge of spices and flavorings. Roll out a map and draw a line from France to China. The cuisine of just about every country you hit treasures the eggplant.
It would be easier to name the dishes in which garlic would be out of place. You should overdo garlic, and add double what the recipe calls for. The smell of garlic cooking in butter is the greatest smell in the entire world.
Human beings have used ginger for a hundred different purposes since the day they pulled it out of the ground. Can be sweet, spicy, pickled, snack food, tea, or booze.
The mushroom is a wonder. It can be a filling base in and of itself, and given its immense variety of unique tastes and aromas, it can also be treated as a spice. Mushrooms are also the Holy Grail of folks who like to play Mr./Ms. Actual Factual. "You know," they will say, "mushrooms aren't actually vegetables." If one of these people makes eye contact with you at a party, pretend you're getting a phone call.
If you take issue with the onion in all its wonderful forms, you should probably re-examine why you're bothering to fill out this bracket in the first place. Surely there's a baby food bracket somewhere that requires your presence.
Potentially poisonous if raw, unbearably dull if eaten cooked and on its own. It's really more of a plate for other, more tasty ingredients. That's not necessarily a fault.
Terrifically well-suited for pie, seeds, and your contrived Walter White stencil kit.
Personally speaking, I was late to the party on this one, but I now use it religiously in most salads. It's never too late to get it right.
Used for nearly as many purposes as the onion. Among many other things, it's useful if you want to imbue onion-like flavor and aroma, but want the texture to disappear. One time, a man tried to make red pasta sauce without shallots. The next day, he was hit by a train!
(10) SWEET POTATO.
Sweet potato fries are in vogue. They are not as good as regular fries.
The tomato does suffer considerably from the Apple Problem. Many tomatoes -- perhaps even the majority of tomatoes -- sold in America are watery and dull. Cooking those lesser tomatoes down will often bring them back to life, however. Meanwhile, if every tomato were like the best tomato, we wouldn't have bothered to make this bracket at all.
(15) YELLOW SQUASH.
The banana of the drunk grocery shopper.
(1) BANANA PEPPER
Perhaps the greatest of the commonly-pickled vegetables, and a savior of lesser sandwiches. If you find yourself tumbling, head over foot, down some labyrinthine trash-chute of life choices that dumps you into a Subway, the banana pepper is your lifeline. It was pickled into its immutable state long before the decision-makers at Subway had the opportunity to ruin it.
(16) BELL PEPPER (GREEN).
The most common, and least interesting, of peppers. Perhaps more useful for adding aesthetics and texture than anything else.
(8) BELL PEPPER (RED)
If the green bell pepper is your biology teacher, the red bell pepper is the cool substitute who pops Funny Farm in the VCR and is a red bell pepper.
(9) HABANERO PEPPER.
Probably the spiciest pepper anyone ever needs.
(5) JALAPENO PEPPER.
Be careful if you eat them! They are hot!
(12) BHUT JOLOKIA PEPPER.
For a time, it was rated the hottest pepper in the world. Great for making into novelty salsa called "MR. KICK-ASS'S HOT AS HELL SURFBOARD PARTY ROCK & ROLL ASS BUTT SHIT JIMMY BUFFET T-SHIRT INFERNO SAUCE" and hawking it to tourists who can't believe you cussed on a bottle of sauce. Useful for absolutely nothing else.
(4) POBLANO PEPPER
Provides a modest, smoky flavor that will often give you all the heat you're really after. Curiously, one poblano might be considerably hotter than the one sitting next to it. To be safe, buy them all.
(13) SERRANO PEPPER.
Goodness, how many different peppers are there in the world? Perhaps as many as nine or ten.
Pesto, pho. We could build on that list, but I'm not sure we need to.
The leaves are light and provide valuable balance to a number of dishes, the seeds are lemony, and the roots are pungent. If you were forced to use one herb, and only one, for your entire life, you might choose this one.
Can be found all over Eurasian cuisine, but my favorite is the simple tomato dill soup. Well, my second favorite. My favorite is you, the reader!
As a Louisville native, I'm supposed to tell you about the Mint Julep. It is a drink that ranges from "fine" to "gross." Just get whatever cocktail you want, they're all pretty good.
Unlike most herbs, it's arguably better in its dried form, so there's no reason not to have some around. If you're a cooking novice, dumping this in everything is the closest you can get to putting on airs.
We're speaking strictly of the garnish, which restaurants everywhere tossed on their plates for decades before everyone realized that was a stupid thing to do.
If you cook beef stew without rosemary, what you've got is basically a pot of cat food.
Speaking of, we're out of it! Heh! Smell y'later, ding-dongs!