Potato Caramels and Parsnip Nougat
I’m starting to realize that you can make candy out of anything. Rocks, even. Oh, wait, that “rock candy” isn’t really made of rocks… (or is it? see this post for more on the question of rocks in rock candy).
But anything edible, you can bet somebody somewhere tried to make a candy out of it. In fact, in some countries what I might consider “peculiar” for a candy ingredient is quite ordinary. Take Mexican Dulces de Calabasas, for example. Squash candy. I wouldn’t have come up with that. Or an Asian favorite, Durian taffy. That’s made of the fruit that smells, to the un-initiated nose, like a diaper pail. You see how provincial I am when it comes to candy flavors.
But luckily, many others have ventured boldly. Our global village is bringing us all sorts of interesting flavors. And a look to the past shows that even here in America, more intrepid candy inventors have imaginations wider than the produce aisle.
I’m thinking of Mrs. Ellen Gillon, of Honesdale, Pennsylvania. This was a while back, of course, 1911 to be precise. Mrs. Gillon’s husband had died, and she was left to fend for herself. She explained:
One day, when I was thinking of schemes to make money, the idea of vegetable candy occurred to me. I experimented for several weeks before I hit upon the process, and as far as I know, I am the only one in the world who knows it
Mrs. Gillon wouldn’t say how she made the candy, only what it was made of: the finest vegetables she could gather from the garden. At Mrs. Gillon’s shop, you could sample potato caramels, parsnip nougat, turnip fudge, beet marshmallows, and bean taffy.
Mrs. Gillon herself claimed to live “almost entirely on vegetables” and to eat little candy. Once her vegetable confections were perfected, though, she could one supposes, live almost entirely on candy vegetables! Not to mention all the children of the neighborhood, for whom “eat your vegetables” would sound entirely delectable.
Source: Confectioners Journal June 1911, p. 83, quoting from the Philadelphia North American May 6, 1911.