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Vegetables

From DT Online

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The importance of vegetables in our diet has been established now for many years. - During World War II the British public were encouraged to DIG FOR VICTORY and produce their own vegetables. The conquering Empires of Rome and Islam established large scale vegetable production in their colonies and settlements, and when Columbus discovered the New World, Europe was graced with a greater variety of vegetable crops.

However in many ways vegetables are undervalued, seen simply as an accompaniment to meat meals and we ignore the exciting variety of vegetable dishes that can be made.

Varieties
  • ROOT vegetables come from plants that store food in their roots.The roots become fat and swollen, forming the vegetables which we eat.
  • TUBERS are the special underground stems where plants store food, these are dug up and eaten. Potatoes, yams and Jerusalem Artichokes are all examples of tubers.
  • Also to be found below the ground are bulb vegetables such as garlic and onions. Garlic is believed to have originated in Asia and it is not used simply as a vegetable, but compounds the taste of a range of savoury dishes. For example, the french dish of hare, ‘lievre a la royale’ calls for some 30 cloves of garlic.
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Health Benefits Vegetables contain a great deal of water, but are a good source of vitamins and minerals.

It is hard to make general statements about the nutrient content of vegetables as different types vary in content considerably. With a leafy vegetable such as lettuce containing 96g of water per 100g and 15mg of vitamin C compared to parsley which has 150mg of vitamin C and less water.

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Preparation How Much of A Vegetable Is Wasted ?

Some root vegetables have tough skins and must be peeled but others such as carrots and potatoes may be scrubbed clean and eaten in their skins. There are vitamins and minerals under the skin which could be removed unless the vegetable is peeled thinly and by saving the whole of the skin some of the dietary fibre is also retained.

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Cooking "Most people spoil garden things by overboiling them. All things that are green should have a little crispness, for if they are overboiled they neither have any sweetness or beauty." Hannah Glasse, 1747 - The Art of Cookery Made Plain & Easy.

Vegetables are unpopular often because they are overcooked. By eating vegetables crisp and tender they are fresh and have some 'bite' rather than simply being a mushy mess. Steaming is a good way of cooking delicate vegetables such as broccoli florets.

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Storage Leafy vegetables lose vitamin C and water rapidly during storage and should therefore be stored for the minimum time in a cool place.

Potatoes should be stored in a dark, cool and dry place to prevent them from becoming mouldy and green, and to stop them sprouting.

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Preserving
  • Freezing - a process which takes place immediately after picking.
  • Drying - the best method for keeping in the goodness, vegetables are washed and blanched to prevent the loss of colour, texture and nutrients. Hot air is blown over them until they become completely dry.
  • Canning provides a way of preserving vegetables which is popular and convenient - just think for example of baked beans. However some of the goodness is lost.