How to Choose, Store and Prepare Vegetables
Don't always buy frozen vegetables. Learn how to choose, store and prepare fresh vegetables, to ensure they arrive on your plate maintaining the vitamins, antioxidants and goodness within them.
Vegetables are vitally important for health and are not just a space filler to put between the meat and the potatoes on your plate.
Of course, potatoes are vegetables too and probably the most staple vegetable eaten the world over.
Potatoes are unusual in that being a root vegetable; they contain a lot of Vitamin C, whereas normally most leafy vegetables contain more vitamin C than root vegetables.
Vegetables are full of minerals, vitamins, and anti-oxidants. Dark green-leaved vegetables especially are rich in iron,calcium and vitamins A, B, C and K.
Vitamin D can be found in mushrooms, and it is really important for your health to incorporate as many different types of vegetable as possible into your daily diet. Aim for at least 5 portions of either fruit or vegetables every day.
Storing and Preparation of Vegetables
- Keep vegetables in a cool, airy position in the house
- Vegetables racks are ideal for storing vegetables in a cool part of the kitchen, else use vegetable compartment of a refrigerator.
- Green vegetables should be used as soon as possible after harvesting, while their vitamin C content is at its highest.
- All vegetables should be prepared as near as possible to when you plan to cook them, to retain both flavor and their vitamin C content.
- When boiling vegetables, a rule of thumb is to allow 5ml (1 level teaspoon) of salt for every 600ml (1pt) water.
Be careful what vegetable you store next to each other. Potatoes will spoil quickly if stored next to onions, while carrots stored next to apples will develop a bitter taste.
Cut the leaves from roots vegetables to prevent the sap from rising.
Only take a thin outer coat from onions, potatoes and other root vegetables as most of their vitamins are stored in their outer skin.
How to choose the best and freshest vegetables in the store
Nowadays, the supermarkets sell a wide variety of vegetables all year round, imported from every corner of the globe and flown in huge refrigerated compartments in airplanes to your country.
Vegetables are in season somewhere in the world so there is always a ready supply for you.
Choose the freshest, undamaged items as bruised vegetables may have been badly handled at some point in their journey and may have lost yet more of these vital vitamins.
- Buy vegetables fresh daily whenever possible
- Choose roots and tubers without loose soil, of medium size, without spade marks or grub holes
- Greens should be crisp, stalks should snap sharply, leaves closely packed
- Cauliflowers should be white with closely packed sprigs
- Pods should be of medium size, not too big which suggests nourishments may be poor
- Vegetable marrow is best for cooking when small and young. Use large ones for preserving
- Spinach should be used soon after gathering or buying; the stalks should be crisp and the leaves bright green
Classification of Vegetables
Roots & Tubers
Beetroot, swedes, parsnips, carrots, turnips, potatoes etc
Onions, leeks, shallots
Sprouts, cabbage, kale, lettuce
Peas, beans, tomatoes, marrow
Asparagus, celery, kale
Vegetables should be served as soon as they are cooked, as they deteriorate quickly when kept hot.
It is better to slightly under-cook rather than over-cook, and drain them well, if boiled.
Green vegetables can be pressed to squeeze the past of the water out.
Fresh from the garden, young vegetables usually need less cooking time.
Fried vegetables should be served very hot.
Don’t cover them with a lid or they will become soggy.
A sprinkling of salt and pepper improves most vegetables – especially fried ones where no salt is used in the cooking process.
Add a knob of butter to boiled or steamed vegetables.
Vegetables can be improved by sprinkling chopped herbs on top immediately before serving – try parsley on carrots, mint on peas, tarragon on courgettes. A little grated nutmeg spics up cabbage and gives it an interesting flavour.
White or cheese sauce goes well with some vegetables such as marrow, leeks, onions, cauliflower, broad beans and carrots.
Vegetables can also be served on platters, arranged in rows or circles to give it an attractive quality, and served as an accompaniment to boiled or roasted meat.