Vegetables are a very important part of an optimally nutritional diet, and can be the most enjoyable part of a meal if properly chosen and prepared.
Dr. Shelton says, “A large raw vegetable salad with each dinner is one of the most important elements of the diet. As a preventive of disease, it is far superior to all the vaccines and scrums ever devised.”
Vegetables are anabolic (bodybuilding) foods, yet, unlike most protein foods, they are almost consistently alkaline in reaction, have very little fat and contain adequate amounts of dietary fiber.
Green leafy vegetables are the richest source of chlorophyll, as well as minerals and vitamins. They also contain small amounts of protein of high biological value, which is easier to assimilate than concentrated proteins.
A diet containing excessive amounts of protein and carbohydrates would not be nearly so harmful if balanced with a generous amount of vegetables.
Vegetables add variety to the menu and play an important role in the nutrition of humans.
1.1 How to Judge and Select Vegetables
- Buy in season when quality is highest and prices lowest.
- Don’t buy more than you will use before they deteriorate. The sooner you use your vegetables, the more flavor and nutritional value they will contain.
- Handle displayed vegetables carefully so you don’t damage them for others.
- Buy the freshest and best quality available—it will taste better, you will have less to discard and you will get more usable food for your money.
Vegetables are best when eaten immediately after they are picked from the garden. Try to at least grow some of your own lettuce (many vegetables can even be grown in crates, if there is really no garden space available), or find someone in your area who can share with you. Green leafy vegetables are so important that it is worth going to some trouble to assure a supply of the best available. All vegetables have the most to offer nutritionally and have the best flavor when organically grown and eaten in the raw state immediately after harvesting. The more time that passes after harvesting, the more chemical changes occur which alter the nutritional composition and the taste.
Fresh vegetables are usually transported rapidly from field to market in chilled vans to keep them at maximum quality. If handled properly at the wholesale and retail levels, they can reach you in fairly good condition. Unlike fruit, the concern is freshness, not ripeness. It is incumbent upon you to learn to pick the freshest and best, and to reject poor quality vegetables that have been mishandled or that have just been on hand too long. Even when you must depend on conventional sources for your produce, you can become a wise, canny, selective, knowledgeable shopper, and you and your family and dinner guests will eat the best food available.
If it’s fresh, it looks fresh—not wilted, wrinkled, drooping or otherwise blemished. The color should be characteristic of the variety. The degree of maturity is also important. Most vegetables are best when slightly immature; if large and mature, they are usually tough.
As with fruits, most of the vegetables available in the markets have been treated with heavy doses of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Washing can somewhat decrease those that remain on the outside surface, though nothing can remove the residues which are absorbed through the roots. Some vegetables can be peeled, but it is sad to have to remove the skin and thus lose the nutrients which lie immediately beneath it.
Some vegetables have their own protective coating, like podded peas and beans. Vegetables like lettuce can be washed only lightly to remove dirt and sand, and used “as is.” Unless you grow your own, or obtain organically-grown vegetables, that’s the best you can do. You will still be healthier and better nourished than nonvegetarians, and, as previously explained, chemical residues in the bodies of vegetarians are considerably lower than in the bodies of meateaters.
Some vegetables may also be waxed. Watch for the wax coatings on cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, parsnips and rutabagas. Either try to buy unwaxed vegetables, or peel them. If you must peel, don’t cut too deeply. Try to discard only the thin skin. The greatest concentration of nutrients is just beneath the skin.
Red coloring may be added to sweet potatoes or to some new white potatoes. Don’t buy colored vegetables.
Potatoes and onions are frequently treated with an anti-sprouting chemical. If the potatoes look fresh and good, and a few are showing signs of tiny sprouts, that would seem to indicate that they have not been treated. I pick those that are not sprouting, of course.
Tomatoes may be picked green and gassed in the van on the way to market. You can tell by the color and the taste. Tomatoes that were not picked prematurely will ripen to a deep-glowing red color, the flesh will not be mushy, and the taste will be superb.
If you locate a source of “organically grown” vegetables, check the source to try to find out if they really are as represented. Usually, there are certain indications, certain differences in appearance and taste. In any event, don’t accept vegetables that are poor quality or old just because you have been assured they are organically grown.
Keep trying to find organically grown produce, but in the meantime these lessons can help you pick the freshest and best of what is seasonably available.
Specific Varieties of Vegetables (alphabetically):
Artichokes, Globe (or French)
Peak season is March through May. Artichokes are grown in California and, while they are shipped all through the year, they are best from March through May. This vegetable is usually cooked. Select firm, compact, tightly closed heads that are heavy in relation to size, with green, fresh-looking leaves. Size is not related to quality or flavor. You may sometimes find artichokes with frost discoloration on the outer leaves. The inner leaves are still good and unaffected. Reject artichokes with brownish soft spots near the stem or on leaf edges.
Artichokes, Jerusalem (or ground)
This plant has potato-like tubers which are delicious eaten raw. It is crisp and tastes a little like a fresh water chestnut. It also has a delicate flavor when cooked. Dr. Vetrano has expressed the opinion that the starch in Jerusalem artichokes is not readily absorbed by the body.
Peak season is March through June. Asparagus is usually cooked, but it is delicious raw. Select deep green, well-rounded spears with compact, tightly closed tips. The young slim tips are the most tender and best tasting. Avoid wilted, limp, flat or angular stalks. They are usually tough and stringy. Use asparagus as soon as possible; it is very perishable. Dr. Esser says the wild asparagus is a real delicacy. He also says that cultivated asparagus is the choicest of all spring vegetables and should be in every home garden. However, Dr. Burton has expressed the opinion that the fact that the eating of asparagus causes the urine to emit a foul odor, is indicative of this vegetable’s unfavorable reaction in the body, and that he would recommend using it sparingly, if at all.
Snap Beans (Green or Wax), Pole Beans, Italian String Beans
Peak season is May through October, particularly June and July. Available all year, but of poor quality out of season. Select beans with both ends intact. They should have a pliable, velvety feel, not hard or tough. The color should be fresh and bright-looking and the pods should be young and snap easily. If they are limp and flexible, shriveled or dull, with brown rust spots and serious blemishes, don’t buy them. Young snap beans are delicious raw.
Fresh Podded Beans
Lima or cranberry beans in the pod are sometimes available. Sometimes other podded beans are available, such as fava beans. Baby limas can be eaten raw. Mature limas, cranberry beans and fava beans have a rather tough skin, and are usually cooked. Cranberry beans are very easy to hull for cooking. Fresh podded beans require no soaking, and cook in half an hour or less. Select fresh-looking unblemished dry pods.
Peak season is June through August, but they are available all year. Small beets are young, sweet and tender and can be eaten raw. The roots should be firm with a smooth surface and dark red color. Wilted leaves indicate less freshness, but the bulbs, if firm, are still satisfactory.
The tops (leaves) are high in oxalic acid (like spinach) and it is not advisable to use them often. A few young tender leaves may be used in the salad. Remove the leaves as soon, as you get the beets home. Allowing the leaves to wilt while still attached to the roots robs the roots of some nutritional value.
Peak season is October through May. The quality of broccoli available at other seasons is not as good. (Select firm stalks with dark green or purplish green compact clusters of buds, tightly closed and not on the verge of flowering. None of the buds should be opened enough to show the yellow flower. Stems should not be too thick or tough. Avoid buds that are spread, yellow or wilted. The leaves and tender buds may be eaten raw.
Peak season is September through February. These look like miniature cabbages, but the raw flavor is not as good as that of sweet raw cabbage or broccoli. They can be eaten raw by chopping and mixing into the salad. Select tight, firm, unblemished heads with a bright green color, and no faded yellow soft or wilted leaves. If crisp and green, the outer leaves may be a little loose.
Available all year. Supply peaks in January and runs low in August and September. Select heads that are compact and heavy, with outer leaves that are deeply colored (green or red) and free from blemishes. The outer leaves may be loose and are usually discarded, since they are very tough. If the outer leaves are missing, the cabbage is not fresh, and will probably not be sweet enough to be eaten raw. When green cabbage turns white, it is old. Dark spots also indicate age. Cabbage should be light green (or red for that variety). The three varieties of cabbage are the common green variety, red cabbage, and green savoy cabbage, which has crinkly leaves. Red cabbage and savoy cabbage are usually more expensive, but we prefer a nice, sweet, fresh head of green cabbage. Although darker colored vegetables usually contain more nutrients, Dr. Vetrano says that green cabbage is of greater nutritional value than red cabbage. Avoid cabbages that have had the butt end excessively trimmed, because this causes dehydration. Do not eat bitter cabbage—it contains irritants.
Available all year. Organically-grown carrots are often available through health food stores, but they are usually very large, overly mature carrots suitable for juicing, which is why the health food stores carry them. Young, tender carrots fresh from your garden are the best for eating raw. Carrots with the green tops still on are sometimes available in certain produce sections and, of course, they are fresh. Otherwise, select firm, smooth carrots with a good, rich, orange color. Avoid flabby or shriveled carrots, or those with large green areas. Good carrot taste comes from the bright orange area where sugar is stored. The nutritional value of the carrot makes it an important vegetable.
Peak season is September through November, low May through August. Cauliflower is available all year, but its price and quality are better in season. Select compact to solid heads with white to creamy white clusters (and fresh green leaves, if they have not been removed). Cauliflower accumulates black smudges as it ages. If not too many, they can be scrubbed or cut off. Cauliflower eaten raw should be the freshest possible. If it is spotted, or the green leaves are getting dark and withered, it’s old.
Available all year. Select crisp, thick, unblemished stalks with as many green leaves as possible. If the stalks are cracked or loose, don’t buy them. Avoid limp, rusty celery. Celery is one of the best of the salad vegetables, being succulent and juicy. Try to find celery that is medium green in color. If it is dark green, the taste is very strong, and if it is white (blanched), it is of low nutritional value.
Celery Cabbage (Chinese Cabbage)
Available all year. This is an excellent salad vegetable, if not too mature and tough. Select crisp, light green heads, with no wilted, yellow leaves.
Occasionally available. This is a member of the squash family. It is light green, has white, juicy flesh, and is delicious eaten raw, like a cucumber. It is native to tropical America, but can be grown in gardens on the southeast coast, from South Carolina southward, and in southern California.
Various Chinese vegetables are available in some supermarkets. Celery cabbage (listed separately) is also known as Chinese cabbage. The water chestnut (also listed separately) is another Chinese vegetable. Bok choy and suey choy are quite frequently available. Bok choy looks a little like celery cabbage, but has very dark green, wide leaves at the top. Suey choy looks like a shorter, plumper version of celery cabbage. Neither of these is as good in the salad as some other vegetables, but they are popular for use in chop suey and give a wider variety of ingredients for vegetable chop suey. Young shoots of the bamboo plant are much like asparagus, but are seldom found fresh in this country except in areas with Chinese and Japanese populations. Other unfamiliar but excellent Oriental vegetables, such as Arrowhead, water bamboo, and unusual squashes, may be found near these communities. Chinese vegetables are interesting and nutritionally valuable additions to the menu.
A mild member of the onion family, perennial and hardy. Sometimes available in markets growing in pots. Hygienists do not recommend onions, which are irritants when eaten raw. Chives may be mild enough for occasional use by people with unimpaired digestions. Easy to grow in the garden. May be dug up, in the autumn, in small clumps, potted and kept growing in the house.
Peak season is May through September. Best months vary according to local season in your area. Don’t buy corn out of season. Corn begins to lose its delicate, sweet flavor immediately after harvesting, and unless it is really fresh and in its prime, it will have tasteless, starchy kernels, instead of kernels filled with sugar-sweet milk. In fact, corn is considered a green vegetable when freshly picked, and converts its natural sugar to starch in only two hours, so that it then must be classified as starchy. When freshly picked, it is delicious raw. People who buy their corn in supermarkets rarely know the fine flavor of fresh corn, but, occasionally, I have been lucky enough to be on hand for a fresh shipment of sweet, tender corn which we could enjoy without cooking. Select corn with rich green tightly folded husks, and brown dry silk. The stem should not be dry or discolored. Pull down the leaves a bit to check the kernels, which should be plumb and milky, uniform in size and color, with no bare spots. If the kernels are large, the corn is usually tough. Small, delicate kernels are the tenderest. If the milk spurts from a pierced kernel, the corn is fresh and sweet. Don’t buy ears of corn which have been husked; this causes the flavor and nutritional value to dissipate rapidly. Color varies from white to yellowish to yellow, and is not a reliable indication of quality.
Available all year with a slight peak in May and June. If you buy cucumbers in season in your area, you will be more likely to find them unwaxed. The European or English cucumber is long and slender, has few seeds, and sometimes reaches a length of more than three feet. It is almost seedless because it is asexual, grown wholly in greenhouses. The common garden variety comes in many sizes and shapes. Small, young cucumbers are best for flavor and quality. Some supermarkets feature packages of fresh “pickling” cucumbers, which are unwaxed, small in size and contain small, tender seeds. Inspect these packages carefully; if you get them shortly after packing, before they have had a chance to deteriorate, they are excellent. If you must buy waxed cucumbers, select the smaller sizes, and be sure to peel them. Don’t buy cucumbers which are beginning to turn yellow, or which have withered ends or mushy spots. Cucumbers are low in nutritional value, since they are more than 96% water, but they are good food, nevertheless, containing valuable nutrients, and are delightful additions to the salad, offsetting other more concentrated foods. Foods with high water content, like cucumbers and watermelon, help to comprise the water-sufficient Hygienic diet.
Available all year, with a slight peak in August. The tough skin of eggplant affords it some natural protection against chemical farming. Although the skin is edible, I usually peel eggplant, because it is often waxed. If it doesn’t feel waxed, and you want to use the skin, scrub it as best you can. Select firm, bright, shiny, heavy eggplants with a uniform rich purple color, with no brown or bruised spots, or cracked or shriveled skin. Select small-sized eggplants whenever possible. The larger ones are apt to be over-mature, perhaps bitter, and containing large hard seeds that are best removed. Small, soft, light seeds are fine and add to the tastiness of this food. Some people use raw slices of eggplant as a sandwich with tomatoes, sprouts and other foods as a filler, but unless the eggplant is quite young and tender, with very tiny, soft seeds, it will probably be best cooked.
Available all year. Members of the onion and garlic family are irritants when eaten raw, due to the presence of considerable amounts of mustard oil. Habitual use can impair the digestive system and weaken the organs of elimination.
Superstitions about the curative powers of garlic and onions are not based on fact. A great “purifying” process does occur when raw garlic and onions are eaten, which is a Herculean effort of the eliminating organs to get rid of the poisonous allicin and irritating mustard oil contained in these bulbs. Allicin is similar to digitalis, in that the body’s reaction to the poison creates a stimulating effect to certain organs. Both of these substances get into the cells, tissues and blood. Since the body cannot make use of such poisonous substances, it calls upon the kidneys, lungs and liver to try to dispose of them, which abuses, overworks and impairs these organs. Garlic and onions are useful as companion plants in the garden to repel insects.
Greens (other than lettuce)
Available all year. It is advisable to avoid foods which contain harmful substances in significant amounts—for example, foods high in oxalic acid. This poisonous substance is a calcium antagonist, and forms crystals which may develop into gallstones or kidney stones in some individuals. Please don’t interpret this information to mean that if the analysis of a plant reveals minute amounts of undesirable substances, it must be stricken from the dietary. If this were true, we would be left with few foods, since some minute amounts of such substances may be found in many good foods. For instance, some over-zealous researchers have been advising against the use of lettuce, because it has been found to contain microscopic amounts of a substance resembling laudanum, a sedative. Hygienists emphatically advise the use of dark green leaves, with the exception of those containing large amounts of oxalic acid or other toxic substances. The dark green leaves of romaine, Bibb, Boston and leaf lettuce are excellent foods and should be used in substantial quantities. Beet greens, spinach, and Swiss chard are so high in oxalic acid that it is inadvisable to use them as food. Small immature leaves of spinach and beet greens are lower in oxalic acid, and a few may be used in the salad. Mature mustard greens contain large amounts of mustard oil, an irritant. Very small mustard green leaves may occasionally be used in the salad. Watercress is too strong and pungent to the taste. Dr. Vetrano says that it is probably due to the large amount of sulphur it contains. Any vegetable that is strong and has a pungent, unpalatable flavor is not eaten by Hygienists. The bitter and pungent taste is nature’s way of warning against them.
Young, sweet garden chicory, endive and escarole are suitable for salads—when mature they are bitter and contain concentrated acids and irritants. Sorrel has edible leaves, but should not be used because it contains much free acid, especially oxalic acid. Pokeweed has young purple shoots, which resemble asparagus, and is used in salads by some people. It is high in oxalic acid; contains toxic substances, and should not be used. Comfrey does not form a part of the Hygienic diet because it has astringent qualities which occasion actions by the body to dispose of these substances. Any plant that occasions vital abnormal actions of the body (as does comfrey) is toxic and should not be used. It is well to be alert against the potential harmful effects of the so-called herbs, which are said to have “curing” properties. Hygienists do not accept the premise that certain plants have such properties. They believe that only the self-healing power of the body, and its continual efforts toward self-preservation, can help to restore health. If certain substances cause a reaction by the body, it is because the body acts to eliminate the threat of those substances. In 1978, the English organization which had been promoting comfrey sent out a warning, saying comfrey had been found to contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which possibly can cause liver cancer “if eaten over a long period of time.” Dr. Vetrano has been warning about the poisonous alkaloids in comfrey for a long time. Hygienists use only foods which are pleasant-tasting and mild, which have no irritating properties, and do not cause the body to react in any way other than to digest and metabolize them. So which greens (other than lettuce) does that leave that are truly good and can be recommended whole-heartedly for use in salad? Small, tender leaves of broccoli and the small tender leaves of kale are the best. Collard, dandelion and turnip leaves are also excellent when sweet, tender and immature. The mature leaves of broccoli, kale, dandelion and turnip may be cooked. If not too mature, bitter or stringy, endive and escarole may also be cooked.
Kohlrabi (turnip rooted cabbage)—sometimes available.
This is grown as an annual spring and fall vegetable. It has a pale green or purple turnip-like swollen stem which grows just above the ground. It has a wonderful flavor when eaten raw and is excellent for salads. It may also be cooked.
Peak season is September, November and in the spring. The taste is similar to that of onion—only milder and sweeter, more delicate and tender. The mature plant produces a stem two inches or more in diameter, and from ten to twelve inches tall, resembling a large, over-sized scallion. As with all members of the onion family it contains the irritant, mustard oil, and should not be eaten raw unless very mild and sweet. It is usually served cooked or used to flavor soups and stews. Select crisp, firm leeks with medium-sized necks and an even, light green color.
Peak season is March through August; available all year. Iceberg lettuce has a crisp texture, and the head is easier to wash than other leafy varieties that must be washed one leaf at a time. It is also the most-readily available, but it is certainly not the best. It lacks much taste, and is much lower in nutritional value than the varieties of lettuce which open to the sun’s rays and produce dark green leaves. Romaine (Cos) lettuce has broad, tender dark green leaves and a loose head. Butterhead lettuce, including Boston and Bibb, has soft, waxy-looking leaves, and is quite succulent. For those with impaired digestion, or chewing difficulties, butterhead lettuce has little fiber and is crisp and crunchy.
As an illustration of the greater nutritional value of romaine and butterhead over iceberg, consider the following figures:
|Romaine||1.3%||68 mgs. per 100 grams||1.4 mgs. per 100 grams||264 mgs. per 100 grams|
|Boston||1.2%||35 mgs. per 100 grams||2.0 mgs. per 100 grams||264 mgs. per 100 grams|
|Bibb||1.2%||35 mgs. per 100 grams||2.0 mgs. per 100 grams||264 mgs. per 100 grams|
|Iceberg||0.9%||20 mgs. Per 100grams||0.5 mgs. per 100 grams||175 mgs. per 100 grams|
Iceberg head lettuce has a few outer dark green leaves, which are usually discarded, and the blanched interiors are used, most of it pale, almost white. Leaf lettuce or any variety of garden lettuce is excellent. Even iceberg lettuce grown in home gardens is greener than that found in most stores, and all the outside leaves are used.
Select fresh looking lettuce with no rusty or wilted leaves and with a minimum of damaged edges. The softer the lettuce, the sooner it should be used. Buy butterhead or leaf lettuce for immediate use. Romaine will stay crisp longer. Several varieties of lettuce should be used, varying it from salad to salad, to insure more complete mineral intake. Lettuce should be used in generous quantities.
Available all year with a peak season from March through May and a low July through September. Dr. Esser says that mushrooms are indigestible and generally pass through the digestive system unchanged, and although fairly rich in nutrients, little of them are usable. He says that mushrooms may be eaten, but there are many other true foods which are more deserving of a place on the menu than this edible fungus. If you use them as a novelty, or for the taste or flavor, select young (small to medium) mushrooms. The caps should be closed around the stem, and should be cream-colored or white. As the mushroom ages, the cap pulls away from the stem. Avoid wide open caps and dark “gills” (under the cap), those seriously pitted or discolored, and those with a spongy texture.
Peak season is June through September. Okra is grown and marketed primarily in the south. Small, young pods may be eaten raw, but some people find them unpleasant and “slimy.” Various methods of cooking reduce or neutralize the sliminess, especially by combining with tomatoes. Select small, young green pods, free from blemishes and with tips that bend with very slight pressure. They should be under three inches long, preferably smaller. Avoid pale pods and tough pods with stiff ends. As okra begins to age, it turns yellow-white, then black.
Available all year, peak May through August. Ordinary yellow globe onions, which are mostly used for cooking, are quite uniform in quality. The outer, paper-like layers are thin on fresh onions, thicker on those from storage, but there isn’t much difference otherwise. White onions fall into two categories—grano, which are round and granex, which tend to be flat. In general, the granos are hotter than the granex. The larger Spanish onions (yellow or white-skinned) and Bermuda onions (purplish red) are milder and somewhat sweeter than other varieties, and are often used raw. However, as previously indicated, raw onions are irritating because of their content of mustard oil.
Oyster plant: (See Salsify)
Available all year, slight peak October through December. Unless very young and sweet, parsley contains an excess of oxalic acid. It is usually as a garnish, but if young and sweet, it should be eaten since it is rich in nutrients. Select bright green, crisp leaves.
Peak season is October through April. This is really a winter vegetable, but is on the market throughout the year, generally waxed. I don’t buy waxed parsnips, but watch for the unwaxed ones. This vegetable is usually not tasty and tender enough to be eaten raw, unless very young. Select small or medium-sized, well-shaped, firm parsnips, free of surface blemishes. Avoid large ones which can be tough and woody, and those that are flabby.
English green peas in the pod or black-eyed peas in the pod. Peak season is March through June. Small, young, fresh, bright green, recently harvested peas have the best and sweetest flavor. These will be delicious in the natural raw state, straight from the pod. Overripe peas have a flat, starchy taste, similar to raw peanuts. Select pods that are bright green and velvety to the touch. Be sure to check to see if they snap open easily. They should be well-filled without being swollen. Black-eyed peas in the pod are sometimes available, but are not popular because they are very difficult to hull. Can be eaten raw if young and fresh.
Edible podded peas (snow peas)
This is a gourmet treat, somewhat expensive to buy, but very easy to grow in the garden. Use when just barely mature—they are really delicious. Select bright green, unblemished peas whose green color has not begun to fade.
Peppers, Sweet Bell (Green or Red) and Pimentos (red)
Peppers are available all year, mostly green. Slight peak is June through September. Red sweet bell peppers are available intermittently, pimentos rarely. Although most of the sweet peppers on the market are green, those that are fully ripe, and much sweeter and more flavorful, have a bright red color. Buy sweet red bell peppers for immediate use since they deteriorate rapidly when red-ripe. Check carefully around the stem for softness and mold. Green peppers will keep longer. Peppers are frequently waxed. Peppers and pimentos are excellent salad vegetables and are high in Vitamins A and C. Select firm, bright, heavy, unblemished peppers with strong color and full, plump shape. Pimentos are squat-shaped, and when fully ripe, are even sweeter than ripe red bell peppers. Hot peppers, e.g., bananas, chili, jalapenos, are not recommended.
Available year round. “New” potatoes are small potatoes, freshly harvested and often not fully matured. The outer skin is very thin. A little peeling of the skin is normal and does not affect quality. New potatoes can be white or red (or dyed red). They are very tender, high in sugar and low in starch, and spoil rather rapidly. “All-purpose” potatoes are used in various ways, while “baking” potatoes are considered most desirable for producing the best baked potato which is not mealy or dry. As potatoes age, the skin becomes thicker, more wrinkled and drier. A smooth skin indicates a freshly-dug potato; otherwise it has been stored. It is best to bake oval, brown-skinned potatoes from storage.
Look for firm, solid potatoes with no green areas. Green areas mean the potatoes have been exposed to sun while growing, or exposed to light too long. These green spots, as well as potato sprouts from the “eyes”, contain solanine alkaloids which can cause a variety of symptoms, from mental confusion to cardiac depression. If the potato has very small green areas, they can be cut off, but if they are widespread, the potato will be bitter (and toxic!) and should be discarded.
As previously indicated, potatoes have sometimes been treated with sprout-retardant, so try to find organically-grown potatoes. Otherwise, do the best you can, selecting your potatoes in accordance with instructions previously given earlier in this lesson. It is better to buy “dirty” potatoes; pre-washed ones have lost some vitamins and absorbed some water. Besides, if they haven’t been washed, they may not have been treated with sprout retardant.
Immature new potatoes from the home garden are a gourmet treat. White potatoes are not suitable for eating raw; the starch should be dextrinized by heating.
Radishes, red or white
Available all year, slight peak May through July. Unless young and sweet, radishes contain enough sulphur (similar to mustard oil) to irritate the digestive tract. Larger radishes are pungent in flavor and contain woody fiber which is difficult to digest and creates gas. When they are too hot to be eaten entirely alone, it is best to avoid them. People, with impaired digestions should avoid radishes altogether. If you use them, select medium-sized, firm radishes. Avoid large, flabby or spongy ones. Small red radishes may be sharper than the medium-sized.
Available intermittently. Similar to broccoli, but much stronger in flavor. It grows in long, slender stalks. We prefer the milder flavor of broccoli.
(Described under FRUIT—Lesson 24).
(Note: The leaves are not used at all, as they contain large amounts of oxalic acid salts which may be fatally poisonous).
Rutabagas: (see turnips)
Salsify (Oyster plant)
Sometimes available. The fleshy white roots resemble parsnips, and they taste is said to be reminiscent of the oyster. If the leaves are young and crisp, they may be eaten with the salad.
Also called green onions. Pick in May. These are a special variety of hardy onions which do not form bulbs. If young and sweet, they may be used occasionally by people with good digestions. They are usually harvested when eight to ten inches high and half an inch thick. The outer leaves are peeled off and the inner leaves with the white stems are used. If you use them, select fresh firm scallions with bright green leaves.
Summer Squash (Soft-shelled)
Some forms available all year. Popular varieties include green zucchini, yellow crookneck, yellow straightneck, and greenish-white pattypan (scalloped cymling squash). The small, immature squash are tender and flavorful and are excellent in salads. All parts, including seeds and skin, are edible. Select those with good color, that are heavy for their size, with a rind soft enough to puncture with a fingernail. Buy for immediate use—they don’t keep well. Avoid zucchini with damaged or black spots, and yellow squash that is starting to turn orange.
Winter Squash (Hard-shelled, with flesh resembling sweet potatoes)
Peak season is October and November. Popular varieties are acorn and butternut, available all year. There are many other varieties available during the winter season. Some are buttercup, hubbard, delicious, banana, turban and spaghetti squash. Select squash that is heavy for its size, with a tough, hard rind. These keep well for weeks.
Sweet potatoes and yams
Available year round, peak in November, low May through July. Yams are moist and sweet with a bright orange flesh. Regular sweet potatoes are paler, less moist, and less frequently available. Select small or medium-sized ones, without cracks or damp areas. They’re best if they taper at both ends. Plump ones are the most moist. They should be firm, well-shaped, with a smooth, bright and evenly colored skin, and with no wax or artificial coloring. Shriveled discolored ends, sunken, discolored areas, and wet soft spots are signs of decay. Sweet potatoes and yams decay more rapidly than white potatoes and should be bought for use in the near future.
Peak season June through August. Tomatoes are on the market all year, but most of them are not worth buying. The best tomatoes are generally the locally-grown varieties, which have matured and begun to ripen before picking. Tomatoes which show some red on the vine are mature. The poorest quality tomatoes are those which are picked green and ripened by ethylene gas; they are either hard or mushy, and tasteless. The crates and cartons in which such tomatoes are shipped are labeled vine-ripened, but the tomatoes are generally packed green as grass.
The skin of a good tomato is smooth, glossy and bright; the flesh is firm, but not hard. Vine-ripened tomatoes develop a deep-red color and a fresh tomato fragrance. When poor quality hothouse tomatoes are the only ones available, it is better to do without. If, on occasion, you just must have tomatoes, the hothouse varieties are better than the prepackaged hydroponic tomatoes. Hydroponic vegetables are grown without soil, using only water and chemicals. The resulting product should be avoided. Ripe tomatoes should be eaten as soon as possible. If you’re selecting them to eat another day, select partially ripened tomatoes and finish the ripening at home. The small cherry or plum tomatoes are very perishable and should be used quickly. Some are highly acid, while others are almost sweet. Some are very juicy, while others are meaty and almost seedless. There are many varieties of tomatoes. The yellow and orange varieties are said to be less acid-tasting. I have never seen any white tomatoes, but I have read about them, and I understand they contain less acid than the other varieties.
Turnips and rutabagas
The most popular turnip has white skin with purple shading at the top. The flesh is white. When small, tender and fine-fleshed, they are suitable for use in salads. The tops are not usually available in markets; if occasionally available they are large and mature and not suitable for eating without cooking. The best turnip roots and leaves are the young and tender ones, fresh from the garden. Turnips should be used sparingly, because they contain a large amount of sulphur. Rutabagas are large and white or yellow-fleshed (the yellow are more common). They are members of the turnip family, but have a sweeter taste. They are usually coated with paraffin, and are not usually eaten raw. Fresh sweet rutabagas, when available without the paraffin coating, would be fine in the salad. Select turnips that are small to medium in size; firm, smooth and fairly round. Select rutabagas that are not too large and are heavy for their size, firm and round to slightly elongated. Large turnips may be strong in flavor, and coarse, pithy and fibrous. Cooked rutabagas have a characteristic taste, a little strong, enjoyed by some, disliked by others. The larger rutabagas tend to be pulpy, quite strong, tougher and harder.
Available all year. Fresh water chestnuts are available in supermarkets, but very expensive. This is a delicious vegetable, with a soft, shell-like outer covering, and a sweet, white, crunchy flesh. Most people are familiar with the canned variety which is used in Chinese and Japanese cuisine. Canned water chestnuts have an unusual characteristic: they retain their crunchiness. We occasionally buy fresh water chestnuts. They sell for about $1.50 for a container of six to eight. They are each about the size of a macadamia nut, and after paring the black shell-like skin, they are even smaller. The sweet, crisp, juicy taste is a treat.
Bags of cut-up vegetables are available in supermarkets for use in salads or chop suey. Don’t buy them. Some contain preservatives; even if they don’t, they are oxidizing, turning rusty and rapidly-losing freshness and nutritional value.
It is better to serve most salad vegetables without cutting them up in small pieces. For vegetable chop suey, cut up your vegetables as you need them. Enough nutritional value will be sacrificed in the cooking process, without starting out with limp ingredients.
I have seen sealed plastic bags of shelled black-eyed peas in water and vinegar. You will probably not be tempted to buy them, as they will most likely appear rather strange and unappetizing, just as they did to me. They are much worse than either frozen or canned black-eyed peas. As previously indicated, fresh black-eyed peas in the pod are sometimes available.
- 1. Vegetables
- 2. Storage Of Fresh Vegetables
- 3. Purchasing And Storing Seeds For Sprouting And Ready-To-Eat Sprouts
- 4. Selection And Storage Of Dried Grains And Legumes
- 5. Bread—General Information
- 6. Butter And Oil—General Information
- 7. Sweeteners
- 8. Packaged, Frozen And Canned Foods—General Information And Storage
- 9. Questions & Answers
- Article #1: Well! You Wanted To Know By V.V. Vetrano, B.S., D.C.