Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Introduction to Vegetables and Fruits

introduction to vegetables and fruits
Introduction to Vegetables and Fruits
They are present in most of the meals we prepare. Whether in a salad where they take center stage or as coadjuvants, their performance is considered by many grandiose. We eat them not only because they are nutritious, but also because they taste and look good.

Every vegetable is different,  but in essence they are all made of water, carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins, pigments, flavor components and fibers. Fiber is the construction beam of vegetables and therefore is what structures them. It can not be digested by our bodies but are softened by cooking. 

We don't always cook vegetables to tenderize them however, we do it mostly because cooking can offer a pleasing change in taste, texture and appearance. The disadvantage is that it also results into a loss of nutrients and flavor. 

So here's the trick: how do we cook them in a way most of their nutrients are preserved while achieving the transformations we want? Here are a few things we want to consider:
  • Prolonged and high heat preparations allow nutrients and flavors to escape or be altogether destroyed
  • Baking Soda and other alkalies (like hard water) considerably reduce the vegetables nutritional values
  • Acids strengthens the vegetable's fibers and consequently prolong their cooking time
  • Sugar also help vegetables and fruits hold their shape.
Introduction to Vegetables and Fruits
A good tip to take most out of your vegetables is to cook them until they are done and use the cooking water for soups since most of their lost nutrients will be swimming in it. I know what you're likely thinking: but doneness doesn't change from person to person? 

Sure does, I do know people who only eat vegetables when they are mushy. However, it is commonly agreed that cooking vegetables to an "al dente" stage offers the optimal nutritional and flavor value to the meal. That being said, there are meals we prepare that require mushy vegetables, for example: when we sauté onions and other vegetables to make sauces and stocks. 

As you are likely guessing, this rule can not be applied for all vegetables. I'm sure you want to cook your potatoes and other root vegetables until they are deliciously soft. There is still a better way to cook them though, you want start cooking them in cold water, so they evenly cook throughout the heating time. When you drop a potato in a pan of boiling water, it's outside is going to cook faster then the inside. You also want to have your vegetables cut in similar sizes, also aiming for even cooking.

And there is also the matter of appearance, after all we want our vegetables to look appealing, specially to our little ones. Color plays the biggest part in the veggie looks and it is formed by pigments. There are four pigments in the vegetable make-up palette, those present in White, Red, Green and Yellow/Orange vegetables. 

White vegetables are potatoes, onions and cauliflowers for example. When you cook these vegetables for a longer period of time or in alkaline water, they tend to become yellowish. To avoid it, cook it with a bit of acid and / or for a shorter period of time to preserve their color. 

Red vegetables do not include tomatoes and red peppers. Funny, I know. Red vegetables are pretty much red cabbage and beet. Like white vegetables, they better hold their color when acid is involved in their cooking process. Baking soda or hard water turn them blueish. 

Green vegetables are green because of Chlorophyll. Unlike the two previous categories, when cooked in acid solutions, they develop an ugly green color. Therefore avoid acids when cooking greens. It's also better to leave the pan uncovered so the their natural acids can escape.

Yellow / Orange Vegetables include tomatoes, red peppers, carrots, sweet potatoes among many others. Acids and alkalies have almost no effect on them so you can keep adding a bit of red wine to your tomato sauce. ;) I just want to be funny.. tomatoes have a high level of acidity and can themselves strengthen the fibers of other vegetables. 

I hope this introduction to vegetables and fruits are helpful to you. Any questions, don't hesitate to contact me, I would love to hear from you.

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