Introduction to vegetables

by | Nov 30, 2021 | Vegetables | 0 comments

“Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if Green Vegetables smelled as good as Bacon”. Dough Larson
“Vegetables are a MUST on a diet. I suggest Carrot Cake, Zucchini Bread and Pumpkin Pie”. Jim Davis
“Cauliflower is nothing but Cabbage with a College Education”. Mark Twain
Introduction:I hear a small voice in the Veggie Isle at the Supermarket stating philosophically, “To be, or not to be” …. As I turned, I saw the Brussels Sprouts…. These Miniature Little ‘Cabbage Balls’ are for many human beings their Achillies Hill! Like so many Vegetables, they are desperately crying out to be loved…rediscovered…reinvented…cherished.

In the wonderful world of Vegetables, we are so fortunate to have a wide selection of Families to choose from. Each Family are grown in specific Seasonal and Regional conditions, and, as our planet becomes smaller due to super-cyber-connectivity, we can buy Sabrosa Strawberries from Spain in the middle of Winter in South Africa, Roma Tomatoes from Italy, or Khaneang Cabbage Sprouts from Thailand, often, throughout the year, and in many countries around the globe.

For the first time in the history of mankind, humble Vegetables like Cabbage, Cauliflower and Legumes gained Acclaimed Status (!) due to the increase in Veganism, Vegetarianism, Food Shortages, Plant-based Diet Popularity and Health Status Awareness becoming more apparent in our daily food choices in both the Food Industry and in many family kitchens alike. We see “Grilled Cabbage Steaks” on Menus, Cauliflower replacing Starchy Roots and Kimchi (Korean Fermented Cabbage Leaf Condiment) as a popular Flavouring Agent from Salad Dressings to Marinades, Sauces or plainly served as a Side Dish in a European Restaurant, ‘jazzing up’ the Mid-Week Lunch Special!

The Vegetable World as we know it, have changed profoundly. These humble veggies have moved from “Stage Back” in this Leafy Play, to “Stage Centre”. No longer does a Salad consist of Tomato Wedgies and Iceberg Lettuce… oh no Sir! Salads are Pan Seared Winter Vegetables, served Hot or Cold, Seasonal, Textural and Exiting. Kale and Leafy Greens are Grilled, fried until Crisp or Smoked on the Barbeque. Flavours from the Levant, Asia and Scandinavia have become crucial in the production of these Plant Based Menus. People are more informed and the shredded little side salad that always took the lower rank on the table are replaced with Nouveau options that are not only Show-stoppers but also Mouth-watering and Delicious Main Courses.
As Foodies, we need to make Vegetables exiting and rediscover their properties. To do so, we need to understand their Classifications and the best type of Cooking Method for each vegetable to allow us to extract maximum flavour, keep nutrients intact as well as ensuring their colours stay visibly pleasing to the eye.

Here is a categorised list of the most well-known Vegetable Families below:
Tubers, Bulbs, Roots, Shoots and Stems, Leaves, Brassicas or Cruciferous, Pods, Botanical Fruit, Edible Flowers (* Master Class Index on Herbs), Edible Algae and Edible Fungi.

a) Roots Carrot, Parsnip, Beetroot, Rainbow Beetroot, Turnip, Celeriac, Horseradish, Radish, Oriental Daikon/ White Radish, Ginger (also considered a Flavouring Agent).
b) Tubers Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes (White and Yellow), Jerusalem Artichoke.
c) Bulbs Brown & Red Onion, White & Purple Garlic, Leek, Scallion/Spring Onion.
d) Shoots & Stems Asparagus, Celery, Fennel, Globe Artichokes.
e) Leaves Chicory/ Witloof/ Endive, Lettuce, Spinach, Swiss Chard/ Silverbeet.
f) Brassica/ Cruciferous Leaves Broccoli, Cauliflower, Green & Red Cabbage, Savoy Cabbage, Kale, Brussels Sprouts, Kohlrabi, Chinese Cabbage, Pak Choi/ Bok Choy.
g) Fleshy Immature Pods Legumes/ Pulses, Broad Beans, Peas, Butter/ Lima Beans, Okra, Sweetcorn, Haricot Beans, Sugar Snap Peas,/Snow Peas/ Mange Tout.
h) Botanical Fruit Aubergine, Avocado, Butternut, Cucumber, Courgette/ Zucchini, Bell Peppers (Green, Yellow, Orange, Red), Chilli Peppers, Pumpkin Squash, Gem Squash, Tomato.
i) Edible Flowers Borage, Cornflower, Carnation, Camomile, Cysanthemum, Dianthus, Daisy, Elderflower, Dandelion, Karma Orchid, Geranium, Lavender, Marigold, Nasturtium, Mustard, Pansy, Rose, Sunflower, Viola, Violet, Tulip.
j) Edible Algae Nori, Kombu, Wakame, Red & Green Algae e.g. Carrageen or Agar-Agar.
k) Edible Fungi Champignon/ White Button, Brown Button, Crimini/ Portabellini, Portabella, Oyster, Enoki, Shimeji, Shitake, King Oysters, Crèpe/ Porchini, morels, Chantarelle, Black Truffles, White Truffles, Edible Moss.

You as the reader can see that Vegetables are not only grown in the four climatical seasons but aslo cooked to compliment its Origin and Seasonality. Vegetables can be eaten Fresh, Cooked, or could be De-Hydrated, Freeze Dried, Vacuum Packed and Blanched and Frozen (To retain nutrients) for later use or Preserved in the form of Brining, Pickiling, Bottling or transforming them into Chutneys or various World Wide Food Accompaniments or Condiments (*See Master Class Index Sauces).

Countries around the world have developed their own style of Vegetables Dishes or Terminology. Here is a basic list jut to name a few:

Vegetable Dish or Terminology around the World:

Ratatouille A French Vegetable Stew consisting of Peppers, Tomatoes, Marrows, Garlic & Flavourings.
Chakalaka South African inspired accompaniment made from Cooked Onions, Carrots, Peppers, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Tomatoes, Garlic, Oil, Vinegar and Mild Curry Powder.
Duxelles A French word for Finely Chopped Shallots, Onions or Mushrooms.
Tian A Provenᶗal Gratin described as a lean stew, beautifully arranged in a ceramic dish, grilled in the oven.
Fritters Pureed Vegetables, thickened with breadcrumbs, bound by egg, round or cylindrical in shape that is Deep or Shallow Fried to ensure a crisp outer with a soft interior.
Au Gratin Terminology to describe a classic Broccoli or Vegetable Dish. Covered with a Cheesy Bechamel, topped off with a Breadcrumbed Crust and then Grilled in the oven. Potatoes and other Vegetables can also be used to make this dish. “Gratin” refers to “Grilled” in French.
Quenelles Vegetables, Mousse, Purees or Proteins are shaped by two spoons, creating a shape with 3 sides. They are often Poached or Deep Fried.


Tips Concerning the Cooking Process of Veggies:
a) Root and Tuber Vegetables are cooked from a Cold Start (Cold Water, Rolling Boil). Once they are cooked, they can be Baked off, Grillled or Caramelised even more to improve Texutre and Flavour.
b) Leaf and Stem Vegetables are cooked in Non-Salty Hot Water to ensure Quick Cooking (retain Nutrients, Texture and Colour.)
c) Greenbeans, Broccoli, Petite Pois Peas or Mange Tout can be Blanched and quickly Refreshed to keep their vibrant Green Colour, or, a little pinch or Bicarbonate of Soda in the Hot Cooking Water could be added to prevent colourloss.
d) Salad Vegetables can be Blanched and Refreshed to improve Digestablitly.
e) Tomatoes and Sweet Peppers Served Hot are mostly peeled before cooking.
f) Brown Onions are the most Aromatic Bulbs, Purple Onions are used for their Colour and Sweetness, and White Onions are best eaten in Salsa as they are punguntly Sharp in Taste.
g) Never use Heigh Heat when cooking Garlic or Onions as it produces unpleasant “Bitternotes” as an end result. Slowly cook them over low heat with minimum amounts of oil. Cook them Lid-on to ensure Sweetness.

I hope to inspire you to rediscover Vegetables in all their unique Shapes, Families, Flavours and Textures. Strap on your apron and fire away Foodthologists – I hear the Parsnips calling!

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