I know we bombard you with all sorts of nutritional information and benefits of foodstuffs, so I thought I’d dish up some facts about vegetables with a bit of a difference. Knowing more about the food we nourish our bodies with is never going to be a bad thing is it? Without further ado, let’s plunge right in to this healthy serving of facts about vegetables.
Vegetables are generally low in calories and fat. They are incredibly nutritious and essential for health. One of the most basic facts about vegetables everyone should know is the effect of preparing and cooking them. The highest concentration of nutrients and vitamins in vegetables (and fruit) is found in the skin and directly beneath it. If you peel something, you lose some of its nutritional value. There is further attrition of the nutritional value during cooking. Soluble vitamins are at the greatest risk – particularly when you boil veg. Bear this in mind when cooking – there are plenty of ways to cook vegetables without boiling them.
I read this a few years ago and came across it again recently. Studies from various research institutes (including the Eden Project) have identified a link between DNA and a dislike of certain vegetables. The dislike is generally likened to a “bitterness” in the taste of certain veggies – Brussels sprouts are often cited. One study – undertaken in 2005 by the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia – even went so far as identifying a specific gene – TAS2R38 – as being responsible. If you have the gene (50% of the world’s population is estimated to have it) – you “should” like sprouts. If not, you now know why, possibly. I like sprouts, but I find zucchini bitter – does that mean I have a mutated gene? Hmm!
Let’s kick off with the fact that tomatoes are the most consumed vegetable in the US (source ers.usda.gov). In other circumstances however, I wouldn’t be including tomatoes in my facts about vegetables. Genetically and technically, the tomato is a fruit. It was however, declared a vegetable by a ruling of the Supreme Court in 1893.
One of the so-called interesting facts about vegetables I learnt recently I had to dismiss as nonsense pretty quickly, but I’ve decided to share it with you because it does have a benefit. I read that bell peppers can be sexed – those with an odd number of nodes are female and those with even are male. It’s a nice story but in fact, as a fruit of a plant – i.e. the seed bearing part, technically, all peppers – and all plant fruits – are hermaphrodites, having both male and female parts. How this might help though is that it has been touted that peppers with odd nodes are heavier than those with an even number of nodes. The extra weight comes from seeds, so pound for pound, there is greater benefit to buying lighter, even-noded peppers as you get more flesh for your money.
I’m sure you must have noticed the arrival in recent years of so-called “heritage” and "heirloom" vegetables. These are varieties from decades ago that fell out of favor but were actually intentionally “bred out” by modern cultivars created by science. Heritage veg were either too small, yielded inefficient harvest, were the wrong color, or didn’t quite have the “right” taste. Heritage veg are in fact closer to nature than many of the varieties we eat today. The biggest example of this is the carrot. You may have seen purple, red, white, yellow and black carrots making an appearance on the grocery shelves. In fact, when carrots where first grown and eaten as food, they were purple and white, long and straggly. It was the Dutch who turned purple carrots orange in the 17th century.
I mentioned it earlier in connection with a genetic dislike of certain veggies but I can also reveal to you that the poor old Brussels sprout is the World’s Most Hated Vegetable – except in the UK where the rather innocuous celery usually wins the dubious title (source express.co.uk) . It’s no surprise because if that gene link is true, with 50% of the world’s population finding veggies bitter, the sprout is probably one of the most bitter tasting of all vegetables. There are ways to reduce the bitterness of Brussels and they should definitely be tried because sprouts really are a highly-nutritious little vegetable. I recommend looking up some recipes where sprouts are sautéed. You might very well learn to love sprouts!
The killer spud may sound like a bad B movie but listen up. Never eat a green potato! As a member of the Solanum genus, our humble spud is what is known as a nightshade vegetable. One of the traits of nightshades is that they produce substances known as glycialkaloids – like many other plants – but one of them is a nasty little thing known as solanine. I hinted earlier in one of my other facts about vegetables that science has had a major hand in cultivating the vegetables we eat, and such is the case with potatoes. Modern potatoes are cultivated so that solanine is concentrated in the shoots, stems and leaves of the plant, not in the tuber we eat. If however, you come across a green potato, this is a clear indication that the tuber contains a high concentration of solanine and you should trash it, not boil and mash it. Deaths by solanine poisoning have been recorded.
I hope you have enjoyed my facts about vegetables. I wonder if it has made you think differently about some of the things on your plate and how you prepare and cook them?
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