Today’s post is all about veggies: I’m sharing everything from storing and seasonality to 5 easy ways to cook vegetables and some of our favorite veggie-packed recipes!
One quick scroll through KERF and you can instantly tell that vegetables are an important aspect of my lifestyle. Vegetables play a big role in Kath Eats Real Food. After all, what type of dietitian isn’t a fan of vegetables? 😉
While no one in our family chooses to eats entirely vegetarian, our “diet” is heavy on the plants. From fruits and greens, to grains and beans, we are all about eating from the earth. Why? Because they make us feel darn good!
Today’s post is dedicated to this beloved food group. Curious when various veggies are in season? Need new ways to cook veggies so your kids will eat ’em (also read: How I Got My 4 Year Old To Eat Vegetables)? Eager for some delicious veggie-packed recipes? I’m sharing all of that and more.
Vegetables vs. Fruits
There are several ways to classify vegetables, but two of the most basic are by their botanical families, or by which part of the plant is eaten–the root, stalk, or leaves.
Vegetables are the edible parts of plants such as leaves, stems, bulbs, and roots (think carrots, kale, and broccoli). Fruits, on the other hand, are the edible portion of the plant that develops from a flower and contains seeds (think apples, cucumbers, and strawberries – even tomatoes!).
If the key to good nutrition is consuming a variety of real foods, then vegetables stand as the cornerstone of a healthy diet. Of all foods, vegetables offer the most diversity.
Benefits of Eating Vegetables:
- supply vitamins and minerals
- deliver an abundance of antioxidants
- aid digestion with fiber
Types of Vegetables
- Leafy Vegetables: These vegetables may grow in tight or loose heads or individually on stems–including spinach, salad greens, collards, kale, radicchio, and watercress. Lettuces are typically eaten raw while sturdier greens like kale can be enjoyed raw or cooked. All leaves contain a lot of water and most are rich in beta carotene, vitamin C, and are a good source of fiber and folate (B vitamin).
- Flowers, Buds & Stalks: Think celery, broccoli, and cauliflower to asparagus and artichokes. These tend to be rich in vitamin C, calcium, and potassium as well as fiber.
- Seeds & Pods: Think snap beans, lima beans, peas and sweet corn – the have more protein than other vegetables and also contain more carbohydrates than other veggies. When the vegetables are freshly picked, the carbohydrates are in the form of sugar; they turn into starch after harvesting. Seeds and pods contain minerals like zinc, potassium, magnesium, calcium and iron.
- Roots, Bulbs & Tubers: These vegetables grow underground – like onions, potatoes, beets, carrots, and parsnips. They are dense, making them quite satisfying. Because of their high starch content, these vegetables contain more calories. Did you know that potatoes are a good source of vitamin C and potassium?
Eat the rainbow! Color is a good clue to nutrient content, which is why it is important to eat a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, from bright blue blueberries and dark green kale to bright red peppers and hot pink radishes.
What about frozen and canned vegetables?
Generally, fresh is best and frozen vegetables are preferred to canned. Once vegetables are harvested, a loss of nutrients starts to occur. If the vegetables are flash-frozen soon after picking, they retain most of their nutrition. Canned vegetables undergo a heating process that can destroy some of their nutrients. Plus, with canned foods, there are often additives like excessive amount of sodium. Most canned vegetables lack the flavor and texture of fresh of frozen veggies.
Vegetables By Season
Spring: asparagus, carrots, lettuces, peas, radishes, turnips
Summer: peppers, corn, eggplant, green beans, okra, summer squash, zucchini
Fall & Winter: cabbage, cauliflower, kale, rutabagas, sweet potatoes, Swiss chard, winter squash
How To Store Vegetables
Here are a few tips:
- Store onions (!), garlic, squash, eggplant and potatoes in a cool, dry dark place other than the refrigerator.
- Place asparagus stalks upright in a glass or bowl with water at room temperature, for up to 1 week.
- Cut off beet, turnip and radish tops to retain firmness, and store in an open container in the refrigerator with a wet towel on top; save the greens for cooking.
5 Easy Ways To Cook Vegetables
1. Steam: Put 2 inches of water and a steam basket in a pot. Chop vegetables in bite-sized pieces. Place vegetables in pot over high heat. Cover and steam until tender.
Best veggies for steaming: carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, greens, and asparagus.
2. Roast: Pre-heat oven to 400F. Chop vegetables in bite-sized pieces. Toss with olive oil and seasonings of choice. Spread on a baking sheet. Bake until crispy – cooking times vary.
Best veggies for roasting: Brussels sprouts, beets, squash, potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, and asparagus.
3. Blanch: Prepare an ice bath: fill a bowl halfway with ice and enough water to cover it. Fill a pot 2/3 full with water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil. Toss in vegetables and cook 1-2 minutes or until desired tenderness. Transfer vegetables to the ice bath using a slotted spoon. Remove the vegetables from the ice bath when they are completely cooled.
Best veggies to blanch: asparagus, green beans, sugar snap peas.
4. Sauté: Cut vegetables in bite-sized pieces. Heat pan over medium heat. Add a couple Tbsp. of oil. Wait 1 minute, then add vegetables. Cook until tender, stirring the vegetables occasionally.
Best veggies to sauté: peppers, onions, mushrooms, and garlic.
5. Grill: Brush vegetables with oil and seasonings of choice. Places vegetables on grill, turning often to cook them evenly – OR place the vegetables in a grill basket over the flame.
Best veggies to grill whole: potatoes, peppers, garlic and leeks. Best to grill sliced: eggplant, peppers, summer squash, fennel, artichokes and onions.
5 Delicious Vegetable Recipes
A few simple ingredients can take a raw vegetable and turn it into something you (and your kids) crave! See my post on How To Make Vegetables Taste Good. And these 4 Veggie Smoothie Recipes are a great way to get your toddlers to eat their vegetables.
This colorful mix of veggies, corn, beans, and herbs in a white wine vinegar dressing is great as a side dish or base for protein, like eggs or grilled shrimp.
This summer salad incorporates the best of late-summer vegetables, including fresh lima beans. If you don’t have fresh beans, use frozen, dried and soaked, or canned. Or sub in any beans you like. Serve this dish as a side to meat or on its own for a light vegetarian dinner. If you have some goat cheese, it would be delicious on top!
This comforting soup is the perfect way to use up frozen veggies from the freezer and/or sneak in more vegetables during the dead of winter.
This vegetable quiche with a homemade crust is easier to make than you might think! Perfect for breakfast, lunch, brunch, or dinner, this quiche is a dish you can eat all times of day.
These vegetable stacks are a fun way to switch up your veggie game. They make a lovely all-in-one fancy side dish or a simple, healthy lunch!
You may also enjoy:
Do you have a favorite way to prepare veggies? A favorite recipe?
References: Wellness Foods A-Z