Author: Jean Morrison
Choosing and storing vegetables
Vegetables are one of the most essential components of a healthy diet. Try to buy a range of coloured vegetables as these are not only pleasing to the eye but they contain a variety of essential nutrients.
Vegetables contain carotenoids which are anti oxidants that slow down and prevent cell damage in our bodies. They enhance our immune system which helps us fight infections and viruses.
They also help us fight heart disease and cancer.
Tomatoes, Aubergines and Peppers - We regard these as vegetables but botanically they are fruit. They should all have smooth , tight and shiny skins with no soft spots. Aubergines and peppers should have a consistent all-over colour. Tomatoes can be purchased in varying stages of ripeness. Store aubergines and peppers in the fridge and they will keep better. Tomatoes are best kept out at room temperature to ripen fully. When ripe they can be stored in the fridge but are best served at room temperature.
Lettuce, Rocket, Sorrel and Cress - Look for springy, healthy looking leaves and no evidence of bugs. Salad greens do not store well so keep them in the refrigerator. Rinse and dry on a towel just before serving.
The Cruciferous Family
Cabbage, Brussels Sprouts, Broccoli and Cauliflowers - Their outer leaves should be fresh with no signs of wilting. Reject any that appear to have been eaten by bugs. They should have tight, compact heads. Store all of them in the refrigerator. Cabbages and brussels sprouts should last for a week but cauliflowers and broccoli will last only for a couple of days before spoiling.
Choose firm, fresh looking mushrooms that don't have dried out stems. Store in a paper bag (not plastic) in the fridge. Mushrooms do not keep well so use them within about two days of purchase.
Onions, Leeks, Spring Onions and Garlic - Onions should have papery, dry skins and feel heavy for their size. Avoid any that are sprouting or musty smelling. Leeks and onions should have dark green leaves and preferably have the roots left intact. Spring Onions can be placed in a tall, water filled container and will continue to grow very well if they are watered regularly. Store onions in a dark and cool place away from potatoes otherwise the gas emitted by the onions will make the potatoes sprout. Garlic will keep for 6 - 8 weeks if kept in a cool, dry place. As a rule of thumb - The smaller the garlic bulb, the stronger the flavour.
Pods and Seeds
Peas, Beans and Sweet Corn - Look for peas and beans with bright green pods that are solid and plump. Look for corn cobs with reasonably tight green husks. If possible, very carefully pull back the top of the husks and check that the top kernels are even and compact. All are best stored in the refrigerator.
Pumpkins, Squash, Marrows and Cucumbers
Look for firm, bright and unmarked skins. Pumpkins will keep for many weeks in a cool storeroom. However, once cut they should be kept in the refrigerator. Squash, marrows and cucumbers don't keep as well as pumpkins and should be stored in the fridge.
Carrots, Beetroot, Celeriac, Swedes, Parsnips, Turnips, Sweet Potatoes and Potatoes - Look for smooth, firm skin with heavy flesh. Avoid potatoes that are sprouting and green. Green in a potato signifies the presence of toxic alkaloids called solanines. Store potatoes in a cool, dark place. The other members of this family are best kept in the fridge.
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