Veggies 101: Color and Texture

Background: Let’s face it, vegetables aren’t usually the star of many omnivore’s meals, but most do provide a very high nutrient to calorie ratio. In other words, for the number of calories consumed, veggies pack a big punch of vitamins, minerals, antioxidant properties and sense of fullness. But… to get all those benefits, we have to actually eat them. Let’s focus on color, texture and flavor with basic principles that apply to almost any vegetable.

The science of color:

  • Most white, pale yellow vegetables (potatoes, onions, cauliflower, etc.)- keep their color in acid environments (lemon and other citrus, cream of tartar, vinegars) but become dull yellow or grey in alkaline environments (i.e. baking soda) *add a small amount of acid when cooking
  • Bright red vegetables (red cabbage, beets, blueberries)- acid brightens the red color while alkalis turn them dusky blue or blue-green *add a small amount of acid when cooking
  • Green vegetables- both acids and long cooking times turn green vegetables a dull unappetizing olive color *cook quickly, and if you need an acid, save it until the end to finish the flavor while keeping your greens bright
  • Bright yellow and orange veggies (including tomatoes) have stable color that can stand up to most cooking environments

The science of texture:

  • Long cooking times will turn almost any vegetable into mush that will find a way to the garbage in less time than it took you to cook it.  *Try blanching: add your veggies to boiling water and cook just until crisp-tender (usually only a few minutes); immediately stop the cooking with a cold/ice water bath. Veggies can be seasoned and served, or given a quick sauté before serving.
  • Vegetables will cook more evenly if chopped in similar size pieces.
  • Vegetables contain fiber in varying amounts providing firmness.  A tomato has less fiber than a turnip. Sugars and acids make fiber FIRMER.  Heat and alkalis make fiber SOFTER. *If cooking a high fiber veggie, wait until the end to add any acids or sugars you may want for flavor. Lower fiber veggies will cook more quickly, and can be overcooked more easily.

Flavor basics:

  • Most vegetables when cooked properly, believe it or not, have wonderful flavor! Usually salt and pepper, perhaps some finely chopped garlic or herbs if you have them on hand, is all it takes to bring your veggies to their rightful stardom.

So go ahead, give it a try… and rekindle the love for your vegetables 🙂

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