11 mistakes that many people make when cooking fresh vegetables. How to avoid them

Improper storage of vegetables

Buying vegetables in bulk is a very smart approach and a great way to save money, but you must be prepared for long-term storage of large stocks of potatoes, onions, eggplants, zucchini and other vegetables. Keep in mind that potatoes and onions, for example, can last more than a month if they are kept in a cool, dark place, but they should not be stored next to each other. Onions give off gases that cause potatoes to spoil faster. We have written about storing potatoes over hereand over the bow – over here.

By the way, apples are not very good neighbors either: they emit ethylene gas, which makes other fruits and vegetables ripen faster.

When it comes to leafy root vegetables (carrots, radishes, turnips and beets), you must be sure to remove the greens before storing them in the refrigerator. The leaves are edible, but they will suck the nutrients and moisture from the vegetables, turning them into sad and sluggish root vegetables.

Freezing raw vegetables

If you are a fan of storing mixed fruits and vegetables, the freezer is a great option for that. You always remember that you have a bag of prepared vegetables in the freezer for your favorite recipe for roast, stew or vegetable casserole.

Blanch vegetables before storing them in the freezer. This method “confirms” the color of the vegetable, and also preserves vitamins and minerals. More importantly, it stops the activity of enzymes that can affect the taste of vegetables. Unfortunately, some vegetables are not suitable for freezing at all – these are cucumbers, celery stalks and salad leaves.

Washing vegetables too quickly

Fruit and vegetables must be washed – that’s a fact. And anything that isn’t organically grown can contain residual pesticides, so it’s important to wash fruits and vegetables before use. However, this does not mean that you have to wash your vegetables as soon as you get home from the grocery store. Only wash them if you are going to cook or eat. If you store anything, make sure the fruits and vegetables are as dry as possible. Too much moisture accelerates food spoilage.

Ignore cross contamination

Cross-contamination occurs most often when ready-to-eat foods come into contact with unclean surfaces or utensils. Therefore, it is important to keep fruits and vegetables away from raw poultry, meat, and seafood, and from any cutting boards or knives that have touched these foods. You should have two sets of cutting boards – one for raw meat and one for vegetables – so you minimize the risk of cross-contamination.

It is important to wash cutting boards and kitchen utensils thoroughly with hot water and soap or detergent. If you use plastic cutting boards, it is safest to wash them in the dishwasher. Of the wooden boards, bamboo boards have done well because they are more resistant to bacteria and can be cleaned often with hot soapy water.

Vegetables are prepared too early for cooking

There are two problems here.

Oxidation of pre-fixed vegetables

Stocking fresh vegetables is a time-saving thing, but it may not be the best way to preserve the taste and color of vegetables. You can do this with fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants, such as garden berries, cabbage, broccoli or beets. These gifts of the earth are protected from oxidation, and they don’t change color when you cut them.

Potatoes, apples, bananas, aubergines, parsnips, celery and avocados are a completely different matter. As soon as they cut, the exposed surface begins to brown. You can reduce the browning by moistening the cut surface with citrus juice, or you can try putting sliced ​​vegetables in drinking water and fruit in acidified water, i.e. water mixed with citrus juice or a drop of wine/apple vinegar. But the best way to prevent fruits and vegetables from oxidizing is to protect their internal contents from oxygen. Keep them whole until you plan to cook them.

Loss of nutrients due to pretreatment of vegetables

Oxidation isn’t the only problem you have to worry about when cutting vegetables and greens for cooking. Cutting too early can result in nutrient loss. It is caused by oxygen, light and heat. Whole fruits and vegetables are naturally protected from the first two factors. Once the inside is exposed, the vitamins begin to break down. Vitamin C is especially sensitive to this, it literally flows out of the fruit together with the juices when you cut vegetables and fruit.

Cutting vegetables also increases the risk of food spoilage. Fruits and vegetables continue to breathe even after harvest. Cutting changes the speed of their breathing and increases the release of carbon dioxide. With its excess, the taste and texture of chopped food changes. This is a good reason to buy whole fruits and vegetables, to avoid those beautiful and tempting store-bought sliced ​​fruits and vegetables. Just understand what is more important to you: saving time or the quality of vegetables and fruits.

Using the wrong knife or a dull knife

If you have a chef’s knife, you may think that it can solve any task, but the vegetable knife was invented for a reason with a shorter and narrower blade. Use a paring knife for more than the intended purpose, but also for making vegetable noodles, and long serrated knives are perfect for thinly slicing tomatoes.

More important than using the right knife is using a sharp knife. Some people say they are afraid of sharp knives, but there is nothing scarier in the kitchen than a dull knife. Dull leaves require more pressure when working, which means that you intentionally squeeze and throw out such a delicious and necessary vegetable or fruit juice.

Incorrect peeling of vegetables

If you decide to peel vegetables and fruits, make sure you use the most effective peeling method. Improper cleaning results not only in the loss of valuable edible parts of the products, but also in the loss of your time. For many tasks, a vegetable peeler (household knife) is best suited. It quickly removes the skin from potatoes, carrots and cucumbers, and also cuts the fibrous parts of the celery. A peeler is great for removing the skin from a mango, but not all tasks can be handled by a vegetable peeler.

A vegetable peeler is overkill when it comes to peeling garlic or ginger. Chefs like to crush garlic cloves with the broad side of a chef’s knife and then simply remove the skin. The skin of ginger can be shaved off (scraped off) with a teaspoon with a sharp “nose”. The cleaning process is easy and does not take much time.

When it comes to tough-skinned vegetables like butternut squash, the microwave is the way to go. Approximately 3 min. heating the pumpkin in a microwave will make it easy to separate the skin from the pulp with a vegetable peeler.

Free cut of vegetables

Yes, cutting vegetables into equal pieces may seem boring, but it is really important. During the training of each cook, his use of a kitchen knife is also evaluated, and this is not only because teachers want the prepared dishes to look spectacular (although this is also important). Pieces of the same size cook more evenly than random pieces. This is important when frying, and when stewing, and when baking vegetables. Anything that is cut into very small pieces will of course cook faster than larger pieces or cubes. If you mix both sizes in the same container and cook the food, the small pieces will burn by the time the larger ones are done.

The only reason to cut vegetables into pieces of different sizes is to do it for the good of the cause. And now we are not talking about one vegetable in one container on fire, randomly chopped! If you want to roast broccoli, carrots, celery and onions, each vegetable requires a different cut, allowing all ingredients to cook at the same speed.

Reckless removal of the peel, stems and tops of vegetables

Of course, there are inedible skins—you’re not likely to eat banana peels and avocado peels—but there are also edible “peels” of carrots, cucumbers, potatoes, or even ginger. Perhaps by getting rid of the “shell” of vegetables, you are throwing away the most nutritious parts of the food! In general, it is the peel (in the broadest sense of the word) that contains the highest concentration of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and it contains up to 30% plant fiber. It is not only good for the health of the digestive system, but also increases the feeling of satiety for a long time.

And it’s not just about the peel: the stems and tops often contain more nutrients than the vegetable itself. Instead of throwing the leaves away, try using them for cooking. Carrot greens can be used to make pesto or chimichurri, while beet and turnip tops make an excellent side dish when chopped and quickly fried with herbs. Broccoli stalks are great too. They can be chopped and added to any stir-fry or stew, chopped for coleslaw, or stewed in cream and pureed. It can be mixed with potato for color and extra flavor, or added to vegetable cream soup.

Read more about the use of bite tops here, and here – the most useful and practical material. “Popcorn, chips, tempura, potato chips and other goods made from vegetable skins, stalks and steel”cm. over here.

Poor preparation of vegetables

Some vegetables, such as potatoes, spinach, asparagus and sprouts, contain water-soluble vitamins, including vitamins B and C. Cooking these vegetables releases the vitamins into the water. If you​​​​​​are not planning to use the vegetable broth for cooking, you can simply get rid of these vitamins. There are two ways: use the broth for soups, sauces and mashed potatoes, or steam or microwave these vegetables to preserve all the nutrients.

On the other hand, fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K are actually better absorbed by the body when they are made with fat. Cooking sweet potatoes, leafy greens, broccoli with oil, or cracklings makes vegetables more nutritious than if they were boiled. If you are steaming them, find a way to add fat to the dish, such as mixing cooked vegetables with butter or drizzling them with extra virgin olive oil.

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