Vegetable choices could make for healthier living

July 07, 2004|by LYNN F. LITTLE

Eat your vegetables - good advice for kids and adults. Only 23 percent of Americans currently eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Increasing physical activity and eating more fruits and vegetables can help reduce the risk for certain cancers, stroke, diabetes and heart disease. It's an easy way to improve health, especially with the abundance of locally produced fruits and vegetables available during the summer months. In addition, today's vast transportation system ensures a year-round supply of fresh produce.

If you're limiting your choice in vegetables mostly to lettuce, carrots and potatoes, it's time to expand your horizons. In the produce aisle of a grocery store' there is an expanding variety of vegetables from which to choose. The next time you go grocery shopping, make a point of buying a vegetable you have never tried before. If you're not familiar with how it can be prepared or eaten, look for an information card located in the produce aisle or ask the produce manager. Here are a few vegetables you might enjoy:

  • Arugula is a green, leafy vegetable with a distinctive flavor that can be mixed in green salads or cooked and tossed with pasta or risotto.

  • A blue potato looks and tastes like a normal potato but has blue skin and flesh. It can be boiled, mashed or cooked in the microwave. When used in potato salad, blue potato makes an eye-catching dish.

  • Bok choy is a variety of Chinese cabbage that consists of several white, bunched stems with thick green leaves. Bok choy is used in many stir-fry dishes, but it can be eaten raw.

  • A daikon radish looks like a large, smooth, parsnip with a stronger, more bitter flavor than a red radish. Great sliced and served with a dip. It also can be used in sushi.

  • Fennel resembles a short celery bunch with feathery leaves and has a mild licorice flavor. Its leaves often are added to fish stews, soups and casseroles, but they also can be eaten raw in salads or used as a garnish. The bulbs and stalks can be braised, steamed or sauted as well as added to soups.

  • Jicama is a root vegetable that is crisp, crunchy and slightly sweet. It can be peeled, sliced and eaten raw by itself or mixed in salads. Jicama also makes a great addition to stews and stir-fried dishes.

  • Kale is one of the oldest forms of cabbage and often used as a garnish, this dark green leafy vegetable is delicious steamed or added to soups. It's rich in vitamins A and C and a fairly good source of calcium.

  • Kohlrabi, a member of the cabbage family, resembles a turnip, both in looks and taste. It can be used in recipes in place of turnips or peeled and eaten raw by itself or in salads.

  • A leek is a type of onion that looks much like green onions, only bigger and sturdier. Both the bulbs and leaves are edible. The bulbs often are sliced and added to soups or casseroles, while the leaves tend to be used in salads.

  • Parsnip looks very similar to a carrot in size and shape, but it is white in color. With its mild flavor, parsnips can be eaten raw or added to soups and stews.

  • Tomatillo is a member of the tomato family. It looks like a small, green tomato covered in a paper-like husk. It has a citrus-like flavor and is used in many Southwestern- and Mexican-style dishes, including salsa and salads.

Rooster's Beak (Jicama Salad)

  • 2 small jicamas (about 1 pound)

  • 4 oranges

  • Pinch of salt

  • Cayenne pepper to taste

Peel jicamas and cut into bite-sized cubes. Peel oranges, separate into sections and cut into bite-sized pieces. Toss jicama, oranges and salt in a serving bowl. Sprinkle with cayenne. Chill and serve.

Salsa Verde

  • 1 pound tomatillos

  • 2 small chilies

  • 1/4 cup green onions, chopped

  • 1 cup fresh cilantro

  • Salt

  • 1 teaspoon sugar

  • 1 clove garlic, peeled

Remove dry, paper-like skins from tomatillos. Coarsely puree uncooked tomatillos, chiles, green onions, cilantro leaves and garlic in blender or food processor. Season with salt to taste and add 1 teaspoon sugar. Serve with soft tacos or burritos and as a dip for corn chips.

Note: Try this with grilled tortillas filled with slices of Monterey Jack cheese. Grill the tortillas like a grilled cheese sandwich and top with Salsa Verde. A great substitute for grilled cheese sandwiches.

Lynn F. Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County.

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