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What to Do for Vegetables to Retain their Flavor and Nutrients

Vegetables are a nutrition powerhouse, and fit into any healthy-eating plan. Raw or cooked, they have vitamins and minerals and are good sources of dietary fiber. They are naturally low in fat, sodium and calories and contain no cholesterol, as well.

TEXARKANA, Ark. –

Vegetables are a nutrition powerhouse, and fit into any healthy-eating plan. Raw or cooked, they have vitamins and minerals and are good sources of dietary fiber. They are naturally low in fat, sodium and calories and contain no cholesterol, as well.

Vegetables have phytochemicals, a group of compounds that may help prevent chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. Many vegetables, such as broccoli, green peppers and spinach, are also good sources of antioxidants, substances that slow down oxidation, a natural process that leads to cell and tissue damage.

Selecting, storing, preparing and serving high quality vegetables are essential for vegetables to retain their flavor and nutrients. When selecting vegetables, chose those that are blemish-free and have regular, characteristic shapes and sizes. Sort through and discard any damaged items. Bruises and nicks can attract molds, which can lead to spoilage of an entire bag of vegetables. Leaves or greens should be crisp, not wilted.

Buy only the fresh vegetables you plan to eat within a few days. Long storage time reduces nutrient levels, appeal, and taste. For the best value, choose in-season vegetables. Typically, the closer you are to the growing season, the fresher your produce will be and the better it tastes.

Proper storage is critical for quality vegetables. Store according to their type. Root vegetables, such as potatoes and yams, are best stored in a cool, dark place. Store other vegetables in the refrigerator crisper drawer. Don't wash vegetables before storing. 

Now that you have properly selected and stored the vegetables, it is time to prepare. Wash thoroughly to remove dirt and pesticide residue before cooking. If possible, use a small scrub brush to help clean potatoes, cucumbers or other vegetables that have edible skin.

Leaving the edible peels on will preserve many of the nutrients and fiber. This includes, potatoes, carrots, etc. The peels of many vegetables contain considerable amounts of nutrients and fiber that we need as part of a healthy diet.

Many vegetables can be enjoyed raw. Keep bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, bite size tomatoes, celery, or other raw vegetables cleaned and ready to eat in your refrigerator. Keep them in sight and within easy reach for family members.

With time so important today, quick-cooking techniques can be a lifesaver. Stir-frying, steaming and microwaving are all quick-cooking methods. Long exposure to higher temperatures lead to some loss of nutrients. Try to use as little water as possible when cooking vegetables, and consider reserving any cooking water, which contains nutrients, for adding to soups, stews or sauces.

For the freshest produce, shop your local farmers market which will be opening soon. The produce is picked the day before being brought to the market, so you know it is fresh. Make it a goal to try at least one new vegetable each shopping trip. You may discover new favorites that add both interest and health benefits to your diet.

For more information, or to get your planting schedule to know when to plant, contact the Miller County Extension Office, 870-779-3609 or visit us in room 215 at the Miller County Courthouse. We're online at chadley@uaex.edu, on Facebook at UAEXMillerCountyFCS, on Twitter @MillerCountyFCS or on the web at uaex.edu/Miller.

Summer Garden Vegetable Medley

This is one of my favorite vegetable recipes. Substitute yellow squash for zucchini, try a combination of both, or add carrots, eggplant or whatever you have on hand.

3 medium zucchini or 5 small
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bell pepper or any pepper variety, seeded & cut into strips
6 trimmed, thinly sliced green onions with tops included
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Wash and thinly slice squash and set aside. Prepare all other vegetables and set aside. Heat a non-stick skillet or wok over medium heat. Add oil. When oil is hot, add peppers, onions and garlic. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add zucchini and tomatoes and continue cooking for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with ground cumin, salt and pepper, stir. Serve hot or cold. Makes 6 servings.

By Carla Haley-Hadley
County Extension Agent - FCS
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Carla Haley-Hadley
County Extension Agent - FCS
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
400 Laurel Street, Suite 215 Texarkana AR 71854
(870) 779-3609
chadley@uaex.edu

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