A few years back, my adult daughter moved to a toney Virginia suburb, where she found it challenging to live on her modest salary.
One evening the phone rang. “Exciting news, mom! I finally found a fresh vegetable I can afford here—a gigantic bag of kale for only 99 cents! It will last me a whole week.”
I wondered why the kale was priced so modestly, when a head of broccoli in the same store cost $2.50.
“Well, I don’t think people actually eat much kale around here. The bag was labeled ‘decorative greens.’ I guess they figure people only use them around the edges of serving platters.”
More is better
I’m always on the lookout for more ways to add veggies to our meals—a necessity given my passion for vegetable gardens that keep expanding (despite a 2-person household) and my obsessive need to try new crops and varieties.
But why not? Almost daily, another new research report confirms the health benefits of eating more, and a wider variety, of fruits and vegetables.
Most people enjoy fruit of various kinds. But many folks can’t muster much enthusiasm for vegetables other than potatoes.
Sadly, overall fruit and vegetable consumption in the U.S.has trended downward since 2000. Surveys show that only about a quarter of American adults eat the once-recommended three servings of vegetables a day. And new government recommendations up the daily dose to five or more vegetables a day. The more vegetables, the better.
Some fresh ideas for veggies
So, here are a few suggestions for getting more vegetables into your menus:
- Main-dish salsa Chop lots of fresh tomatoes, green and red peppers (heat if you like it), a bit of raw onion and minced garlic, and herbs and spices to taste. Serve hot or cold, topped with a few spicy black beans, cold chicken, or a wedge of cheese.
- Try roasting Onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash (all with skins intact), asparagus, peppers, carrots, parsnips--if you’ve only eaten these vegetables steamed or boiled, you haven’t begun to enjoy their flavors. Roasting deepens and improves the flavors of almost any sturdy vegetable.
- Extra lettuce? Steam or stir-fry outer lettuce leaves or a handful or mild mesclun mix with stronger-flavored kale, collards, or chard.
- Salad for breakfast? Try this: a whole sliced beet, a chopped hard-boiled egg, a serving of berries, sliced melon or orange sections, topped with a splash of honey mustard dressing.
- Winter-squash smoothie If you love pumpkin pie, try this quick breakfast or anytime smoothie. Blend a cup of cooked winter squash (or pumpkin), a cup of plain or vanilla yogurt, a tablespoon of maple syrup or honey, and pumpkin-pie spices to taste. Add milk to thin if needed. Variations include adding half a frozen banana or half a cored pear.
- Love pickles? Create a “perpetual-pickles” crock for summer snacking. Especially good if you have a large vegetable garden, but useful even it you don’t. Partially fill a large jar or small crock with half water and half vinegar, a few peeled garlic cloves, a few sprigs of fresh dillweed, and pickling salt to taste. Toss in small cucumbers, peppers, tiny onions, baby carrots, cauliflower florets, green beans. Keep in a kitchen shelf and snack at will. Add new vegetables every day or two. Discard the old brine and make a fresh one every two or three weeks. (Use the discarded brine for household cleaning.)
Try a new spice mixture. You could try making baharat, a middle-eastern/north African mixture of sweet, warm, and resinous spices and herbs that comes in many regional variations and goes with everything. We especially love it on bean-grain dishes that incorporate a lot of chopped greens. Another mid-east favorite, za’atar, transforms vegetables and pretty much everything else. The sumac listed as a major za’atar ingredient is none other than the dried, red berries of the staghorn sumac that grows in dry waste places around here as a weed.
For when you get the crunchies
Find more ways to use fresh vegetables in The Old Farmer's Almanac Garden-Fresh Cookbook!
Margaret Boyles lives in a wood-heated house in central New Hampshire. She grows vegetables, eats weeds, keeps chickens, swims in a backyard pond in summer, snowshoes in the surrounding woods in winter, and commutes by bike whenever possible.