Are you a natural born produce lover? Or does the thought of getting your daily dose of fruit and vegetables put you in a spin? Maybe you still follow the childhood philosophy that once doused liberally with tomato sauce, anything can be made palatable?
Whatever your perspective, it can be hard to get a handle on these dietary staples, since much of the information available is inconsistent and swayed by trends.
Take kale, for instance. When it first became mainstream (exactly when is open to debate, but it hit Martha Stewart’s radar back in 2009) chefs, food bloggers, nutritionists and greengrocers went all out, and it was touted a ‘super food’. Now the bubble has burst and debate rages over the whether we can have too much of a good thing, with high kale consumption being linked to hypothyroidism, goiters and kidney stones.
Rather than labelling any one vegetable as the bad guy, let common sense prevail. Food trends can be a little wacky at times, but don’t let that stop you adding more variety to your diet – including new or unfamiliar fruits and veggies. Next time you go to the greengrocer or produce section of your local supermarket, check out what sits directly beside something you usually buy, and give it a try. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, small changes made often can open up a whole new culinary world.
Here are some suggestions to help you improve and expand upon your produce repertoire:
1. Eat the rainbow
Nutritionists have confirmed the benefit of choosing fruit and vegetables of varied colours to get a broad range of nutrients. If you dislike a particular fruit or vegetable, substitute another of the same colour – for example, try replacing tomatoes with red capsicum or cherries. If you don’t like pumpkin, grab some sweet corn.
2. Change your approach
Be open to trying new methods of preparation. Many fresh fruit and vegetables can be eaten raw or cooked, hot or cold. Texture and mouth feel can change significantly depending on how food is prepared, so don’t be afraid to experiment. For example, if you always steam broccoli, try eating it raw or lightly blanched as part of a salad. Other vegetables you can enjoy raw include yellow squash, mushrooms and zucchini.
Conversely, vegetables we typically eat hot can often be enjoyed cold. Aside from a good old fashioned potato salad, many vegetables make a tasty salad addition including pumpkin, sweet potato, parsnip, beetroot, green beans and peas.
3. Visit specialty stores
Check out your local Asian or Indian grocer. They are often a treasure trove of fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables that western-style greengrocers and supermarkets either don’t sell, or stock in tiny quantities.
Asian grocers frequently stock mountains of fresh greens. Whilst some may be unfamiliar, they can add terrific taste, texture and nutrition to a stir fry, or be enjoyed on their own with a little fresh garlic, ginger and a splash of sesame oil. They generally require very little preparation and can readily substitute your usual green vegetables. Try gai lan (Chinese broccoli), wombok (Asian cabbage) or kang kong (water spinach).
Fresh herbs are plentiful at most Asian grocers. Aside from the usual suspects such as curly and continental (flat leaf) parsley, you’ll usually find other flavoursome options like coriander, dill, Thai basil and Vietnamese mint which can be tossed in a salad, sprinkled over rice, soup and noodle dishes or added to a curry.
So next time you hit the greengrocer or produce aisle, try one or more of these tips and you’ll soon discover that getting your daily fruit and veg can be a pleasure, rather than a chore.
Next time… Flavour tweaks to get your taste buds tingling!