VEGETABLES. The average American housewife is gradually increasing her use of vegetables—to the advantage of the general health of the community—but there is room for still greater appreciation of them as part of the every-day diet. In addition to their service boiled, baked or fried to accompany the meat, a delightful variety is obtained by their free use in soups, omelettes, salads, etc.
In making soup, some tender young vegetables, such as very small carrots and tur nips, may advantageously be added whole, both leaves and roots, and cooked in it. Others, such as green peas, cauliflower in small sprigs, lima beans and fancy cut mixed vegetables, are best cooked separately in a very little water and added shortly before serving. As "vegetables," many pleasing dishes can be made by mixing two or more kinds, either during cooking or before serving, according to circumstances. Succotash, a mixture of sweet corn and lima beans, is a popular example of this idea, but it is only one of numerous combinations agreeable to the palate—among them, carrots and peas, string beans and lima beans, corn and tomatoes, tomatoes and okra, etc.
The tops of beets, turnips, radishes, etc., should always be saved. Thoroughly washed, they can be used as greens, if young, or added to soups, if more mature.
Baking, for vegetables such as potatoes used principally for separate service, is the most satisfactory method of cooking from the standpoint of food values, as little if any food component is lost in the process—the only diminution being in the quantity of water by evaporation. In boiling, there is always a certain loss into the water— hence the practical advantage of cooking suitable kinds in broths and soups.
Tubers, roots and all green vegetables should be firm and crisp before cooking. Wilted vegetables may generally be freshened by soaking in cold water—the time necessary depends on their age, varying from a few minutes to several hours.
"Head" vegetables, such as cabbage and lettuce, should be soaked before using, head downward, in cold salted water containing a little vinegar. This will draw out any worms, caterpillars, etc.
All vegetables, except dried peas, beans and similar products, should be placed in boiling water. If the water is to be thrown away afterwards, it should, in a majority of cases, be maintained at the boiling point all the time so that as little as possible of the food value escapes. Rapid boiling is suitable for most varieties, but it should be more gentle for cauliflower and young tubers, to avoid breaking them, and should be reduced to a simmer for shelled peas and beans. Winter vegetables—potatoes, beets, etc.—need considerably longer cooking than the same kind in summer, in order to bring out their full merits.
It is advantageous to add a pinch of soda to the water used for cooking green vegetables. This facilitates the cooking by softening the water and helps to retain the green color.
The food values of vegetables vary greatly, from some which are highly nutritious to others whose principal—and very important—service is the assistance their moist bulk gives to the digestive organs. The characteristics of all the best known varieties are discussed in separate articles under their respective headings.
Retailers who handle vegetables and fruits are sometimes termed "green grocers." Grocers, generally, have discovered the profit to be derived from the addition of green goods to their selling lines, and the public that they can often purchase fruits and fresh vegetables from the grocer at a cheaper rate than from the fruit merchant. It requires, though, a good deal of care and attention to handle green stock profitably and satisfactorily, and a grocer who is not in a position to devote a proper share of both to it, had better confine his energies to staple goods. It is important to have the earliest supplies as soon as Bermuda, Florida or other sections send them in. Equally so is it, generally, to handle only the best—sound, handsome fruits and fine fresh vegetables—even if a good, round price is necessary. Leave trash lots or dead-ripe stock for hucksters and jelly-makers.
The stock should always be lighter than the demand—in which it differs from the balance of the grocer's stock. Late enquiries for perishable goods are better unfilled than prepared for, since the latter means in most cases that the grocer will be still carrying part of his supply when he closes, and will have deteriorated stock on his hands with which to commence business next day.
A large ice chest, suitably divided, is a desirable aid to the handling of fruits and berries.
Many merchants keep their green vegetables fresh and crisp by occasionally spray ing them with water. Judgment and experience must be exercised in so doing, or the result is liable to be the reverse of satisfactory. Berries will soften and often mold if so moistened; tomatoes also will soften ; string and wax beans will grow tough if applications are frequent, and white wax beans will show rust marks where the water dries on them. Radishes will take a lot of water and be the better for it, but their tops are liable to rot unless care is exercised. On the other hand, mint, spinach, let tuce and similar vegetables will generally improve with sprinkling and, if they have become dry, by soaking in water.
Green peas never need sprinkling, but they require a cool place, as heat dries and bleaches them.
Beets need very little water—they will ordinarily keep green and fresh for sev eral days.
All vegetables, except those for immediate sale, should be stored in a dark, dry place of cool, even temperature.
Dried or Evaporated Vegetables (see COMPRESSED VEGETABLES) are now made in considerable quantities, but the principal consumption is in mining regions.