Asparagus has a relatively short growing season. When buying, the tips should be tightly furled and fresh looking, and the stalks fresh and straight. If the stalks are badly scarred or drooping they shouldn’t be purchased.Before use cut off the bottom of the stalk as it is usually hard and woody. If the bottom parts of the stem also feel hard, pare this away. If the asparagus is very fresh this is not necessary.
Aubergines are cultivated and eaten throughout the world but most particularly in Europe, Asia and America. Aubergines, which are also known as ‘egg plants’, belong to the same family as potatoes, tomatoes and peppers.
Beetroot has been eaten since Roman times and by the mid-nineteenth Century it had become a very popular vegetable. Beetroot is usually boiled, baked, braised or pickled in vinegar. Red beetroot originated from Beta vulgaris, which is a native of Southern Europe. A red-fleshed round or cylindrical root, it can be used as a freshly cooked hot vegetable or eaten cold with salads. Beetroot is a good source of Vitamin C and folic acid.
Broad beans are one of the oldest cultivated vegetables known to man. They have been eaten as a staple food since medieval times. Broad beans are a member of the Legume family. Thick fleshy pods protect the edible seeds.
A member of the Brassica (cabbage) family, the edible part is the central flower stalk. It has become a very popular vegetable in recent years. It is best served lightly blanched or eaten raw in salads.
Brussels Sprouts belong to the Brassica family and have a distinctive "love or hate" flavour. They are believed to have originated in Flanders (part of modern day Belgium) in the Middle Ages. They are similar in nature to miniature cabbages growing in concentric rows on a long tough stalk. Brussels sprouts are a traditional Christmas dinner item but are available for most of the year. They are a good source of fibre and vitamins, especially Vitamin C and folic acid.
The cabbage we eat today came from the wild or sea cabbage, which is a native of Europe. There is a cabbage type for every season of the year, each distinct in appearance, colour, size and shape.
After potatoes, carrots are without doubt the best-known and most popular root vegetable of all. The carrots we eat today were developed from the wild carrot but until the Middle Ages carrots eaten in this country were purple – orange carrots were imported from Holland in the 17th and 18th Centuries.
This is a popular member of the Brassica family, which, like cabbage, should not be overcooked.It is believed to have originated from China and from there it was brought to the Middle East. The Moors introduced it to Spain in the 12th Century and from there it found its way to Ireland.Ironically, now that baby cauliflowers are fashionable, the early cauliflower was only the size of a tennis ball.
Celeriac was developed from celery and is known as turnip-rooted celery. It is knobbly with a patchy brown and white skin and has a similar but less pronounced flavour than celery. Celeriac contains useful amounts of fibre, Vitamin C and folic acid. It can be eaten raw or cooked.
The courgette is a member of the cucumber family. Sometimes called zucchini, courgettes are basically immature marrows. They are the best loved of all the squashes as they are so versatile. They can be steamed, boiled, stir-fried, sautéed, stewed, grilled, roasted, deep-fried and baked. They may vary in colour from very dark green through pale green to yellow. They are a very good source of Vitamin A and a good source of Vitamin C and folic acid.
Cucumbers belong to the same family as marrows and courgettes. They are believed to have originated in Asia and have been grown in India for some 3,000 years. The Victorians bred a good selection of colour into their cucumbers – and thus white, yellow, bronze and bluish hues, as well as the more usual green-skinned type, are grown. Also in the nineteenth century, oval-shaped cucumbers were grown by the French and were much in demand by perfumeries.
French beans are related to broad beans and a member of the Legume family. This name encompasses a range of green beans, including the snap bean and bobby bean. Their long green fleshy pods are at their best before they become stringy. They may be cooked whole, or chopped.