all veggies you didn’t know you can eat raw

We are so used to prepare certain foods in a certain way, don’t you feel a bit bored with your cooking choices? When it comes to veggies we usually prepare them in a same way – cooked, pickled or raw. Typically we use raw so called “salad veggies” like: cucumber, cabbage, lettuce, bell peppers or tomatoes. Others like: broccoli, cauliflower and root veggies usually land in the soups, stews or casseroles. But what if we would look out of the veggie comfort zone and see if we can eat raw these vegetables that we usually cook?

Curious? Lets go then!

But before we get to the point lets have a look at some nutritional facts.

Apart from vitamins and minerals obvious for everyone, what else vegetables have that other foods don’t?

The answer is fiber. According to food science dietary fiber is essential for healthy body.

But what it is exactly and what it does?

Dietary fiber is the parts of plants that your body cannot absorb or digest. Normally all the carbs, fats and proteins are processed in your body and transformed to energy. Fiber travels thorough your digestive system mostly intact, and simply leaves you body. It also contains different nutrients and minerals but have different function. Scientists divided fiber into two types:

  • soluble fiber – this type of fiber dissolves in water making gel-like consistency. They bypass the digestion of the small intestine and are easily fermented by the microflora of the large intestine. Soluble fiber helps to lower glucose and cholesterol levels.
  • insoluble fiber on the other hand helps to move all of that you’ve digested to smoothly get to the point where you get rid of it. So it’s really helpful when you have constipation issues.
So what are the benefits of fibre?
  1. Ability to decrease body weight or attenuate weight gain – soluble fiber, when fermented in the large intestine produces hormones generate feeling of satiety. So Foods that contain a lot of fiber make you feel full and satisfied for longer.
  2. Dietary fiber may significantly decrease energy intake.
  3. Dietary fiber intake increases, the intake of simple carbohydrates tends to decrease. Soluble fibre can slow down the absorption of sugar and improve blood sugar levels.
  4. Fiber increases the weight and size of your stool and softens it so it’s easier to pass. When you increase your fiber intake also increase the amount of water you drink, so the fiber can absorb it properly.
  5. A high-fiber diet may lower your risk of developing hemorrhoids and small pouches in your colon (diverticular disease).

That’s some of the good things that fiber does for our body. Although researchers still don’t know everything about what fiber does, many of them claims that there’s is a strong relationship between fiber and coronary diseases and certain types of cancer. There’s still a lot to discover.

So finally let see what veggies you didn’t know (or maybe you already knew that and it’s just me?) you can eat raw.

Cauliflower

Rich in nutrients, full of fibre. Great low carb alternative for grains and legumes. Recently very popular as a replacement for everything (I mean popular in low carb and ketogenic communities). Can be eaten raw, and taste delicious for examle with avocado dip, joghurt and garlic sauce or tomato salsa. My favourite option – caulislaw – coleslaw like salad made with raw cauliflower instead of cabbage. Yummy!

Courgette

Did you know that courgette is actually botanically clacified as a fruit not a vegetable? Wild courgettes are very bitter and should not be eaten raw. This bitterness comes from cucurbitacins, which may be poisonous for humans and animals. Store bought courgettes are safe, and can safely be eaten raw. Although if you bite into courgette and it tastes extremely unpleasant and bitter, it’s best to spit it out and dispose of the entire fruit to avoid the risk of cucurbitacin toxicity. Don’t let this discourage you from eating courgettes. It’s very unlikely that you’ll buy very bitter courgette in the shop. The best is always buy from proven stores or farmers markets. You can use courgette for variety of ways: it’s great in salads, you can use it as a low carb noodles, as a wrap or simply eat with a dip as a snack. The sky is the limit!

Beetroot

Oh I love beets, but all my live I’ve been eating them cooked or pickled. If you like beets, try them raw. According to a 2016 study in the Journal of Current Research in Nutrition and Food Science, pickled beets have less nutrients than raw ones. You can eat raw beets in many different ways: thinly slices, served as carpaccio, grathed or chopped in salads, blended in fruit and vegetable smoothies, you can juice them with other fruits (like apples) and drink. Beetroots comes also in other colours than red, they are yellow and white. Try my raw beetroot recipes: raw beets and avocado salad, raw beets, broad beans and feta salad, golden beets carpaccio.

Brussels sprouts

Surprised? I was as well. But actually you can eat them raw as cabbage. They are quite firm and not everyone will enjoy their taste, especially if you’re used to eat them roasted or cooked. Wasn’t my favourite raw veg of choice, but definitely I could consider adding raw Brussels sprouts to all sorts of salads. The best way is to slice them very thinly, you can use a mandoline. With all sorts of dressings will be great addition to sandwiches or side salad for meat dishes. Definitely give it a try to find out if you like it or not.

Broccoli

Just the same as cauliflower, broccoli can easily be eaten raw. Small tendersteam broccolies can be delicious in all sorts of salads, but regular large broccoli finely chopped or divided into small florets can make crunchy, beautiful green salad. Just let yourself experiment.

Parsley root

Did you know you can use parsley root just the same as you use carrot? Add raw parsley root to smoothies, salads or make thin slices using a peeler and prepare small rolls adding some goat cheese for example.

Root celery/celeriac

Exactly the same as parsley root – instead of popping them into a broth or stew prepare juicy spring salad. You can grate celery root and prepare all sorts of different side salads. It goes great with: apple, raisins, cranberries, sweetcorn, pineapple, hard cheese, Greek yogurt or mayonnaise. Perfect with white meat or fish dishes.

Collard greens

I love collard greens slightly sauted with butter and garlic, but as othe cabbage they can also be eaten raw. Although similar to kale they need a lot of chewing. To make it less difficult to eat you can chop them finely, drizzle with olive oil and some salt and massage rubbing the toughness away. After this “treatment” you can add them to your salads and happily eat without feeling like a cow in the pasture 😉 Because of their large leaves, they will be also a great wrap if do not enjoy traditional flour wraps.

When you got to this point and you think: I wish I could eat more veggies, but they make me feel bloated, I have cramps and gases! Okey dokey – that may happen if your body is not used to eating raw foods (I mean raw vegetables) and whole grains. In this case start adding high fiber foods gradually and observe which ones makes you feel better which ones make digestive issues. That’s the easiest way – observing how your body reacts to certain foods if you feel like your body doesn’t like certain veg, you feel discomfort or simply don’t enjoy the taste, just grab a different one. Vegetable world is wide and for sure you’ll find couple veggies you really like. Or maybe you don’t like it’s cooked version, and the raw one will taste much much better? Become an explorer in a vegetable world this Spring and find your favourite tastes.

And one more thing before I let you dive into your veggie drawer: always wash your vegetables thoroughly before you eat them raw! Choose veggies from trusted source – your local shop or farmer. Personally I hate buying veggies packed in plastic, that travelled thousands kilometres before they landed in my bag, but it’s obvious that buying sustainable and local isn’t always possible. So choose wisely, but also do not resign from buying vegetables, just because you can buy them only in the supermarket. Work with what you have, the best you can 🙂

Source of knowledge:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/fiber/art-20043983

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257631/

eat it! don’t bin-it! the edible parts of vegetables you usually put to rubbish

Did you know that some parts of vegetables that you usually put to rubbish are in fact edible? If you buy veggies from the farmers market or in small local shops, often you can get broccoli, cauliflower or carrots as a whole veg – with leaves and stems. When I was getting my veg delivery from a local farm I was feeling sorry to bin carrot, cauliflower and broccoli leaves, so I’ve made a research and see if I can use them anyhow. It turned out that there’s plenty of veggie parts we usually get rid of, that we could actually eat. And if you get your veggies from a sustainable and good source, that are harvested locally during the natural growing season you can go ahead and eat them whole. Moreover, sometimes leaves that we usually put to rubbish are more nutritious that the actual vegetable. There’s also couple fruits which parts you always throw away, but even though unbelievably they are edible. I will tell you about them at the end.

Why locally grown and seasonal veggies and fruits I think are the best?

Nutritional values are highest immediately after harvesting and decline over time. Long transportation and storing time requires some kind of chemicals that will make veggies and fruits look good for a long time. According to EWG there’s couple veggies and fruits that should be considered as highest content of pesticides. Strawberries are first. Apples came second in the ranking. The third place was taken by nectarines, and the fourth by peaches. There’s also: celery, grapes, cherries, spinach, tomatoes, red peppers, cherry tomatoes and green cucumber. Unfortunately also very popular as a healthy food – kale. That’s why it’s so important to avoid buying vegetables from big supermarkets, or the one that where growing thousands miles from where you live. Buying locally means that fruits and veg are much less likely to be treated with chemicals to increase their shelf life during transport and storage.

Obviously it’s not always possible, and not everyone has an opportunity to buy only organic and locally grown products. But there’s still something you can do. Try to buy seasonal fruits and vegetables, and when you’re in the supermarket take a good look on the label to see where the fruit or veg is from – choose these ones that was growing closest to you.

And now let’s see which parts of veg and fruit you’ve been foolishly putting to rubbish bin 😉

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Cauliflower leaves

If you buy cauliflower with leaves, do not get rid of them. As the cauliflower have a lot of vitamins – from A and C to E, K, B6, folic acid, thiamine and niacin, also minerals like: zinc, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium. Cauliflower leaves are perfect as homemade chips. Just drizzle them with olive oil and spices, and then put in an oven preheated to 200 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Cooked in vegetable broth and blended with cream and spices, turn into a delicious green soup. Fried with clarified butter, can even be eaten solo. You can easily add them when making caulislaw (coleslaw made with cauliflower). Sky is the limit!

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Broccoli leaves

Broccoli stem and leaves are edible too. They contain a lot of fiber and are rich in, among others, valuable vitamin K. Just cut the stalk a little from the fibrous outer part and cut it into slices, and then boil it in water or steam. The leaves can be added to a salad, a green smoothie, or sautéed or baked with salt and pepper. If you like preparing homemade vegetable juices, you can also add broccoli leaves and stems.

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Carrot leaves

Although it’s not very popular, but sometimes you can buy a beautiful bunch of carrot s with leaves. If you do so, never get rid of the leaves, because they contains more nutritional properties than the root itself! They are full of chlorophyll, magnesium, potassium, calcium, vitamin K and C, helping to cleanse the body of toxins and deposits, detoxifies the liver and boosts your energy. You can use them to make pesto, green smoothies, chimichurri sauce, can be added to vegetable broth or different kind of salads.

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Kohlrabi leaves

Comparing to the root kohlrabi leaves contains much more vitamin C that the root. If you don’t want to loose this valuable vitamin put leaves to a salad. They also contain large amounts of iron. So if you deal with anaemia, you’re pregnant or just delivered a baby, make yourself a salad with kohlrabi leaves. They have quite intensive taste, so young leaves will be the best to spice up your salad, and larger leaves can be added to the soups.

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Radish leaves

Do you also always get rid of them? They contain twice as much vitamin C as lemon juice! They are a rich source of iron and calcium (they even win over spinach). They perfectly detoxify the body and improve metabolism. Finally, they regulate blood pressure and increase natural immunity. Young radish leaves can be added to a salad, larger ones because of their hardness and roughness will be better added to a green smoothie, soup or as a base for green pesto.

Surprised? If you do, take a look at these two fruits – the parts you always get rid of are also edible:

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Strawberry stems and leaves

As it turns out, strawberry leaves are teeming with bioactive compounds, including anti-inflammatory, disease-fighting flavonoids like quercetin and kaempferol. Chlorophyll, protects the body against the harmful effects of free radicals and slows down the ageing process, and because of the fiber that supports the functioning of the intestines. Strawberry stalks also contain vitamin C and iron. You can obviously eat the stems with the strawberry itself, but you can also add the stems and leaves to a salad, green smoothies or pop them into a bottle with water to infuse. If you decide to eat the whole strawberry make sur that it’s from a good source. According to EWG strawberries contain, on average, as many as 13 dangerous pesticides. If you buy the perfect strawberries – large, red and without any blemish, you must be aware that such fruits are grown with pesticides.

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Watermelon rind

Would you ever consider watermelon rind? It’s edible as a cucumber. Watermelon rind is full of easily digestible fiber, which helps to remove toxins from the body. The same as watermelon flesh has plenty of nutritional benefits. You can either pickle the rind, or remove the hard green skin, finely chop the rest and prepare a summer salsa or chutney – perfect as an addition to BBQ. Also watermelon seeds are edible. If you always spit them out, try to save them, dry and roast on a hot pan and you’ll get a great healthy snack.

As the icing on the cake, there’s quite a good few edible flowers you can add to your food if you’re lucky enough to have a garden or a meadow near by. Of course never pick up flowers that are growing near busy roads and industrial areas. I’m very curious about them, because I’ve never tried any edible flowers and they look so amazing as a decoration or a salad garnish. Have you ever tried them?

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Edible flowers

  • basil – flowers come in a variety of colours, from white to pink to lavender. The taste is similar to the leaves, but milder
  • garden pansy – petals have a slightly vague flavour, but if you eat the whole flower, it has a more mellow flavour. A good addition to cheeses and salads
  • courgette and pumpkin – flowers of both are wonderful stuffing “vessels”, each with a delicate flavour. The stamens must be removed before use
  • violet tricolor (Johnny Jump-Up) – lovely and delicious, the flowers have a subtle mint flavour, great for salads, pasta, fruit and drinks
  • arugula (rocket) – flowers are small with dark centres and a peppery flavour that resembles leaves
  • chamomile – small and daisy-like. Its flowers have a sweet flavour and are often used in tea. Allergy sufferers must be careful because they may be more prone to chamomile allergy
  • lavender – sweet, spicy and fragrant flowers are a great addition to spicy and sweet dishes or homemade ice cream
  • mint – flowers are just mint. Their intensity varies depending on the variety
  • radish – variegated flowers of the radish have a distinct, peppery flavour
  • rosemary – flowers taste like a milder version of the herb
  • sage – flowers have a subtle flavour similar to the leaves
  • daisy – has an interesting mint flavour.

For a change parts of vegetables and fruits

that you should never eat:

  • potato stems, shoots and leaves – they contain solanine – toxic compound. Solanine is also found in unripe green potatoes
  • tomato leaves and stems – they also contain solanine
  • aubergine leaves and stems – can cause abdominal pain and food poisoning
  • rhubarb leaves – contain large amounts of the dangerous oxalic acid. It can cause acute food poisoning, vomiting and severe stomach pain
  • asparagus – only the young shoots of this plant are edible. We colloquially call them “asparagus” even though they are merely asparagus spikes. After the harvest period, the female variety of this plant produces buds and flowers, which develop red, berry-shaped fruits. Although they look tempting, they cannot be eaten. They contain a toxic chemical called sapogenin that can cause severe diarrhoea and vomiting.

I can’t wait until spring and summer when I will get my veggie delivery again. I hope I encouraged you to try and instead of getting rid of some veggie parts you’ll use them to make a smoothie, pesto or delicious salad. Also take a look at your local community or farmers market when the Spring comes – I’m sure you will find plenty of healthy and delicious seasonal vegetables and fruits.