Top Five Scariest Vegetables

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Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Beet

Leery of the leek? Afraid of asparagus? Broccoli your personal Boggart? It seems witches are not the only green thing that scares us. You are not alone. According to a 2007 study published in the American Journal of Medicine, fewer than a third of us eat enough fruits and vegetables daily.

Perhaps it’s time we faced our deep-rooted fears?

Number 5: Beets.
I clearly recall making little towers of canned, pickled beet cubes. I don’t remember eating them more than once. It was a long, long time before I faced down a beet again as an adult. As my first season participating in the Eat Local Challenge and as a member of a CSA, I felt compelled to cook whatever came in the weekly box in whatever way I could to make it palatable.

What I found out was, they are pretty good. That, indeed, everything not in a can tastes a whole lot different. Beets are especially good roasted and especially good for you as they are rich in the same anthocyanin compounds like wine and berries.

And the Top Four Are …

Spicy Sauteed Beets
Beet Salad with Orange and Fennel
Roasted Beet and Cucumber Salad

Number 4: Asparagus.
I was first traumatized introduced to this mushy, awful, bitter canned spear that smelled, well, a bit like pee. Shudder. As a general vegetable rule, avoid the can. The same is true for green beans and most vegetables. If you don’t like them, you’ve likely never had the real thing. Fresh. In season. Real. No comparison.

I must admit, canned green beans do have a fond place in my childhood memories, looking across the table to see my brother having stuffed one up his nose with the end hanging out to make me laugh. Ah, family memories.

Asparagus are a great source of folate, potassium and inulin fiber.

Roasted Asparagus
Ham and Asparagus Tart
Green Bean Risotto

Number 3: Greens.
My first exposure to greens was when I was working at a rest home in high school. One of the residents, with no teeth, bolted down a serving and I had to step in to perform the Heimlich. It’s been over 20 years, and I am just now brave enough to cook greens. And I would never have attempted it if I hadn’t learned that greens pack a huge nutrition load of vitamin C, folate, fiber, iron,  minerals, beta carotene, antioxidants and cancer-fighting phytonutrients.

A few caveats if you want to try greens. The more you overcook them, the more bitter they get. Saute lightly with garlic and bacon for a treat. Or try kale with garlic, white beans and red pepper, topped with grated parmesean. Taking the lighter approach with greens has even helped me recover from the black, mushy, cider-vinegar soaked mess of spinach I had to eat as a child. You can even get “free” bonus greens at the top of your beets. Free is good. Therapy is expensive.

Honey-Lemon Greens Saute
Potato and Green Saute
CSA Stir Fry

Number 2: Peas.
We hid them in napkins, stuffed our cheeks full and spit them out in the toilet, even tried to feed them to the family dog — if the dog would eat them. Try as we might, peas just never went down easy even when my siblings and I swallowed them whole.

We won’t mention that scene from The Exorcist, either, even if it is Halloween.

I have found that I will eat peas raw these days, fresh from the pod. Or, early season and barely warmed. Even top quality frozen peas aren’t too awful. But, I must admit, that peas are best mixed in dishes like a hearty stew or a pasta dish with white sauce, bacon and peas. Peas and I have a way to go, but I’m working on it. Snow peas and sugar snap peas are good alternatives.

Your mom wasn’t completely evil by putting peas on the plate. They are an excellent source of Vitamins K and C, folic acid and B vitamins, plus protein and fiber.

Gai Choy
Carrot Pea and Quinoa Biriyana
Ham and Pea Pasta with Parmesan Herb Sauce

Number 1: Even covered in cheese sauce, you still can’t deny it. The Dreaded One. Broccoli.
Indeed, broccoli may be one of the few vegetables that we can be genetically predisposed to dislike. Have faith. With a good recipe, or by substituting the sweeter cousin broccolini, we shall overcome. No Velveeta required.

Broccoli tops the chart on the health-o-meter not just as an excellent source of vitamins, fiber and minerals, but also because it contains phytonutrients with anti-cancer properties and even calcium for strong bones. Just think of the cheese sauce as extra calcium.

Broccoli, Leek and Chard Gratin
Veggie Kabobs

There now. That wasn’t so bad, was it? Ready for dessert?

Mint Chocolate Cake (with Beet)
Pumpkin Spice Cookies
Chocolate Zucchini Bread

  1. Carla

    Great post!

    Peas were one of my least favorite vegetable. I had the type of parents that believe in corporal punishment: you were not able to leave the table until everything on the plate was done and sometimes worse. Spitting them in a napkin on the sly was the best way – no evidence left behind since these were paper (not cloth) napkins. Swallowing them whole one at a time with water was second best unless they are totally mushy *gag*, common since they were either canned or frozen . To this day, I still cant even look at a cooked pea, no matter how fresh and organic it may be.

  2. Rachel

    I love ALL of these-but then again I’m a vegetarian. I find myself cooking greens the same few ways all the time so I’m saving these recipes, thanks SO much!

  3. Rachel

    Peas. Definitely peas. Shudder.

    And asparagus. I never liked asparagus until I learned to grill them on the barbeque. Now I love them.

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