The quality of vegetables depends much both on the soil in which they are grown, and on the degree of care bestowed upon their culture; but if produced in ever so great perfection, their excellence will be entirely destroyed if they be badly cooked.
With the exception of artichokes, which are said to be improved by two or three days' keeping, all the summer varieties should be dressed before their first freshness has in airy degree passed off (for their flavour is never so fine as within a few hours of their being cut or gathered); but when this cannot be done, precaution should be taken to prevent their withering. The stalk-ends of asparagus, cucumbers, and vegetable-marrow should be placed in from one to two inches of cold water and all other kinds should be spread on a cool brick floor. When this has been neglected, they must be (thrown into cold water for some time before they are boiled to recover them, though they will prove even then but very inferior eating.
Vegetables, when not sufficiently cooked, are known to be so exceedingly unwholesome and indigestible, that the custom of serving them crisp, which means, in reality, only half-boiled, should be altogether disregarded when health is considered of more importance than fashion; but they should not be allowed to remain in the water after they are quite done, or both their nutritive properties and their flavour will be lost and their good appearance destroyed: Care should be taken to drain them thoroughly in a warm strainer, and to serve them very hot, with well-made sauces, if with any.
Only dried peas or beans, Jerusalem artichokes, and potatoes, are put at first into cold water. All others require plenty of fast-boiling water, which should be ready salted and skimmed before they are thrown into it.
Lay them for half an hour or more into a pan of strong brine, with the stalk ends uppermost; this will destroy the small snails and other insects which cluster in the leaves, and they will fall out and sink to the bottom. A pound and a half of salt to the gallon of water will answer for this purpose, and if strained daily it will last for some time.
After they have been properly prepared and washed, throw them into plenty of boiling water which has been salted and well skimmed; and keep them uncovered and boiling fast until they are done, taking every precaution against their being smoked. Should the water be very hard, a bit of soda the size of a hazel-nut, or a small half-teaspoonful of carbonate of soda, may be added with the salt, for every two quarts, and will greatly improve the colour of the vegetables; but if used in undue proportion, it will injure them; green peas especially will be quickly reduced to a mash if boiled with too large a quantity.
Water, 1 gallon; salt, 2 ozs.; soda, 1/4 to 1/2 oz.; or carbonate of soda, 1 teaspoonful.
These should be freshly drawn, young and white. Wash and trim them neatly, leaving on two or three of the small inner leaves of the top. Boil them in plenty of salted water from twenty to thirty minutes, and as soon as they are tender send them to table well drained, with melted butter or white sauce. Common radishes, when young, tied in bunches, and boiled from eighteen to twenty-five minutes, then served on a toast like asparagus, are very good.