The term "vegetable," as here used, is applied to such plants (grains, nuts, and fruits excepted) as are cultivated and used for food. The use of a large variety of vegetables in our food assists in promoting good health. To get the best results, they should be judiciously combined with nuts, fruits, and grains. Green vegetables are rich in potash salts and other minerals necessary to the system, and in such a form as to be easily assimilated.
Starchy vegetables, as potatoes, supply energy and heat, and give necessary bulk to the food. Peas, beans, and lentils contain a large amount of proteid, used in building and repairing tissue, and are therefore used in place of meat. For weak stomachs they are more easily digested in the form of purees and soups, with the outer indigestible covering removed. All vegetables should be fresh; for in spite of all that may be said to the contrary, all vegetables, whether roots, leaves, or any other kind, begin to lose bulk and flavor as soon as removed from the ground. The kind that suffer least in this respect are beets, potatoes, carrots, etc. Those which are most easily affected are cabbage, lettuce, celery, asparagus, etc.
Vegetables that have been touched with the frost should be kept in a perfectly dark place for some days. The frost is then drawn out slowly, and the vegetables are not so liable to rot.
Fresh green vegetables should be cooked as soon after being gathered as possible. Those containing sugar, as corn and peas, lose some of their sweetness by standing. Wash thoroughly in cold water, but unless wilted do not soak. It is better not to prepare fresh green vegetables until they are needed; but if they must be prepared some time before cooking, cover with cold water.
Most vegetables should be put into fresh, rapidly-boiling water, and if cooked in uncovered vessels, they will retain a better color, as high heat destroys their color. In no instance permit them to steep in the warm water, as this toughens them, and in some instances destroys both color and flavor.
The salt hardens the water, and also sets the color in the vegetable. For peas and beans do not add salt to the water until they are nearly done, as they do not boil tender so readily in hard water.
Corn should not be boiled in salt water, as the salt hardens the outer covering of skin and makes it tough. Cook the vegetables rapidly till perfectly tender, but no longer. If vegetables are cooked too long, flavor, color, and appearance are all impaired. To judge when done, watch carefully, and test by piercing with a fork. The time required to cook a vegetable varies with its age and freshness; therefore, the time tables given for cooking serve only as approximate guides.
Delicate vegetables, as green peas, shelled beans, celery, etc., should be cooked in as little water as possible, toward the last the water being allowed to boil away till there is just enough left to moisten. In this manner all the desirable soluble matter that may have been drawn out in cooking is saved.
Strongly flavored vegetables, as cabbage, onions, etc., should be cooked in a generous quantity of water, and the water in which onions are cooked may be changed one or more times.
The general rule for seasoning vegetables is as follows: To two cups small whole vegetables, or two cups of vegetables mashed or sliced, add a rounding tea-poonful of butter, and half a level teaspoonful of salt. To beans, peas, and squash, add one-half teaspoonful of sugar to improve them. Add milk or the vegetable liquid when additional moisture is required.