This is a group of vegetables, lettuce being the chief type, the leaves of which are eaten raw. These are not very easily digested, they are cooling, antiscorbutic, nutritious, and gently laxative. They furnish a pleasant variety during a meal. They are usually eaten with oil and vinegar or some other salad dressing. Some of these salad vegetables are used for pickles and relishes as well as for salad. They stimulate the digestive secretions and give a fillip to the appetite.
Onion family are all nutritious - containing a quantity of nitrogenous materials and sugar in the colloid form as well as a pungent oil rich in sulphur, to which they owe their pungency and smell. The parts used are the bulb, young leaves, and seedlings.
Onions when scalded, i.e., covered with boiling-water and a pinch of salt, are not nearly so strong in flavour as unscalded ones. Boiling makes them much milder in taste than when raw. Onions are valuable as blood-purifier. The\' are edible as fresh vegetables, e.g., spring onions in salads, and after long keeping are useful as flavouring agent for salads, stews, and soup, etc. There are a good many varieties.
The onion proper is of two sizes: the strong, small, onion largely used for flavouring; and the Spanish onion, much milder in flavour. Syboes are the young seedlings, and much esteemed for soups and stews. Shallot or eschalot is a delicate onion with a strong taste, but wanting the pungent smell of onion. Chives, a smaller variety, where the leaves and bulb are both used. The Welsh onion or cibot is larger than the chive, and is also valued for its tender leaves. Leek belongs to the same class, and the leaves and bulb are also both used.
All onions impart a strong typical odour to the breath. It appears in two or three hours, and may persist for twenty-four hours or more. This is due to volatile substance absorbed by the blood from the digestive tract and excreted by the lungs.
Garlic belongs to the onion family, but instead of having a bulb it is composed of small bulbs known as "cloves." In Spain it forms part of every dish, and is very nutritious. Used as a condiment, it is stimulant and tonic and aids digestion. Garlic odour is due to oil of garlic, which is a sulphide of allyl, found also in watercress and radishes.
Rhubarb is composed of the stems of the leaves, and is used more as a dessert, being eaten with sugar and cream. Its flavour is tart; cooking renders it soft and easily digested. It tends to produce calcium oxalate in the urine when eaten to excess, and it is not good for gouty and rheumatic people.
Tomato, although a fruit, is generally used as a vegetable. It is becoming very much appreciated. It may be eaten raw with green salad vegetables, or alone with pepper and salt; it can be baked, fried, stuffed, and used in innumerable ways. The skin should be avoided, the pulp only being eaten. As a flavouring agent, such as tomato sauce, tomato ketchup, tomato beans, an enormous amount of tomatoes are canned every year; they retain more of their original flavour than do most other vegetables treated in this way.
Vegetable marrow is the best-known member of the gourd family in the British Isles. The pumpkin is a large-sized variety, and so is the squash. Marrow is a succulent wholesome vegetable with an agreeable flavour. It may be baked, boiled, or stuffed, or made into preserves. It is an easily digested vegetable.
Cucumbers are mainly eaten raw, they are generally used in salad. Immature young cucumbers are pickled as gherkins. Cucumber may be cooked and served in the same way as vegetable marrow, and is then easily digested.
Melon is more of a fruit, but belongs also to the cucumber family. It is more a drink than a food, since the solids only amount to 5 per cent. The juice of the water-melon makes an agreeable cooling drink. Melons are eaten raw either with sugar or with ginger and pepper. The seeds of the Indian melon (kaukoor) contain a great deal of starch and vegetable fat; they are ground into meal.
In health, vegetables, and especially green vegetables, should enter into the daily dietary, as their richness in alkaline salts makes them a useful food, and at the same time gives them valuable antiscorbutic properties. As has been indicated, their nutritive value is very low. Their relative indigestibility, on account of the large amount of cellulose present, and liability of the latter to undergo abnormal fermentation, restricts their value as a food for invalids.
The following are a few good methods of preparing vegetables for those with weak digestion: -
One of the most easily digested vegetables if properly cooked. The preliminary difficulty in thoroughly cleaning spinach and the removing of the tough stalks are the two important points in its preparation. It also reduces enormously in cooking, and 1 lb. will make a very small dish. Double the leaves lengthways and strip off the stalks, then wash the spinach thoroughly in several waters until all the grit is removed; place it in a saucepan without any water except that which adheres to the leaves, sprinkle it with salt, and put the lid on the pan. Spinach is the only green vegetable which is cooked with the lid on the pan, as no water is used. Were the lid off, the spinach might burn from evaporation. Cook until it is quite tender for twenty or thirty minutes, stirring it occasionally with a spoon. When ready, drain off the water in a fine wire sieve with a basin below, then remove the basin and rub the spinach through the sieve on to a plate. Scrape the sieve well beneath. Return the spinach to a saucepan with a small piece of butter, pepper and salt, stir over the fire until thoroughly hot, add a squeeze of lemon juice or a little cream. This can be eaten with small pieces of toast or fried bread. If served with a poached egg upon it, it forms a very light and easily digested dish.
Wash a couple of lettuces thoroughly, and remove any discoloured leaves, or let them lie in water for a short time. Drain the water off and put them in a pan of boiling water and a little salt. Boil quickly for about twenty minutes, when they should be quite tender. Keep the lid off the pan. Remove any scum that rises. When cooked, drain, and chop up the leaves on a board. Return to the saucepan with a small piece of butter, pepper, and more salt if required.
These have most flavour when baked, but can be boiled or stewed. Wipe them first and remove the stalks. Put them on a greased baking tin or fireproof dish, a little pepper and salt, and cover with a piece of greased kitchen paper. Bake for ten minutes until they feel soft; lift on to a clean hot dish, and serve.
Trim the asparagus, and steam by putting it in a jam-pot nearly filled with boiling water, placed in a large saucepan half-full of boiling water and lightly covered. The asparagus will take nearly an hour to cook in this manner. Serve with a sauce made of 1 ounce of melted butter, I tablespoonful of cream, the yolk of an egg, and 5 drops of lemon juice. Stir the mixture for a few minutes over the fire until thoroughly warmed.
For celery, choose it when fresh and crisp. Remove the coarse outside leaves, as they can be used for flavouring. Put away the root, separate the stalks, wash and brush them well in cold water, and scrape off any brown or discoloured parts with a knife; cut the stalks equal length, tie them together with tape (string would cut through), and throw them into a basin of clean water, and allow to soak in this for a few moments before cooking.
To cook all these vegetables: -
Place in a saucepan of freshly boiling mixture of equal parts of milk and water and a little salt. Boil with the lid off for about half an hour, when they will be quite tender. Drain well, remove the tape, and serve on a small piece of toast. This is not meant to be eaten, but it is for the purpose of more thoroughly drawing the moisture from the vegetables. All these vegetables can be served with a little well-made white sauce poured round them. If improperly made this sauce is a compound of uncooked flour and milk, and is indigestible.
1/4 ounce butter 1/4 ounce flour.
I gill of milk or white meat stock. Squeeze lemon juice.
Pinch of salt.
Take a small lined saucepan; rinse it out first with cold water to prevent the sauce sticking to the foot of it, and melt in it the butter ever the fire, being careful it does not brown. Then add the flour, and mix with a wooden spoon until smooth; cook it for a minute or two over the fire to give it a glossy appearance. Draw the pan to the side of the fire, add the milk or stock, and then stir constantly over the fire until boiling. Boil for two or three minutes in order to thoroughly cook the flour, and season to taste.
Select a young cauliflower with a firm close head. Trim off the thick part of the stalk and nearly all the leaves. Split the stalk, so that the water may get in and cook it well. Wash in cold water, and let it lie in fresh water and 1 teaspoonful vinegar to draw out any insects. Have on the fire a deep saucepan three-quarters full of briskly boiling water, add salt to it, and put the cauliflower in head downwards. Let it boil from twenty minutes to half an hour, until the flower feels tender but net broken up. When ready, lift it nut and drain for a minute or two on a sieve, and then serve with white sauce or white sauce and grated Parmesan cheese.
Spanish onions are by far the best for eating as a dish, the flavour not being so pungent. When onions are plain boiled they are best served on dry toast without any sauce. A large Spanish onion takes about three boors' boiling to become tender. To bake onions, the onion should be partly boiled, and then placed on a baking tin with a little butter and basted occasionally. When finished they should be of a nice brown colour. If softened by two hours' boiling, one hour in the oven will be sufficient. To stew, place a large Spanish onion in a saucer at the bottom of the sauceoan, and put sufficient equal parts of milk and water to reach the edge of the saucer. Keep the lid of the saucepan tightly closed, and let it steam about three and a half hours until quite tender. The water from the onion will prevent the necessity of adding fresh water.
Wash the marrow, cut it in quarters, remove the seeds, and peel it very thinly If large, cut it into neat-sized pieces and throw them into cold water until wanted. Place the marrow into a saucepan of salted water (1 dessertspoonful of salt to the quart). Boil gently with the lid on the pan for half an hour or more until the marrow feels tender when pierced with a fork. Drain well in a colander, and serve in a hot vegetable dish with white sauce poured over it. The marrow may be boiled in milk, the milk afterwards used for making the sauce.