Vegetables have graduated from their traditional side dish and salad roles to become a star ingredient, reaching new creative heights when combined with other produce in fresh juices. Here's a rundown on some of the best and most healthful veggies around.
Asparagus is native to the Mediterranean area of southern Europe and is said to have been cultivated for more than two thousand years. In 1700, Dutch and English colonists brought asparagus to America, where it was first planted in New England. The asparagus is a member of the lily family. The young shoot is the edible part and can range in color from green or white to purple. It is usually available from mid-February through July, with the peak season being from April through June. It is an excellent source of vitamin A.
When buying asparagus, look for stalks that are straight with closed, compact buds. In the spring, choose spears that are pencil-thin. As the season progresses, the fatter ones will taste best. Also, look at the stem end to confirm that it has been freshly cut and is not dried out, because asparagus begins to lose its sweetness soon after it is cut. Wash the asparagus and store in the coldest part of the refrigerator, with the base of the spears wrapped in a damp paper towel. Although it is best to eat asparagus the day it is purchased, it will keep in the refrigerator for four or five days.
Asparagus juice is best when combined with the juice of other vegetables, such as carrots. Cut the asparagus in sizes just large enough to fit in your juicer.
The beet is native to the Mediterranean region. When the Romans first began to eat beets, they consumed only the leafy part. It was not until the Christian era that they began to eat the root part of the beet. Beets are a good source of iron and calcium, while the greens are rich in iron, calcium, and vitamin A.
When choosing beets, look for those that are small to medium in size with smooth, unblemished skins and fresh, crisp leaves. Wash them well, and if they must be stored, place them in an airtight plastic bag in the refrigerator where they should keep for up to three weeks.
Beet juice should not be consumed alone because it can cause irritation to the throat and esophagus. Instead, combine the beet and beet top with any of the milder fruits and vegetables such as carrots, apples, or celery.
Up until the 1920s in the United States, broccoli was mostly known to and consumed by Italian immigrants. Once others outside this community learned of its versatility and extensive nutritional content, it rapidly gained in popularity. Today, broccoli is recognized as being an excellent source of calcium as well as being exceptionally high in the important antioxidants, vitamins C and E, and a host of other cancer-fighting phytochemicals. Broccoli, a member of the cruciferous family, can be eaten raw, cooked, or juiced.
When choosing broccoli, look for ones that have tightly closed green clusters, firm stalks, and a fresh aroma, rather than a cabbage smell. Avoid any with yellow florets, dried ends, or a woody stem. Wash broccoli well, and when dry, store it in an airtight plastic bag in the refrigerator.
Broccoli juice has a strong flavor if you drink it alone. Before juicing broccoli, separate it into florets with stems just large enough to fit in your juicer. Three to four broccoli florets can be added to many of the vegetable recipes found in the "Back to Basics" chapter for a delicious and nutrient-filled juice.
Brussels sprouts are a member of the cruciferous family and are therefore related to cabbage and cauliflower. When first sprouting, the vegetable's stem sends up a long shoot with the sprouts forming close to the ground. As they mature, others appear higher up on the stalk. Each one looks like a small head of cabbage, measuring from 1/2 to 1 inch in diameter. Not surprisingly, brussels sprouts were first cultivated in Brussels. They are an excellent source of vitamins A and C and are in season from September through January.
When choosing brussels sprouts, look for ones that are green and firm. Select those with smaller heads for their more delicate flavor. Avoid any with yellow or wilted leaves. Store the brussels sprouts in an airtight plastic bag in the refrigerator and wash them just before they are ready to be used.
Brussels sprout juice has a strong flavor used alone. Before juicing them, separate the brussels sprouts into individual heads with stems just large enough to fit in your juicer. Consider adding three to four brussels sprouts to some of the vegetable recipes found in the "Back to Basics" chapter, such as Carrot and Apple or Carrot and Cucumber.
Cabbage is considered to be the most ancient cultivated leafy plant. It is native to England and northwest France but is now widely grown throughout Europe, Asia, and America. A member of the cruciferous family, it is related to other vegetables such as brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, and cauliflower, to name a few. There are three kinds of cabbage, each with leaves that grow close together to form a round head. The leaves of the Savoy variety are wrinkled, while those of the white cabbage are pale and smooth with raised veins. Red cabbage has leaves similar to the white variety except for their purplish-red color. Cabbage is an excellent source of vitamin C.
When choosing a head of cabbage, look for one that is firm, heavy for its size, and has closely trimmed stems. Avoid any cabbage that has discoloration of the leaves. Wash the cabbage well and store in the refrigerator.
Cabbage juice alone is very strong and should be combined with the juice of other vegetables, such as carrots. Before juicing, cut the cabbage into wedges just large enough to fit in your juicer.
The carrot is a long, orange root vegetable native to Afghanistan. It is known to have been cultivated in the Mediterranean area as long ago as 500 B.C. Originally, this vegetable was used for medicinal purposes rather than a food source. By the sixteenth century in Europe, improved methods of cultivating the carrot allowed it quickly to gain in popularity as an excellent food. Carrots are a very good source of vitamins A, B, C, betacarotene and other carotenoids. Darker carrots contain more carotene, a substance the body converts into vitamin A.
When choosing carrots, buy those that are firm and void of any cracks. Carrots with new green sprouts or a wide diameter may have a woody core. In general, a brighter color usually means a sweeter carrot. Carrots should be washed well. If nonorganic carrots are used, remove the tip and core end because pesticides are more concentrated there. Refrigerate this vegetable until ready to use.
Carrot juice alone is delicious, but because it is mild-flavored, it combines well with the juice of most vegetables, especially those in the cruciferous family, such as broccoli, kale, cabbage, and cauliflower. It also blends nicely with some fruits, such as pineapple, apple, and pear. Cut unpeeled carrots into 2- to 3-inch lengths just large enough to fit in your juicer.
Cauliflower originated in Asia, but the present day cauliflower that we know was perfected in Italy. It is a member of the cruciferous family. It has a large head made up of edible, creamy white, clustered, juicy flowers that are surrounded by large green leaves. It is very high in vitamin C.
When choosing cauliflower, look for heads that are creamy white and void of any spots that indicate it may not be fresh. Wash the cauliflower well, and when dry, store in the refrigerator.
Cauliflower juice alone is very strong and should be combined with the juice of other vegetables and fruits, such as carrots or apples. Before juicing a cauliflower, break it into florets with stems just large enough to fit in your juicer. 12 The Perfect Produce Try adding two to four florets to some of the recipes in the "Back to Basics" chapter.
Celery has been enjoyed as a food source for almost three thousand years, although its exact origin is unknown. It is native to the Mediterranean region of Europe. The variety most often found in the United States is the Pascal type, which is green with upright crisp, large, succulent leaf stalks. This variety is less stringy and has a pronounced flavor. Celery is high in vitamin C and potassium.
When choosing celery, look for those with firm stalks and fresh-looking leaves. Also, the rib of the head should break with a clean snap when bent. Whether you buy organic or nonorganic celery, cut the end off and separate the stalks. Wash the celery well, wrap it in paper towels, and store in a very dark, cool place or the refrigerator.
To juice celery, cut it into 2- to 3-inch lengths and add them to the juicer along with the leaves.
Cucumbers are known to be one of the oldest cultivated crops, dating back to ancient Babylon. They are native to Thailand and have been cultivated in western Asia for three thousand years. After cucumbers spread to Europe, the Spaniards brought them to Haiti in 1494, and by the late 1500s, they were being cultivated in the Americas. Cucumbers are an excellent source of vitamins C and A, potassium, and folate.
When choosing a cucumber, look for one that is firm and has a dark green skin with small lumps. Avoid any that are soft or have a wrinkled skin. Wash the cucumbers well and refrigerate.
To juice the cucumber, peel away the waxed skin and cut the cucumber into cubes or spears. Cucumber juice should be combined with the juice of other fruits and vegetables. Many of the recipes in the "Back to Basics" chapter would be an excellent choice for this melding of tastes.
Florence (or bulb) fennel dates back to ancient Rome, where it was eaten as a digestive aid, palate cleanser, and breath freshener. It has a large white bulb with heavy stalks that resemble celery and soft feathery leaves that look like dill. The bulb of the fennel is used to make a juice.
Although fennel is available year-round, it is a winter vegetable, its main season being October through April. When selecting a fennel, choose one with a heavy, firm bulb that is about the size of a tennis ball and is white with no bruising. Rounder bulbs tend to be sweeter, and their licorice flavor is less pronounced than the flattened variety. The feathery leaves should be bright green with stalks that are firm, which indicates its freshness. Avoid any cut fennel because it will not be as flavorful.
Fennel should be used within a few days after purchase. Remove the stalks and leaves with a knife and wash them well. Wrap the bulb in plastic wrap and refrigerate.
Before juicing, cut the fennel in half or in wedges just large enough to fit in your juicer. Because it has a distinctive anise flavor, fennel juice tastes best when mixed with the juice of other mild-flavored fruits and vegetables, such as cucumbers, apples, or pears.
Garlic is highly valued for its impressive health benefits. The most important is its ability to increase HDL ("good") cholesterol levels, which play a major role in protecting against heart disease and may also lower blood pressure in some individuals. However, garlic has not always been so highly esteemed. It is a native of Asia, but once garlic arrived in Europe, it received mixed reviews. Ancient Greeks disliked it, so they forbade recent garlic eaters to enter into the Temple of Cybele. The Romans, on the other hand, were divided about their attitudes toward garlic, with the nobles disapproving of it but otherwise recommending it as a healthful food for the masses.
Garlic is a bulbous member of the lily family. The heads may be covered with a papery white, pink, or mauve skin. Each head is divided into ten to twelve sections, or cloves. When choosing garlic, select cloves that are plump and firm and avoid any that are shriveled or dried out. Store in a cool, dark place in a well-ventilated bag or basket.
Add one to two cloves to the juicer, followed by the vegetables of your choice. This will help rid most of the typical garlic aroma from the juicer. Garlic can also be enclosed in a leafy vegetable or green before being added to the juicer.
Ginger comes from the rootstock of a reedy, herbaceous plant, Zingiber officinale. It is thought to be native to India, as well as other countries in tropical Asia. It was the first spice to be transplanted to the New World. Today, the finest ginger comes from India and Jamaica. The whole ginger is light brown and knotty on the outside and golden and juicy on the inside. It has an exotic sweet-and-spicy flavor.
When choosing ginger, look for ones that are firm and void of any soft spots or wrinkled skin. Store the ginger in a cool, dark place in a well-ventilated bag or basket.
Before juicing ginger, remove the skin. Depending on how hot and spicy you like your juice, you might want to start with a scant 1/4-inch slice. If the result is not hot enough, gradually increase the amount to what appeals to your palate.
The jicama (pronounced hik'-a-ma) is a leguminous plant with a very large tuberous root. There are two types. The yam bean, the smaller of the two, is found in the tropics of both hemispheres. The larger variety is cultivated in the temperate and tropical regions of America and considered to be a major crop of Mexico. Jicama has a thin, light brown skin. The inside is crisp and has a flavor similar to apples and water chestnuts. Jicamas are a good source of potassium, calcium, and phosphorous.
When choosing a jicama, look for one that is firm and heavy for its size. Avoid any that are shriveled or larger than average. Wash the jicama, and when dry, store it in a dark, cool place.
To juice a jicama, remove the skin and cut into wedges or cubes large enough to fit in your juicer. Jicama juice is best combined with the juice of other vegetables.
Kale is a winter vegetable that is very similar to cabbage except that its leaves are loose and curly, rather than shaped like a head. It is native to Europe, where it was cultivated for centuries to feed both people and animals. It is an excellent source of vitamins A, B, and C.
When choosing kale, look for one that has crisp, dark green leaves. Avoid any with thick or yellow leaves. Use the same method for washing and drying the kale as is suggested in the lettuce section. Wrap the leaves in paper towels and store in the refrigerator.
To juice kale, the leaves can be added whole or broken into appropriate sizes, depending on the size of your juicer. Kale juice is best when combined with the juice of other mild- flavored vegetables, such as carrots.
The cultivation of lettuce began in Persia as long ago as 500 B.C. Because lettuce is sweet and juicy, it is a perfect salad green to add to a juice. In addition, it is an excellent source of vitamins A, B, C, and E, as well as calcium, iron, and magnesium.
When selecting lettuce, always choose those with fresh, crisp leaves and a garden-fresh smell. Avoid any that are spotted with brown marks or have oversized or wilted leaves.
Many greens are now available prewashed and packaged in airtight bags. However, I still recommend washing them. If you do not have a salad spinner, the greens will have to be washed and dried by hand. A simple way to do this is to tear the leaves into large pieces and immerse them in a pot or sink filled with cold water. Swish the leaves around with your hands to remove any grit. They can also be rinsed under cold running water. Once the leaves are washed, the next step is to dry them. As you scoop up the leaves with your hands, look for any that are brown and wilted and remove them. Then gently shake the leaves to remove as much water as possible. After the greens are dry, place them in a salad crisper or wrap them loosely in a paper or cloth towel. Roll up the towel and place it in a refrigerator bag, poking holes in the bag to allow any moisture to escape. Refrigerate the greens until ready to use.
To insert lettuce into a juicer, first take a small portion of leaves and mold them into a ball, then push it through the feed tube. Lettuce juice is best when combined with the juice of other vegetables, such as carrots and celery.
Because of the wide variety of lettuce available, you should be aware of the leafier ones that are best for juicing. These are a few of my favorites, but please don't hesitate to experiment with some of yours.
These greens are sometimes referred to as "hearting lettuce" because the inner leaves are packed tightly together, while farther from the center, the leaves are larger and softer. All the leaves can be added to a juice, but the inner leaves, or heart, are the most tender and sweet. The two varieties of butterhead are Boston (butter) lettuce and Bibb (Kentucky limestone) lettuce. When choosing butterhead lettuce, look for a head that is crisp and has a white base with bright green leaves on the outer edge.
This variety of lettuce includes red leaf and oak leaf. It has large, frilly, and curly leaves that are most often light green but can also be shaded with red. Because the leaves are somewhat thinner than those of other varieties, it is best to use them as soon as possible.
ROMAINE (COS) LETTUCE
This lettuce is named for the Greek island of Cos where it originated. It has long, coarse green outer leaves, but the white leaves in the center are the tastiest and crispiest.
Parsley, a member of the carrot family, is native to the Mediterranean region and believed to have first been cultivated in Sardinia and Italy. There are four types: Neapolitan parsley, grown for its stalks and similar to celery Hamburg parsley, grown for its roots curly parsley and flat-leaf parsley. The latter two are the varieties most often available in produce departments. Parsley is rich in vitamins A and C as well as iron and calcium.
When choosing parsley, look for a bunch with crisp, dark green leaves. Avoid any with yellow leaves. Wash thoroughly and when dry, wrap the parsley in paper towels and store in an airtight plastic bag in the refrigerator.
To juice parsley, add seven to eight sprigs to the juicer. Parsley juice is best when combined with the juice of other vegetables, especially carrots.
Bell peppers are native to Mexico and Central and South America. In the fifteenth century, Spanish explorers discovered sweet and hot peppers in the West Indies and took samples back to Europe where they quickly became popular as a food, condiment, and spice pepper. A few decades later, bell peppers were found growing throughout the West Indies and the Americas. The common varieties of bell peppers ripen on the vine, and the riper the bell pepper, the sweeter it is. Bell peppers-whether green, yellow, or red-are a good source of vitamin C.
When choosing a bell pepper, look for a firm one that has a glossy skin with a sheen rather than one with a wrinkled appearance. Wash the bell pepper and store it in the refrigerator.
To juice a bell pepper, cut the pepper into cubes or quarters, just large enough to fit in the juicer. Because a bell pepper has a very strong, distinct flavor, it is best when combined in small quantities with the juice of other vegetables, such as carrots.
Spinach is believed to have originated in Persia or Southwest Asia and was cultivated by the Greeks and Romans long before the Christian era. The leaves of spinach are high in vitamins A, B, C, E, and K, as well as iron, phosphorous, and fiber.
When choosing spinach, look for leaves that are dark green, firm, and crisp with short stems. It should also have a fresh fragrance. Because spinach is a low-growing plant, it should be washed well to remove any sand or grit. Even prewashed spinach that comes prepackaged should be washed before use. You can use the same method for washing, drying, and storing the spinach as suggested in the lettuce section.
To insert spinach into a juicer, first take a small portion of the leaves and mold them into a ball, then push the ball through the feed tube. Spinach juice is best when combined with the juice of other vegetables, such as carrots or celery.
String beans, sometimes called snap beans, are the whole, immature pods of different types of kidney beans. Kidney beans were first cultivated by the Indians of Central and South America. They are an excellent source of vitamins A, B, and C.
When choosing string beans, look for those that are plump, heavy, and break with a clean snap when bent. Wash the beans well, and when dry, place them in an airtight plastic bag in the refrigerator for a few days.
Before juicing, cut the string beans in appropriate lengths large enough to fit in your juicer. Because string bean juice alone has a strong flavor, it is best when combined with the juice of other vegetables, such as carrots or celery.
The tomato is a fruit native to Peru, but is often called a vegetable because of the way it is eaten and served. It was first cultivated as early as 700 A.D. by the Aztecs and Incas. In the 1500s, tomato seeds were introduced to Europe when the Conquistadors returned from Mexico and Central America, but people were afraid to eat the fruit because it belonged to the poisonous nightshade family. It was not until the 1800s that tomatoes became widely used.
Ripe tomatoes are most often red, although they come in a variety of colors when mature ranging from green and yellow to orange. At the same time, size and shape also vary widely: Some tomatoes are as small as cherries, while others, such as the beefsteak tomato, are as large as a grapefruit. The shapes can also range from being perfectly round to pearshaped, lobed, or oblong.
The hundreds of varieties of tomatoes can easily be sorted into four categories. Beefsteak tomatoes are very large and juicy and are either lobed or globe-like in shape. Cherry tomatoes are small and up to an inch in diameter. Sauce tomatoes are made up of the oval, oblong, or long variety. Finally, the slicers are great for anything, including juicing. Most are globe-shaped. All tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamins A and C and potassium.
When choosing a tomato, look for one that has a shiny skin, is heavy for its size, has a nice aroma, and has a slight give to it. If the stem calyx is still attached, it should be green and fresh-looking. If organic tomatoes are available, they are the best choice. Wash the tomatoes and refrigerate them to retain their flavor.
To juice a tomato, cut it into appropriate-size wedges that will fit in your juicer. Tomato juice is delicious on its own but also combines well with the juice of other vegetables, such as carrots, parsley, and celery.
YAMS AND SWEET POTATOES
Yams and sweet potatoes are frequently confused because they are very similar in size, texture, flavor, and shape. Although they are both tubers, they belong to different botanical families. The sweet potato, an edible root of the Ipomoea batatas species of plants, originated in the Western Hemisphere and has either a dark red skin with a moist, deep orange flesh or a tan skin with a dry, yellow flesh. The true yam, a member of the Dioscorea genus, originated in Asia and Africa, and it is believed that African slaves introduced them to the New World. Yams have a rough brown skin with yellow, white, or purple flesh. Yams and sweet potatoes are both very high in vitamins C and A, as well as potassium and fiber.
When choosing sweet potatoes and yams, look for ones that are firm and fresh-looking. Wash and store them in a dark, cool place.
To juice a sweet potato or yam, cut either one into cubes or wedges just large enough to fit into your juicer. Sweet potato or yam juice is best when combined with the juice of other vegetables, such as carrots and beets.
The plant wheatgrass is grown from the red wheatberry. This special strain of grass yields high concentrations of chlorophyll, vitamins, active enzymes, and other nutrients. Seventy percent of the solid content of wheatgrass is chlorophyll, which is the basis of all plant life and very closely resembles the molecular structure of hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein of human red blood cells. Wheatgrass juice contains an abundance of enzymes not found in cooked or processed foods. Wheatgrass is also rich in vitamins A, complete B complex, B17, C, E, and K. It is a superb source of calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, sodium, sulfur, cobalt, and zinc, as well as every known essential amino acid (those the human body cannot manufacture itself).
Based on its rich content of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, antioxidants, and amino acids, many deem wheatgrass to be "nature's finest medicine." Some of the health roles that have been attributed to wheatgrass are that it:
* Stimulates metabolism
* Helps fight anemia
* Neutralizes carcinogens and toxins in the body
* Improves digestion o Aids in the protection of your body from the harmful effects of free radicals and radiation
* Lowers your cholesterol level and reduces the risks of heart disease
* Deters unfriendly bacterial growth
* Provides energy
* Aids in the prevention of some cancers
The suggested amount of wheatgrass juice for first-time users is 1 ounce a day, since some individuals feel nauseous if they ingest too much. Once you feel comfortable with that amount, you can gradually increase the amount to 1 to 2 ounces three times a day.
To make wheatgrass juice, you need a special wheatgrass juicer. Information on this kind of juicer can be found in the chapter, "Selecting a Juicer."
Wheatgrass is available at most health food stores. The Internet is also a good source for finding it companies such as Wheatgrass Express will ship fresh wheatgrass via Federal Express overnight.
Wheatgrass should always be washed and dried before using. To make wheatgrass juice, first take a small portion of it and compress it into a ball, then insert it into the feed tube of the juicer. This makes the process easier and neater. A shot of wheatgrass is delicious on its own, but you may prefer to combine it with the juice of other fruits and vegetables, such as pineapple, apples, and carrots.
From ULTIMATE JUICING: delicious recipes for over 125 of the best fruit and vegetable juice combinations. Copyright © 2000 Donna Pliner Rodnitzky. All Rights Reserved.
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