Vegetable is a generic term given to an edible part of the plant. However, a vegetable is different from a fruit and it may be the stem, leaf or root of the plant. Vegetables are of different shapes, flavor and textures. The characteristic of each vegetable is different from the other and it depends upon the place of origin of the vegetable. Vegetable dishes are cooked in every household and eaten as either side dish or main dish. Mixed vegetable, vegetable pulao, baked vegetable and stir-fry vegetable are some of the commonly served vegetable dishes of international cuisine.
Origin of Vegetables
There is no specific evidence in history about the origin of vegetable. Until18th century, the meaning of vegetable as an ‘edible plant’ was unknown.
Culinary Use of Vegetables
In culinary terms, a vegetable is used in making salty and savory dishes. Some vegetables are eaten raw also. Few desserts like carrot cake and rhubarb pie are quiet popular as vegetable sweet dishes. Vegetable dishes such as green salad, vegetable casserole, vegetable soup and grilled vegetables are very popular in almost all cuisines. Cooking method for all vegetables is different and it tastes best when cooked by correct method.
There are several everyday and festive vegetable dishes belonging to different cuisines. In everyday cooking, vegetable dishes are cooked either boiling or stir-rying. Festive vegetable dishes include vegetable pie, festive vegetable salad and festive green beans. Various dips and sauces are also made with vegetable.
Cuisines Commonly Making Vegetable Dishes
Vegetable is a very common ingredient used in making innumerable dishes in different cuisines. Asian cuisine, European cuisine and African cuisine are all famous for using various green and leafy vegetables. Italian cuisine makes extensive use of vegetables like zucchini and eggplant. Chinese cuisine is famous for vegetable dishes including noodles and rice along with bell peppers, cabbage, beans and carrot. Indian vegetable dishes include potato, cauliflower, bitter gourd, beans and brinjal. Owing to its high nutritional value, vegetable dishes are suitable for people of all age groups.
Preferable Method for Cooking Vegetable Recipes
Vegetable dishes are cooked in several ways. It is recommended to avoid overcooking of vegetable, as it leads to the loss of essential nutrients present in the vegetable. Some of the common methods for cooking vegetable dishes are listed here:
• Boiling – vegetables are boiled and added to the soup dishes or salads. Boiled vegetable can also be eaten independently. It is considered as a low-calorie dish.
• Stir frying – This is one of the common methods of cooking vegetable in Asian cuisine. Vegetable remains crunchy while cooking by stir-frying method.
• Baked – In European cuisine, vegetables are often baked in oven along with cheese and other ingredients.
• Deep-fried – Though this is not a very popular method of making vegetable dishes but many vegetable recipes like vegetable fingers and vegetable cutlets are made by this method only.
• Stewing – Stewing is the best method for making vegetable dishes as it retains all the nutrients present in the vegetable.
Nutritive Value of Vegetables
As a part of plant, vegetable is a highly nutritional ingredient. Vitamins, carbohydrates, minerals and dietary fibers are some of the essential nutrients present in vegetable and vegetable dishes. Fat and protein contents are very less in vegetable. Some antioxidants and antibacterial properties are also present in many vegetables. Including vegetable dishes in meal helps in lowering diabetes and risk of heart diseases. Vegetable is also helpful in preventing cancer and bone loss.
Buying and Storing Vegetables
Vegetables can be easily purchased from any grocery shop. Some vegetables are seasonal and some are available throughout the year. It is advised to buy vegetables with firm texture, bright colors and clear skin. Unnatural color of vegetable is a result of artificial dyes, in which case such vegetables should not be purchased as it may be toxic.
Storage of vegetable depends upon the nature of vegetable. There are vegetables that should not be refrigerated such as potato, onion and garlic. Other vegetables like cucumber, spinach, ginger, gourd and many more should be stored in a cool and dry vegetable compartment in refrigerator. Cooked vegetable dishes should also be refrigerated for not more than 2 days. It is always recommended to wash vegetables thoroughly before cutting for cooking.
Types of Vegetables
Vegetable is divided into different categories. Some of them are as follows:
• Green vegetable – Bottle gourd, cabbage, lettuce, spinach, zucchini and cucumber are some of the best examples of green and leafy vegetables.
• Root vegetable – Beet, radish, turnip, carrot, onion and are some of the common root vegetables.
• Stalk vegetable – Celery, fennel, bamboo and asparagus are known as stalk vegetables as only their stalk is used in making various vegetable dishes.
• Tuber vegetable – Potato, yam, sweet potato and taro are popular vegetables that are used for its tuber.