Insider’s Viewpoint: Solving Your Fruit & Veggie Dilemmas
We all know that fruits and vegetables provide increased fiber, vitamins, and minerals in a colorful, low-calorie package. The wide variety of fruits and vegetables available at your local supermarkets provide sweet, savory, crunchy, and versatile ingredients for your snacks and meals. So why isn’t everyone consuming the recommended amounts of these nutritional powerhouses? By nature of their variety, there are some quirks to the preparation and consumption of certain fruits and veggies. Read below to see how we help our customers tackle these produce challenges.
Fruit & Veggie Q & A
Q. How do I keep avocados from turning brown?
A. Avocados turn brown as part of an oxidation reaction. Chemically speaking, an enzyme, sped up by the presence of oxygen, turns a polyphenol compound into a quinone compound, causing the brown discoloration. Many people think that leaving the pit in the avocado will slow browning, but this isn’t exactly accurate. The main ways to prevent browning include limiting the exposure to air (using plastic wrap to cover the surface), adding a small amount of acid (such as sprinkling with lime juice), and refrigerating the fruit after cutting or chopping.
Q. How do I cook okra without a slimy result?
A. Similar to aloe vera plants, okra plants produce mucilage, which is a clear, thick, sticky substance. When exposed to moisture during the cooking process, the amount of slime can seem to intensify. While this can’t be eliminated completely, there are some things that can help. First, make sure that the okra is completely dry. Then, add a small amount of acid (vinegar or citrus juice) to the pan while cooking. Another option is to serve the okra whole, or to soak in vinegar prior to preparation. Cooking sliced okra for a couple of extra minutes can also help dry it out.
Q. How can I prevent watery eyes when chopping onions?
A. There are many, many pieces of advice for this veggie dilemma. Unfortunately, many of them are unfounded (and some, like holding a lit match in your mouth, are actually unsafe)! Your eyes may tear up during this process due to the release of an irritating gas, known as syn-propanethial-S-oxide, from onion cell walls damaged by cutting. To help counteract this, use a sharp knife (which causes less damage to cell walls) and keep cut sides of onions either turned away from you or in contact with your cutting board. Quickly transfer diced and sliced pieces into a covered container. You can even run the vent hood above your oven or wear goggles for extra protection!
Q. How do I cook eggplant without it becoming greasy, bitter, or watery?
A. Eggplant has an uncanny ability to absorb a large amount of liquid, which can cause a greasy feel when cooked in oil. Additionally, you may notice that eggplant can have a bitter flavor, due to its natural makeup. To counteract both of these issues, consider salting your eggplant. Place eggplant slices in a colander and sprinkle liberally with coarse salt. Let sit for 20 minutes, and then remove the salt either by wiping or rinsing. If the eggplant slices are rinsed, make sure to thoroughly pat dry before cooking.
Allison Kuhn, RD, LD