More vegetables, please!

More vegetables, please!

I vote for more vegetables, please! They may not be the lead character of the play, but without excellent supporting roles even the best play can be a flop.

Why more vegetables? Our diets are so full of carbohydrates, fats and proteins, but where is the stuff (the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants) that makes the carbs, fats and proteins burn cleanly in the body? In vegetables! Many times when traveling or short on time we turn to restaurants to provide us with nourishment. It is clear that the trend has veered away from fast food restaurants –because even the fast food restaurants are changing to include healthier options. A regular iceberg lettuce salad may not be enough to make balance with a heavy, fried animal food dish or the white flour and sugar dessert many of us are consuming daily. Having a featured vegetable dish on the menu regularly may be the deciding factor of bringing people into the restaurant these days — especially women.

OK, yes, I most often find tomatoes, potatoes, pepper, eggplant and salads on restaurant menus.

However, the nightshade vegetables — especially the homogenized hothouse varieties — the tomato or French Fry (but also peppers and eggplants) are making our blood in the body very acidic, so they are not real champions in detoxification and cleaning the body.

Consuming the nightshade family vegetables is rarely a memorable event, but traditional and indigenous foods will leave an imprint in consciousness: quite literally, because many of them will improve blood quality and thus improve brain function. How about a locally grown cauliflower, or the locally grown homey carrot — which in my opinion is way underrated — mostly because the profit margin on carrots is very low and thus influential companies are not interested in spending the money on paying for research of the benefits. However, both the root and the greens of the carrot are chock full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals which our bodies need. And carrots can be prepared in most delicious ways.

Including locally grown traditional vegetables can also be a great way to emphasize the local character of a region and what better way than experiencing a region’s distinct character via ingesting it? For example, here in the North East we have a lot of burdock growing. Burdock has a long list of benefits for the body, such as blood purifying, slowing the absorption of sugars into the blood stream, it’s diuretic qualities, it has anti cancer properties, it reduces inflammation, strengthens the nervous system and more. It’s distinct earthy flavor is also somewhat a reflection of people’s characters here in the North — a bit wild, earthy and independent.

When I give cooking classes, I include a lot of vegetable dishes into the menus. And the response is overwhelmingly positive and clients leave the table feeling good. And feeling good makes customers return.

Speaking to local growers and asking them what traditional vegetables they are growing is often quite an eye opening experience because of the variety of vegetables they are growing. If the budget of the restaurant kitchen allows, featuring a different vegetable every week or at least every season would be wonderful. Including more variety of colors is not only attractive but also indicating more nutrient richness in the food. Pointing out specific benefits of the featured vegetable dish to gently educate the customers, may even entice the person on the fence to try something new! And why not think of pairing wine or beverage with specific vegetable dishes?

So, I encourage every one: more vegetable side dishes, please!