Early spring vegetables: to eat or not to eat?

Written by Magda
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Smoked Salmon Spring Pots Smoked Salmon Spring Pots www.midnightspoon.com

Early spring vegetables feed our eyes with vivid colours, provide us with vitamins and minerals and revive our pallet with crisp, tasty choices. Popping up in grocery stores and markets, they are calling out to be bitten into. Flavourful and juicy, theyíre a long-awaited change to the root vegetables available during endless winter months. Especially because at the beginning of spring, our bodies crave for a vitamin boost and a bit of variety in our everyday diets. But are the early spring vegetables really so healthy?

Chemical fertilisers - Mendeleev's table

Unfortunately, despite their beautiful colours and memorable fresh taste, the early spring vegetables may contain many chemicals which stimulate their growth and artificially enhance their healthy fresh appearance. Early vegetables are usually not grown in natural conditions, they lack sunshine and therefore, need to be heavily fertilised. Many of them contain harmful compounds - nitrates, nitrites, lead (found especially in vegetables grown near traffic) and pesticides.

Many common vegetables such as celery, radishes or beetroot contain nitrates, but the real problem occurs when the nitrogenous substances are artificially accumulated in vegetables. When fertilised, plants donít absorb as much nitrates as they need, but as much as they get. These substances are not hazardous to the plants themselves, but in humans, they can be converted to nitrites and then to cancer-causing compounds called nitrosamines.

Everything in moderation

Despite some disadvantages, donít avoid eating early spring vegetables! Theyíre full of vitamins and minerals; they give us the foretaste of summer and improve our mood. Even just a variety of colours on your plate will make you feel so much better. If you buy your vegetables from an unknown source, you should fear the harmful consequences of chemical substances only after eating large quantities. A spring vegetables salad once in a while will do no harm to our health. Moderation is the key - have a balanced diet and consider early vegetables as a nice and healthy addition to your spring meals. Eating vegetables is so much better than not eating them at all, just make smart choices - be aware of what you buy, where you buy and how you store.

What are the smart choices?

1. Go organic! Organic vegetables are free from artificial fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides. Organic crops are subject to careful control from fertilisation to growing, right up to packaging and labeling. Organic vegetables are predominantly more expensive, but itís a choice worth considering...

2. Grow your own...if youíre lucky enough to have a garden. The best would be a small piece of land located at least 100 metres from a busy road. Besides, growing your own vegetables equals not only chemical-free salad, but also a lot of fun!

3. If youíre unfortunate enough to live somewhere in the city centre, you can still have a small garden on your window sill. Cress, chives and even radish can be easily grown in pots. Those plants donít require too much care; they just need sufficient sunlight and frequent watering.

Some tips for buying and storing

If you have no means to grow your own vegetables, here are some tips that you can follow when buying them.

1. Carefully choose your vegetables. They should be fresh-looking with no signs of mildew. Smell the vegetables before purchasing. Obviously, they will never smell as intense as those picked in the middle of summer, but they should have a nice, delicate aroma.

Root vegetables like radishes or carrots should be firm and smooth and have intact greens. Unless they are organic, avoid the temptation of buying overgrown radishes - large and shiny ones probably received a lot of chemicals during intensive fertilisation. Lettuce should have green leaves and be crisp - if you see any evidence of decay or discolouration, better not buy it. Good-quality spring onions have green, crisp tops and white necks, avoid the ones that are yellow or wilted.

2. Proper storage is important. Donít keep your vegetables in plastic bags, they accumulate the moisture and accelerate the conversion of nitrate to harmful nitrite. Wash the vegetables thoroughly before eating - lukewarm water will help remove some of the harmful chemical substances. Lettuce and spinach should be washed and dried before being stored inside the refrigerator, this will remove excess moisture.

Are you craving for a mouthwatering spring recipe? Try these Smoked Salmon Spring Pots - easy to make and absolutely delicious!

Ingredients:
- 6 thin slices smoked salmon (about 140g) (preferably wild Alaskan salmon which doesnít have chemicals found in farm-raised varieties)
- 150g cream cheese
- 3-4 radishes, grated (about 60g)
- 2 spring onions, chopped (about 40g)
- 1 tablespoon of dill, chopped (about 8g)
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons cream
- watercress for decoration

Directions:
1. Line each cup of the muffin tray with cling ?lm, press it inside until it sticks to the sides of the cup. Line each cup with one slice of salmon, press the salmon inside.
2. Prepare the cream cheese. Mix the cheese, the lemon juice, the cream, the dill, the chives and the radishes. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
3. Fill the muffin cups with the cream cheese. Fold overhanging salmon and press down lightly to compact the filling. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
4. Remove the pots from the muffin tray using the edges of the cling ?lm. Place them upside down on a plate. Make a small cut in the middle of each pot and decorate it with the watercress, some ground pepper and olive oil.

Cooking Tip: if you donít have muffin tray, try using coffee cups.

You can find more healthy recipes at http://www.midnightspoon.com


Magdalena Wawrzonkowska

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