Photo by Melody

Dave's Garden Cookbook: Keeping Greens Bright

The 2001 Dave's Garden Cookbook

Keeping Greens Bright

By darius

Category: Miscellaneous Recipes

Green vegetables get their color from chlorophyll (we all learned that in school). Many atoms of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen combine with only one atom of magnesium to make a chlorophyll molecule. This single atom of magnesium is easily replaced by other substances it contacts; when this happens, the bright green color turns dull olive drab. To keep the greens bright, you must keep the magnesium from being lost.

One way is choice of cookware. Iron and tin in cookware easily replace the magnesium, so never use cookware with iron or tin. Acids also react with the magnesium. This can be a problem if you dress green vegetables with an acidic sauce. Remember how pretty the snow peas look in a pasta primavera with a vinaigrette dressing when you first stir them in, and how awful 30 minutes later? Consider switching to a non-acidic dressing; even mild acids affect the color.

Raw green vegetables have a waterproof protective coating that keeps the acid from getting to the chlorophyll. Most vegetables contain acids that dissolve immediately in the water they are cooked in. So how do you prevent the vegetableís own acids that are released during cooking from ruining its color?

Baking soda added to the cooking water neutralizes the acids in the vegetables and works beautifully to keep the color bright; unfortunately, it also turns the crisp cell walls to mush and wrecks the vegetableís texture.

The classic French method is cooking the vegetables in large pots of salted water as the quantity of water dilutes the released acids. Also, if you leave the lid off, some of the acid will evaporate. The green is easier to save in commercially frozen vegetables because they were briefly boiled before they were frozen. This blanching removes some of the acids in the vegetables.

The biggest secret for keeping color is short cooking times. Seven minutes is the magic number. The color gradually starts changing color after 5 or 6 minutes, but really doesnít become noticeable until 7 minutes. Try microwaving if vegetables need more than 7 minutes to cook, or even if they donít!

  Extra Notes  
Sorry I don't remember the origin of this tip... probably Fine Cooking, several years ago.

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