Picture the scene. You’re just back from food shopping and are unloading the bags. It’s a bumper crop this week – there are the freshest tomatoes and fattest asparagus spears. Sweetcorn ears and kale bunches are joined by a bundle of beets and bags of spinach, plus the choicest-looking baby courgettes and teeniest carrots (even cuter because they’re in different colours).
The way this story usually continues is that having bought vegetables, we cook them in order to eat. But while it is a way, it’s not the only way.
One lesser-appreciated approach is to enjoy veggies as raw as the day they were picked from the ground or plucked from the plant. Here, we present a taste of why and how this can be part of your everyday routine…
Raw doesn’t stand for rabbit food. Anyone who thinks it does has likely never tried celeriac remoulade. It is the most beautiful, indulgent dish of thinly shredded celeriac bound together with mayonnaise and mustard. If mayo sounds a touch too luxurious for a vegetable side, try our lighter take on this French recipe.
But it does mean hummus. They’re soulmates, and any friends of hummus are friends of ours too. (And for hummus, read any dip ever invented.) Carrots are of course the classic crudité, but you can also dip with radishes, Tenderstem broccoli and even asparagus.
Raw vegetables are made to be slawed. Okay, that isn’t a real word, but in the kitchen rules are meant to be broken. Pretty much any vegetable (and fruit!) can be turned into slaw: try red cabbage, carrot and cherry, or cauli with spring onion and mango.
This is obvious, but they’re good for you. Like really, really good for you. Generally speaking*, a raw vegetable offers more nutrition than a cooked vegetable – this is because they’ve had no heat applied, so the maximum amount of nutrients are retained. When you boil vegetables, some of the nutrients get swept away by the water (which is why when you do cook vegetables, roasting or steaming hold onto those precious benefits best).
*Raw doesn’t necessarily always mean more nutritional value, however. With certain veggies – think asparagus and tomatoes – cooking makes it easier for our bodies to benefit from the benefits.
It’s an antidote to five (or should that be ten?) a day fatigue. One of the big issues with getting your daily fill is the same-same problem: same flavours, same textures, same results. If you’re tired of the steaming, boiling, roasting routine, inject some excitement with raw servings: shaved cauliflower and broccoli, corn kernels straight from the cob, or beets and cucumbers blitzed into fresh smoothies or soups.
Raw is the fuss-free approach. We saved the best till last. Having your veg raw means fewer pots and pans, a shorter preparation time (barely none, beyond a scrub and a peel, a slice and a dice) and not as much washing up. This is music to the hurried, health-conscious cook’s ears.
Like the sound of the benefits of raw vegetables? Thinking of going all in? Read up about the raw food diet here.