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LET’S VEG OUT

• Scientists believe that the carrot originated in the area that is now known as Afghanistan. Carrots were shown in temple drawings from 2000 B.C. In those early days, carrots were either purple or white. Have you ever seen ‘Queen Anne’s Lace’ growing wild in a field? That’s actually a type of wild carrot plant.

• When it comes to lettuce, the darker the leaf, the higher the Vitamin A content. Iceberg lettuce is the preferred type in North America. Its pale leaves are valued more for their crunchy texture than for flavor. For a healthier salad, try mixing some Romaine and Bibb lettuce in with the iceberg.

• Radishes are usually served raw and are high in potassium and fiber. They are one of the easiest vegetables to grow in a home garden – they mature quickly and require little else than sunlight, moisture and soil. If your radishes are cracked or split, it means you waited too long to harvest them. Try pulling them when they’re a week or two younger.

• When choosing asparagus at the grocery store, look for the thicker stalks. The larger diameter stalks are more tender and flavorful. California, Washington and Michigan supply most of the nation’s asparagus. Once planted, a plant takes three years to mature, but after that it will continue to produce for about 20 years.

• We hate to disagree with what Mom always told you, but most of the vitamins in a potato are not in the skin. The skin is comprised mainly of dead cells. What the skin is good for, however, is holding in the vitamins as you cook the spud. A potato baked with its skin on retains almost all its Vitamin C content.

• Since Brussels sprouts look like tiny cabbages, one would think that they grew the same way, in miniature heads above the ground. However, Brussels sprouts grow in rows under a layer of leaves along a tall stalk.

• Lima beans are an excellent source of dietary fiber, which helps to lower the cholesterol level. In addition, they’re a good choice for diabetics, since they prevent the blood sugar from rising too rapidly after a meal. If you’re buying frozen lima beans, shake the package vigorously and make sure all the beans are moving freely and are not stuck together. Clumped beans are indication that the package has been defrosted and re-frozen.

• The word “scallion” is used to describe both immature green onions and leeks as well as the true scallion. If it has a roundish bulb on the end, it’s a green onion. Scallions are almost straight up and down, and have a milder flavor than onions.

• Okra originated in Africa and grows best in a warm climate, which is why it’s so popular in the South. That “slime” that comes out of cut okra is a thickening agent, which makes it a vital ingredient in gumbo and some recipes for Brunswick stew.

• Eggplant got its curious name in the mid-18th century. When the vegetable made its way over to Europe from Asia, it was a whitish color and was about the size and shape of a goose egg. Of course, if you ask for an eggplant in England, you’ll get little more than a confused look; over there, they call it an aubergine.

• Popeye lied to us; spinach doesn’t have any more iron than the average leafy green vegetable. Actually, the fault is that of Dr. E. von Wolf, who was the first to determine the iron content in spinach. Unfortunately, when he jotted down his notes, he misplaced the decimal point, so for many years the amount of iron was listed as ten times more than it really was.

• Corn is grown on every continent except Antarctica. One bushel of corn is enough to help produce 5-1/2 pounds of retail beef, 13 pounds of retail pork or 32 pounds of chicken.