Sunday, March 6, 2011

I'll take only the pretty vegetables for my money

I'll take only the pretty vegetables for my money

I happen to be a big fan of vegetables. At least the attractive ones. The ones we all love — tomatoes, carrots, peppers, lettuce and broccoli, to name a few. Yes I know, some of these are technically fruits, but if they can be mixed into a salad, steamed or stir-fried, I think of them as vegetables.

I used to be in the vegetable industry and my work there put my kids through college, so I'm not one to complain about vegetables — and I encourage other people to eat theirs. I grow some in my backyard every year to make sure the snails are getting their five servings a day. The thing is, though, I'm a front-runner. I really only like the pretty, colorful, tasty vegetables. And I'm not alone.

Consumer Reports recently conducted a survey asking people how often they ate vegetables, giving them 33 to choose from. The results I saw didn't have the full list, only the top and bottom choices, so I don't know what the options were, but I didn't find the results surprising.

Lettuce and salad greens were the most popular on the list and 78 percent of adults said they ate them at least once a week. At the other end of the scale, 87 percent of the people polled said parsnips were their least favorite vegetable.

Artichokes, eggplant, rutabaga, turnips, bok choy and Swiss chard round out the list of most unloved vegetables. With a couple of exceptions, it's hard for me to argue with the results.

I love artichokes. They're just too expensive given how much you actually eat compared with what you throw out. And I think eggplant is kind of boring, but I like it in lasagna and other dishes. The other vegetables on the list, however, might make my most unloved list as well.

To be honest, I didn't even know what a parsnip looked like and I had only a vague idea about rutabagas and turnips. Now I know why. They're ugly. It's no wonder everyone hates them. To the best of my knowledge, I've never tasted a parsnip, rutabaga or turnip and now, having seen them, I'm not inclined to add them to my menu.

My guess is they wouldn't taste bad, they'd taste boring. My visit to the produce section revealed that parsnips look like ugly, pale carrots, and rutabagas and turnips look like ugly, deformed potatoes. Fruits and vegetables are big business in Ventura County, although in keeping with our county's natural beauty, we tend to grow attractive crops here. According to the latest Agricultural Crop Report, celery, tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, greens, cilantro, spinach, lettuce, cucumbers, radishes, beans, kale, parsley, broccoli, carrots, beets and onions are all multimillion dollar crops here.

The report also states that artichokes, eggplant and turnips are grown here as well, but in smaller quantities. And, even though they weren't specifically mentioned, I'd bet you could find Swiss chard and bok choy if you looked. I just don't why you'd want to.

Bill Nash is a Star columnist. Contact him at or visit him online at

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