A few weeks ago, I watched a grown man in an advertisement talk about how much he hates the taste of vegetables. Y’all, I wish I could tell you how shocked I am right now, but considering those same words probably came out of my mouth just a couple years ago, I can’t.
I spent 28 years of my life either avoiding vegetables entirely or dutifully eating the bare minimum to keep my parents (and later my husband) off my back. When they were on my plate, vegetables took up no more than a quarter of the space — no exceptions. And, the number of plant-based foods that made it into my meal rotation in any given week was extremely basic, limited almost exclusively to the frozen veggie aisle staples (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, peas, and green beans). I didn’t really know what kale was and I had no desire to find out. The taste of Brussels Sprouts had never graced my lips.
But as a hater turned convert turned evangelist for plant-based foods, I’m here to help you believe that even you, my picky-eater friends, can learn to love your vegetables. Not in a “I can tolerate this for the sake of my health” kind of way, but in a “damn, somebody better get this girl some grilled zucchini ASAP” kind of way. Here are my top five tips for learning to love your vegetables. Share yours in the comments!
1) Grow them.
Well, I bet no one saw this one coming… Obviously I love gardening and wish all of the joys of growing an abundance of your own food on everyone I meet. But even if you’re not into it, hear me out. Grow at least a one or two of your own vegetables. You don’t need a lot of space. You don’t have to spend a lot of money. It doesn’t have to take a bunch of time. Just get a container or two (you can even upcycle someone else’s free junk!) and a couple seeds for one vegetable you love and one you think you hate.
There is something magical about witnessing first hand all of the tiny miracles that take place between putting a seed in the soil and enjoying the flavor of a vegetable on your plate. It just makes food taste better. I remember cutting up the first zucchini we grew last year. It was really small (because I simply couldn’t wait any longer to harvest it!), so the four of us each got one tiny bite. Let me tell you: it was the most delicious, very average bite of zucchini I have ever tasted, simply because we grew it together.
2) Buy them fresh — and local.
I have a friend who spent years believing she hated tomatoes because she’d only ever tasted them from the grocery store. It’s no secret: store-bought tomatoes don’t taste very good and I’m not the only one who thinks so. Tomato varieties that are grown for the supermarket are, generally speaking, chosen for their yield, size, uniform coloring, and firmness (so they can travel more easily).
Until last year, I was clueless to the entire world of heirloom tomatoes. If you have not yet discovered this magical place, filled with delicious, unique flavor, and multitudes of colors and shapes, please do yourself a favor and explore the tomato section of Sow True Seed‘s catalog. It will not disappoint. Then, visit your local farmer’s market and fill your bags with as many different varieties as you possibly can. Sit down at the table with a plate, salt, and pepper, and have a taste test. You won’t regret it.
When you buy fresh tomatoes from local farmers, you are eating tomatoes when Mother Nature intended for them to be eaten. These aren’t tomatoes that were picked before they were ripe so they wouldn’t spoil on the cross-country journey to the grocery store down the street — and the proof is in the deliciousness.
3) Know your farmer.
I am pretty sure that Cheryl and Ray, two of my favorite farmers who run nearby Plum Granny Farm, could sell me any vegetable and I would love it. I have toured their farm a few times, spoken with them about their farming philosophy, and look forward to the newsletter they share every week. I feel intimately connected to their farm and the work that they do, so it’s no surprise that I’ve never experienced anything but love for the high-quality foods they produce.
4) Try a wide variety.
No, you don’t need to go to the farmer’s market and by one of every vegetable available (although, feel free if that’s what you want to — I found several new favorites this way!). But, if you like orange carrots, branch out and try the red, yellow or purple varieties, each of which has their own unique flavor that you may enjoy even more than the classic one you’re used to. Try different varieties of peppers, tomatoes, and squash to find your favorites (and to find the ones that work best for different recipes you love!).
And don’t stop there: try different ways of preparing vegetables. Try them raw, grilled, roasted, sautéed, boiled — whatever inspires you! Find ways to incorporate more vegetables into your favorite meals, whether by including a new veggie in your favorite stir fry or adding one you’ve always found awful into a new stew this fall. While there will always be foods that you just aren’t into, I’m a big believer that if you keep trying it in creative ways, you can find a way to incorporate just about any vegetable into your diet.
5) Eat them often.
I have realized that the more vegetables I incorporate into my diet, the more my body craves them. My taste buds are also more sensitive now to the unique flavors of different vegetables and their different varieties. More sensitivity, at least in my case, means more appreciation for the diversity, which translates into meals that are even more delicious.
Vegetables have the nutrients that our bodies need to thrive. At the same time, they don’t have a lot of calories compared to other food groups. And because they are generally high in dietary fiber, you’re unlikely to eat too many vegetables before you realize you’re full. Win, win, win!
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