Vegetables Every Day

Vegetables Every Day
Carrot Tarator with Beets

Saturday, November 22, 2014


I am blessed in that I can eat pretty much anything, and thrive on a diet that includes a lot of vegetables, both raw and cooked.  But not everyone has the time, desire, or digestive track to consume copious amounts of vegetables. I think that juicing is a good way get nutrition from raw vegetables (and fruit too) if you need easy to digest calories because of health issues or endurance exercise and you don't want empty calories.  Unfortunately, juicing has more hype surrounding it that most food preparation methods, with health claims that are more false than true. Finding recipes for juices are a challenge, you need to wade through all sorts of weight loss advertising and "cleanses" which don't have any scientific basis.   And what you find are hundreds of seemingly random combinations of fruits and vegetables with vague quantities and no yields.  Which all just brings out the engineer in me.  I had the chance to do some experimenting with my mom's juicer, and here is what I learned.

Yields...  Most vegetables yield about 50% juice... If you start with a pound (16 ounces) you end up with 8 ounces. Celery is particularly juicy, you get about 75% juice, cucumbers and bell peppers will also will yield more than average.  Fruit, like apples and oranges, yields around 75% juice.   So if you want 10 ounces of finished juice, you should start with about 7 - 8 ounces of fruit or juicy vegetables, and 10 ounces of veggies (just over a pound total).

Flavors... In general, juicing concentrates flavors.  If you don't like the vegetable, you won't like the juice, so don't think that juicing is a good way to get lots of the vegetables you don't like.   Fruit and juicy vegetables are more neutral in flavor (but still there).  Ginger is especially strong, a piece the size of the end of your little finger will go a long way. Vegetables with bitter flavors (spinach, broccoli) will have juice with bitter undertones, and if you are not a fan of bitter, don't use too much of these, there is only so much you can cover up with sweeter or stronger flavors.  My mom even found she could taste the bitterness of carrot peels in the juice, and prefers to peel the carrots first.

Color...  You can get some beautiful red or green juices.  For red, beets, pomegranate pips, red bell peppers, and carrot all give a nice color.  For green, greens (spinach, herbs, broccoli, etc) will add vibrant green to a neutral base.   However, a mix of red and green can result in a fairly  mucky (i.e. swamp water) looking juice, which might taste fine, but you have to get it past your eyes first.

Juices are best when they are first made.  The same reaction that causes cut fruit (like apples) or vegetables to turn brown happens with the juice.  The mint that I juiced had a noticeable brown layer on top after sitting on the counter for an hour or so.   That said, the juices will still be tastely after being in the fridge (sealed in a glass container) up to a day but not longer.  There is a lot written about how the enzymes and other nutrients will drop over time, but it's not clear there is any science behind this (other that the drop that occurs for all vegetables starting when they are harvested).

So here is my advice.  Don't worry about a recipe, because even if you find ones that look interesting, you likely don't have everything on hand  (they are useful to give you thoughts about what else to juice, but leave it at that).    I liked a blend of juicy things (orange, apple, celery or cucumbers)  as a base plus some greens and root vegetables to get a nice color, more flavor and body plus a flavor pop from something like ginger, lime, and/or lemon.  Herbs like mint also give a nice pop, and sometimes a little salt is needed.  Like anything, you need to have a balance between the sweet / sour (acid - like lemon juice) / bitter / spice that can only come from tasting then adjusting.  Salt will balance bitter and grassy flavors, acid will brighten the taste.  Also, mix it up as you are putting stuff through the juicer, end with a good bit of the base, as some of this will stay in the juicer (for example, if you put the ginger in last, you would not get much of it out).  

One thing that everyone needs to tailor is sweetness.  You can do all fruit juice blends and they will be tasty.  But this is a big pop of sugar without the fiber of fruit, which I don't think is the best thing for you other than as a treat, like dessert.  The trick is to put in enough fruit to provide sweetness so its drinkable. Here is another bloggers input on juicing, which comes to the same conclusion.  I liked juices that had a good base of celery or cucumber, some sweeter vegetables like carrot or beet, plus a good hit of lemon or lime and ginger, but most people like to have a bit more sweet from fruit.  And when looking at the juice that you can buy at juice bars, they almost always have a good fruity base (so think of these as a treat, not a wholesome meal).

I'm not ready to go out an get a juicer of my own, but really glad I got to try one out.  Next I'll have to experiment with a Vitamix and smoothies.  Any volunteers with a Vitamix?