The produce I get in weekly CSA box are all quite unique. I get at least 3 different kinds of kale, 4 different kinds of lettuce, and so on. Even with the same kind of lettuce, sometimes it's young and pale and other times it's dark green and hard to eat raw (but it's yummy when sautéed). The carrots in winter are sweeter than the carrots in spring. Young onions are vastly different from normal onions.

The vegetables are all in high quality so I want to cook them with the most suited cooking approach (i.e., I don't want to simply substitute vegetables). Is there any good website/cookbook that can help me search or learn more tailored approach to cooking different stages of vegetables?

I'm looking for a website/cookbook/other resources where I can continue to learn, rather than specific tips for specific vegetables.

  • I tried to answer your question (below) but it is very, very broad.... perhaps if you can narrow it down some, we can give you more focused advice. For example, are you mostly concerned with greens? Root vegetables? – SAJ14SAJ May 29 '13 at 18:21
  • I can't see what the question is here. – GdD May 29 '13 at 18:26
  • If your lettuce is hard to eat raw but good sautéed, maybe it just isn't lettuce? – Cascabel May 29 '13 at 22:20
  • related : cooking.stackexchange.com/q/7925/67 – Joe May 30 '13 at 12:21

Nigel Slater's book Tender might be useful to you. He devotes each chapter to a separate vegetable, and for each one he includes:

  • Specific recipes
  • Discussion of different varieties
  • Comments on different cooking techniques
  • Comments on effective seasonings and pairings

There's also some discussion of his attempts (successful or not) at growing different vegetables in his own garden.


There are a myriad ways to cook vegetables, some of which are suitable for younger, more tender specimens, and some of which are suitable for older, more robust (one might even say tougher) examples.

The general principal (and there are a many exceptions) is that the older and tougher the vegetable, the longer you cook it.

I think your question indicates you already have the the start of the answer: if it isn't pleasant raw, cook it. And if it isn't pleasant when cooked briefly, cook it longer. Basically, the tougher and chewier (which often is directly related to how mature the vegetable is) the item, the longer it should be cooked.

Very young baby vegetables, and delicate leafy greens, young peas, and similar very tender vegetables are suitable for salads, or just being wilted on top of a hot dish without additional cooking.

Middle ground vegetables (these tend to be vegetables that you might eat raw on a crudite platter--they are substantial, but not tough) of hardier species like asparagus, as well as younger versions of hardy greens like kale, broccoli and so on benefit from a moderate cooking period such as roasting for 10-15 minutes, a brief saute, or a brief steam, but you may enjoy them with some of their original texture and snap left.

The sturdiest vegetables, and the most mature, such as mustard greens, older kale, mature cabbage, older Brussels sprouts, broccoli stems, and such benefit from long cooking which bring out their flavors and soften them. The long, slow cooked southern braised greens are an example. These vegetables can take the heat and retain their character.

It is difficult to give you a single rule, as their are a variety of treatments that will work in any given case.

Some cooking methods often come up, as they are optimal for the different rough categories:

I would suggest googling for recipes on the specific vegetables you have received, including their varietal name if you know it, and see what trends you get. Combining this with your growing intuition and experience should soon have you consistently creating vegetable dishes you enjoy.

  • Thank you so much! I guess I was too scared of going away from recipe before (for example, it took me a great leap of face to saute lettuce!), but with your advice, I'm more confident to combine my intuition with recipes I see online. Thank you! – shan May 29 '13 at 18:36
  • @shan I think you mean a great leap of faith :) – Jay May 29 '13 at 18:39

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