Here are suggestions to help you select the highest quality vegetables when you're shopping, ways to store them once you get home, and tips for preparing and serving vegetables to enhance their flavor and retain their nutrients.
Look for brightly colored vegetables. The best items have blemish-free surfaces and regular, characteristic shapes and sizes.
Sort through and discard any damaged items. Bruises and nicks can attract molds, which can lead to spoilage of an entire bag of vegetables. Leaves or greens should be crisp, not wilted.
Buy only the fresh vegetables you plan to eat within a few days. Long storage time reduces nutrient levels, appeal and taste.
Choose in-season vegetables. Typically, the closer you are to the growing season, the fresher your produce and the better it tastes.
Enjoy packaged vegetables when out of season. Frozen vegetables are low in sodium and sometimes offer more nutrients than do less-than-peak-condition fresh vegetables, as they're processed quickly after picking. If you choose canned vegetables, look for those without added salt.
Store fresh vegetables according to their type. Place root vegetables, such as potatoes and yams, in a cool, dark place. Store other vegetables in the refrigerator crisper drawer.
Don't wash vegetables before storing. Make sure all produce is dry before storing.
Throw away produce you've kept too long. Discard vegetables that are moldy or slimy, smell bad, or are past the "best if used by" date.
Wash vegetables thoroughly to remove dirt and pesticide residue before cooking. If possible, use a small scrub brush to help clean potatoes, cucumbers or other vegetables that have skin you eat.
Leave edible peels on vegetables whenever possible. The peels of many vegetables — especially potatoes — contain considerable amounts of nutrients and fiber.
Enjoy many vegetables raw. Keep bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, celery or other raw vegetables ready to eat in your refrigerator.
Use quick-cooking techniques. Stir-frying, steaming and microwaving are quick-cooking methods. Long exposure to higher temperatures leads to some loss of nutrients. Try to use as little water as possible when cooking vegetables, and consider reserving any cooking water — which contains nutrients — for adding to soups, stews or sauces.