Isn’t that just the greatest concept? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the food we bought came in edible packaging? Guess what–it does!
Nature provides the ideal package for protecting the flesh inside, letting it breathe and mature at its own pace. As far as possible, I try to select food that is loose in a display, where I can see and feel what it’s really like on all sides. I can think of little in a grocer’s that annoys me more than a shrink-wrapped cucumber, which seems firm in the shop but turns out to be hours away from liquid as soon as you get it home. But I digress.
I do go on a bit about keeping the skins and peels on fresh produce. Just wash and use, I say. Much of the time, this works fine, whether you’re eating the food raw or cooking it. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t eat the skins of raw apples, yet it’s standard instructions to peel them when making a pie, so I felt quite rebellious the first time I decided not to. Yes, the texture is different, and if the pieces are very big you might get a spot of chewiness here and there. But keeping the peels adds colour and retains more of the minerals and fibre that make apples (and so many other foods) good for us. So either make the pieces smaller, or make a virtue of your new texture discovery!
The other day, I tried to make a list of all the foods whose skins I routinely eat versus those I don’t, compared with how other people treat them. It was too complicated. But I remember having been shocked upon learning that an aunt of mine ALWAYS peels her mushrooms. What?! Why? They are so delicate, you’ll destroy them and lose all the flavour in the process. I hadn’t really been conscious of skins on mushrooms, but I could at least imagine what my aunt was doing. On the other hand, a year or so ago when my MIL suggested peeling celery, I was completely flummoxed. What is there to peel??
So, on the possibly surprising side, I routinely cook and eat the skins of zucchini (courgettes/marrows), eggplant (aubergine) and (sometimes) even winter squashes. It is a matter of having sufficient moisture, thin enough slices, and/or produce that is not so mature that the skins are tough as leather. I love the opportunities for controlling the shapes on my plate that keeping the skins on affords. Stuffing these veggies with whatever kind of stuffing you like and slow-baking them, covered, is a good way to improve digestibility of the skins. They look really pretty, and if your knife and fork ‘accidentally’ rip through the packaging, you have a chance to find out if it’s to your taste.
And yet, I still routinely peel carrots, particularly for eating raw. Except if they’re very young. There is a touch of bitterness in carrot peel that I don’t like.
What about you? What peels do you usually eat that might be surprising? If you avoid peels that other people often eat, why is this? Tell me!