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Aug 18, 2006 05:32 PM

Vegetables that cannot (or at least should not) be eaten raw?

Are there any?

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  1. Olives, eggplants, potatoes, most types of mushrooms, spinach (and any other extremeley fibrous leafy greens)

    35 Replies
    1. re: Morton the Mousse

      Morton - You shouldn't eat raw mushrooms or raw spinach? I'm nearly 60 and have been eating them both (usually in combination in a spinach salad) since childhood. What damage have I done that I should know about? Or maybe I don't want to know?

      1. re: Morton the Mousse

        Morton,Please explain yourself. Is your comment for taste or medical reasons? For taste: Olives are bitter unless cured; Eggplants are simply too fibrous unless softened by heat; potatoes are starchy unless the proteins are heated; mushrooms are fine raw and cooked; spinach and other leafy greens are often eaten raw in salads.

          1. re: ipsedixit

            Good point. I guess it depends on whether you're talking to a botanist or a chef.

            It's definitely a stretch of the word, but the meaning of vegetable is extremely ambigious (do vegetables include fruit? Do they only include savory fruit? Do they include nuts, seeds and legumes?) and I prefer a broad definition.

            1. re: Morton the Mousse

              Um, vegetable is not amibiguous. Just because you don't know the meaning does not make something ambiguous.

              1. re: Thefoodgenius

                Just because you think you know the meaning of a word doesn't make it unambiguous.

                The dictionary definition of vegetable includes all parts of an edible plant. So according to Webster, an apple is a vegetable. But in common culinary usage, vegetables are distinct from fruits. And where the line falls between the two is sufficiently unclear that the US Supreme Court has become involved in making that distinction. (Nix v. Hedden (1893) 149 U.S. 304 [tomatoes, though botanically fruit, are vegetables for culinary purposes and subject to taxation as such]).

                If that's not ambiguity, I don't know what ambiguity is.

            2. re: ipsedixit

              Mushrooms are actually zombies, waiting for some stroke of magic to make them come alive.

              Still, they are a great source of unusual protein. And a great meat substitute in a number of cases.

              1. re: Tripeler

                Actually mushrooms are a lousy source of protein. They are only a max of 3% protein, compared to meats which are 20-30% protein

                1. re: JMF

                  I thought that was true of regular generic mushrooms, but have heard that shiitake and others are very healthy. Guess I should look it up?

                  I found a website that says shiitake is 18% protein, for some reason I have long thought that shiitake was the go-to mushroom.


                  I know this is a random website so just throwing it out there, for those who know better than me. I just know that my mother is obsessed with shiitakes as a health food!

                  1. re: coll

                    The Mushroom Council has links to lots of nutritional info about mushroms including the USDA nutrient database (which should be reliable)

                    100 grams of raw shitake mushrooms has 2.24 g of protein
                    100 grams of raw white mushrooms has 3.09 g of protein

                    They also have nutritional values for other mushroms, and get a bit specific, in some cases ... Mushrooms, portabella, exposed to ultraviolet light, grilled

                    1. re: rworange

                      Thanks that's what I was looking for, I could live on mushrooms if it were possible!

                  2. re: JMF

                    Fresh mushrooms are about 90% water, so 3% protein is good as a percentage of macronutrient content. You just have to eat a whole lot. :-)

                    1. re: Jefferson

                      If you read some of the other nutritional info, some of that water is lost when the mushroom is cooked, so a grilled mushroom has slightly more protein than a raw mushroom ... not much but a few grams more.

                      1. re: rworange

                        Not more protein, a higher percentage of protein.

              2. re: Morton the Mousse

                To clarify: these foods should be cooked to fully utlize nutritional content, to avoid small quanities of naturally occuring toxins, and for taste reasons.

                Raw olives contain an extremely bitter substance called oleuropein. They are inedible to all but the most stubborn raw foodists. Brining olives removes the oleuropein, as does pressing them into oil.

                Raw eggplant contains the toxin solamine. Most of the nightshade family contain toxins in at least one part of the plan, but eggplants are noted for a high toxin quantity in the fruit. Solamine wont kill you, but it wont help you either. More importantly, eggplant should be salted, pressed and cooked in order to obtain a desirable flavor and texture.

                Many raw mushrooms contain trace amounts of toxins that break down when cooked. Of course it depends on the variety of mushrooms and those standard, supermaket whitecaps are fairly benign. Again, cooking is also desirable for taste reasons.

                Raw high fiber greens such as spinach and kale contain few bioavailable nutrients. The complex fibers are simply too difficult for your digestive system to break down unless you chew each bite 50 times. It's not going to hurt you, but you're not going to benefit from all of the naturally occuring nutrients. Greens also taste better cooked, especially in a bit of pork fat.

                Cooking food was one of the most crucial developments in human evolution as it allowed us to eliminate naturally occuring toxins and break down nutrients so they are easier to absorb. Why some raw foodists feel the need to transcend out physiology is beyond me.

                1. re: Morton the Mousse

                  So what's up with the raw food movement then?

                  1. re: chocolatetartguy

                    The raw food movement is so fatally flawed I don't even know where to begin. Yes, in this fat-filled country it's nice to sit down to a plate of raw, fat free, additive free food once in awhile. But to say that raw>cooked all the time is ludicrous.

                    Taro causes throat itching if consumed raw, and can sometimes cause more severe reactions. If you've ever tried to peel a taro root without wearing gloves, you'll have noticed the skin on your arms turns very red and itchy. Imagine that in your throat.

                    Soy beans have small amounts of toxins unless processed.

                    1. re: Pei

                      Is taro the root that they get the poison for poison-tipped arrows from? Anybody know what I mean - there's a tribe where their food and their poison come from the same plant...

                      1. re: julesrules

                        If you are thinking of curare, it is not used as a food, although derivitives are used as an anaesthesia. But no, Taro is not / was not used used for poison arrows.

                      2. re: Pei

                        You might want to learn more about raw foods and raw recipes before making such a denigrating comment. I have never, for example, seen a raw food recipe that includes taro root, nor soy beans. By the way, soy has a terribly high oxalate content and is best avoided altogether.

                        Often with raw recipes sprouting is used to increase nutrition and bio-availability.

                        As for kale--if I feel low energy or unwell, a kale salad with sprouts is like a miracle. And chewing is quite important. One should chew all their food thoroughly, not just leafy greens.

                        You have to know how to make these foods yummy and when to use sprouting, soaking, or the dehydrator. The raw food movement is nothing like the idea people have of sitting down to a bunch of uncooked veggies.

                    2. re: Morton the Mousse

                      I eat raw white button mushrooms, never considered eating the other types raw. Even then, I'll never forget a tv show that had someone who grew mushrooms commercially and explained the process.

                      For some reason he was asked if he ate the mushrooms raw. The look on that man's face haunts me to this day ... it was sort of a 'are you out of your mind' look ... he paused and just said sometimes he ate them cooked, but never raw. I think his reasons had more to do with fertiilier though.

                      1. re: rworange

                        I really enjoy raw white button mushrooms shaved very thinly over a raw baby spinach salad. Bonus if bacon is added.

                        1. re: rworange

                          White button mushrooms were (and probably still are) often grown in a mixture of straw and horse manure that has been composted. Somebody who has been composting tons of this stuff and putting it in his mushroom beds might develop an aversion to eating the product raw even though the heat of composting kills most pathogens.

                          1. re: rworange

                            Cultivated button mushrooms are generally raised in a compost made from oat hay straw and horse poop trucked in from horse farms, racetracks, large stables. It is mechanically and thoroughly composted (taken to a minimum 160 degrees) while it composts and breaks down into, well, that well-known garden soil supplement, Mushroom Compost.

                            It has to be benign before being innoculated with button mushroom spores, or too many wild fungus inhibit the growth of the cash crop. There should be no human-harmful bacteria surviving in compost ready for mushroom growing, otherwise wouldn't packages be labeled with food-handling precaution statements as are meats?

                            When the wild spores begin to invade the mushroom house, the used compost is sold to the garden supply industry and a new batch is loaded into the houses.

                            I'm not a mushroom grower or a scientist, just a lifelong home gardener who has been around mushroom compost and mushroom farms a lot.

                          2. re: Morton the Mousse

                            Eggplant does not need to be salted and pressed unless it is too mature, stale or is going to be fried. We never salt the eggplant we grow, but then it is goes into the compost bin if it gets as mature as the commercial stuff and is cooked the same day or day after picking. There is no bitterness with either Orient Express or Rosa Bianca, the two cultivars we are growing this year.

                            I can't see eating eggplant raw, though. We cook a lot of the surplus lightly, usually with tomato and garlic or onion and then freeze.

                            1. re: Morton the Mousse

                              Here's a tip: Drop the pork fat. Use about a teaspoon of vinegar and the same of sugar. Cook the green in it. Drink the nutritous tasty liquid.

                              1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                Oh wow, I just found this page and it is really unfortunate that this person Morton the Mousse is probably gone - because his biochemistry education is AWFUL.

                                First off, the compound is solanine - not solamine.

                                Secondly, solanine is in more than just eggplant - it is also in potatoes and unripe tomatoes. However, I think that if I were to decide to eat a starchy vegetable like a potato, I would take the low solanine concentrations in an uncooked potato anyday over the acrylamide content in cooked potato products.

                                Thirdly, where exactly do you get off talking about how raw leafy greens contain few bioavailable nutrients? about 75% of all the vitamins in raw leafy greens are denatured and become unusuable when exposed to that amount of heat and almost 100% of all the phytonutrients are destroyed by heat as well.

                                Fourthly, concerning your point about chewing eat bite 50 times, it is already well known that you can only ever get as much nutrition out of your diet if you chew your food, especially your greens, into a fine paste/poultice/liquid before swallowing. This is the whole reason for making green smoothies - all of the nutrition of green leafy vegetables with the chewing already done for you.

                                So i could go on and on about your argument's fallacies and your lack of biochemical education but I honestly can't handle any more of it - it takes too much time to type it all out. If you have any specific nutritional biochemistry questions that I can clear up for you in the future, feel free to respond to this post.

                                1. re: victorgalli

                                  Hi Victor,
                                  Can you recommend any good books on nutritional biochemistry?

                                  1. re: jojoba

                                    Well, Victor's only post was this one in 2009. So I would not hold out much hope of him replying. There are quite a lot of falacies in his post though and nothing to back what he was writing

                                2. re: Morton the Mousse

                                  Wow, and here I really enjoy a good spinach salad with sliced mushrooms. Yum. Oh, and I'm definitely not a raw foodie. I just don't get it at all!

                                  1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                    hey sorry to bother you but i don't see how you can't get the nutrients from spinach? i mean yes MOST green leafy vegetables have complex fibres of starch and cellulose, and cellulose cannot be broken down through digestion because of the hydrogen bonding. but it can be broken apart by physical processes such as chewing?
                                    and how do the complex fibres stop you from getting nutrients?
                                    oh and how does cooking fix this issue?????
                                    im confused thx xxx

                                  2. re: Morton the Mousse

                                    Huh? I've eaten raw potatoes many times. Same for raw spinach (well washed, but definitely raw) Still alive and kicking

                                    1. re: maisonbistro

                                      Never said it would kill you. Just more likely to give you gass, less likely to optimize nutrient intake, and less likely to taste good.

                                    2. re: Morton the Mousse

                                      There is a restaurant here in Honolulu that serves a very popular shredded raw potato salad.

                                      1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                        Raw olives are not poisonous or toxic, so are safe to eat, but contain a compound that is terribly bitter. It's a myth that ou cannot eat them raw- it's just that no one would ever choose to!!

                                      2. my girlfriend loves eating raw potatoes - she's an odd girl, but I love her

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: Biggie

                                          Yeah. I dice up some yams or sweet potatoes and use them as garnish.

                                          1. re: Biggie

                                            If my husband comes through the kitchen when I'm cutting up potatoes for something, he usually helps himself to some of the raw pieces. I've never eaten raw potatoes, and don't really intend to.

                                            1. re: Biggie

                                              I've always eaten raw potato. Whenever I cuts them up for cooking, I eat some raw.

                                            2. I would say bigger leaves of kale or mustard greens would be a bit tough on the digestion. Eggplant of course. Artichokes are pretty bitter raw but I have had a salad of paper thin shaved hearts that was to die for.

                                              Rhubarb needs to be cooked because of the oxalic acid in it.

                                              It seems sweet potatoes, chayote and okra would need to be cooked, but I may be wrong on those.

                                              7 Replies
                                              1. re: Snackish

                                                >Rhubarb needs to be cooked because of the oxalic acid in it.

                                                Rhubarb leaves and roots contain oxalic acid. The stems don't and are delicious raw. Paula Wolfert's *The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen* has a recipe for a salad of raw rhubarb, cucumber, arugula and mint that is a knockout with salmon poached in olive oil.

                                                  1. re: Snackish

                                                    Yeah, as a kid I'd eat a fresh rhubarb stalk dipped in sugar. I read that it could be dipped in salt. I tried that and wasn't wowed. Better dipped in sugar.

                                                    1. re: rworange

                                                      Agreed. Dipped in sugar - one of my fondest childhood memories.

                                                  2. re: carswell

                                                    Oh man, as a kid I had a real 'sour tooth' and would grab some rhubarb from our garden and munch on it like celery until my cheeks cramped up. Thanks for the happy memory. I'm probably lucky I didn't live where lemons grow, or my face would be in a permanent pucker! Yum.

                                                    1. re: occula

                                                      Maybe we're twins of a sort occula. I ate a LOT of raw rhubarb, picked from the neighbors backyard and chowed on while we played on the swings. AND I ate a lot of lemons.

                                                  3. re: Snackish

                                                    Chayote is LOVELY julienned raw, lightly dressed with lime juice, olive oil and fresh herbs as a refreshing riff on slaw!

                                                  4. do you mean vegetables that are harmful / poisonous raw, or just really unpalatable?

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. Nettles! Ouch.

                                                      And nopales (cactus).

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: Alice Patis

                                                        Wrong about Nopales. It isn't common but I know nopales growers that have always noshed on raw nopales. A more common raw nopales use is in licuados (usually combined with pineapple juice).