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Oct 15, 2009 06:27 PM

"That's the most nutritious part!"

My wife and I were debating the inclusion of the stems of some kale in a lovely dish tonight (Kale, Burdock, and Shitakes sauteed with Garlic and braised with Mirin and Tamari) and she (the pro-stem) faction said they were the most nutritious part of the vegetable. When pressed, she admitted she had no idea where she heard this, and suspected it was based on the logic that peels are supposed to be the most nutritious part of the potato. The we started wondering what the truth is.

So, I'm wondering if anyone here can help - Are the stems the most nutritious part of kale? Of collards? Of other greens? Are the peels/skins really the most nutritious part of potatos or yams? What about carrots and other roots? What do you lose when you peel them?

Please, fill me in on what you know and how you know it.

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  1. well. . . the most nutritious part of dark leafy greens-- would be the dark leaves. the stems, esp the lighter colored stems of kale, would actually have less vitamin nutrition. . . BUT the stems have more fiber, i believe. i think it's fine in some dishes to include some or all of the (small, not so tough) stems of kale etc-- i still usually cut the leaves off, then i chop the stems finely and add to whatever the dish is along with similar-texture vegetables-- say carrots. maybe i wouldn't prepare all kale recipes this way, it's a little less formal. . .

    the peels of winter squashes are also all edible and nutritious-- but some of them aren't very much fun to eat, or terribly digestible. thinner skinned squashes like red kuri can be roasted whole, the flesh scooped out and used, the skins buttered and salted and eaten like potato skins or whatever. the peels of potatoes are absolutely the most nutritious part of the vegetable. more nutrition is found just under the skin of just about any root vegetable, & less toward the fibrous core. in general, the deeper the color of the vegetable, the more nutritious it is; the less brightly colored parts of the vegetable, like cores and stems, will be less nutritious than the fruits, leaves and blossoms. if you are eating lots of veggies i wouldn't worry about it, eat them however you want. the burdock shiitake kale dish sounds lovely btw.

    4 Replies
    1. re: soupkitten

      jfood only wishes he could find out where he can get some of your creations?

      1. re: soupkitten

        Harold McGee agrees with you, especially in terms of the darker the colour the more nutrition. In terms of leaves it is the outer ones that receive the most sunlight, and have developed the highest level of antioxidants to combat the adverse effects of the sun. Add that to the various chemicals which cause or are the result of photosynthesis then that's the best choice. The outer leaves of a Romaine/Cos being a good example. However some of these chemicals can be bitter, especially in the Brassicas.

        In terms of taste I prefer the unhealthy bits. So I prefer peeled broccoli stems to the shoots, and I am not a great fan of rapini.

        1. re: Paulustrious

          "...antioxidants to combat the adverse effects of the sun"???

          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

            The sun causes cell damage to plants as well as animals - even though they need the sun to survive.

            << Nowhere in living things is oxidative stress greater then in the photosynthesising leaf of a green plant which harvests the energetic particles of sunlight. ( .... ) Leaves and other exposed plant parts are according chock-full of anti-oxidants molecules to stop these high energy reactions from damaging essential DNA and proteins >>

            A more complete description is given in:

            ref: ISBN 978-0-684-80001-1, On Food and Cooking, Harold McGee Pages 255-258.

      2. I've recently begun to eat the skins of kiwi. It's really not bad if you wash the skin just prior to eating.

        11 Replies
          1. re: soupkitten

            are the skins of kiwis more nutritious than the rest?

            1. re: andytee

              now *that*, i confess, i have no clue!

              1. re: andytee

                it's not "more" nutritious, per se, but the skin is rich in Vitamin C and contains most of the fruit's fiber.

                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                  I guess that's what I'm trying to get at - does the skin (of a kiwi, or potato, or..) offer much more than fiber? Isn't a kiwi full of vitamin C all the way through?

                  1. re: andytee

                    I recall reading about potatoes years ago in National Geographic, where they said that the skin being the most nutritious part is a myth that started through misunderstanding -- that the actual most nutitious part is the "corona" -- the outside portion of the potato just inside the skin. You can see the corona easily on many potato chips, it is the outside edge of the chip that is more dark from the frying process.

                    But the skin may supply good fiber. Whatever, it is a mighty tasty part. My grandma got me started on that, and I ALWAYS want the skin.

                    1. re: rudybaga

                      Question for anyone -- some years ago I was in a mess hall in Alaska eating steak and baked potato. The guy across from me (from Florida) said "You're from the Midwest, aren't you?" "Minnesota," I said, "How'd you know?" He said "People from the Midwest are the only ones who eat their potato skin."

                      Think it's true? I love 'em, my wife from the same town won't touch them.

                      1. re: rudybaga

                        I am from Louisiana, and the potato peel is my favorite part. I usually eat it with hot sauce afterward.

                        1. re: Becca Porter

                          I remember my first trip to a TGIF in the UK. A friend ordered potato skins. As we chatted I hypothesised about the management meeting on reducing waste. One of the management team says, "Instead of throwing the skins away, how about we sell them? Do you think we could get away with that?"

                        2. re: rudybaga

                          I'm from MN and I and most of my friends do eat the potato skin. Not just because it's good for you either.

                          1. re: rudybaga

                            i'm from Jersey, and i think the skin is the best part.

              2. Eat the stalks. The stalks are high in fiber. Most Western diets are relatively low or lacking in fiber more than they lack basic nutrients or vitamins.

                Although I eat the potato skins, they're not additionally nutrrient dense.

                I'm an agricultural and environmental research scientist.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                  Well, Sam, you are just the person for this, then. This has been nagging at me since I posted a few hours ago. I tried several google searches and got nowhere, so looked up potato in Wikipedia. Their nutrition section (#6) indicates quite a little additional nutrition contained in the skin -- enough to make it important to eat.

                  It does not mention the word corona, but does say that almost all of the PROTEIN in a potato is contained just under the skin.

                  What say you?

                  1. re: rudybaga

                    Potato skin and flesh are roughly the same in terms of nutrient content per unit, although the skin is higher in fiber. Yes, much of the protein is within the potato flesh, fairly close to the skin.