When cooking vegetables, ever wonder if you should boil the water before or after you add the vegetables to the pot? Here’s a Farmers’ Almanac secret so you’ll always remember:
Vegetables that grow above ground (beans, peas, corn) – add to boiling water.Vegetables that grow below ground (root vegetables, potatoes) – start off in cold water.
The reason? Cooking the above ground vegetables simply entails softening their cell walls to make them more palatable and digestible. Because most green vegetables are small with thin cell walls, that process doesn’t take very long. So all you need to do is boil water, add the vegetables, and cook until they are just tender.
Root vegetables, on the other hand, contain a great deal of starch, and that starch needs to be dissolved before most can be eaten. The problem, of course, is that most root veggies are quite large and they can get overcooked, as anyone who’s over boiled potatoes knows all too well.
Starting potatoes off in cold water creates more even cooking. Throwing cold potatoes into boiling water gelatinizes the starches at the surface of the potato too fast, leaving you with a mushy exterior that falls apart and dissolves into the cooking water before the center cooks through. By starting in cold water, the temperature in the potato rises more gently.
While very few vegetables are “boiled” these days (thanks to clever chefs in the kitchen who come up with the best cooking methods to preserve flavor) it still “holds water” for corn and potatoes!