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Cooking Vegetables: When Should You Boil The Water?

Cooking Vegetables: When Should You Boil The Water?

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 aboveground vegetables simply requires softening the 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.

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!

boil water vegetables

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  • Donna says:

    Microwaving one of corn, in husk, for four minutes is amazing. Cut base and silk slide off with husk.
    Eight minutes for two ears…

  • Durkeehill says:

    I’ve always started my potatoes in cold water, something my mother and grandmother always did. Didn’t know about the corn, have always started my corn on the cob with sugar in cold water.

  • LaRene Grover says:

    I have Idaho Potatoes that I have always started in hot water & brought up to a boil & they don’t get mushy. It’s the other potatoes that you can’t do this with!! Just sayin’

  • If you notice a hole in the upper left-hand corner of your Farmers' Almanac, don't return it to the store! That hole isn't a defect; it's a part of history. Starting with the first edition of the Farmers' Almanac in 1818, readers used to nail holes into the corners to hang it up in their homes, barns, and outhouses (to provide both reading material and toilet paper). In 1919, the Almanac's publishers began pre-drilling holes in the corners to make it even easier for readers to keep all of that invaluable information (and paper) handy.

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