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Cucumber

The cucumber is a vegetable which originated in the tropical regions of South Asia, but now cucumber is widely grown in Europe and North America, and ranks fourth in world vegetable production, after tomatoes, cabbage and onions.

When buying cucumbers, we recommend choosing those with dark green skin, without yellow spots or defects that are firm and well developed without being too wide.

Once home, cucumbers can be stored in the refrigerator for a period of three to five days. If you want to preserve them once they have been cut, the cucumber should be wrapped in transparent film because it can easily absorb odours. They are vegetables that do not tolerate extreme temperatures well, so freezing cucumbers is not advised, as it softens their pulp.

The cucumber is a vegetable that is consumed while immature; as they mature, cucumbers lose their firmness, and take on a yellow colour and altered taste.

Among the nutritional properties of cucumber, its high content of ascorbic acid and small amounts of vitamin B complex are especially important. As for minerals, it is rich in calcium, chlorine, potassium and iron. Cucumber seeds are rich in vegetable oils. Unpeeled cucumbers have the highest nutritional content; their fibre and vitamin A can be lost when peeled.

Tomato

The tomato is the fruit of the tomato plant, originally from the Americas. It was introduced in Europe from Mexico.

If you prefer ripe fruits, choose those of a bright red colour with smooth skin. They should feel soft to the touch. If, on the other hand, you prefer a less mature tomato, choose those that are firmer and more pink-red in colour.

If the tomato needs to ripen, it should be kept in a cool place, while avoiding direct sunlight. Unless the tomatoes are fully ripe, they should not be placed in the refrigerator, as the cold temperature prevents them from ripening and affects their flavour. It is preferable to buy a few greener tomatoes to be consumed when they ripen. If you want to consume the tomatoes but they are still a little green, a very simple trick is to place them inside a closed plastic bag. With this method, they mature quickly and in the refrigerator they keep well for 6 to 8 days. Natural tomato juice keeps perfectly for two days in the fridge.

Tomatoes can also be frozen, as long as they are previously blanched and peeled. With freezing, some of the juice is lost, so once thawed it is preferable to cook them.

The most important minerals present in tomatoes are potassium, magnesium and iron. They have vitamins A, B1, B6, C, E, niacin and folic acid. They are also high in lycopene, an antioxidant substance with a proven effectiveness in the prevention of oncological diseases.

Lycopene is better absorbed when tomatoes are cooked (fried, roasted, juice processed with heat, microwaved, etc.), compared to raw tomatoes.

Pepper

The pepper plant is native to Mexico, Bolivia and Peru. Peppers were brought to Europe from the first trip made by Columbus to America.

When buying peppers it is recommended to select those which are thick, heavy in proportion to their size, very firm, and bright in colour, with smooth and glossy skin free from marks or bruises. Once at home, it is advisable to keep the peppers in the refrigerator and inside a perforated plastic bag, where they can keep for up to fifteen days. Once roasted and peeled, they can also be frozen, first blanching in boiling water for about three minutes. It is a fruit rich in vitamin C, and also contains vitamins A, B1, B2, B6 and E. It has nicotinic acid, folate, flavonoids and carotenoids. Red peppers also are a source of lycopene.

Aubergine

The aubergine is considered native to India. Its introduction in Europe dates back to the Middle Ages.

The quality of the aubergine is based on its uniformity, firmness, skin colour and size. In general, the tastiest aubergines are the most tender and firm , with smooth, shiny dark purple skin, that are heavier in proportion to their size.

Because it is a perishable food (it lasts little more than ten days), it should be handled with care and refrigerated until consumed. It is advisable to keep the aubergine separated from other vegetables and fruits, as it can react to the ethylene produced by other vegetables and spoil faster. It contains a high amount of water, with low percentage of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. It is very rich in fibre, as well as B and K vitamins. It contains potassium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus.

Aubergine must be consumed cooked. Salting it before cooking can eliminate some of its bitter juices and reduce moisture.

Melon

The origin of the melon is unclear; some authors claim that the melon is native to Central Asia, while others place its origin on the African continent.

The average weight of these fruits ranges between 850 and 1.500 grams. At the market, choose melons that are hard and without marks, with a uniform pattern. When they are ripe they have a characteristic smell which is sweet and delicate.

The ripe melon should be consumed as soon as possible, as it spoils very quickly. Once opened, it should be stored in the refrigerator covered with transparent film, because gives off a very strong smell and it easily absorbs the taste of other foods.

This fruit is composed of 80% water, and the few calories it has are due to its moderate sugar content. The amount of beta-carotene, which acts as an antioxidant, depends on the intensity of the orange pigment in the fruit’s pulp. The minerals found in the greatest amount are potassium, magnesium and calcium. Its vitamin C is an antioxidant, like beta-carotene.

Melons belong to the Cucurbitaceous family, so they are actually vegetables--hence their characteristic cucumber flavour when still green. It is a fruit that comes from a climbing plant that is found in warm climates with sunny and dry summers.