Peeling your veggies or not, the skin is the part that has the most potential for contamination. It is the protective layer that works to shield the interior from harmful bacteria, mold, and predators. It is also the part of the plant handled in the harvesting, transportation and storage of the plant in the food delivery process. The skins carry much of the nutrient content of veggies, but it can also carry the most chemical contamination. That is why it is so important to wash your hands and veggies well before consuming. Given a good wash and handled properly, there’s no reason why many of these veggie skins can’t be enjoyed.
Veggies That You Don’t Need To Peel
The question to peel or not to peel is rarely considered. You just do what the recipe tells you to do, right? Or what your grandma taught you to do? Yeah, we get that. But sometimes you gotta question that long standing tradition of peeling every veggie that enters the kitchen because you’re potentially missing out on a whole lotta nutrition. Not to mention flavor.
We all grew up with mashed potatoes, potato salad, and even a boiled or roasted potato side dish with the skin peeled off. As a kid, I don’t know how many times my job was peeling potatoes for one dish or another. Turns out, that’s costing us a lot of nutrients. Twenty percent of the nutrients, like B vitamins and trace minerals, are found in the skin. That’s where all of the fiber is too. Like all root vegetables, be sure to scrub it well to ensure it’s clean. Personally, I prefer my mashed potatoes and potato salad with the skins on.
Older, or larger eggplant can have a skin that’s a little tough to chew. Cooking generally softens the skin, but many recipes call for peeling eggplant. The skin of this plump, meaty vegetarian favorite contains a phytonutrient called nasunin, a potent antioxidant that helps counter cell damage brought on by aging or disease.
- Sweet Potatoes
The skin of this holiday favorite is where most of its nutrients are located containing vitamin C, potassium, and betacarotene. Just like with potatoes, the texture and nutritional value demand we reconsider peeling this one. If you must peel them, save the sweet potato peels and turn them into a separate side dish.
I never even thought about peeling cucumber until I saw it served that way as an adult. I always liked the contrast of the thick green peel with the crisp, cool center. Turns out that dark green cucumber peel is loaded with immune-boosting antioxidants and fiber, which prevents constipation and supports GI health.
Did you know that all the antioxidants in carrots are concentrated in or directly under the skin? A lot of people peel carrots because they think they look, or taste, dirty if you don’t. But if you give those little roots a good scrub, there’s no reason to lose the skin.
Parsnips are a lot like a white, hearty carrot. And just like carrots, these root veggies hold most of their nutrient value in the skins. Give them a good cleaning, and the skin is good as gold.
Grab an apple off the tree and crunch into it! So good! Eating apples raw, most people don’t even think of peeling off the skin. However, often people remove the skin when cooking apples because it can be tough to digest. That just means it’s rich in fiber, which fills you up and aids digestion. Apple skin is also rich in quercitin, vitamin C, and triterpenoids, which are presumed cancer fighters.
Veggies You Should Always Peel
Always doesn’t always mean “always”. But in these cases, it definitely means “almost always”.
- Hard winter squashes (the sweet and tender delicata squash is the exception to that exception)
- Citrus fruits (although those peels can be rendered edible through preserving, pickling, and marmalades)
- Melons (again, pickling makes them edible)
- Onions and garlic
- Tropical fruits (pineapples, banana, papayas, mangoes)
Tips On How to Peel Types of Veggies
If you just have to peel those veggies look for ways to use the peels in a separate recipe (like salads, broth or smoothies) or, at the very least use them in your compost. Below are a few tips for peeling common types of vegetables.
How to Peel Delicate Fruits & Vegetables
Different fruits and vegetables require different peeling techniques. While you can take a peeler to carrots and potatoes, delicate fruits and vegetables like peaches and tomatoes are easier to peel if you put them in a boiling water bath for about 30 seconds first to loosen their skins.
How to Peel Heavy Skinned Fruits & Vegetables
Heavy-skinned fruits and vegetables like citrus, melons, and hard squashes are all peeled the same way: cut off enough of the ends to reveal the fruit or vegetables under the peel, set it flat, and cut down the sides with a sharp knife to remove the peel. Large melons and squashes may be easier to handle if you cut them in half to quarters first.
How to Peel Root Vegetables
Root vegetables are mostly pretty easy to peel with a decent, sharp peeler or paring knife. The papery skin on onions is easier removed if you cut the onion first (peeling under water helps reduce tears) and nothing slips off more quickly than the peel of a roasted beet.
Peeling can make some parts of fruits and vegetables we often throw away perfectly (and deliciously) edible, like the tough ends of asparagus or broccoli stems.