The Proof Is in the (Vegetable) Pudding

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It’s 2020 so of course there are some wild and wonderful health trends floating about but however much you love it or hate it the idea of vegetables in desserts is more than just a fad.

Where Do Fruit and Veg Belong in Our Meals? 

Fruits are widely considered appropriate for starters, mains and desserts so why not vegetables? Historically, ‘puddings’ referred to a savoury dish rather than a sweet, ‘dessert’ dish so maybe vegetables should go in puddings. Some people think so. And let’s not even get started on the official classifications of some fruits and vegetables. A the phrase goes: “knowledge is that tomatoes are fruit yet wisdom is recognising not to put them in a fruit salad.”

From a culinary perspective, fruits and vegetables are classified to meals based on taste. Fruits generally have a sweet or tart flavour thus they can be used in desserts, snacks or juices. Meanwhile vegetables have a more mild or savoury taste so are usually eaten as part of a side dish or main course.

But those rules are often broken. Carrot cake is a classic false friend. It hides amongst the other tasty treats and pretends to be one of them but lets be honest, it’s just not the same as a juicy chocolate fudge cake. 

So we know fruits are great in desserts because of their sweet taste but how come vegetables keep sneaking in? 

Delving Into the Background

To find the reason for having vegetables in puddings we have to go back a very long time. Think Medieval times. Starchy vegetables (which could often be home-grown or were otherwise very cheap) could easily replace more expensive/scarce grains such as flour. How handy. So for our medieval peasants cheap vegetables were great for padding out anything they used flour for – basically bread and the occasional dessert. 

You could say veggies were used to ‘cut’ grains. 

Another bonus of starchy, root vegetables is they’re filling and cheap so you could feed the family and make food stretch for a fraction of the price. Also veggies are a great way to get some much needed nutrients. So it’s no surprise people started to add them into anything and everything. 

This happened in wartime England. You can actually trace the popularity of carrots and other root vegetables back to World War II when the government actively encouraged people to grow their own vegetables. Hence, as one of the more available foodstuffs in rationed Britain, and one full of vitamins and minerals, vegetables not only secured their place on our forks but also on our dessert spoon. 

Back to the Present 

Fast forward to today, bread and flour are affordable and always in stock (apart from at the beginning of lockdown) so there’s no longer a need to stretch grains out with vegetables in order to survive. Nor do we have to hide vegetables in everything we eat to get enough nutrients in our diets. 

But vegetables still lurk in our desserts – the part of the meal that is typically the least healthy. So why is carrot cake a thing? Why do we have beetroot brownies? Why did my school put dates in the rice crispy bites? I wonder why because (my apologies to vegetable pudding fans) I don’t think it makes them any nicer. 

Maybe it’s still a health thing. It gives us some more of our 5-a-day and some nutrients. But for the most part I think that we still have vegetables in desserts as a way of convincing ourselves that we’re being healthy. But the truth is just because it’s a beetroot brownie doesn’t make it a great nutritional option. Stop kidding yourselves and have a real treat!

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