Grateful and salutary Spring! the plants
Which crown thy numerous gardens, and invite
To health and temperance, in the simple meal,
Unstain'd with murder, undefil'd with blood,
Unpoison'd with rich sauces, to provoke
The unwilling appetite to gluttony.
For this, the bulbous esculents their roots
With sweetness fill; for this, with cooling juice
The green herb spreads its leaves; and opening buds
And flowers and seeds with various flavors tempts
Th' ensanguined palate from its savage feast.
As to the quality of vegetables, the middle size are preferred to the largest or smallest; they are more tender, juicy, and full of flavor, just before they are quite full grown. Freshness is their chief value and excellence, and I should as soon think of roasting an animal alive, as of boiling a vegetable after it is dead.
To boil them in soft water will preserve the color best of such as are green; if you have only hard water, put to it a teaspoonful of carbonate of potash.
Take care to wash and cleanse them thoroughly from dust, dirt, and insects. This requires great attention.
If you wish to have vegetables delicately clean, put on your pot, make it boil, put a little salt in it, and skim it perfectly clean before you put in the greens, etc., which should not be put in till the water boils briskly; the quicker they boil, the greener they will be. When the vegetables sink, they are generally done enough, if the water has been kept constantly boiling. Take them up immediately, or they will lose their color and goodness. Drain the water from them thoroughly before you send them to table.
This branch of cookery requires the most vigilant attention.