Below I have compiled a list of veggies that you can eat raw. Typically they are cooked and some even mistakenly thought to be harmful in raw state.
Obviously, it is optimal to buy these veggies organic. By coincidence, with the exception of beets, they are all on the list to be relatively harmless to eat non-organic. Having said that, the flavour and aroma of organic ones would be tremendously more richer. Pleasant taste is what you need, as it would increase the chances of you liking these vegetables raw which would expose you to found in them phytonutrients* that degrade with cooking.
You decide how you want to eat them – alone or with something. They are marvelous by themselves, add a pinch of sea salt if you feel like it.
To me raw asparagus tastes somewhat similar to young cucumbers. When choosing, look for thin shoots, they are much tender, crunchier and juicier. Thick shoots are more matured and thus are tough and fibrous at the bottom. Trim the shoots if you stumbled across a couple thick ones – they are completely unchewable.
Eggplant (or aubergine)
Raw eggplant distantly reminds me of rye bread for some reason, but that’s probably not an accurate description of its taste. Peel the skin but leave it on if an eggplant is organic and young. For the purpose of taste, try to buy them organic as regularly-grown ones sometimes can be bitter.
Eggplant belongs to the nightshade family, the same as potato. Because green raw potatoes are toxic, raw eggplants are automatically assumed to be harmful as well. Solanine is precisely what raw potatoes (that turned green) are scared for. Solanine is an alkaloid, basically a pesticide designed by nature to defend plants from bugs. It is toxic to humans and 200 mg of solanine is when its ill effects start to show.
Eggplants do contain solanine, but you would need to swallow at least
two dozens of them to approach the above mentioned ill dose!
I think raw beets taste like a sweet, non-starchy version of a carrot. It is best to buy them in the summer or fall, after recent harvest. Choose small ones, they are younger. Beets, especially their leaves, contain lots of oxalic acid which may irritate your throat to a small degree – just a couple tickles.
Oxalic acid (oxalate) is antinutrient, meaning it can form complexes with minerals reducing their levels in blood. This acid is ubiquitous compound though – oxalic acid is found virtually in all plants and also produced by your body. So, there is no way you can escape it. Spinach, kale, rhubarb are other examples that contain a lot of oxalic acid. However, their nutritional goodness far outweighs the flaws of the acid. Besides, if you have a decent digestive health and didn’t have any gut surgeries, you would have a bacteria that breaks down some of this acid before it even gets the chance to attack minerals.
Raw sweet potato tastes a lot like a carrot, less sweet though, and with a twist of starch. The starch flavour is not off-putting at all. Take the skin off if it’s not organic. Like beets, a sweet potato harbours oxalic acid, but the acid won’t worry your throat.
Chestnuts, biologically, are tree nuts but they are treated as starchy vegetables. Raw chestnuts have a unique sweet taste, very pleasant, hard to describe. Choose spotless and shiny ones. Use a non-pointy knife to remove the shell. When ripe, their starch turns to simple sugars making them sweet and palatable for eating. Those put for sale and fallen off a tree are usually ripe. A good indication of their ripeness – rattling of a nut inside if shaken.
Many argue that because chestnuts are high in tannic acid, an antinutrient, they should not be eaten raw. But the same compound is found in grapes and tea! Besides, tannic acid has been shown to have some health-promoting properties.
Personal favorites – asparagus and chestnuts. Be adventurous, explore new tastes!
*Most phytonutrients are unknown to science. Researchers estimate that there are more than 100,000 phytochemicals found in plants, out of them, 4,000 have been identified and only 150 have been studied in depth. Astonishing, if you think about it.
Barceloux D.G. (2012). Medical Toxicology of Natural Substances: Foods, Fungi, Medicinal Herbs, Plants, and Venomous Animals. John Wiley & Sons.
Chung K.T., Wong T.Y., Wei C.I., Huang Y.W., Lin Y. (1998). Tannins and human health: a review. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 38 (6): 421-64