The Daily Telegraph - Gardening - - New Books -

Why does frost make some veg taste bet­ter? In the past, veg gar­den­ers often would not har­vest win­ter root crops un­til there had been sev­eral hard frosts. They knew that if har­vested ear­lier, veg­eta­bles such as parsnips might have a chewy, starchy taste, whereas af­ter a frost this would have trans­formed into a much sweeter, more palat­able flavour.

From the vegetable’s point of view, con­vert­ing some starch to sugar makes sense in cold weather be­cause the sugar helps to pre­vent wa­ter in its cells from freez­ing. The sugar mol­e­cules mix with wa­ter in the vegetable, and this stops the wa­ter mol­e­cules ris­ing and freez­ing: in ef­fect, sugar low­ers the freez­ing point of the vegetable.

This ex­tra sweet­ness oc­curs in both root and green veg­eta­bles. The tech­ni­cal rea­sons are not al­ways the same: in brus­sels sprouts, for ex­am­ple, the sweeter flavour is

Frost bite: the flavour of kohlrabi is said to im­prove af­ter a freeze

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