Peeling, Nothing More than Peeling

'Peeler' photo (c) 2009, Sarah - license: There’s nothing I love more, dear readers, than finding out a kitchen task can be skipped.

And my favorite chore to skip is peeling vegetables. At least for now.

The only vegetables my peeler has seen in recent months are carrots and the odd potato.

(I know I could skip peeling carrots, but I don’t like the taste of carrot peels. Fortunately, my kids do the peeling. )

Peeling raw vegetables means throwing out a large percentage of your food, since the vegetable comes off with the peel. Try weighing a pound of potatoes before and after peeling. Un-peeling saves time and money. What could be wrong with that?

Winter squash and pumpkin. I got excited to learn that those tough peels on winter squash, the ones you need to wrestle with your chopping knife, are edible. This includes peel from butternut, acorn, and pumpkin squashes. All you need to do is cook the squash long enough to get soft. And you get an added bonus–the peel helps pieces stay in one piece.

My other favorite un-peeling secret works for the people who don’t like peel. First, roast or cook the vegetable. When it is finished, remove the peel in a thin layer. This method works for beets, turnips, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. I may even try it for carrots. And the part of the vegetable right under the peel is richest in vitamins, most of which hang out right under the peel.

When should you peel? Sometimes the peel is cracked, wrinkled or dirty. If I can’t get off the dirt with scrubbing, or the peel is thick and unappetizing, I peel. Our beets are full of dirt, and cracked around the stems. Sometimes there is more dirt than vegetables. I soak them and scrub them as well as possible. I would look the other way, but I like to use the cooking water from beets in my recipes. You can always strain the cooking water with a cheesecloth to get rid of dirt that doesn’t get scrubbed off. I don’t worry about bacteria on the vegetables, since the heat will kill the germs.

Fortunately many vegetables, like turnips and squash, have smooth skin that is easily scrubbed clean. Some vegetables have wax or other coatings. If you can’t get it off, you may want to peel.

I haven’t peeled cucumbers in a long time as the ones I get here have smooth, thin skin.

Onions and garlic. Mark Bittman says the peel falls away when you start to cut them, as with garlic. Garlic and onion peel are annoying to find in your food. But when roasting there is no need to peel onion and garlic.

Broccoli and cauliflower. Bittman also peels broccoli stalks. I haven’t cooked broccoli in a while, but I do enjoy cauliflower. I cut the stalk into quarters lengthwise, including the peel. I love eating it that way. You can also add the stalks in soup stock.

Peel is pretty. It adds texture and color. And the best thing about un-peeling is that you give your family or guests the option of eating the peel or discarding it.

So what do you peel, and what do you un-peel?

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  1. I like leaving peel on regular potatoes – the peel is usually thin and smooth and I think it looks pretty. But I can never seem to get sweet potatoes clean enough without peeling them, and ever since Donny crunched down on a knob of dirt, I always peel them.

  2. aviva_hadas says

    I am not a regular peeler – rutabega…
    But I boil my squash & then the peel comes off easily.

  3. I’m with ya!
    I never peel carrots. I leave skins on for smashed potatoes and I even leave peels on Russets in my Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana recipe.

    Zuppa Toscana Recipe

    I’m lazy, we could use the vitamins…and the roughage doesn’t hurt. (Yeah, I went there.)

  4. Oh, and I was totally singing the title of the post….

  5. I’m with you on un-peeling. I like the peel on winter squashes. We have one delicious kind called kabocha (also known as Japanese pumpkin) that has a thick peel but it becomes tender quickly and the squash tastes better with it on. I don’t peel cauliflower or broccoli stems unless the peel is too tough to cut easily.

  6. Ms. Krieger says

    @Faye I love kabocha squash, it is my favorite. And thank you, hannah, for the tip on not peeling squash. I love to eat the peel of roaste squash but somehow never thought of leaving it on when I make squash in, say, risotto or a chunky soup.

    I always peel potatoes, because the ones grown in the US are drenched in pesticide. I hope to grow my own this year. Those won’t be peeled 🙂 I usually peel carrots too, for the same reason you do. But when I grew my own carrots, the skins were always sweet and delicious and didn’t need peeling. So perhaps it depends on the source of the carrot.

    I also peel celeriac root. It’s nubbly and too much soil gets caught in the skin to scrub off.