Generally, healthy substitutes in recipes fall short of their traditional counterparts. Gluten-free, dairy-free, and 100% vegetable alternatives offer low-calorie/low-carb benefits, but are often preferred by those interested in health over all else. Finding a vegetable substitute that is as good or better than common flour and meat components could be said to be impossible, however a competitor to part from this line of thinking has emerged and has been growing in popularity – the vegetable noodle!
By using a spiralizer, peeler, or slicer with the appropriate vegetables, kitchen mavens have started making noodle substitutes that rival their flour forerunners. Vegetable-noodles (also known as “zoodles” due to the zucchini’s excellent adaptive abilities for this) are:
• Low Calorie
• Easily Varied in Texture and Style
• Dish Versatile
• Just as Easy/Easier than Making Traditional Noodles
Making linguine takes a practiced hand, but vegetables can be quickly reduced to noodle-form with simple tools or the right baking method. As said above, spiralizers, peelers, and slicers can rapidly turn your vegetables into a variety of sizes and thickness depending upon your needs. Some vegetables are not the right consistency/structure - such as peppers. Some vegetables, like the spaghetti squash, are too big to spiralize. However, some time in the oven will turn their inside into ‘spaghetti’, as their name suggests.
All of which brings to question, which vegetables have the best noodle-potential? As we’re all reading this on Mother Earth News, and gardening is a large part of this community, know that these vegetables are all easily grown in a raised garden kit and we’ll provide plant spacing info for you as well using the square foot gardening plant spacing method.
The only thing better than making meals with vegetable-noodles is making meals with homegrown vegetable noodles. Along with eating healthy, you can eat fresh by using vegetables straight from your garden. Filling your garden with the right vegetables can provide enough noodle potential for large meals and multiple servings. Just a few sweet potatoes or handful of zucchinis can create enough ‘noodles’ for multiple servings.
The following vegetables are ideal to grow for creating tasty noodle substitutes.
Resistant to light frost, carrots are a hardy root vegetable and ideal for vegetable-noodles. Depending on the plant and harvest season, their flavor-profile can range from sweet to bitter (colder environments result in a sweet taste, and warmer environments produce a bitter taste). Seasoned gardeners know to plant them a month before spring’s last frost, and in loose soil. Packed soil restricts downward growth leading to shorter and rounder carrots. However, their strong structure proves useful for turning them into veggie-noodles. Due to their size, you will need more to make a complete dish than the following plants, however they are simple to grow. If using a raised garden you can comfortably grow 9-16 of most carrot varietals in 1 square foot.
Thanks to the zucchini’s versatile nature, innovative kitchen tools, and widespread infomercials, the term zoodle was born. They are the most well-known vegetable-noodle, capable of being used in traditional Italian dishes or light, refreshing salads. Because of their length and texture, they are easily transformable into a replacement for long pasta. Less dense than carrots, zoodles absorb sauce and accompanying flavors with less cook time to provide a rich dining experience, just like linguine or fettucine.
Zucchini grows best during the summer, so plant right after spring’s last frost. They need room to grow, so plant no more than 1 per square foot. As with the carrots, square foot style plant spacing will help maximize your space for growth. To ensure a bountiful harvest, plant them in rich, moist soil and support them with latticework as needed.
These rustic tubers create delicious, bright noodles that pair nicely with leafy greens in a variety of recipes. They will grow in most soil, but have the potential to produce year-round if nutrients of your soil are kept up. They don’t do well with frost, so keep an eye on colder seasons as they approach. Plant them in last spring and expect your first harvest between 90-170 days.
Sweet Potatoes do well in the spiralizer. Their shape means you can spin them tirelessly for long strands of sweet potato noodles. It’s important to note they are rigid until cooked, so try not to overly bend them lest they snap. As with most vegetables, they are best served al dente which adds to the meal’s texture and their bright yellow/orange/purple colors add a unique look to any dish.
One of the vegetables too large for spiralizing equipment, spaghetti squash, transforms with a little baking. Its strands are almost identical to angel hair pasta, and if done properly, could be mistaken for the original. They grow large enough that one squash can create enough vegetable-noodles for a family of four, and only take 90 days to mature if grown from seed in your garden. Spaghetti squash requires no less than 1 square foot of plant spacing to grow appropriately. Plant your squash in warm soil and harvest once the color has changed to yellow.
Spaghetti squash is usually prepared by slicing it longways, adding oil, salt, and pepper to the inside of the halves and baking it in the oven. The temperature and length of time vary according to personal taste, but once it’s complete, a fork is run over the innards. The loose strands will easily pull up and resemble angel hair pasta, ready for the most traditional, filling meals or light, refreshing sides.
Wiley Geren III and Bryan Traficante. Bryan co-founded GardenInMinutes.com in 2013, a family-owned venture focused on making it easier to start a quality garden. GardenInMinutes is home to tool-free, cedar raised garden kits and the Garden Grid watering system- the only planting guide and garden irrigation system, in one. Along with unique gardening solutions, Bryan provides time saving gardening insights on their blog and social media pages. Find Bryan and GardenInMinutes on Facebook, Instagram, and read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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