- Since vegetables are of such importance in the nutrition of human beings,
it is natural that they should play a large part in Army feeding. They are high
in food value. The different kinds vary widely in their energy values; some--
like potatoes--are high in carbohydrates, others--like lettuce and cucumbers--
are low. Fresh or canned they are high in minerals and vitamins, low in protein
and fat, and are valuable for bulk and palatability.
When purchasing fresh produce it was necessary to know something of quality, appearance, and texture. Quality is made up of many characteristics--
some external, internal, chemical, and physical. Appearance is concerned with
shape, color, freedom from blemishes and dirt. Texture contrasts hard or soft,
smooth or granular, stringy and fibrous or free from fiber, crisp or flabby,
wilted or tough.
The flavor of vegetables is due to several constituents: sugar, organic
acids, mineral salts, and aromatic compounds. A combination of these gives
flavors that make vegetables palatable and attractive.
The nutritive value of a given vegetable depends on the part of the plant
to be used, as well, as the variety, climate, soil in which it is grown, conditions of storage, and preparation. The leaf, stem, flower, seed, and fruit are all edible parts.
When purchasing vegetables for the Army it was well to know that the
initial price was by no means the ultimate cost as there was a wide margin
between the cost as purchased and edible-portion cost. Waste in preparation,
storage, and losses in the cooking of highly perishable produce would cost
six cents per pound as purchased and thirty cents per pound edible portion.
The condition of the vegetables when delivered has a great influence on
the probable yield. When purchasing canned vegetables, grades were used as
purchasing guides. Samples of each grade of produce were requested for testing
to find out if the product was satisfactory. The highest grade was not
purchased for general use; Grade B or Standard was acceptable for the Army
Fresh and frozen vegetables were used largely in Army camps and fields
in the United States. Canned and dehydrated products were to be used in
combat areas overseas because they were easy to prepare, there was little or
no waste, and the nutritive value was fairly well retained. The problem of
storage was not difficult, and shipping space was saved when dehydrated food
was shipped because of its lightness and lack of bulk.
The Army food purchasing officer needed to be familiar with the local
vegetable supply and market center facilities. A knowledge of standardizing,
grading, packaging, sorting, and transporting produce was necessary
in order to purchase food economically and intelligently.
Because of uncertainty of crops due to curtailed planting and harvesting
occasioned by labor shortages, it was difficult for producers and distributors
to cooperate at all times. The Quartermaster's office arranged with local marketing centers for information on prices, substitutions, and quantities of local produce available, several days in advance, so
that suitable substitutions could be made on menus if sufficient fresh
vegetables were not obtainable.
Inspection of all food on delivery was required, and if low grade or
unsatisfactory produce was discovered it was returned to the dealers or an
adjustment requested. This was done to determine whether or not supplies
met the contract requirements for quality and conditions specified by the Army.