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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Green Beans:

Green beans are known as French beans, Fine beans, and string beans.  They are also known as "squeaky beans" for the noise they make on the teeth when eaten.  The name "string bean" derives from the fibrous string that once ran down the length of the seam of the pod.  In modern times the string has been mostly bred out.  Green beans and other shell beans such as pinto beans, black beans, and kidney beans belong to the same family and are referred to as "common beans" probably due to they all derived from a common bean ancestor that originated in Peru.  They were spread through South and Central America by migrating Indian tribes and introduced to Europe and spread around the 16th century by Spanish and Portuguese traders.  There are two major groups of green beans, bush beans and pole beans. There are over 130 varieties known.

The first thing I remember about green beans is that they come in a bushel basket.  We would save the baskets and then use them to display produce.  My grandfather's grocery store kept two rows of bushel baskets in front of the store in which produce was displayed.  We would build up the baskets with cardboard  so there was only a few inches of display space on top but it would look like a full basket.   There was a roll down awning above that could be used to keep the sun from cooking the product on warm days.  The display had to be built every morning and taken down every night.  It was a lot of work.

Green beans have been  studied for anti-oxidant content.  In addition to vitamins C and K and beta-carotene green beans contain important amounts of the anti-oxidant mineral manganese.  In the area of phytonutrients green beans contain a wide variety of carotenoids and flavonoids.  The strong carotenoid and flavonoid content appears to provide potential anti-inflammatory benefits.  Green beans also contain high levels of lectins and may be harmful if consumed in excess when uncooked or improperly cooked.  Best to cook them.

Green beans are of nearly universal distribution. Fresh green beans are available year round, but are best in early winter, early summer, and early fall. Green beans can be steamed, boiled, stir fried, or baked in casseroles.

Select green beans that have a smooth feel and a vibrant green color, and that are free from brown spots and bruises.  They should have a firm texture and "snap" when broken.  Store unwashed fresh bean pods in a plastic bag and keep in the refrigerator crisper for about 7 days.  To prepare remove both ends of the pod and wash just before cooking.

So....Eat up!  Enjoy!  I'll show you how.

Simple but good.

Potato and Green Bean Salad:

2 lbs. of potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 lb. of green beans
1/2 c. canola oil
1/4 c. red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

Boil potatoes until fork tender.  Drain and set aside to cool. Steam green beans until barely tender.  Drain and rinse under cold water. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl combine potatoes, beans, oil, vinegar, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.  Mix well.  Add more oil and vinegar if needed.  Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013





The banana is the world's largest herbaceous flowering plant.  Southeast Asian farmers were the first to domesticate the banana.  It is now grown in 107 countries.  Although we may refer to a "banana tree", the banana plant is not a tree, but the world's largest herb. 

In America and Europe "banana" refers to the soft, sweet, dessert bananas of the Cavendish group.  The firmer starchier variety are called "plantains".  Plantains are often called "cooking bananas" and are cooked and served as a vegetable in Latin American countries.   Export bananas are picked green and ripened in special rooms upon arrival in their destination country.  These rooms are air-tight and filled with ethylene gas.  Bananas can be ordered "ungassed" and will never ripen. These bananas are suited for cooking.  Bananas are a staple starch for many tropical populations.  Dwarf Cavendish are named for the shortness of stem on which they grow.  They are also called "Petites".   The Monzano banana is also called the Apple banana because of its apple like flavor. It also contains some hints of strawberry flavor.  The light golden color turns totally black when ripe.  The Red banana is stubby and round with a dull red skin that turns to a reddish purple or maroon when fully ripe.  The Red banana is sweeter than the Cavendish with a heartier flavor with a softer pinkish orange flesh.

When I was growing up I remember bananas coming in a box packed with shredded newspaper.  They were whole hands of bananas.  You would have to cut the hand down to a smaller sizes as you put them on display. Today they come pre-cut and wrapped in cellophane.  In the store we would open up the box and cellophane to let out any gas to slow the  ripening process.   My dad use to tell  how, when he was a boy he had a friend whose father was a baker and baked Italian bread, which my father loved.  Well, the baker's son loved bananas, so my dad would trade him bananas from his dad's store for the Italian bread.  One time while in the supermarket  a produce manager was feeling sick.  He thought he had some kind of flu.  Well, he was getting worse so he went to the doctor to find out that he had been bitten by a banana spider.  He never felt it.  Because of the delay in treatment, the poison was able to grow.  At one time they even considered amputating the leg.  He was told it could take a year for the poison to get out of his system.  Something like that is very rare. Usually the gassing will eliminate  spiders.

Bananas have an impressive amount of potassium.  One large banana of about nine inches in length contains 602 mg of potassium with 140 calories.  It also contains 2 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber with just 2 mgs of sodium.  It has abundant vitamins and minerals.  The high potassium and low sodium help with blood pressure.  Its high iron content can stimulate hemoglobin production to help in cases of anemia.   The high fiber can help with constipation.  Bananas contain tryptophan, a type of protein the body converts to serotonin , know to make you relax, improve your mood, and generally make you feel happier.  Research found that eating bananas as part of a regular diet can cut risk of death by strokes as much as 40%.  A piece of banana skin placed peel side out on a wart and secured is known to kill off the wart.

Select bananas that are slightly green, firm, and without bruises.  Bananas with a gray tint and a dull appearance have been refrigerated and will not ripen properly.  Never store unripe bananas in the refrigerator.  Yellow-green bananas will ripen at room temperature to a sunny yellow in three days.   Bananas can be put in a paper bag with an apple or tomato overnight to speed ripening.  Once ripe bananas can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.  The skin will turn black, but the fruit will be fine.  The brown spotting on the banana is a sign of ripeness and sweetness.

Bananas are peeled and eaten or sliced on cereal.  You can put a stick in a peeled banana and dip in in chocolate and then freeze it.  Try them sliced and then sautéed briefly in butter and brown sugar.  Put them over ice cream.   Overripe bananas are perfect for baking in bread, cake, or muffins.

So......Eat up !  Enjoy !  I'll show you how.

Simple but Good.....

Banana and Peanut Butter Sandwich:

Cooking spray
2 tablespoons of peanut butter
2 slices of whole wheat bread
1 banana sliced

Heat skillet or griddle to medium heat.  Coat with cooking spray.  Spread 1 tablespoon of peanut butter on one side of each slice of bread.  Slice the banana on the peanut buttered side of one slice.  Top with the other slice and press firmly together.  Fry the sandwich until golden brown, about 2 minutes on each side.