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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Parsley

Parsley:

About:

Parsley, known as Petroselinum crispum is in the family of Apiaceae with carrots, celery, and fennel.  Garden parsley is a bright green biennial plant in temperate climates or an annual herb in subtropical and tropical areas.   Parsley is widely used in Middle Easter, European, and American cooking.  Curly leaf parsley is often used as a garnish.  In central and eastern Europe and in western Asia many dishes are served with fresh green chopped parsley sprinkled on top.  Parsley is the world's most popular herb.  It is used as a garnish, condiment, food, and flavoring.  In manufacturing parsley seed oil is used as a fragrance, in soups, cosmetics, and perfumes.

Varieties:

There are 2 main groups of parsley used as herbs:

1. Curly leaf parsley - often used as garnish
2.  Italian flat leaf parsley - Moe fragrant and less bitter taste than curly.          

Root Parsley - grown as a root.
This type of parsley produces much thicker roots than types cultivated for their leaves.  Root parsley is common in central and eastern European cuisine, where it is used in soups and stews, or simply eaten raw as as a snack, similar to carrots.  


History:

Parsley is native to the Mediterranean region of Southern Europe.  It has been cultivated for more than 2000 years. Parsley was used medicinally prior to being consumed as a food.   Although lacking documentation, here is a list of purported medicinal uses:
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Constipation
  • Kidney stones
  • Jaundice
  • Intestinal gas
  • Indigestion
  • Colic 
  • Diabetes
  • Cough
  • Asthma
  • Fluid retention
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Anemia
  • High blood pressure
  • Prostate condition
  • Spleen conditions.
It is also used to start menstrual flow, to cause an abortion, as an aphrodisiac, and as a breathe freshener.

Nutrition:

Parsley is a nutririous food.  It is actually a storehouse of nutrients with a delicious and vibrant taste.   Parsley is an excellent source of vitamin K and vitamin C, as well as a good source of vitamin A, folate, and iron.  Parsaley's volatile oil components include myristicin, limonene, eugenol, and alpha-thujene.  Its flavonoid components include apirn, apigenin, erisocriol, and luteolin.  Parley is a good source of foic acid which plays a role in cardiovascular health. 

Health Benefits:

Parsley contains 2 types of unusual components that provide unique health benefits.  The first is volatile oil components, that have been shown to inhibit tumor formation in animal studies and particularly, atumor formation in the lungs.  Secondly, there are flavonoids in parsley that have been shown to function as antiooxidants that combine with highly reactive oxygen conmtaining molecules and help prevent oxygen based damage to cells. 

My Story: 

In my grandfather's grocery store one of the things we would do to help keep the produce at its best was to sprinkle  the vegetables that had a tendency to dry out with water at night.  This was done in the produce cooler,  and we would use a bunch of parsley, which we dipped into water and then sprinkled onto the produce.  It reminded me of the way the priest sprinkles the congregation with holy water at church.   Years later I would use that technique to sprinkle down off-refrigeration displays of fresh corn to keep them from drying out.  I'm sure people thought I was nuts.

Concerns:

Parsley is among a small number of foods that contain measurable amounts of oxalate, naturally occurring substances found in plants, animals, and human beings.  When oxalate's become too concentrated in body fluids it can crystallize and cause health problems.  For this reason individuals with already existing and untreated kidney oar gallbladder problems may want to avoid eating parsley.


Availability:

Parsley is available in the supermarket year round.  It can be found fresh and dried. 


Selecting and Storing:

While parsley is available dried, fresh parsley is superior in flavor. 

Choose parsley that is deep green in color and looks fresh and crisp.  Avoid bunches that have leaves that are wilted or yellow as this indicates they are over mature or damaged.
Fresh parsley should be kept in the refrigerator in a plastic bag.  If the parsley is slightly wilted, sprinkle it lightly with some water, or wash it out completely drying it before storing in the refrigerator.  
 Fresh parsley should be washed right before using since it is highly fragile.

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


Simple but Good:

  • Combine chopped parsley with Bulgar wheat, chopped green onions, chopped tomatoes, mint leaves, lemon juice, and olive oil to make the classic Middle Eastern dish, tabbouleh.
  • Add parsley to pesto sauce to add more texture.
  • Combine chopped parsley, garlic, and lemon zest and use as a rub for chicken, lamb, and beef.
  • Use parsley in soups and tomato sauce.
  • Serve a colorful salad of fennel, orange, cherry tomatoes, pumpkin seeds and parsley flakes.
  • Chopped parsley can be sprinkled on salads, vegetable sautes and grilled fish















































































Saturday, July 12, 2014

Celery

Celery:

About:

Celery is a plant variety in the family Apiaceae, commonly used as a vegetable.  It is the same family as carrots, parsley, fennel, and caraway. 

Varieties:

In North America commericial production of celery is dominated by the varieties called Pascal celery.  The stalks grow in tight straight parallel bunches and are typically marketed fresh that way, without the roots and just a little green leaf remaining,  Celery hearts are just the inner ribs of celery.  In Europe the most commonly available celery is Celeriac.  It is grown for its hypocotyl forming a large bulb (commonly , but incorrectly called celery root).  Another type is "leafy celery", which looks like parsley but tastes like celery.

Availability:

In the past celery was grown as a vegetable for winter and early spring., it was perceived as a cleansing tonic.  By the 19th century the season for celery had been extended to last from the beginning of September to late in April.  Today celery is available year round.  Harvesting occurs when the average size of the celery in a field is marketable.  Today over 1 billion pounds of celery are produced each year in the U.S.  with California, Michigan, and Florida accounting for 80% of the total. 

Usage:

Celery is used around the world for its crisp petiole (leaf stalk).  The leaves are strongly flavored and are used  less often as either a flavoring in soups and stews or as a dried herb.  On a worldwide basis celery is often served as a "major plate vegetable" rather than an additive to soups and salads.  In temperate countries celery is also grown for its seeds.  Celery, onions, and bell peppers are called the "holy trinity" of Louisiana Creole and Cajun cuisine.  Celery, onions, and carrots make up the French "mirepoix" often used as a base for sauces and soups. 

Health Benefits:

Recent research has increased our knowledge about celery's anti-inflammatory benefits including its protection against inaflammation of the digestive track itself.  Non starch, pectin based polysaccharides found in celery help improve the integrity of the stomach lining, decrease the risk of stomach ulcer, and better control the levels of stomach secretions.  There is evidence that pectin-based polysaccharides in celery decrease the risk of inflammation in the cardiovascular system.

In addition to vitamin C and flavonoids at least a dozen other types of antioxidant nutrients have been identified in celery.  The antioxidant benefits we get from celery are largely due to phenolic nutrients which help protect us against unwanted oxygen damage to our cells, blood vessels, and oxygen systems.  

Here are some Health Benefits from 1 - 2 stalks of celery:
  • Celery is a great choice when watching your weight - only 10 calories to a stalk
  • Celery reduces inflammation 
  • Celery calms you down - minerals in celery, esp. magnesium & essential oil soothe the nervous sys.
  • Celery regulates the body's alkaline balance
  • Celery aids digestion - high water content and insoluble fiber helps ease passage of stool
  • Celery contains "good" salt - organic, natural, and essential for health
  • Celery cares for your eyes - can deliver up to 10% daily need of vitamin A
  • Celery reduces "bad" cholesterol - 2 stalks a day can reduce LDL by up to 7 points
  • Celery lowers blood pressure - raw and whole
  • Celery can improve sex life - 2 pheromones boost arousal levels
  • Celery can combat cancer - a powerful flavonoid in celery can inhibit cancer cell growth

My Story:

Celery is always plentiful at a good price around Thanksgiving.  It would often come in a box ready to be processed.  That is trimmed and bagged.  People use celery in stuffing for their Thanksgiving turkey, so there was always plenty of celery to process.  The smell of celery reminds me of that.

One year we had celery at a particularly good price and it was selling very well.  In fact we were a little short on our order of celery.  When we realized this we put in an order for 50 cases, a large order for us.  Well the next day we had a vist from our districrt manager.  The part timer who closed the night before did not fill the celery display as instructed.  When the district manager arrived the first thing he saw in our department was the empty celery display.  He started to ask a bunch of questions and then called the warehouse and ordered us another 50 cases.  Well, when it arrived we had way too much celery, more than we could sell before it would spoil.  So, a transferred some of it to other stores in our chain in our area, but we still ended up throwing a bunch (no pun intended) of celery away.  It was a costly lesson.

Selecting and Storing:

Choose celery that looks crisp and snaps easily when pulled apart.  It should be relatively light and compact, and not have stalks that splay out.  The leaves should be pale to bright green in color with no yellow or brown patches. 

Celery can be stored in the plastic bag it came in from the store by squeezing out excess air and closing the bag tightly.  Place in the refrigerator for from 5 to 7 days.  Celery that is left at room temperature for longer than a couple of hours will begin to wilt.  Sprinkle it with water and place back in the refrigerator.  

Preparing:

To clean celery cut off the base and leaves, then wash the leaves and stalks under running water.  Cut the stalks to desired length.  If the outside of the celery stalk has fibrous strings, remove them by making a thin cut into one of the stalks, and peeling away athe fibers.  Be sure to use the leaves, which are rich in vitamin C, calcium, and potassium, within a day or two.  

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

Simple but Good:

  • Add chopped celery to your tuna fish or chicken salad.
  • Try eating peanut butter or cream cheese & olives on celery stalks.
  • Braised chopped celery, radicchio, and onions and serve with walnuts and you favorite soft cheese.
  • Use celery leaves in salads.
  • \Add celery leaves and sliced celery stalks to soups, stews, casseroles, and stir-fries.

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