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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Pumpkin

Pumpkin:

About:

A pumpkin is a cultivar of the squash plant that is round with smooth, slightly ribbed skin and deep yellow to orange coloration.   Pumpkins are grown around the world for a variety of reasons ranging from agricultural purposes such as animal feed to commercial and ornamental sales.   Pumpkins, like other squash are native to North America.   Botanically the pumplin is considered a fruit since it has seeds, about a cup. 

History:

The oldest evidence of pumpkins is pumpkin related seeds dating back to between 7000 and 5500 B.C. found in Mexico.  The word "pumpkin" is from the Greek "Pepon".   Indians introduced pumpkins and squashes to the Pilgrims.  The biggest international producers of pumpkins include the U.S., Canada, Mexico, India, and China.   The traditional American pumpkin used for jack-o'lanterns is the Connecticut Field variety.  

Uses:

Pumpkins are used agriculturally as feed.  Pumpkins are grown commercially for jack-o'lanterns  and also sugar pumpkins or pie pumpkins are grown for cooking.  While you can use the jack-o'lanatern pumpkin for cooking, they were developed to be oversized and thin walled with a large seed cavity and a relatively small proportion of flesh.  The smaller sugar pumpkins or pie pumpkins have more flesh for cooking and often have better flavor and texture.  Pumpkins are used in cookies, cakes, and pies. Pumpkin pancakes are another favorite.   They can be used to make a soup.  Jack-o'lanterns are carved for Halloween decorations or simply decorated.  A hollowed out pumpkin makes a striking tureen for pumpkin soup. 

Commercially canned pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie fillings are usually made from different kinds of winter squash rather than the pumpkins carved for jack-o'lanterns arounbd Halloween. 

Nutrition:

Pumpkins are low in calories, but high in fiber.  They are low in sdodium, but high in protein, iron, and B vitamins.  Pumpkins are very high in beta carotene, an antioxidant. 

One cup of cooked pumpkin flesh contains:

Calories - 49                                                      Potassiun - 564mg
Protein - 2 grams                                               Zinc - 1mg
Carbohydrates - 12grams                                  Selenium - 50mg
Dietary Fiber - 3grams                                      Vitamin C - 12mg
Calcium - 37mg                                                 Niacin - 1mg
Iron - 1.4mg                                                       Folate - 21mcg
Magnesium - 22mg                                           Vitamin A - 2650 I.U. 
                                                                          Vitaminj E - 3mg


Health Benefits:

Researchers believe a diet rich in beta-carotene may reduce the risk of heart disease and some cancers.  The further believe it helps to delay aging.

My Story:

What I remember most about pumpkins in the supermarket is receiving a delivery.  It would be in the evening, when I was alone in the department.  A tractor trailor would pull up to the rear receiving door, and the driver and myself would have to off-load the pumpkins.   Usually I would get few shopping carts and bring them to the back.  We would then load the pumpkins into the shopping carts and wheel them out to the sales floor and unload them to the floor at the base of the display cases.   It was backbreaking  work.  These were jack-o'lantern pumpkins and some of them were heavy.   The driver would load them from the truck to the carts and I would have to unload them from the shopping carts back to the floor.  As with most of what we did, we did it with "urgency".  It was tiring. 

Selecting:

Pumpkins are in season from October through December.  Select a pumpkin with no bruises, or soft spots.  A greenish pumpkin left whole in a cool place (not the refrigerator) will ripen and turn orange.

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

Simple but good:

Pumpkin Soup:

2 medium pumpkins
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 cup half and half
toasted pumpkin seeds (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Cut 2 medium pumpkins in half and scoop out the seeds.  Place the skin side down on a baking sheet.  Bake 35 - 45 minutes until skin is soft.   Scoop out pumpkin flesh into food processor and puree until smooth.  Pur puree in saucepan and add chicken broth, water, maple syrup and spices.  Bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer for 30 minutes.  Serve garnished with toassted pumpkin seeds. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Rutabaga

Rutabaga:

About:

The rutabaga is a cruciferous root vegetable that originated as a cross between the cabbage and the turnip.  Also known as "Swede" or yellow turnip the roots are prepared for human food in a variety of ways, and the leaves can be eaten as a leaf vegetable.  The roots and tops are used as winter feed for livestock.   Raw or cooked the rutabaga has a flavor reminiscent of turnip but with a richer, slightly
more intense quality that hints of cabbage with a subtle sweetness and pleasant fragrance.   


History:

Turnips can be traced back to Asia Minor 4000 years ago.  The first printed reference was in 1620 as growing in Sweden.  It is often considered to have originated in Scandinavia or Russia.   People living in Ireland, Scotland, and England have long carved turnips and used them as lanterns to ward off harmful spirits.  In modern times turnips are often carved to look sinister and as threatening as possible and put in the window or on the doorstep of a house at Halloween  to ward off evil spirits.


Uses:

In Sweden and Norway rutabaga is cooked with potato and sometimes carrot and mashed with butter and either stock or sometimes milk or cream.  In Scotland potato and rutabaga are boiled and mashed separately to produce "tatties and neeps".  In England rutabaga is regularly eaten mashed as part of the traditional Sunday roast.  In the U.S. rutabaga is mostly eaten as paart of stews or casseroles, served mashed with carrots, or baked in a pasty.  Rutabaga can be eaten raw or cooked.  It should be peeled as many rutabagas are waxed.  Rutabagas can be baked, roasted, boiled, braised, steamed,  stir-fried, or microwaved. 

Nutrition:

The rutabaga is cholesterol free and low in sodium.  It is a very good source of vitamin C and potassium and a good source of fiber, thiamin, vitamin B6, calcium, mangnesium, and phosphorous.  It is also a source of manganese. 

Medicinal Uses:

This cruciferous vegetable is an excellent source of sulfur containing substances called glucosinolates.,  According to the Linus Pauling Institute glucosinolates may help eliminate carcinogens before they can damage DNA or alter certain cell signaling pathways.  

Selecting and Storing:

Choose rutabagas that are heavy for their size and firm without soft spots or cracks with smooth unblemished skin - preferably medium size.  Refrigerate rutabagas in a plastic bag for up to 3 weeks. 

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

Simple but good:

Roasted Rutabagas:


1 large rutabaga peeled and cubed
3 tablespoons of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
Chopped parsley to taste

Toss peeled and cubed rutabaga in olive oil and salt and pepper on a baking sheet.  Roast at 425 degrees F. until golden brown and soft (about 40 minutes).  Remove from oven and toss with apple cider vinegar and chopped parsley.  





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