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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Fall Fruits and Vegetablesfa



Fall Fruits and Vegetables:

 Buy fresh fruits and vegetables in season for best quality and price.


 What to look for:

Here are the vegetables that are fresh in season during the fall:

Acorn Squash                                                   Endive
Arugula                                                            Hot Peppers
Belgian Endive                                                Jerusalem Artichokes
Broccoli                                                           Jicama
Brussels Sprouts                                              Kale
Butter (Bibb) Lettuce                                      Kohlrabi
Buttercup Squash                                            Pumpkin
Butternut Squash                                             Radicchio
Cauliflower                                                      Sweet Potatoes
Daikon Radish                                                 Swiss Chard
                                                                         Winter Squash


Here are the fruits that are fresh in season during the fall:

Asian Pears                                                       Kumquats
Cape Gooseberries                                            Passion Fruit
Cranberries                                                        Pears
Grapes                                                               Pomegranite
Huckleberries                                                    Quince




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

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Monday, October 26, 2015

Yams and Sweet Potatoes

Yams and Sweet Potatoes:

About:

Sweet potatoes and yams are completely different foods belonging to different plant families.   In most U.S. grocery stores you should assume you are purchasing  sweet potatoes, even if the sign says, "yams".  Government agencies have allowed the two terms to be used somewhat interchangeably on labeling.  The U.S.D.A.requires all sweet potatoes labeled as yams to be also labeled sweet potatoes.
 Sweet potatoes and yams both come in a variety of colors.  It is possible to find sweet potatoes and yams that look reasonably alike in terms of size, skin color, and flesh color.  Sweet potatoes are much more available in the U.S. than yams.  Yams are not as sweet as sweet potatoes.  They are usually longer and have a very different nutritional profile including not being as concentrated in carotenoid phytonutrients.   The sweet potato is botanically very distinct from the genuine yam, which is native to Africa and Asia, and belongs to a different botanical family.  The sweet potato's large starchy, sweet tasting tuberous roots are, of course, a root vegetable.  The young leaves and shoots are sometimes eaten as greens.


History:

 The origin and domestication of sweet potatoes is thought to be in either Central America or South America.  In Central America sweet potatoes were domesticated at least 5000 years ago.  In South America sweet potato remnants dating back as far as 8000 BC have been found.    Today sweet potatoes are cultivated throughout tropical and warm temperature regions, wherever there is sufficient water to support growth. Sweet potatoes have been an important part of the diet in the U.S. for most of its history, especially in the southeast.   The sweet potato is North Carolina's state vegetable.   

My Story:

My father used to tell how, when he was a boy, he would make what he called a "Mickey" .  He would get an empty tin can and poke holes in it.  Then he would attach a wire handle to the top.  A lit piece of charcoal was then put in the can and then a sweet potato.  By swinging the can around by the handle he would fan the charcoal and cook the sweet potato.    It sounded fun, but the thing was I never cared for sweet potatoes as a kid.   I acquired the taste later in life.   My trick was when working in the supermarket in the evening by myself  I would use the hot plate on the wrapping machine to cook broken pieces of sweet potato that would otherwise be discarded. 

Health Benefits:

Besides simple starches, raw sweet potatoes are rich in complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, and beta-carotene, while having moderate contents of other micronutrients including vitamins B5, B6, manganese and potassium.  When baked small changes in micronutrient contenmt occur to include higher content of vitamin C and increase in polyphenol levels.   Anthocyanins and other color related pigments in sweet potatoes are valuable for their anti-inflammatory health benefits.   Sweet potatoes have the ability to improve blood sugar regulation - even in persons with type 2 diabetes.   Boiled or steamed sweet potatoes can carry a very reasonable glycemic index.  Recent research has shown extracts from sweet potatoes can significantly increase blood levels of adiponectin, which is an important modifier of insulin metabolism.

Using:

Try sweet potatoes  boiled, roasted, pure'ed, steamed, baked or grilled.  Add to soups and stews or grill and place on top of leafy greens. 


Season:

Sweet potatoes  are availble year round in the store fresh and in cans.

Selecting and Storing:

  Avoid fresh sweet potatoes in June and July as they have been in storage for almost a year.  Choose sweet potatoes that are firm and do not have cracks, bruises of soft spots.   Avoid those that are stored in the refrigerated case as cold negatively alters their flavor.  Sweet potatoes should be stored in a cool, dark and well ventilated place  where they will keep fresh for up to 20 days. 

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

Simple but good:

Sweet and Spicy Sweet Potatoes

2 large sweet potatoes peeled and cubed
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder 
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 pinch cayene pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Place sweet potato chunks into a large mixing bowl.  Drizzle olive oil, then sprinkle other ingredients over the top.  Toss to coat.  Spread on a baking sheet.
Bake for 15 minutes, then turn over with a spatula and continue baking until golden and tender, 10 - 15 minutes more.

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Sunday, October 25, 2015

Currants:

About:

Zante currants, Corinth raisins, or Corinthian raisins, also called simply currants are dried berries of the small, sweet, seedless grape variety called "Black Corinth"(Vitis vinifera).  All forms of currants are deciduous shrubs , fast growing under optimum conditions.  
In the U.S. there is confusion as to what is a currant, what is a Zante currant, and are raisins the same as currants.   So called Zante currants, Zante raisins, or just "currants" without the Zante prefix are in fact dried grapes and have nothing to do with  real currants.  Grapes grow on vines and are sweet.  Currnats grow on bushes and are quite tart. 

Two Different Fruits callewd Currants:

1. The first resembling a small dark raisin is a seedless dried Zante grape (also called Champayne grapes) from the island of Zante off the coast of Greece.  In cooking this type of currant (like raisins) is used mainly in baked goods.

2.  The 2nd type of currant is a tiny berry related to the gooseberry.  These are black, red, or white currants.  The black ones are generally used for preserves, sysrups, and liqueurs (such as cossis), while the white and red are good for eataing out of hand, and such preparations as the famous French preserve bar-le-duc and using the red currants, cumberland sauce.


History:

The currant is one of the oldest known raisins.  The first written record was is A.D. 75 by "Pliny the Elder" who described a tiny, juicy, thick skinned grape in small bunches.  The first attempt to introduce the Black Corinth variety in the U.S.  was 1854.  The first successful vineyards of White and Red Corinth were in California in 1861.  Around 1901 David Fairchild of USDA imported high quality Black Currant cuttings from the Greek village Panariti.  Due to the popularity of Thompson Seedless grapes American production of the Black Curranat remained modest until the 1920's and 1930's  when their popularity  increased due to athe higher price they could bring and improved cultivation practices.Greece is the primary producer of currants at 80% of total world production. California, South Africa, and Australia share most of the remainder. 

Description:

Clusters of Black Corinth are small, round, and a reddish black color. The skin is very thin and the flesh is juicy and soft.  It is mostly seedless except for an occaisional large berry.  The fresh fruit of the Zante Currant s are very small and sweet with quick intense flavor.  Black Corinth, White Corinth, and Red Corinth are often marketed in the U.S. under the name "Champayne grapes" but despite the name they are not used to make champayne.  When dried they are used in cooking, especially baking and are a major ingredient in currant slice (or currant square) and currant cake in the U.K.  They are usually called simply "Currants" and are often used in scones, currant buns, Christmas cake,  Christmas pudding and mincemeat.

Nutrition:

Black currants are an excellant source of vitamin C.  They have small but significant amounts of vitamin A, and flavonoid anti-oxidants such as beta carotene, zea-zanthin, and crypto-xanthin levels.  Black curranats are rich in many essential vitanins such as vitamins B5, B6, and B1.  They contain good amounts of mineral iron and are a good source of important minerals such as copper, calcium, phosphorus, manganese, magnesium and potassium which are essential for body metabolism.

Health Bemefits:

Black currants carry significantly high amounts of phenolic flavonoid phytochemicals called anthocyanins.  Scientific studies suggest consumption of Black curranats can have potential health effects against cancer, aging, inflammation, and neurological diseases.

Season:

Fresh currants are in season June through August. 

Selecting and Storing:

Choose currants that are plump and without hulls.  Place currants in a tightly covered container and store up to 4 days./  Wash with cold water just before using. 

Using:

  • Sweet, and delicious red, pink and white varieties of currants can be consumed fresh or dried as snacks.
  • Tart, astringent quality black currants are favored in many culinary dishes, especially boiled and pureed, across Europe.
  • They give refreshing taste when added to fruit cocktails.
  • Black currants are being used in the preparation of muffins, pie fillings, and ice creams.
  • The berries can be used in food industry in preparation of sauce, jam, jelly.
  • The berries are also used in flavored drink preparation.


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

Simple but Good:

Couscous with Pistachio, Scallions, and Currants:

1/2 c. currants                               2 pinches cinnomon
1 1/2 c. chicken broth                   6 TBS olive oil
2 TBS butter                                 1/2 c. sliced scallions
1 c. couscous                                1/2 c. pistachios
3 TBS lemon juice                        2 TBS parsley



In a small bowl cover currants with hot water.  Let sit and plump for 15 minutes.  In a saucepan heat the chicken brothand butter to a boil.  Stir in couscous.  Remove from heat and let stand covered for 5 - 10 minutes.  Make the dressing by whisking together the lemon juice, cinnamon, and olive oil.  When couscous is done, transfer to a bowl and break up lumps with a fork.  Drain currants and add.  Stir in scallions, pistachios, and parsley.  Toss with dressing and serve. 

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Saturday, October 10, 2015

Boysenberries

Boysenberries:

About:

Boysenberries are an experimental cross developed by a man named Boysen who crossed the blackberry with a raspberry and got a slightly larger and sweeter berry that except for the color looks like a blackberry.  Boysenberries are more fragile than blackberries and have slightly softer seeds.  They are ripe when they turn a deep purple.  If they are too pale, they are bitter.  Boysenberries are one of the more popular varieties of the blackberry, other hybrids include the loganberry and the youngberry.  Boysenberries are characterized by their soft texture, thin skins and sweet tart flavor.  The boysenberry is large, dark purple, juicy, and intense in flavor.  It derives its unique flavor from the sweetness and floral flavor from the raspberry and a winy, feral tang from three native blackberry species. 

History:

In the 1920's George M. Darrow of the USDA began tracking down reports of a large, reddish purple berry that had been grown on Boysen's Northern California farm.  By 1940, 599 acres of land in California were dedicated to boysenberries. This number trailed off during WW II, but peaked again in the 1950's at about 2400 acres.  by the 1960's boysenberries began to fall out of favor because of the difficulty in growing and shipping  them.  As of the early 2000's fresh boysenberries are generally only grown for fresh market by small farmers, and sold from local stands and markets.  Most commercially grown boysenberries, primarily from Oregon, are processed into other products such as jam, pies, juice, syrup and ice cream.  Since 2007, a hybrid variety called the "newberry" or "ruby boysen"was developed to overcome some of the shortcomings that led to the decline in popularity of the boysenberry.

My story:

When I first heard the name "Boysenberry", the first thing that came into my mind was "poison berry".  That was something I was not interested in.  Poison berries!  No,  thank you.  Well, luckily for me, boysenberries was not something we saw very much of in the produce department.  It was only recently that I learned the origin of the name.  Today fresh boysenberries are mostly available from local stands and markets, not so much in the supermarket.  I felt much more comfortable with boysenberries  in a jar of jam or jelly, or a bottle of syrup.  Funny how a name can have that effect on you. 

Nutrition:

Boysenberries are fat free, saturated fat free, cholesterol free, sodium free.  They are an excellent  source of fiber, folate, and manganese.  They are a good source of vitamin K and vitamin C.

Health Benefits:

  • High in vitamin C and fiber, both of which have been shown to help reduce the risks of certain cancers.
  • Contain high levels of anthocyanins, which work as antioxidants to help to fight free radical damage.
  • Antioxidant levels in boysenberries are measured as double those in blueberries, a well known antioxidant.
  • Boysenberries contain ellagic acid, a compound known to fight cancer, viruses, and bacteria.

Season: 

Boysenberries are in season in late summer and fall.

Selecting and Storing:

Choose boysenberries that are shiny, plump, and firm.  Avoid berries that are bruised or leaking.  Mature fruit leaks juice very easily and can start to decay within a few days of harvest.   To store, remove any moldy or deformed berries.  Refrigerate up to 1 week in their original package.  Wash before using.

Uses:

You can enjoy boysenberries in a variety of ways.  They are available fresh, frozen, or canned.  They easiest way to eat boysenberries is out of hand.  You can also add them to a fruit salad.  They can be crushed and made into a puree, so you can prepare a smoothie.  Boysenberries can be used to make jams, jellies, syrups, or sauces.  You can add them to breads, muffins, and pie fillings  for a sweet delicious taste.  You can add a few to yogurt, oatmeal or make a syrup for pancakes.  Boysenberries are excellent with cream in cereal, with whipped cream, or on ice cream.  They can be used to make sorbet or ice cream.  They can be used in cobblers and deep dish pies.


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






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