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Friday, January 22, 2016

Thyme

Thyme:

About:

Thyme is am evergreen herb with culinary, medicinal, and ordinary uses.  The most common variety is "Thymus vulgaris".  Thyme is of the same genus as the mint family and a relative of the orjano genus Origanin.  There are about 60 different varieties of thyme including French (common) thyme, lemon thyme, orange thyme, and silver thyme.  Fresh thyme is commonly sold in bunches of sprigs.  A sprig is a single stem. 



History:

Ancient Egyptians used thyme for embalming.  The ancient Greeks used it in their baths and burned it as an incense in their temples, believing it was a source of courage.  The spread of thyme throughout Europe was thought to be due to the Romans, as they used it to purify their rooms and to give an aromatic flavor to cheese and liqueurs.  In the European middle ages the herb was placed beneath pillows to aid sleep and ward off nightmares.  During this period women would give knights and warriors gifts that included thyme leaves, as they were believed to bring courage to the bearer.  Thyme was also used as incense and placed in coffins during funerals, as it was supposed to assure passage into the next life.  

My Story:

My first introduction to thyme was in my maternal grandmother's kitchen.  When I was small we lived upstairs from her and my grandfather in a three story house in Brooklyn, New York.  I would often go down stairs and spend time with them.  Well, she pronounced thyme with the soft "th" sound, as in "thank", which of course is incorrect.  Every time I use thyme I think of her. 

Nutrition:

Thyme is an excellent source of vitamin C and a very good source of vitamin A, and a good source of iron, manganese, copper, and dietary fiber.

Health Benefits:   

Thyme has a long history of use in natural medicine in connection with chest and respiratory problems including coughs, bronchitis , and chest congestion.  Thyme also contains a variety of flavonoids, which increase its anti-oxidant capacity and combined with its status as a good source of manganese give thyme a high standing on the list of anti-oxidant foods.  The volatile oil components of thyme have also been shown to have antimicrobial activity against a host of different bacteria and fungi.  For thousands of years herbs and spices have been used to help preserve foods and protect them from microbial contamination, now research shows that both thyme and basil contain constituents that can both prevent contamination and decontaminate previously contaminated food.  Adding fresh thyme and/or basil to your next vinaigrette will not only enhance its flavor of your fresh greens, but will help to ensure they are safe to eat.


Season:  

Both fresh and dried thyme are available in your local supermarket throughout the year.      

Selecting and Storing:   

Select sprigs of thyme with fresh green leaves with no traces of black.  Store in the refrigerator  unwashed loosely wrapped in an unsealed plastic bag.


Using:      

Use thyme on poultry and fish, and in stuffing.  Whole sprigs can be placed in the cavity of poultry before the bird is put in the oven for roasting - either alone or combined with other aromatics such as celery, onion, and parsley (remove before serving).


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

Enjoying Thyme:


  1. Add thyme to your favorite pasta sauce    
  2. Add to omelets and scrambled eggs  
  3. Season hearty beans such as kidney beans, pinto beans and black beans with thyme
  4. Place sprigs of thyme on top of the fish and in the poaching liquid when poaching fish 
  5. Season soups and stock by adding fresh thyme



                                                                                                                                                                                                               


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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Yucca

Yucca:

About:

Yucca root, also know as cassava, is a tubular shaped root vegetable that bears a resemblance to a sweet potato.  In South America, where it is commonly grown, yucca is used as a side dish sliced up and made into chips, or grated and made into pancakes.  

History:

Yuca ,or cassava is a historically important food source utilized for its carbohydrate rich (30% starch) nutrients while its similarly named counterpart, yucca  is at least in modern times an ornamental plant 
The tuberous roots of plants in the yucca family - more than 40 species strong  - have  long provided a carbohydrate rich food source for indigenous people in the arid areas of the Americas.  Native to regions of Mexico and the arid southwestern Untied States, the root is commonly used to create a healthy soap and deodorant for cancer patients due to its lack of harsh chemicals. 

My Story:

My first exposure to Yucca was in the supermarket.  All of a sudden we began to see in our order books a place to order 3 unknown to us vegetables.  They were yucca, malanga, and name.  Of course we didn't know what they were or how to even pronounce their names.  We didn't order them until we were delivered them anyway.  They were slow to catch on with customers until we began to have more Hispanic customers in our area.  Then we learned what they were and how to pronounce their names. 

Nutrition:

The starchy root of the yucca is not only rich is carbohydrates, but also contains a health mix of vitamins, minerals, and plant-based nutrients,  The root is packed with vitamin C, B, and A as well as calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and iron.  

Health Benefits:

       Researchers are finding that yucca root's phytonutrients including steroidal saponins and reservatrol endow it with significant health benefits.  Yucca is used for osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, migraine headaches, inflammation of the intestines (colitis), high cholesterol, stomach disorders, diabetes, poor circulation, and liver and gall bladder disorders.   In the September, 2008 issue of Journal of Diabetes and Its Complications researchers reported that rats fed a supplement of yucca, quillaja or a blend of the two had significantly lower blood glucose and total cholesterol levels and higher insulin and good cholesterol readings.   Yucca's active components seem to exert anti-inflammatory components.  Phytochemicals extracted from yucca root exhibit anti-oxidant properties that may help to prevent cardiovascular disease in which hyperactivity of blood platelets is a factor.  Some people apply yucca directly to the skin for sores, skin disease, bleeeding, sprains, joint pain, baldness and dandruff.  

Selecting and Storing:

Select yucca roots that are blemish free and firm.  Store in a cool, dark, dry place for up to a week.  Peeled yucca root can be stored in water in the refrigerator, or wrapped tightly and frozen for several months. 

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

 Simple but Good:


Cuban- Style Yucca
2 pounds yucca, peeled and sliced lengthwise
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup olive oil 
1/2 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 stsp fresh lemon juice

Place yucca in a panwith enough water to cover.  Stir in salt.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat and cook until tender, about 15 minutes.  Drain and place yucca on a serving plate.

Meanwhile place olive oil, onion, garlic, and lemon juice in a pan.  Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.  Pour hot olive oil mixture over yucca and serve immediately.





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Saturday, January 16, 2016

Taking a Step Back

I just past my third year of writing "Fruitandveggiesense".  It has been a labor of love.  I thought I would republish my original post.  So, this is where it started.

Hi Everyone,

My name is Tom Schiera.  I'm a produce guy. I love produce.  I worked in a grocery store  starting at age 10 years old.  My grandfather, Joe, had a small store that specialized in fancy fruits and vegetables in Brooklyn, New York.  Later I worked in the produce departments of supermarkets.  I came to just love fruits and vegetables. I love selecting them, displaying them, preparing them, and, of course, eating them.  Over time I have learned a lot about fruits and vegetables.  I'd like to share that knowledge with you.

I like to think of produce as a living thing.  Of course it lives as it grows but also after it is harvested.  It requires food and water.  It can move.  It changes as time goes by.  It will eventually die and disintegrate.  Produce is generally at its best when it has smooth, shiny, firm skin.

Fruits and vegetables are pleasing to the eye and the palate.  They provide vitamins and other nutrients.  Another thing about produce is that it is usually eaten around the table with family.  So, in a special way it becomes part of our life experience.  We remember eating this or that at this time or another.  The sight, smell, and taste of produce triggers memories.

Scientists are finding out that by eating the right fresh fruits and vegetables we can take care of our health, even to the point of preventing cancer.  We  can feel better, control our weight, and prevent disease. All this is from just eating your fruits and vegetables!


So, eat up!  Enjoy!  I'll show you how.

I hope you have enjoyed my work.
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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Red Potatoes


Red Potatoes:

About:


The potato is a starchy tuberous crop.   It is the world's fourth largest crop following rice, wheat, and maize.   There are about 5000 potato varieties worldwide.   The potato was first domesticated  in the region of modern day Peru and extreme northwestern Bolivia between 8000 and 5000 BCE.   What  we call sweet potatoes today actually are members of another family of plants and the yam is also different from the sweet potato.
The red potato is one of the types of potatoes.  There are several varieties of the red potato.  The red potato  known  as the Dakota Chief is a red skinned early crop potato variety originally bred in the U.S. and sold in the U.S., Canada, Australia, Algeria, the Philippines, Venezuela, and Urguay.  It is also known as the Red Pontiac potato.  Other red varieties include the Red La Soda, Red Norland, and Rooster potato.


My Story:

One of my first jobs in the grocery business was to remove eyes from potatoes.  It was at my grandfather's store where the potatoes would come in fifty pound bags.  If they were around a little too long the potatoes would start to sprout.  I would be assigned to "knock" the eyes off the potatoes to prepare them for display.  I was ten years old at the time, but many years later as a supermarket produce manager I was still knocking eyes off the potatoes when necessary.

Uses:

The red potato can be used in recipes for baking, boiling, mashing, roasting, or in salads, and can be cooked in the microwave, and also sauteed or in soups.  Red potatoes may be cooked with the skins on and should be scrubbed and rinsed before preparation.   Because of their waxy texture, the flesh of the red potato stays firm through the cooking process.  Their thin yet vibrant red skin adds appealing color and texture to side dishes and salads.

Nutrition in Red Potatoes

Nutrition:

A medium red skinned potasto supplies 34 grams of carbohydratye.  Dietary fiber accounts for 3 of these grams.  Fiber helps regulate digestion, prevents constipation and diarrhea, may lower cholesterol, and blood sugar, and helps you feel full after eating.  The majority of the rest of the carbohydrates in red potatoes come from starches.  
Red potatoes also provide a variety of vitamins including vitamin C, vitamin B6, niacin, and folate.  Red potatoes provide minerals including magnesium, copper, phosphorus, and manganese.  It also provides a good source of potassium.


Season:

Red skinned potatoes are mostly available in the late summer and early fall. 


Selecting and Storing:

Potatoes should be firm with relatively smooth skin and good color.   Look for only a few eyes  with no cuts, dark or soft spots, and no wrinkled or wilted skin.   Green skin indicates the potato has been exposed to light.  Cut away the green and knock off the eyes when preparing.   Potatoes like cool temps (45 to 50 degreesF.  Refrigeration, however, can turn starch into sugar  and may darken the potatoes when cooked.  Potatoes are best kept in the coolest, nonrefrigerated part of the house, away from light  and well ventilated.


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


Simple but Good:

Garlic Red Potatoes

Garlic Roasted Potatoes

2 lbs. red potatoes, quartered
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 tsp garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
1 lemon, juiced 
1 TBS Parmesan cheese

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees F. Place potatoes in 8in. by 8 inch baking dish.
In a small bowl combine melted butter, garlic, salt, and lemon juice.  Pour over the potatoes, and stir to coat.  Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over the potatoes.
Bake covered in preheated oven for 30 minutes.  Uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes or until golden brown.

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