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The 52 New Foods Challenge – Cucumbers

I have always loved cucumbers. I find their crunchy texture and mild and refreshing flavor irresistible. It always baffles me that there are people out there that don’t like them (ahem…you know who you are ;-). I’m a HUGE fan of pickles (I’ll thank my Essenmacher roots for that!) and I love cucumbers on salads (green salads, pasta salads, etc.). I’ve also had refreshing cucumber waters and cucumber cocktails. JeIMG_0531nnifer Tyler Lee also recommends Asian cucumber salad, minty cucumber salad, and cucumber tea sandwiches. All of which sound great!

Food Facts:

  • Seventy percent of the US pickle crop is made into pickles.
  • Cucumbers are composed mostly of water, making them a very refreshing option during summer.
  • The flesh contains vitamins A and C and folic acid, while the skin is rich in fiber and contains the minerals silica, potassium, magnesium, and molybdenum. [My thoughts on peeling vegetables: peeling them is just extra work AND it takes away vital nutrients, so no thanks.]
  • Good source of vitamin K and B5, phosphorous, copper, and manganese.
  •  Cucumbers belong to the same family as melons, summer squash, and winter squash.
  • Have high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Are a good source of flavonoids, lignans, and triterpenes.

From The 52 New Foods Challenge: A Family Cooking Adventure for Each Week of the Year, with 150 Recipes by Jennifer Tyler Lee, Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray, Joseph Pizzorno, and Lara Pizzorno, and whfoods.com.

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The 52 New Foods Challenge – Rhubarb

My mom talks about growing up in Michigan and picking rhubarb from their backyard garden, sprinkling it with salt, and munching on it. I believe there was also a backyard swing involved in that story, although I could be merging two stories together. The first time that I tried rhubarb, the taste reminded me of picking sour grass with my grandma as a child. Like many people, I have also tried it in strawberry rhubarb pie. Jennifer Tyler Lee recommends a strawberry rhubarb crisp or rhubarb ice pops (YUM!). Additional ideas for use include in sweet fruit breads, rhubarb syrup, and rhubarb mojitos (!!!!!). I like sour things, so I imagine that I would like it chopped in a salad with other raw veggies. How do you use rhubarb?

Food Facts:

  • rhubarbThe leaves of the plant are poisonous. The stalks are the edible part of the plant.
  • It can be used to help constipation.
  • It has been shown to have anticancer effects in lab studies.
  • It is rich in lycopene and can be supportive in preventing heart disease.
  • It has vitamins K and C and calcium, potassium, and manganese.
  • Good source of fiber.
  • It is an early spring plant – one of the first to grow, especially in colder regions.
  • Choose firm stalks when harvesting or purchasing.

From The 52 New Foods Challenge: A Family Cooking Adventure for Each Week of the Year, with 150 Recipes by Jennifer Tyler Lee, Wikipedia, and The Pioneer Woman.

 

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The 52 New Foods Challenge – Strawberries

The 52 New Foods Challenge Food of the Week: Strawberries

This is the most exciting of all the foods and it’s likely not new for most people. There is just something about strawberries that I just can’t get enough of. For me, berries also mean summer. Ahhhhhhh. I’m pretty much a snob about my berries though…I only eat fresh berries when they are in season and I only buy them from Tomatero Organic Farm in Watsonville, CA. I choose Tomatero for three reasons: 1) They are local and organic. Organic is a big deal with strawberries as they absorb many of the pesticides that are sprayed on them and they are consistently on the EWG’s Dirty Dozen. 2) They grow several varieties of strawberries, all of them great, but this season I have been loving the Sweet Anne. 3) Also, I used to slang berries for them at local farmer’s markets for four years. You know, the whole “know the farmer” idea. 4) They are the best!!!! (I know, I said three reasons 😉

Jennifer Tyler Lee suggests serving strawberry sauce on pancakes instead of syrup. I LOVE that idea. I also had sliced strawberries in a turkey sandwich with arugula (think: turkey and cranberry sauce) at an amazing place called Centrally Grown in Cambria, CA.

Food Facts:

  • Wild berries and heirloom varieties have more nutritional value and more phytonutrients.
  • Strawberries do not continue to ripen after they have been harvested, so should be strawberries cut 1000pxpicked ripe. This also means that if your strawberry has traveled some distance to arrive to you, they are being picked when only three-quarters ripe.
  • Underripe strawberries are less nutritious than fully ripe berries. (Maybe we should all just grow our own, huh?)
  • Most supermarket berries are large, firm, white-fleshed, and hollow. This variety has been chosen because of their ability to travel well and last longer. There are many other varieties with other flavor profiles, softer textures, pink flesh, and juicy. I HIGHLY encourage you to go the farmers market and taste them all.
  • Jo Robinson, of Eating on the Wild Side, suggests that consumers up their standards for produce, especially for berries, so that the stores will have to supply higher quality produce (ripe, not moldy, flavorful, etc.).
  • Organic berries offer more of an anti-cancer effect than conventional berries.
  • The antioxidant activity of berries increases when left out at room temperature. The antioxidants contained in strawberries include: ellagic acid, anthocyanin, catechin, quercetin, and kaempferol.
  • They help to fight against inflammation, cancer, and heart disease.
  • Good source of vitamin C, folate, and manganese. They are also rich in vitamin K, potassium, and magnesium.
  • Good source of fiber.

From The 52 New Foods Challenge: A Family Cooking Adventure for Each Week of the Year, with 150 Recipes by Jennifer Tyler Lee, Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray, Joseph Pizzorno, and Lara Pizzorno, Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health by Jo Robinson, and Superfoods: The Healthiest Foods on the Planet by Tonia Reinhard.