Posts Tagged ‘fruits and vegetables’

Pichuberries

September 24, 2015

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Last week I was on the hunt for fresh fruit to decorate the three tiered tart I was making for a photoshoot. I visited the Union Square Greenmarket and my favorite fresh produce shop in Chelsea Market, who often carry a unique selection of fruits and vegetables. The goal was to find fruit that was not only appropriate in scale, but also in color scheme. I wanted to stay somewhat neutral in palette, with soft greens and pale oranges being the focus.
I saw these unusual berries when I walked into the store, and knew they would be the perfect compliment to the green champagne grapes, mini seckle pears, and tiny apricots that I was using. What I didn’t know, was that they are a nutritional powerhouse, primed to emerge as the next super fruit in our arsenal of healthy foods.

What were these called? Pichuberries!

These tiny, waxy berries grow inside husks like tomatillos do. The fruit is sweet and juicy with a tart aftertaste. They orginated in Peru, and are grown commercially in Columbia.

Pichuberries have a low glycemic index, and are high in antioxidents, minerals and protein. The fruit is also a good source of vitamins A, E, D, P and  B complex vitamins B1, B12 and B6. Just 3 oz. of pichuberries can provide 39% of the recommended daily requirement of vitamin D. They also contain a compound called withanolides, which are associated with inhibiting cancer cell growth, and reducing inflammation.

The list of health benefits is so long, that the pichubery has its own website, where you can learn more about it.

Move over acai, these little guys are coming for you!

Photos courtesty of pichuberry.com

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Storing Produce

June 9, 2015

 

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Summer time is produce time. Our cravings turn to green market fresh vegetables, and cool juicy fruits which grow at this time of year. What happens when the abundance of the season gets wilted and moldy before we have a chance to enjoy it?

Here are a few tips to keeping produce fresh:

Buy the freshest fruits and vegetables you can find. The farmer’s markets are a great source, since the produce is local and comes to us directly from the farm, rather than traveling for a week before it gets out on the floor of the grocery store. The fresher it is at the time of purchase, the longer it will last.

Keep produce dry. Many experts suggest washing and thouroughly drying fruits and vegetables, and storing them wrapped in paper towels to absorb any additional moisture. Strawberries can be either be washed and hulled before storing in an airtight container, or can be laid on paper towels in a single layer in the refrigerator, for those lucky enough to have the real estate.

Certain foods give off ethanol, which causes food to ripen. Keep those ripe bananas away from other fruits and vegetables, to keep them from over ripening and molding. Avocados are a prime candidate for going from rock hard to mush, missing that window when they are at their peak.

One bad apple, (or tomato, berry etc.) can spoil the whole bunch. Pick through and toss any soft or moldy items and rinse the rest well to keep it from spreading.

When the week is nearing an end, and there are lots of leftover vegetables sitting in the refrigerator ready to “kick the bucket” at any time, try making soup. Saute a diced onion in butter or olive oil. Add diced vegetables, and quickly brown them. Cover with broth ( vegetable or chicken) and simmer until they are soft. Season with salt and pepper, and herbs of your choice. Puree until smooth, and enjoy!

Photo:  Glasshouse Images

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Foods to Shut Down During the Shut Down

October 16, 2013

The government has been shut down for a couple of weeks now, and many of the massive ramifications have yet to be felt.

With most of the Food and Drug Administrations inspectors being deemed “non-essential” our food supply is in grave danger.

While the agency only has enough power in its workforce to inspect 2% of all incoming food from other countries, it still prevents a large amount of unsanitary foods from hitting our supermarkets.

Below are some of the foods experts are most concerned about during this period:

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Shrimp:

Inspectors often reject shrimp from other countries due to the conditions in which they are farmed. Southeast Asian shrimp farms are akin to overcrowded sewers. The water is not filtered or recycled, and pesticides, additives and antibiotics are often used to prevent the shrimp from dying. The processing plants are filthy, and often very hot, resulting in spoiled food that is then shipped to the USA.

Wild, domestic shrimp from the Gulf Coast is a safer way to go.

Tilapia:

Tilapia is a farmed fish that is often rejected by inspectors for reasons similar to those associated with shrimp. In China, tilapia is often fed a diet of untreated animal feces. We say choose something else until the inspectors are back on duty. (Or maybe longer)

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Fresh Produce:

About 50% of our fruit, and 20% of our vegetables are imported. With nobody checking the quality and cleanliness, eating these can be risky business. It is best to buy organic, and local during this time if you can. Use a fruit and vegetable wash, or soak in a vinegar and water solution and scrub with a brush to try to get your produce as clean as possible.

One of the other horrifying parts of the shut down, relative to our food supply is the furlough of those whose jobs are to track foodborne illness outbreaks to identify the source. If there are outbreaks during the shut down (and the recent salmonella infected chicken is a prominent case) they will be harder to control.

Buying local, organic foods from reputable farms is the safest alternative to the uninspected foods in the large supermarkets. Wash all produce carefully, and cook foods thoroughly to kill any possible bacteria. Be sure to wash all cutting boards, surfaces, utensils and your hands in hot soapy water after handling raw foods. Being extra safe is better than being sorry when it comes to food.

photos: Glasshouse Images

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Iron Maiden

August 14, 2012

Lately, I have been feeling exhausted. I have attributed it to everything from not sleeping well, the weather, over training, and just plain having too much to do.
Seeking a more tangible cure, I looked at my diet, which often holds the solution to my ails. Could I be anemic? I don’t eat red meat, and my spinach intake is not of Popeye proportions. I avoid gluten, which makes me sluggish, therefore I don’t eat iron fortified breads or cereals.  I could be onto something.

I immediately consulted Dr. Google, and who served up a list of iron rich foods.

There are definitely some pleasant surprises for those of us for whom eating liver is not an option!

While meat has the highest amount and easiest absorbed source of iron, there are many other healthy choices that I find more palatable.

Fish: Salmon, halibut, perch and tuna are all very high in heme or animal based iron, which is most readily absorbed by the body. Clams, oysters and mussels are also good sources, but I find them too slimy for my taste!

Beans: Canned Lima beans, kidney beans, chickpeas or split peas are all good options. Be sure to rinse them, to reduce the starchiness, and the calories.

Tofu

Pumpkin or sesame seeds

Baked potatoes

Broccoli

Sundried Tomatoes

Nuts: Peanuts, pecans, walnuts, pistachio, almonds, and cashews

Dried fruits: Raisins, apricots, peaches or prunes (do I sense a trail mix or homemade granola thing evolving here?)

Cocoa powder and chocolate

Dried Herbs:

The drying of fruits and vegetables ups the iron factor, topping its fresh counterpart dramatically. By removing the water, the nutrients are increased, as are the sugars and calories. Beware!

Food pairings are also an important factor in helping your body actually absorb the iron.

 Iron Enhancers:

Fruit and fruit juices, such as orange juice, cantaloupe, and strawberries

Vegetables, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes and red or green peppers

White wine

Iron Inhibitors:

Red wine, coffee and tea (boo!)

Spinach, chard, beet greens and sweet potatoes (spinach?!) Apparently, these foods contain high levels of oxalic acids, which prevent the absorption of iron into the system. Who knew?

Whole grains and bran

Now that I know my diet is not to blame for being tired, its time to look at other factors. Perhaps powering down the computer might help me get a better night’s sleep?

photo:Glasshouse Images

Produce De-coded

July 23, 2012

Did you ever wonder what those little stickers on your fruits and vegetables were for? They provide price information, and carry a code which indicates how your produce has been farmed.

Stickers bearing a 4 digit code beginning with a 3 or a 4 means that the produce was conventionally grown, utilizing chemical pesticides.

Stickers with a 5 digit code beginning with the number 8, denotes that the food has been genetically modified, indicating that genes have been manipulated to produce a larger or more colorful fruit or vegetable. They may also have been sprayed with chemical pesticides.

Stickers bearing a 5 digit code beginning with a 9, are placed on organic produce, ensuring that it has not been chemically treated.

The stickers are adhered to the produce with an edible, non-toxic adhesive, although the stickers themselves are not edible.

Always wash your produce well, regardless of how it was grown, and remove the stickers and glue before eating.

photo: Glasshouse Images

Eat Your Vegetables

July 20, 2012

It’s no secret that I am a big fan of the Union Square Greenmarket.

I tend to go on Saturday mornings, after a particularly grueling cycling class down the street, and pick up whatever strikes my fancy.

While the greenmarket goodies tend to last longer than their supermarket purchased counterparts, fresh produce only lasts so long.

I was thrilled to stumble upon some tips in the New York Times Dining section this week, on how to prolong the freshness of summer’s vegetable bounty.

Here are a few key tricks to preserving the produce of the season:

Greens, like lettuce, are best washed in advance, dried and stored.

Soft herbs such as basil and soft produce such as mushrooms and berries should be washed when used, as the water will speed spoilage. I find that putting basil in a glass of filtered water that comes a few inches up the stems, keeps it fresh for several days. Frequent readers will note that I am also a big proponent of making pesto, and basil oil while it’s still green and “perky”.

Anything that comes in bunches, should be released from it’s binding, as the closer the vegetables are packed, the faster they will rot.

Leafy tops of root vegetables, such as carrots and beets should be trimmed to 1” long to prolong freshness but prevent them from drying out.

Fruits and vegetables should be stored separately, as the ripening fruit emits ethylene, which damages vegetables.

Some produce will continue to ripen on the counter: stone fruits, melons, mangoes, apples, pears, tomatoes and avocados.  Bell peppers, citrus fruits, and berries will only deteriorate.

Bananas ripen quickly, and will speed the ripening of anything they are stored with.

If you can, cut and simply cook vegetables, as they will last longer in the refrigerator that way. Prepare them separately, to allow more flexibility in their use.

Intimidated by the skills needed to slice and dice vegetables? Have no fear.

The specialty market Eataly, just north of Union Square employs a fulltime vegetable butcher who will peel and cut your produce to order.

Photo: Glasshouse Images


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