Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts 101 – The Basics (UPDATE)

 

This is an updated and expanded version of my original post on “Brussels Sprouts 101 – The Basics.” If you need some specific information about Brussels sprouts, this information should help.

Enjoy!
Judi

Brussels Sprouts 101 – The Basics (UPDATE)

About Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts are members of the cruciferous (Brassica) family of plants. They are not baby or small cabbages, but are a separate plant that grows on a stalk. They are cousins to broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and other such vegetables. They look like mini cabbages with diameters of about one inch. They grow in bunches of 20 to 40 on a stalk that may be as high as three feet tall. They are usually sage green, but some varieties are reddish.

It is not known where Brussels sprouts originated, but first mention of them was found in the late 16th century. They were thought to be native to an area near the capital of Belgium, named Brussels. Hence, they were named Brussels sprouts. Around World War I, they spread across Europe, and are now grown throughout Europe and the United States. Most Brussels sprouts in America are grown in California.

Nutrition and Health Benefits
Brussels sprouts are rich in many nutrients. They are an excellent source of Vitamin C and Vitamin K. They also supply a lot of folate, manganese, Vitamin B6, fiber, choline, copper, Vitamin B1, potassium, phosphorus, Omega-3 fatty acids, iron, Vitamin B2, protein, magnesium, pantothenic acid, Vitamin A, niacin, calcium, and zinc. They are also abundant in disease-fighting phytochemicals including sulforaphane, indoles, glucosinolates, isothiocyanates, coumarins, dithiolthiones, and phenols.

Cancer Prevention. There are many studies that focus on the health properties of Brussels sprouts in PubMed (the health research database at the National Library of Medicine in Washington, D.C.). Over half of those studies center on the anti-cancer benefits of this cruciferous vegetable. This strong relationship occurs because Brussels sprouts provide support for three body systems that are closely connected with cancer development and prevention: (1) The body’s detoxification system, (2) The body’s antioxidant system, and (3) The inflammatory/anti-inflammatory response system. Prolonged imbalances in any of these systems increase our risk of cancer. When the imbalances occur simultaneously in all three of these systems, our risk of cancer significantly increases. Through these studies, Brussels sprouts have been closely associated with the reduced risk of bladder, breast, colon, lung, prostate, and ovarian cancers.

Cardiovascular Support. Brussels sprouts, along with other cruciferous vegetables, contain powerful anti-inflammatory compounds. Researchers have become increasingly aware that unwanted inflammation creates problems for blood vessels and circulation as it relates to cardiovascular disease. The anti-inflammatory compounds found in Brussels sprouts and other cruciferous vegetables may help to prevent and possibly reverse blood vessel damage due to inflammation.

The fiber-related components in Brussels sprouts have been found to bind with bile acids in the intestine so they are carried out of the body in the feces, preventing them from being reabsorbed into the blood stream. This forces the liver to make more bile from existing blood cholesterol. This action helps to lower blood cholesterol levels, thereby reducing our risk for cardiovascular disease. These benefits were found to be provided by Brussels sprouts whether they were eaten raw or cooked. However, a recent study revealed that this binding capacity was greater in steamed Brussels sprouts than raw. So, if you want to get the most cholesterol-lowering benefit from Brussels sprouts, eat them steamed rather than raw.

Digestive Support. There are 4 grams of fiber in one cup of Brussels sprouts, which makes this vegetable an excellent choice for supporting the digestive system. Furthermore, researchers have found that the sulforaphane (made from Brussels sprouts’ glucoraphanin) protects the stomach lining from overgrowth and clinging of the bacterium Helicobacter pylori. This particular bacterium is responsible for the development of stomach ulcers and promotes the formation of stomach cancer. This reason alone should invite you to include more Brussels sprouts in your diet!

Other Possible Health Benefits. The anti-inflammatory agents found in Brussels sprouts have prompted researchers to investigate their relationship to the risk of developing Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, insulin resistance, irritable bowel syndrome, metabolic syndrome, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, Type 2 diabetes, and ulcerative colitis.

How to Select Brussels Sprouts
Choose Brussels sprouts that are firm, bright green, and compact with tightly formed leaves. They should feel heavy for their size. They should not have yellowed or wilted leaves, and should not be soft in texture. Holes in the leaves may indicate that they have insects inside. Smaller Brussels sprouts are usually sweeter and more tender than larger ones.

Fresh Brussels sprouts are often available year-round, but their peak growing season is from autumn until early spring.

How to Store Brussels Sprouts
Store Brussels sprouts unwashed and untrimmed in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. The vent should be closed to help keep a humid environment in the drawer. They may also be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to ten days.

How to Prepare Brussels Sprouts
To prepare fresh Brussels sprouts, first remove the stems and any yellow or discolored leaves. Then, wash them well under cool water. Slice them in half lengthwise. If they are large, quarter them. Smaller pieces will cook faster than larger pieces and should have less of a sulfur-like flavor then if they were left whole.

How to Freeze Brussels Sprouts
Fresh Brussels sprouts may be frozen. They should be washed and trimmed, as detailed above. Steam them for 3 to 5 minutes, then immediately chill them in a bowl of cold water. Drain them well, then transfer them to an airtight freezer container and label the container with the current date. Use them within one year.

Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Brussels Sprouts
* Try to avoid overcooking Brussels sprouts, and cook them with as little water as possible. Prolonged cooking, especially in a lot of water, releases their sulfur-containing compounds, making them taste strong and undesirable. Lightly cooking them in as little liquid as possible prevents that from happening.

* When shopping for Brussels sprouts, remember that smaller ones will be more tender and sweeter than larger ones.

* One pound of Brussels sprouts has about 24 to 28 medium sprouts.

* One pound of Brussels sprouts is about 3 cups of sprouts.

* If you’re cooking and find you don’t have enough Brussels sprouts for your recipe, you can substitute broccoli florets or chopped green cabbage. The flavors and cooking times may vary somewhat, but they will work as substitutes.

* Sauté Brussels sprouts with garlic and a sprinkle of chile pepper flakes. When finished, drizzle with a little lemon juice and sprinkle with chopped pistachios.

* When steaming Brussels sprouts, cook them for 5 to 8 minutes, just until they are starting to get tender. Avoid overcooking them.

* When preparing Brussels sprouts, try to cut pieces about the same size. That means large ones will probably need to be quartered, while small one will probably be just cut in half. This helps them to all cook within the same amount of time.

* Try to avoid boiling Brussels sprouts. It’s easy to overcook them that way, making them mushy, bitter, and sulphury-tasting. You’ll also lose a lot of nutritional value in the process.

* The fiber in Brussels sprouts is known to bind with bile in the digestive tract, removing it from the body. In turn, this helps to keep blood cholesterol down (the liver makes bile from existing cholesterol). Researchers have found that the fiber in steamed Brussels sprouts binds with bile better than that of Brussels sprouts that were eaten raw.

* For an easy side dish or salad, combine quartered steamed Brussels sprouts with sliced red onions, walnuts, and a mild cheese, such as feta. Toss with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar and enjoy!

* Try steamed Brussels sprouts topped with a tahini dressing made with tahini, lemon and garlic.

* Try braising Brussels sprouts in a little vegetable broth, along with some chopped garlic and a sprinkle of herbs such as basil, thyme, or rosemary. Braise them only until just barely fork-tender. Remove from heat and drizzle with a little fresh lemon juice and enjoy!

* Stir-steam Brussels sprouts in vegetable stock or water (2 tablespoons at a time) along with some chopped onion. Cook them only until just barely fork-tender. Remove from heat and stir in a dressing of Dijon-style mustard and a little maple syrup. Sprinkle with some sesame seeds and serve.

Herbs and Spices That Go Well with Brussels Sprouts
Basil, bay leaf, capers, caraway seeds, chili pepper flakes, coriander, cumin, curry powder, dill, fennel seeds, juniper berries, marjoram, mint, mustard powder, mustard seeds, nutmeg, oregano, paprika, parsley, pepper, rosemary, salt, thyme

Foods That Go Well with Brussels Sprouts
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Almonds, bacon, beef, cashews, chestnuts, chicken, eggs, fish (seafood), hazelnuts, lentils, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, pork, poultry, rabbit, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, tofu, walnuts, water chestnuts

Vegetables: Artichokes (Jerusalem), bell peppers, carrots, cauliflower, celery, celery root, chives, endive, fennel, garlic, ginger, kale, mushrooms, onions, parsnips, potatoes, root vegetables (in general), rutabagas, scallions, shallots, sprouts (bean), squash (winter), turnips

Fruits: Apples (fresh, dried), apple cider, apple juice, cranberries (dried), grapefruit, grapes, lemon, lime, orange, pears, raisins

Grains and Grain Products: Bread crumbs, buckwheat, grains (in general), kasha, pasta, rice

Dairy and Non-Dairy: Browned butter, butter, cheese (in general, esp. blue, cheddar, feta, goat, Parmesan, provolone, ricotta, Swiss), coconut milk, cream, crème fraiche, ghee, sour cream, yogurt

Other Foods: Maple syrup, mustard (prepared, i.e., Dijon), oil (esp. olive, sesame, walnut), soy sauce, stock, sugar, tamari, vermouth, vinegar (in general), wine (esp. dry white, rice)

Brussels sprouts have been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
Crudités, egg dishes (i.e., fried, hard-boiled, omelets, poaches), salad, slaws, soups, stir-fries

Suggested Food and Flavor Combos Using Brussels Sprouts
Add Brussels sprouts to any of the following combinations…

Almonds + Orange Juice
Apples + Goat Cheese +Hazelnuts
Bread Crumbs + Hard-Boiled Eggs + Lemon + Parsley
Buckwheat + Mushrooms
Caraway Seeds + Mustard
Caraway Seeds + Orange
Cauliflower + Garlic + Olive Oil + Rosemary
Chestnuts + Maple Syrup
Chili Pepper Flakes + Garlic + Shallots
Cream + Nutmeg + Parmesan Cheese
Dried Cranberries + Walnuts
Garlic + Lemon + Olive Oil
Garlic + Pine Nuts + Shallots
Garlic + Vinegar + Walnuts
Ginger + Thyme
Hazelnuts + Maple Syrup
Lemon + Mustard + Parsley + Walnut Oil
Mushrooms + Pine Nuts
Orange + Sesame Oil

Recipe Links
Judi in the Kitchen video, Easy Roasted Brussels Sprouts https://youtu.be/TpXII-ZU9pc

Judi in the Kitchen video, Cook Brussels Sprouts Without Bitterness https://youtu.be/u9S7R_SV0OQ

Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Cranberries and Pecans  https://producemadesimple.ca/shredded-brussels-sprouts-bacon-pecans-dried-cranberries/

Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad  https://producemadesimple.ca/warm-brussels-sprout-salad/

Tangy Brussels Sprouts Slaw https://producemadesimple.ca/tangy-brussels-sprout-slaw/

Bacon and Brussels Sprouts Salad  https://pinchofyum.com/bacon-and-brussel-sprout-salad

Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Cauliflower https://producemadesimple.ca/oven-roasted-brussels-sprouts-with-cauliflower/

Roasted Brussels Sprouts https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/roasted-brussels-sprouts-recipe2-1941953

5-Minute “Quick Steamed” Brussels Sprouts http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=244

27 Tasty and Creative Ways to Eat More Brussels Sprouts https://www.foodnetwork.ca/in-season/photos/best-brussels-sprouts-recipes/#!Bacon-Wrapped-Brussels-Sprouts

25 Ways to Use Brussels Sprouts https://www.cookingchanneltv.com/devour/recipes/2014/11/how-to-use-brussels-sprouts

Our 17 Best Brussels Sprouts Recipes for Every Occasion https://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/recipe-collections-favorites/popular-ingredients/brussels-sprouts-recipes

Roasted Brussels Sprouts (oil free and vegan) https://shaneandsimple.com/roasted-brussels-sprouts/

Pan Roasted Brussels Sprouts https://feelgoodfoodie.net/recipe/pan-roasted-brussel-sprouts/

No-Oil Roasted Brussels Sprouts https://www.graciousvegan.com/recipe-recommendations/2020/4/17/no-oil-roasted-brussels-sprouts

Vegan Brussels Sprouts Roasted (oil-free) https://eatplant-based.com/classic-roasted-brussels-sprouts/

Resources
http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=10

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/h-pylori/symptoms-causes/syc-20356171

https://www.forksoverknives.com/recipes/vegan-sauces-condiments/tahini-dipping-sauce/

https://www.forksoverknives.com/recipes/vegan-salads-sides/brussels-sprouts-with-maple-mustard-sauce/

https://www.thekitchn.com/5-tips-for-better-brussels-sprouts-236559

https://www.today.com/food/brussels-sprouts-recipes-tips-how-select-prep-cook-fall-vegetable-t45776

https://www.hitchcockfarms.com/blog/brussels-sprout-food-pairings

Joachim, David. (2010) The Food Substitutions Bible. 2nd Edition. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Robert Rose, Inc.

Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.

About Judi

Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

Orange Joy (Fruit Blend)

Orange Joy (Simple Fruit Blend)

Orange Joy is a simple blend of fruit that can be enjoyed as a snack or dessert, used as a dressing for various types of salads, made into popsicles, sorbets, or ice cream, or included in various recipes from appetizers, to main and side dishes, to desserts and snacks. Below is a video showing how to make Orange Joy, with the written recipe below that. Also, you’ll find a long list of potential ways this simple blend of fruit can be included in your snacks, meals, and recipes.

Enjoy!
Judi

Orange Joy
Makes 1 Generous Serving
This delicious simple blend of only fruit can be used in many ways,
from salad dressings to snacks or desserts, and to adorn many dishes in between.
It’s limited only to your imagination! Jk

1 navel orange, peeled and quartered
½ to 1 cup mango chunks, fresh or frozen

Optional:
1 tsp frozen orange juice concentrate
1 or 2 dates, chopped

Place the orange sections and mango chunks in a small blender or food processor. The amount of mango used will allow you to adjust flavor and consistency based on your taste preferences and application (less mango will make the blend thinner with more orange flavor; more mango will make it thicker with less orange flavor). Add optional ingredients, if desired (orange juice concentrate to bring out more orange flavor and make it slightly more tart, or dates to make it a little sweeter). Blend until the mixture is smooth, or to the desired consistency. Serve or use in any one of the suggested applications listed below.

Suggested uses:
A quick, easy snack
A simple dessert
Dressing for a vegetable salad
Dressing for fruit salad (i.e. bananas, apples, berries, papayas, kiwi, pineapple, plums, grapes)
Dressing for a fennel salad or dish
Dressing for a spinach or green salad
Topping for a grain dish with rice, wild rice, millet, quinoa, or couscous
Topping for cooked parsnips
Topping for cooked carrots
Orange topping for a chocolate dessert
Dip for jicama, and other vegetables or fruit (use about 1 cup mango for a thicker dip)
Dressing for a radicchio salad (to help reduce bitterness)
Topping for roasted butternut or other winter squash
Topping for roasted sweet potatoes
Layered in a parfait with yogurt and fruit, topped with nuts and/or granola
Partially frozen into a sorbet (or mixed with yogurt before freezing for variation)
Coarsely blended into a fruit salsa
Mixed with coconut cream for a dessert (or frozen into ice cream)
Topping for angel food cake
Freeze into popsicles
Use as an ice cream topping (esp. with vanilla ice cream)
Use with cilantro in a smoothie with other fruits and/or greens

Cauliflower

Cauliflower 101 – The Basics (UPDATE)

This is an updated and expanded edition of my original post for “Cauliflower 101 – The Basics.” If you have questions about cauliflower, are looking for nutrition information, or tips on how to use cauliflower, along with some recipe ideas, this should help!

Enjoy!
Judi

Cauliflower 101 – The Basics (UPDATE)

About Cauliflower
Cauliflower is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family, so it is related to cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and other such vegetables. There are many different types of cauliflower, including those with different colors in orange, green, and purple. In the United States, most cauliflower sold is white with a fairly large, compact head (or “curd”) with undeveloped flower buds that resemble broccoli florets.

The history of cauliflower dates back about 2,000 years. It appears to have originated in the area of modern-day Turkey. Many cultures prefer a loose curd variety of cauliflower (similar to broccoli rabe) over the tight compact head variety often seen in American grocery stores. Cauliflower is more popular in other parts of the world than in America, although popularity is increasing with the new ways of preparing it with the “low carb” trend. China and India produce about 74% of the world’s cauliflower.

Nutrition and Health Benefits
Cauliflower is an excellent source of Vitamin C, Vitamin K, folate, pantothenic acid, and Vitamin B6. It also supplies a lot of choline, fiber, Omega-3 fats, manganese, phosphorus, biotin, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, potassium, and magnesium. It is a very low-calorie food, with one cup of raw cauliflower having only 25 calories.

Like other members of the cruciferous family, cauliflower is high in antioxidants (specifically glucosinolates) that are known for fighting inflammation and reducing our risk for serious diseases. Also, cauliflower, like its cousin broccoli, contains choline, a compound that protects our nervous system and helps to ward off serious neurodegenerative conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

When eaten at least once a week, cauliflower has been associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer. Cauliflower has also been shown to lower the risk of prostate cancer. Cauliflower has been included in assorted research projects studying the effects of cruciferous vegetables on the risk of cardiovascular diseases. These studies have repeatedly shown a decreased risk for such diseases. Because cauliflower has been shown to bind to bile acids in the digestive tract, eating cauliflower has been repeatedly associated with improvement in blood cholesterol levels. Furthermore, in a study focusing on the intake of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts in middle-aged women, the rate of obesity was reduced when subjects increased their servings over time to about three servings per day.

Raw vs Cooked Cauliflower. Both raw and lightly cooked cauliflower have strong nutrient profiles, both in their vitamin and mineral content, as well as their phytonutrients, like sulfur-containing compounds and flavonoids. Despite the fact that cooking does cause some loss of water-soluble nutrients, it also increases the availability of other phytonutrients (specifically carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin) that are hard to utilize in the raw vegetable. However, when raw cauliflower is chewed very well, plant cell walls are broken, making these carotenoids more bioavailable. This same effect appears to hold true for cauliflower’s sulfur-containing compounds (such as the glucosinolate sinigrin).

The “take-away” information here is to enjoy your cauliflower lightly cooked or raw. But if you eat it raw, be sure to chew it very well to get the most nutritional benefit from the vegetable.

How to Select Fresh Cauliflower
Select fresh cauliflower with a clean, firm, compact head that is creamy white in color. It should feel heavy for its size. Avoid those that are soft, lightweight, have brown areas or dark spots on the curds. If leaves are attached, they should appear fresh and not wilted. Cauliflower heads with a lot of thick, green leaves still attached will be better protected from damage and will be fresher. The size of cauliflower heads does not indicate quality.

How to Store Fresh Cauliflower
Store uncooked cauliflower in the original plastic packaging or in a paper bag in the refrigerator. Place it stem side down to protect the florets from damage and excessive moisture that may accumulate in the bag. Use it within one week from purchase.

How to Prepare Cauliflower
The simplest way to wash cauliflower is to cut or break it into desired size pieces, then wash it. First, remove the leaves then remove the florets by cutting the central stem out where it meets the floret stalks. The florets can easily be removed and cut down or broken into smaller pieces, if desired.

If you are making cauliflower “steaks” then simply cut through the entire head into the desired width of slices needed for your recipe. The leaves and any undesired stem pieces can easily be removed after slicing.

Submerge the pieces into a bowl of water to rinse away any dirt or tiny insects that may be in there. It would be unusual to find insects in grocery store-purchased cauliflower. However, if the cauliflower was picked from your garden or bought at a farmer’s market, insects may be among the florets. In this case, soak your prepared pieces for 15 minutes in a bowl of salt water or a bowl of water with either lemon juice or vinegar mixed in. This will kill any insects that are lurking inside and also helps to remove any trapped dirt. After soaking, rinse the cauliflower well in fresh water, then proceed with your recipe.

Most people just eat the cauliflower florets. However, the stems and leaves are also edible, so include them if you want to enjoy the full benefit of the vegetable. Some people reserve the leaves and stems for soups or vegetable stock.

If you are opting to cook the cauliflower whole, then submerge the entire head for 15 minutes in a bowl of water, or one with salt or vinegar added, depending on where it was purchased. Rinse it well under running water afterward.

How to Preserve Cauliflower
Fresh cauliflower may be frozen, fermented, pickled, and even dehydrated.

Freezing Cauliflower. First, trim off any leaves and cut the head of cauliflower into pieces about 1 inch across. Wash the pieces well. If there is the possibility that insects are lurking inside, soak the pieces for 30 minutes in a solution of 4 teaspoons of salt per gallon of water. Rinse well and drain. Bring a large pot of water to boil, then place the prepared cauliflower pieces in the boiling water. Immediately set the timer for 3 minutes. When the timer finishes, transfer the cauliflower pieces to a bowl of ice water and allow them to cool in the water for 3 minutes. Drain well. Place the cauliflower pieces in freezer containers or bags, and label with the current date. Use them within 10 to 12 months for best quality and flavor.

Dehydrating Cauliflower. Cauliflower may be dehydrated, although there is mixed information among resources as to whether cauliflower should be dehydrated because of the quality of the outcome. The reason for this is that once dehydrated, it may turn orangey-brown in color. Despite this, it should lighten up once rehydrated, although it may never return to its original creamy white color.

To dehydrate cauliflower, wash and cut it as detailed above into 1-inch florets. The pieces must also be blanched for 3 minutes, using the same procedure as above. After the cauliflower pieces have been cooled in ice water and drained, spread them in a single layer on a mesh dehydrator tray. Follow your dehydrator manufacturer’s directions for approximate length of time and temperature for drying the cauliflower. When completely dried, the florets should feel dry and crisp, and have no sign of moisture inside when broken apart. Store the dried cauliflower pieces in an airtight container, preferably a glass mason jar with a traditional lid. It is helpful to place an oxygen absorber in the jar, and remove as much air from the jar as possible. Store it in a cool, dry place away from sunlight.

Fermenting Cauliflower. Cauliflower can easily be fermented and is something anyone can do. Remove the leaves from the head of cauliflower, wash them and reserve them to be used in the final steps of preparing the cauliflower for fermentation.

Wash and chop the cauliflower into small pieces. Place the chopped vegetables in a clean mason jar with a non-metallic lid. One-quart or ½-gallon jars work well. A standard jar lid and rim may be used, but they will be prone to rusting from exposure to the salt brine. Plastic mason jar lids will not erode. Fill the jar with cauliflower pieces to the shoulder of the jar, where it curves inward toward the mouth of the jar. If you do not have enough cauliflower pieces to fill the jar, either use a smaller jar or add another vegetable, such as diced carrots on top of the cauliflower to fill the jar. (It is important to fill the jar with vegetables or the fermentation process may not work well.)

Next, mix your brine solution. Different salt to water ratios are suggested by different sources. I prefer one measured teaspoon of canning/pickling salt to one cup of filtered or distilled water. Do not use iodized salt, nor regular tap water. (The chlorine in the water, and the iodine in the salt will hinder the fermentation process.) Dissolve the salt in the water in a measuring cup. I prefer to add a starter culture to the first cup of water added to the jar. This can be any commercially available starter culture you prefer. I have found that a mere ¼ teaspoon of starter culture is enough to ferment a one-quart size jar of vegetables. Instead of commercial starter culture, you may use about ¼ to ½ cup of established brine from prior fermented vegetables, if desired. Then fill the jar with the salt/culture water solution. Prepare additional salt water solution as needed to fill the jar. Culture only needs to be added once, not with each cup of water used.

Place reserved cauliflower leaves inside the jar on top of the vegetable pieces so that they will hold the vegetables below the water line. This step is important to prevent mold or yeast from forming on the exposed vegetables that may float. Be sure everything is below the water line, so add enough brine solution to cover all the vegetables, including the leaves on top.

Cover the jar and label it with the date you started. Place the jar in a cloth-lined bowl or tray to catch any spills that may happen as fermentation progresses. Put the fermentation jar in a cool place away from sunlight. Do not place it in the refrigerator at this point, or your fermentation will not take place properly. Monitor the brine level from time to time to be sure it remains above the vegetables. If it drops down at any point, add more brine solution (without additional culture). Taste the vegetables periodically and consider them finished when you like the flavor. Personally, I allow my vegetables to ferment for 10 days.

When the vegetables are fermented and taste like you prefer, place the jar in your refrigerator. They will wait there for months, until you are ready to enjoy them.

To see my video demonstration on how to ferment cauliflower, click here… https://youtu.be/RBVZpLoGGIg

Pickled Cauliflower. Fresh cauliflower may also be pickled and used in salads or to flavor or accompany many foods. See the Recipe Links section below for detailed instructions on pickling cauliflower. Two specific links on this topic are provided.

Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Cauliflower
* Top hot cooked cauliflower with a little melted butter, then season with your choice of chives, dill, nutmeg, minced parsley, or lemon juice.

* Add raw cauliflower to an appetizer tray with dip or hummus.

* Add cauliflower, raw or cooked, to your favorite green salad.

* Add chopped cooked cauliflower to a quiche or scrambled eggs.

* Roast cauliflower and broccoli together, flavored with olive oil and garam masala.

* When preparing fresh cauliflower, remember that the stems and leaves are edible. If you don’t want to include them in your dish, save them for soups, stews, or making stock.

* To cut a fresh cauliflower, first remove any leaves that are attached to the head. Then cut at the base of the floret stems to separate the large pieces. The florets may be cut smaller from there, if needed. The inner core may be cut into small pieces and cooked or eaten as desired.

* For best results when cooking cauliflower, cook it for the least amount of time and with the least amount of liquid possible. The longer it cooks, the more nutrients and flavor will be lost, and the more sulfur odor will be released.

* Cauliflower can be exchanged with broccoli in most recipes. So, if you have some favorite broccoli recipes and want to eat more cauliflower, try those same recipes with cauliflower instead of broccoli.

* When you’re blanching or cooking cauliflower in water, keep it creamy white by adding either 1 or 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, or 1 tablespoon of vinegar, or 1 cup of milk. The milk will also give the vegetable a sweeter flavor.

* One medium head of cauliflower will yield about 3 cups of chopped cauliflower, or 4 cups of florets.

* Do not cook cauliflower in an aluminum or cast-iron pot. The chemicals in cauliflower will react with the metals and cause the cauliflower to become discolored.

Herbs and Spices That Go Well with Cauliflower
Basil, bay leaf, capers, caraway seeds, cardamom, cayenne, chervil, chili pepper flakes, chili powder, cilantro, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, curry powder, curry spices, dill, fenugreek, garam masala, horseradish, marjoram, mint, mustard seeds/powder, nutmeg, oregano, paprika, parsley, pepper, rosemary, saffron, sage, salt, savory, tarragon, thyme, turmeric

Foods That Go Well with Cauliflower
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Almonds, bacon, beans (esp., black, fermented black, green, white), beef, black-eyed peas, cashews, chicken, chickpeas, eggs, hazelnuts, lentils, nuts (in general), peas, pine nuts, pistachios, poppy seeds, pork, pumpkin seeds, seafood, sesame seeds, tahini, tofu

Vegetables:  Asparagus, bell pepper, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, celery, chiles, chives, cress (land), garlic, ginger, greens (in general), kale, leeks, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, scallions, shallots, spinach, squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes (fresh, sauce, sun-dried), watercress

Fruits: Apples, citrus fruits (in general), coconut, lemons, limes, mango, olives, orange, pumpkin, raisins, tamarind

Grains and Grain Products: Barley, bread crumbs, bulgur, corn, couscous, kasha, millet, noodles (i.e., Asian rice noodles), pasta, polenta, rice, spelt

Dairy and Non-Dairy: Butter and browned butter, buttermilk, cheese (in general, esp. blue, cheddar, feta, Gruyere, Parmesan), coconut milk, cream, ghee, milk (dairy and non-dairy), sour cream, yogurt

Other Foods: Chili pepper sauce, honey, mayonnaise, mustard (prepared, Dijon), nutritional yeast, oil (esp. mustard, olive, sesame, walnut), pesto, soy sauce, sriracha sauce, stock, vinegar (esp. balsamic, rice, white wine), wine (esp. dry white)

Cauliflower had been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
Aloo Gobi, chili, chowders, crudités, gratins, Italian cuisine, mashed cauliflower (like mashed potatoes), Mediterranean cuisines, Middle Eastern cuisines, pasta dishes (i.e., lasagna), pesto, polenta, purees, risottos, salads (i.e., cauliflower, green, pasta), soufflés, soups (i.e., cauliflower, curry, vegetable), cauliflower steaks, stir-fries, cauliflower tabbouleh, tacos

Suggested Food and Flavor Combos Using Cauliflower
Add cauliflower to any of the following combinations…

Almonds + Barley
Almonds + Browned Butter + Lemon
Balsamic Vinegar + Garlic + Olive Oil + Raisins
Bread Crumbs + Capers + Lemon + Parsley
Brussels Sprouts + Capers + Lemon
Brussels Sprouts + Garlic + Olive Oil + Rosemary
Capers + Green Olives + Lemon + Olive Oil
Cashews + Cilantro + Coconut + Nut Milk + Onions + Turmeric
Cheddar Cheese + Mustard
Cheddar Cheese + Parmesan Cheese + Parsley + Pasta
Chickpeas + Eggplant + Raisins
Chiles + Lime Juice
Chili Pepper Flakes + Parsley + Pasta
Coconut + Curry
Garlic + Tomatoes
Ginger + Orange
Lemon + Parsley
Lemon Zest + Mustard + Shallots
Mint + Parmesan Cheese + Pine Nuts
Sage + Walnuts
Scallions + Sesame Oil + Soy Sauce

Recipe Links
Pickled Cauliflower https://www.freshpreserving.com/blog?cid=pickled-cauliflower

Pickled Cauliflower with Carrots and Red Bell Peppers https://www.finecooking.com/recipe/pickled-cauliflower-with-carrots-red-bell-pepper

Judi’s Fermented Cauliflower [YouTube Video] https://youtu.be/RBVZpLoGGIg

Asian Sautéed Cauliflower http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=182

Cauliflower, Fennel and White Bean Winter Salad https://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-cauliflower-fennel-and-74484

Five Ways to Eat Cauliflower https://www.thekitchn.com/five-ways-to-eat-cauliflower-99565

Recipe Roundup: Roasted Cauliflower (links to many recipes for roasted cauliflower) https://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-roundup-roasted-caulifl-74401

25 Ways to Cook with Cauliflower https://www.tasteofhome.com/collection/ways-to-cook-with-cauliflower/

Everything Bagel Style Cauliflower Rolls https://thefeedfeed.com/lexiscleankitchen/everything-bagel-style-cauliflower-rolls

Everything Bagel Cauliflower Steaks https://itdoesnttastelikechicken.com/everything-bagel-cauliflower-steaks/

Roasted Garlic Cauliflower https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/54675/roasted-garlic-cauliflower/

Cauliflower Parmesan Crisps https://www.willcookforsmiles.com/cauliflower-parmesan-crisps/

Our 41 Best Cauliflower Recipes https://www.epicurious.com/ingredients/our-favorite-cauliflower-recipes-gallery

Crispy Sea Salt & Vinegar Cauliflower “Popcorn” https://www.blissfulbasil.com/crispy-sea-salt-vinegar-cauliflower-popcorn/#wprm-recipe-container-23883

30 Life-Changing Cauliflower Recipes for Every Comfort Food Craving https://blog.bulletproof.com/cauliflower-recipes-keto-paleo-2g3c/

13 Healthy Cauliflower Recipes https://health.facty.com/food/nutrition/13-healthy-cauliflower-recipes/?utm_source=adwords&utm_medium=c-search&utm_term=cauliflower%20recipes&utm_campaign=f-h-13-healthy-cauliflower-recipes&gclid=Cj0KCQiAk-7jBRD9ARIsAEy8mh50R8Si3aHqZtGX266QI_icxPG4IXNrHiUVaQkazB7dFEBZXomlkgIaAk2ZEALw_wcB

Cauliflower Aloo Gobi https://producemadesimple.ca/cauliflower-aloo-gobi/

How to Make Cauliflower Rice or Couscous https://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-cauliflower-rice-couscous-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-203344

Asian Sautéed Cauliflower http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=182


Resources
http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=13

http://www.berkeleywellness.com/healthy-eating/food/article/types-cauliflower

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-cauliflower#section5

http://pickyourown.org/freezing_cauliflower.htm

https://www.freshpreserving.com/pickled-cauliflower-br2760.html

https://www.finecooking.com/recipe/pickled-cauliflower-with-carrots-red-bell-pepper

https://www.culturesforhealth.com/learn/recipe/lacto-fermentation-recipes/lacto-fermented-cauliflower-carrots-garlic/

http://www.sweetwater-organic.org/veggies/cauliflower/

https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/02/22/cauliflower-health-benefits.aspx

https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/02/22/cauliflower-health-benefits.aspx

https://producemadesimple.ca/goes-well-cauliflower/

https://www.recipetips.com/kitchen-tips/t–864/all-about-cauliflower.asp

Cooperative Extension Service, The University of Georgia. (1993) So Easy to Preserve. Bulletin 989. 3rd Edition. Athens, Georgia: Cooperative Extension Service, The University of Georgia.

Joachim, David. (2010) The Food Substitutions Bible. 2nd Edition. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Robert Rose, Inc.

MacKenzie, Jennifer, Jay Nutt and Don Mercer. (2015) The Dehydrator Bible. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Robert Rose, Inc.

Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.


About Judi

Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

Kale

Kale 101 – The Basics (UPDATE)

This is an updated version of my original blog post on “Kale 101 – The Basics.” The content has been expanded to be more complete and comprehensive coverage of the subject of kale. If you have any questions about this VERY healthful vegetable, hopefully, you’ll find your answer here.

Enjoy!
Judi

Kale 101 – The Basics (UPDATE)

About Kale
Kale is a member of the cruciferous family of vegetables, being a cousin to cabbage, cauliflower, collards, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and others. They all belong to the Brassica genus of plants. There are three main types of kale, with many varieties within each category: flatter, wide leafed kale; darker, Lacinato-type kale; and curly-leafed kale.

The color of kale can vary from light to dark green, and lavender to dark purple. Some green-leafed varieties have purple stems and veins. Kale can broadly be divided into two general categories: culinary kale and ornamental kale. All types are edible, but the ornamental kales may be tougher in texture and stronger in taste. They were developed more for their appearance than flavor or texture.

The kale we’re familiar with today was first cultivated in the Mediterranean area over 2,000 years ago. It was an important food in Europe during the time of the Roman Empire and during the medieval period in Europe from the 5th to 15th centuries. It is believed that European colonists brought kale to North America in the 1600s. Russian traders are believed to have first taken kale to Canada in the 1700s. Today, kale is grown commercially in the United States, mostly in California, Georgia, New Jersey, and Texas.

Nutrition and Health Benefits
Kale is a nutritional powerhouse and is often referred to as one of the healthiest foods to eat. Kale is an excellent source of Vitamin K, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, manganese, and copper. It also supplies a lot of Vitamin B6, fiber, calcium, potassium, Vitamin E, Vitamin B2, iron, magnesium, Vitamin B1, Omega-3 fats, phosphorus, protein, folate, and Vitamin B3. One cup of raw kale has only 33 calories. On top of all that, over 45 different flavonoids have been found in kale, which means this vegetable has outstanding health-promoting properties!

Anti-Cancer Benefits. Like other cruciferous vegetables, the anti-cancer effects of kale have been widely studied. The vast array of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and direct anti-cancer compounds found in kale all work together in their own specific ways to ward off cancer, particularly bladder, breast, colon, ovarian, and prostate cancers. The large number of antioxidant carotenoids and flavonoids found in kale have been shown to have direct anti-cancer effects. Furthermore, these same compounds have been shown to lower our risk of developing cataracts, glaucoma, atherosclerosis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Cardiovascular Support. Kale is also a super-food in terms of reducing our risk for heart disease. Kale contains an overabundance of strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant agents. Chronic inflammation and oxidative stress are precursors for developing clogged arteries. Since kale is a concentrated source of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds, it is well-known for lowering our risk of arteriosclerosis.

In addition to lowering our risk for clogged arteries, kale also has cholesterol-lowering abilities. The fiber in kale binds with bile in the intestinal tract, removing it in the feces. This forces the body to use its existing cholesterol to create more bile. In turn, this lowers our total blood cholesterol level. Studies have also shown that LDL cholesterol also drops with increasing amounts of kale in the diet, while HDL cholesterol levels increase (which is a good thing). Both raw and steamed kale have been shown to provide these benefits, but interestingly, the benefits seem to be stronger with steamed kale. The same cholesterol-lowering effects have also been demonstrated with drinking 5 ounces of kale juice a day.

Detoxification. The isothiocyanates made from kale’s glucosinolates have also been shown to help regulate both Phase 1 and Phase 2 detoxification processes in our cells. This helps to keep our toxic exposure in check, whether the toxins come from the environment or from food.

Eye Health. Kale is particularly high in lutein and zeaxanthin, two powerful nutrients that protect the eyes from cataracts and macular degeneration. These conditions are common causes of vision loss in older people.

Other Potential Benefits of Kale. Kale is high in nutrients that many people are deficient in, namely calcium, potassium, magnesium, and Vitamin K. These nutrients protect bone health, control blood pressure, regulate the blood clotting function, reduce risk of heart disease, and offer protection against Type 2 diabetes.

The abundant fiber in kale helps to keep our digestive system healthy.

Also, glucosinolates have been found to help protect the stomach lining from bacterial overgrowth of Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium responsible for gastric ulcers and stomach cancer. With kale being so rich in glucosinolates, research will likely find that eating kale on a regular basis can be protective from these health concerns.

How to Select Kale
Look for dark, vibrant, unwilted leaves. Those with yellowing or brown leaves are older, so avoid them if you can.  Try to avoid limp kale leaves if you can, since they have started to dry out. The smaller leaf plants will be more tender than those with larger leaves.

How to Store Fresh Kale
Kale should be stored UNWASHED in the refrigerator. To help extend the life of fresh kale, remove the twist tie holding the bundle together, then wrap the bundle in a kitchen towel or paper towels, jelly-roll style. Place it in a plastic bag and store it in the refrigerator. It should be used as soon as possible, but may keep for a week when stored this way. If it has gotten a little limp while in the refrigerator, place the kale in a large bowl or pot of cold water for about 10 minutes and it should revive. Then wash and use it as desired.

If your stored kale becomes soft, discolored or mushy, remove and discard those leaves and use the rest immediately.

How to Prepare Fresh Kale
Fresh kale is very easy to prepare. Simply rinse the leaves under cool water. The stems may be left on the leaves or removed, as desired. For uniform cooking time, roll the kale leaves and cut them into about 1/2-inch slices. Cut the stems in 1/4-inch pieces. This way, the stems and leaves will cook in about the same amount of time.

Kale may be eaten raw, or cooked in about any way imaginable. For the most nutrient retention, steam prepared kale for no longer than 5 minutes. Blanching kale (boiling it then immediately chilling it in cold water) for 2 minutes is also another way to cook kale while retaining most of its nutrients.

Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Kale
* One pound of fresh kale = 12 cups chopped, or 3 cups cooked

* When making dishes calling for raw kale, it’s helpful to know that smaller leaves are more tender than larger leaves.

* To tenderize and reduce bitterness in kale, quickly blanch it in boiling, lightly salted water before using it.

* To soften tough kale leaves when you want to use them in a salad, massage them first with a little oil of choice. If you don’t want to use oil, massage the leaves with a cut up fresh avocado. Use the kale immediately if avocado was used.

* Add kale to soups and stews, smoothies and salads.

* When including raw kale in salads, try slicing the leaves into thin ribbons. They should be easier to eat that way.

* Frozen kale should be used within about 6 months.

* Here’s a different way to serve kale. Braise chopped kale with chopped apples. Before serving, drizzle it with a little balsamic vinegar and top with chopped, toasted walnuts.

* Combine lightly steamed chopped kale with pine nuts and feta cheese. Toss it with cooked whole grain pasta and olive oil.

* If your kale has started to go limp, refresh it by soaking it in a bowl or pot of cold water for about 10 minutes.

* For a nutritional boost, add some kale to your favorite pesto.

* If you have some extra kale that you can’t use fast enough, blend it smooth with a little water in a high-speed blender. Pour the mixture into ice cube trays and freeze. Transfer to an airtight container once frozen. When making smoothies, add kale ice cubes in place of plain ice cubes.

* Keep some frozen kale in your freezer. It’ll be there when you run out of fresh kale. Add it to smoothies, stir-fries, soups, pasta dishes, and even salads as a wilted green.

Herbs and Spices That Go Well with Kale
Anise, basil, bay leaf, capers, caraway seeds, cayenne, chili pepper flakes, cilantro, coriander, cumin, curry powder, dill, fennel seeds, marjoram, mint, mustard, nutmeg, oregano, paprika, parsley, pepper (black), rosemary, salt, savory, tarragon, thyme

Foods That Go Well with Kale
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Almonds, beans (in general), black-eyed peas, cashews, chicken, chickpeas, eggs, green beans, ham, hemp seeds, lentils, nuts (in general), peanuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, pork, pumpkin seeds, sausage, seafood (in general), sesame seeds, snow peas, sunflower seeds, tahini, tofu, walnuts

Vegetables: Arugula, beets, bell peppers, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, celery root, chard, chiles, chives, dulse, escarole, garlic, ginger, greens (i.e., collard, dandelion, mustard), leeks, mushrooms, nori, onions, (esp. red), potatoes, radicchio, radishes, scallions, sea vegetables, shallots, spinach, squash (summer and winter), sweet potatoes, tomatoes, turnips

Fruits: Apples, avocados, cherries (dried), cranberries (dried), dates, grapefruit, lemons, olives, oranges, papaya, raisins

Grains and Grain Products: Barley, bread crumbs, bulgur, corn, farro, noodles (esp. Asian), pasta, polenta, quinoa, rice (esp. Arborio, brown, wild), spelt

Dairy and Non-Dairy: Browned butter, butter, cheese (in general, esp. cheddar, feta, Parmesan, pecorino), coconut milk, cream, yogurt

Other Foods: Chili paste, maple syrup, miso, mustard (Dijon), oil (in general, esp. flaxseed, olive, sesame), soy sauce, stock, tamari, vinegar (esp. apple cider, balsamic, brown rice, red wine, sherry)

Kale has been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
Casseroles, chips (dehydrated, not fried), egg dishes (i.e., frittatas, hard-boiled, omelets, poached, quiches), gratins, juices, pasta dishes, pestos, pizza, Portuguese cuisine, purees, slaws, smoothies, soups (i.e., bean, kale, minestrone, potato, vegetable, white bean), stews (i.e., barley, winter), stir-fries, stuffings

Suggested Food and Flavor Combos Using Kale
Add kale to any of the following combinations…

Apples + Vinegar (i.e., balsamic, cider) + Walnuts
Avocado + Dried Apricots + Lemon + Orange + Pistachios + Raisins + Soy Sauce
Avocado + Mushrooms + Red Onions
Balsamic Vinegar + Beets + Feta Cheese + Walnuts
Beets + Walnuts
Brown Rice + Garlic + Ginger + Soy Sauce
Butternut Squash + Tomatoes [in risotto]
Cheese (i.e., cheddar) + Fruit (i.e., apples) + Nuts (i.e., almonds)
Chickpeas + Feta Cheese + Lemon
Chickpeas + Mushrooms
Chiles + Garlic + Ginger
Chili Flakes + Garlic + Olive Oil + Parmesan Cheese + Pine Nuts
Chili Paste + Egg + Garlic + Potatoes
Garlic + Hard-Boiled Egg + Lemon + Parmesan Cheese
Garlic + Lemon
Garlic + Lemon + Olive Oil
Garlic + Lemon + Olive Oil + Pine Nuts
Garlic + Olive Oil + Parmesan Cheese + Red Wine Vinegar
Garlic + Sesame Oil + Sesame Seeds + Soy Sauce + Vinegar
Garlic + Soy Sauce
Ginger + Tahini
Grapefruit + Red Onions
Olive Oil + Olives + Pine Nuts [Over Pasta]
Olive Oil + Onions + Orange + Raisins
Rosemary + White Beans

Recipe Links
54 Kale Recipes That Are Healthy, Not Boring https://www.self.com/gallery/50-ways-to-eat-kale

57 Kale Recipes That Go Way Beyond Salad https://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/slideshow/kale-recipes

45 Different Ways to Eat Kale When You Can’t Get Enough Leafy Greens https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/food-recipes/healthy/g1436/easy-kale-recipes/

Super Energy Kale Soup http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=214

Poached Eggs Over Sautéed Greens http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=77

Italian Tofu Frittata http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=38

Minestrone Surprise http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=55

5-Minute Kale http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=281

30 Kale Recipes to Add to Your Rotation https://www.foodandwine.com/vegetables/greens/kale/kale-recipes-and-ideas

15 Best Kale Recipes https://www.acouplecooks.com/12-best-kale-recipes/

20 Kale Recipes That Will Make You Fall Back in Love with the Veggie https://www.brit.co/best-kale-recipes/

15 Delicious Kale Recipes https://cookieandkate.com/15-delicious-kale-recipes/

119 Kale Recipes for When You’re Craving Greens https://www.epicurious.com/ingredients/all-kale-all-the-time-gallery


Resources
https://producemadesimple.ca/kale-go-well/

https://producemadesimple.ca/kale/

https://delishably.com/spices-seasonings/Dulse

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=38#descr

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-proven-benefits-of-kale#TOC_TITLE_HDR_8

https://www.eatthis.com/how-to-cook-kale/

Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.

About Judi

Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

Pears

Pears 101 – The Basics

 

Pears 101 – The Basics

About Pears
Pears are members of the rose family (Rosaceae) family of plants. Other members of this plant family include apples, apricots, cherries, peaches, plums, raspberries, strawberries, and almonds. The varieties of pears that are commonly found in American grocery stores all belong to the category known as European Pears (Pyrus communis). They typically have rounded bodies with tapering necks of varying lengths. While we’re most familiar with green pears, the different types come in an array of colors ranging from yellow/gold, to red, green, and brown. To expand information about pears, I have included a section in this article about the types of pears commonly found in American grocery stores.

There are other types of pears that are different, yet related to the European pears. One such pear is the “pear apple.” They are round and look like apples in their shape, but their skin looks like that of a pear. They are not a cross between a pear and an apple. They are a different category of pear broadly referred to as the Asian pear. In this same category are Chinese pears, Japanese pears, Korean pears, and Siberian/Manchurian pears. When the different categories are combined, people enjoy over 3,000 varieties of pears worldwide!

Historians believe that both European and Asian pears evolved separately roughly 3,000 years ago. In the 1500s, European settlers brought the beloved fruit with them to North America. Today, pears are grown mostly on the west coast of the United States, but most of the pears we eat are imported from Argentina, Chile, China, South Korea and New Zealand. Worldwide, China is the largest producer of pears.

Nutrition and Health Benefits
Nutritionally, pears supply noteworthy amounts of dietary fiber, copper, Vitamin C, and Vitamin K, along with lesser amounts of other vitamins and minerals. Beyond that, they are a concentrated source of many phenolic compounds and carotenoids that offer a number of health benefits.

Type 2 Diabetes and Heart Disease. Pears may reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Ample dietary fiber has long been established as a means of reducing our risk for these two leading diseases in America. Pears are high in both soluble and insoluble fiber, both of which play important roles in maintaining health and reducing the risk of heart disease. The flavonoids found in pears are known to help improve insulin sensitivity, thereby reducing the risk of diabetes.

Cancer Risk. The fiber in pears has been shown to bind to secondary bile acids in the intestinal tract, removing them from the body, and thereby lowering our risk for colorectal cancer, along with other intestinal problems.

Pears have also been shown to lower the risk of stomach cancer. Specific phytonutrients (a variety of cinnamic acids) in pears and mangos were studied in Mexico City, and were found to lower the risk of stomach cancer. Researchers found that two servings of fruit and four servings of vegetables per day were needed to achieve this benefit.

Esophageal cancer risk was also found to be lowered by ingestion of pears in a very large-scale study conducted by the National Institutes of Health and the American Association of Retired Persons. Other foods belonging to the rose family (Rosaceae) were also found to lower the risk of esophageal cancer, including apples, plums, and strawberries.

Hypoallergenic. Pears are among the foods that are considered to be hypoallergenic and easy to digest. Pear puree is considered to be one of the safe foods to introduce to weaning infants since they are very easy to digest and are very hypoallergenic. They are also recommended for older individuals who must follow a low-allergenic food plan.

How to Select Pears
Pears are very perishable once they are ripe, so most of the pears found in grocery stores are unripe. Look for pears that are firm, but not rock hard. They should have smooth skin with no bruises or decay. Avoid those with soft spots or puncture wounds. The skin may not be uniform in color, since different varieties of pears have some speckling on them.

If you are looking for a ripe pear and are not sure if it is ripe, hold it in your hand and gently press near the stem with your thumb. If it yields to slight pressure, the pear is ripe and ready to be eaten. If it feels extremely soft, the pear is overripe. If you purchase overripe pears, it is best to reserve them for cooking, for food safety reasons.

How to Store Pears
Most pears will need to be ripened after bringing them home. Allow them to sit at room temperature for a few days, away from a heat source or sunlight. Use the test for ripeness described in the above section. Once they are ripe, store them in the refrigerator to slow down the ripening process. Use them within a few days.

Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Pears
* Try a pear and pineapple green smoothie! Blend a pear with a small can of pineapple chunks (with the juice) (or 1-1/2 c fresh pineapple chunks), a large handful of fresh spinach, 10 to 12 sprigs of cilantro, and 1 cup coconut water or coconut milk. Blend until smooth and enjoy!

* The licorice flavor of fennel complements the sweetness of pears, so try adding both to your favorite fruit or green salad

* For breakfast, cook your favorite oats, then top them with a diced pear, a little maple syrup (if desired), a little cinnamon or allspice, chopped pecans, and some milk of choice. Delish!

* It’s best to ripen pears at room temperature. Only place them in the refrigerator when they are ripe and to slow further ripening until you’re ready to eat them. Once pears are ripe, use them within 5 days.

* To test a pear for ripeness, apply gentle pressure with your thumb at the top of the neck near the stem. When it yields to slight pressure, the pear is ripe.

* There are a number of ways to slow down the browning of fruit, like apples and pears. The researchers at https://seriouseats.com tested different methods and found the best method overall.  Soak cut pears in a solution of ½ teaspoon kosher salt per one cup of cold water. Stir to completely dissolve the salt in the water, then add the fruit pieces. Be sure they are completely submerged. Allow the fruit to soak for 10 minutes, then drain and pat dry. They tested rinsing the fruit slices immediately after being soaked, after two hours at room temperature, and not at all. Without rinsing, some taste testers detected a minor salt flavor while others did not. Even the slices that were briefly rinsed in plain water immediately after soaking did not readily brown after two hours of sitting open at room temperature. So, the fruit may be rinsed immediately or later, if desired. Impressive!

* If you find you have too many ripe pears and can’t eat them fast enough, blend them into smoothies, soups, sauces, or purees, or poach them. Cooked pears, such as poached pears, pear sauce, or puree may be frozen.

* To speed up the ripening of pears, place them (at room temperature) near other fruits that release ethylene gas. Such fruit includes bananas, apples, and avocados. The gas will speed the ripening of your pears.

* Pears are very versatile. Besides being served raw in almost anything, pears can be baked, poached, sautéed, roasted and grilled. They can be used as an ingredient in baked goods, and can be made into preserves, jams and chutneys. Anything that can be done with an apple can be done with a pear.

* Make a healthy salad with kale, spinach, leeks, pears and walnuts. Top with your favorite dressing.

* Add chopped pears, ginger, and honey to your favorite cooked grain (such as millet, oats, or quinoa) for a breakfast treat.

* Try pears poached in apple juice.

Herbs and Spices That Go Well with Pears
Allspice, anise seeds, cardamom, chicory, cinnamon, cloves, fennel seeds, juniper berries, mint, nutmeg, parsley, pepper (black), rosemary, salt, star anise, tarragon, thyme

Foods That Go Well with Pears
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Beef, chestnuts, chicken, duck, nuts (esp. almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, walnuts), pork, turkey

Vegetables: Arugula, cabbage (red, white), celery, chives, endive, fennel, ginger, greens (bitter, salad), lettuces, onions (esp. red), parsnips, radicchio, rhubarb, shallots, spinach, squash (winter, esp. butternut), watercress

Fruits: Apples (including apple cider, apple juice), bananas, blackberries, cherries (dried, fresh), citrus fruits, cranberries, currants, dates, dried fruits, figs, grapefruit, lemon, lime, orange, passion fruit, persimmons, pineapple, plums (dried), pomegranates, quinces, raisins, raspberries

Grains and Grain Products: Gingerbread, oats, oatmeal, phyllo dough

Dairy and Non-Dairy: Butter, cashew cream, cheese (esp. blue, brie, feta, goat, Parmesan, ricotta), cream, crème fraiche, ice cream, mascarpone, sour cream, yogurt

Other Foods: Agave nectar, bourbon, brandy, caramel, chocolate, honey, maple syrup, molasses, oil (esp. grapeseed, olive), sugar (esp. brown), vanilla, vinegar, wine (red or white, dry or sweet)

Pears have been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
Baked goods (cakes, pies, tarts), desserts (i.e., crisps, crumbles, ice creams, sorbets, tarts), pancakes, pizzas, poached pears, rémoulade, salads (i.e., fruit, green, spinach), sauces (dessert), smoothies, soups, stews (esp. with dried pears), trail mixes (dried pears)

Suggested Food and Flavor Combos Using Pears
Add pears to any of the following combinations…

Agave nectar + lemon + strawberries
Allspice + black pepper + maple syrup + red wine
Almonds + figs
Arugula + balsamic vinegar + blue cheese + fennel + olive oil
Balsamic vinegar + cinnamon + maple syrup
Blue cheese + fennel
Caramel + peanuts
Cheese (i.e., blue, goat, Parmesan)+ nuts (i.e., hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts)
Cherries + ginger
Cinnamon + cranberries + oats
Cranberries + hazelnuts
Cranberries + orange
Cranberries + pecans + vanilla
Cream + molasses
Fennel + fennel seeds + ginger
Feta cheese + red onions + salad greens
Ginger + orange
Ginger + pecans
Goat cheese + hazelnuts
Gorgonzola cheese + pecans + spinach
Hazelnuts + raspberries
Honey + maple syrup + orange + Parmesan cheese

About Different Types of Pears
There are thousands of varieties of pears globally. In the United States, there are relatively few that are commonly found in grocery stores. The following list covers most of them.

Bartlett Pears. These are the best-known pear in the United States. They are the variety that is usually used in canning. They are yellow-green and speckled, and are sometimes called Williams pears.

Bosc Pears. Bosc pears are a cinnamon brown pear with long tapered necks. They have a honey-like, complex flavor.

Comice Pears. Comice (pronounced ko-MEESE) pears are sometimes known as “Christmas pears” because they are often included in gift baskets and boxes, and are featured in grocery store produce sections during the Christmas season. They are usually available from September through February. Comice pears have a round body with a very short neck. They are green, sometimes with a red blush in parts of the skin. Some new strains are entirely red. These pears are fragile and bruise easily. They are very sweet, soft, and juicy, and pair well with cheese, especially soft cheeses like Brie, Camembert, and any blue cheese.

Concorde Pears. These pears are tall with a round bottom and a long, tapering neck. The flesh is sweet, dense, firm and juicy. As they ripen, they become slightly softer and the flavor mellows. This is a relatively new variety of pear that has a short season from fall into December, when they are sold out. Their availability will extend as the crop increases.

Forelle Pears (aka Green d’ Anjou Pears). Forelle pears are commonly referred to by their French name, “d’ Anjou.” They are green with red speckles. They are bell shaped with a relatively short neck. Their flesh is moist and crisp. It is a small-sized pear that yellows as it ripens. Anjou pears are the second most recognizable, and most abundant pear variety in the United States.

Red Anjou Pears. These pears are very much like their green counterpart, except that they have a rich, reddish maroon color. They are usually available from September or October into the summer months. Their flavor is like their green counterparts, but cutting them in a salad or another food with their pretty red peel adds wonderful eye-appeal to any dish. They are often simply labeled as red pears in grocery stores.

Red Bartlett Pears. Red Bartlett pears are very much like their green counterparts, except for their bright red skin. Red Bartlett pears are delicious any way they come. When slightly underripe, they are crunchy and tart. When fully ripened, they are juicy and super sweet. They are usually found in grocery stores from September through December. They are often simply labeled as red pears in grocery stores.

Seckel Pears. Seckel pears are small with a chubby bottom and small neck. Their skin is usually olive green, often with a dark maroon blush. They are in season from September through February. Since they are small, they are often overlooked by shoppers. But Seckel pears make wonderful snacks or lunch box treats, especially for children. They also make lovely plate garnishes, and may even be canned whole.

Starkrimson Pears. Starkrimson pears are another variety of beautiful red pears. They have a narrower neck than Red Anjou pears. They are very juicy, mild, and sweet pears when ripe. They are perfect for snacking or dicing into assorted dishes and salads to show off their beautifully colored skin. Like their red cousins, Starkrimson pears are usually marketed as red pears in grocery stores. They are usually available August through November.

Recipe Links
Honey Glazed Pork Chops with Pear Chutney and Pear Fennel Salad https://producemadesimple.ca/honey-glazed-pork-chops-with-pear-chutney-pear-fennel-salad/

Herb and Pear Glazed Roast Turkey with Fig and Goat Cheese Stuffing https://producemadesimple.ca/herb-and-pear-glazed-roast-turkey-with-fig-and-goat-cheese-stuffing/

Pear and Parsnip Soup https://producemadesimple.ca/ontario-pear-parsnip-soup/

Pear and Cranberry Salsa https://producemadesimple.ca/ontario-pear-cranberry-salsa/

Caramel Dipped Pears https://producemadesimple.ca/caramel-dipped-pears/

Veggie Skillet (with Pears) https://usapears.org/recipe/veggie-skillet/

Pear and Walnut Flatbread with Gorgonzola, Arugula and Balsamic Glaze https://usapears.org/recipe/pear-and-walnut-flatbread-with-gorgonzola-arugula-and-balsamic-glaze/

Pear and Lentil Stir-Fry https://usapears.org/recipe/pear-lentil-stir-fry/

20 Perfect-for-Fall Pear Recipes You’ll Want to Eat All Year Round https://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/recipe-collections-favorites/popular-ingredients/pear-recipes?slide=8e9a23dc-ea24-4e09-bf73-c9bc9763dc9a#8e9a23dc-ea24-4e09-bf73-c9bc9763dc9a

Arugula and Pear Salad with Maple Vinaigrette https://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/browse-all-recipes/arugula-pear-salad-maple-vinaigrette

55 Delicious Pear Recipes You’ll Make Again and Again https://www.tasteofhome.com/collection/pear-recipes/

15 Perfect Pear Desserts That’ll Make It Your New Favorite Fruit https://www.delish.com/cooking/g1175/perfect-pear-desserts/

28 Pear Recipes for Breakfast, Dinner, Dessert and More https://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/slideshow/16-pear-recipes-fall-dinner-dessert

The 17 Best Pear Recipes for Any Meal https://www.thespruceeats.com/best-pear-recipes-4177001

Red Bartlett, Sweet Corn, and Strawberry Salad https://usapears.org/recipe/red-bartlett-sweet-corn-and-strawberry-salad/

Brown Sugar Pear Butter https://usapears.org/recipe/brown-sugar-pear-butter/

Holiday Cranberry Relish http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=324

 

Resources
https://spoonuniversity.com/how-to/made-for-each-other-meat-and-fruit-pairings

https://producemadesimple.ca/pears-go-well/

https://producemadesimple.ca/pear-and-pineapple-green-smoothie/

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=28#descr

https://usapears.org/comice/

https://usapears.org/concorde1/

https://usapears.org/red-anjou/

https://usapears.org/red-bartlett/

https://usapears.org/seckel/

https://usapears.org/starkrimson/

https://usapears.org/pear-ripening-and-handling/

https://www.hgtv.com/outdoors/gardens/garden-to-table/freezing-pears

https://nchfp.uga.edu/how/freeze/syrups.html

https://www.seriouseats.com/2015/09/how-to-prevent-apple-pear-browning.html

https://commonsensehome.com/preserve-pears/

Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.


About Judi

Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes 101 The Basics (UPDATE)

 

This is an updated version of my original post on “Sweet Potatoes 101 – The Basics.”  The information has been expanded and new sections added for more comprehensive information. Hopefully, any questions you have about sweet potatoes will be answered below.

Enjoy!
Judi

 

Sweet Potatoes 101 – The Basics (UPDATE)

About Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are root vegetables that belong to the morning glory family. They are not the same thing as yams, and are in a different plant family than yams and even common potatoes. Sweet potatoes are sometimes labeled as “yams” in American grocery stores. However, true yams are not commonly found in the United States, except perhaps in international markets.

There are around 400 varieties of sweet potatoes, with skin colors ranging from almost white to yellow, red, purple, and brown. The flesh color ranges from white to yellow, orange, orange-red, and purple. Sometimes sweet potatoes are shaped like a common potato, being short and stout with rounded ends, while other may be longer with tapered ends. Sweet potatoes can be classified as either “firm” or “soft.” When cooked, those in the “firm” category remain firm. Those classified as “soft” become soft and moist when cooked. The “soft” varieties are the variety most likely to be labeled as “yams” in the United States.

Sweet potatoes are native to Central and South America. They are among the oldest vegetables known to man and have been eaten since prehistoric times. There is evidence in ancient Peruvian caves dating sweet potatoes back 10,000 years.

Christopher Columbus brought sweet potatoes to Europe after visiting the New World in 1492. By the 16th century, they were taken to the Philippines by Spanish explorers and to Africa, India, Indonesia, and southern Asia by the Portuguese. Around this time, sweet potatoes were being grown in the southern United States, where they are still among the traditional cuisine. Currently in the United States, over half of all commercially produced sweet potatoes are grown in the southern states, especially in North Carolina.

Nutrition and Health Benefits
Sweet potatoes are one of the most abundant sources of the antioxidant beta-carotene, a precursor to Vitamin A in the body. They are also high in Vitamin C, manganese, magnesium, copper, pantothenic acid, Vitamin B6, potassium, fiber, niacin, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, and phosphorus.

In addition to these vitamins and minerals, sweet potatoes are rich in unique phytonutrients that have strong antioxidant properties, helping us to ward off disease. This is especially the case with the purple and orange flesh varieties.

Beta-Carotene and Eye Health. Sweet potatoes are highly prized for their orange-colored carotenoid pigments. In many underdeveloped regions of the world, sweet potatoes are used as an effective way of providing people with their daily Vitamin A needs. This is important because it helps to prevent blindness due to xerophthalmia, the leading cause of blindness among children in the world. Some studies have found that sweet potatoes were a better source of bioavailable beta-carotene than green leafy vegetables.

Cancer Protection. Beta-carotene is one of many antioxidants found in sweet potatoes that may help to reduce the risk of cancer, including bladder, colon, stomach and breast cancers. Purple sweet potatoes are particularly high in anthocyanins, which appear to have an enhanced protective effect, although all sweet potatoes are protective.

Cardiovascular Disease Protection. Antioxidants also protect us from oxidative stress and atherosclerosis that leads to cardiovascular disease. Soluble fiber, like that found in sweet potatoes, helps to regulate blood cholesterol levels. Being rich in potassium and magnesium, sweet potatoes have been shown to help regulate blood pressure, thereby reducing the risk for cardiovascular disease and associated conditions. With all factors considered, sweet potatoes provide a variety of nutrients that can work together to lower our risk for cardiovascular disease and related problems.

Healthy Skin and Hair. Carotenoids, like those found in sweet potatoes have been found to promote healthy skin and hair. Sweet potatoes are also high in Vitamins C and E. Studies have shown that Vitamin E has the potential of significantly increasing hair numbers in people suffering from hair loss. This effect was due to the antioxidant properties reducing oxidative stress, which is a major cause of hair loss.

Vitamin C has also been shown to be effective in the treatment of hyperpigmentation of skin. It neutralizes the oxidative stress caused by UV light. Vitamins C and E combined have been found to significantly reduce the risk of skin cancer in individuals. It is well established that Vitamin C is used in the making of collagen, a structural protein of the skin, which is vital in the management of healthy skin. The vitamin has been shown to help improve skin conditions such as acne, and promote the healing of wounds. Vitamin A has been an effective treatment for sun-damaged skin, and also skin cancer. Like Vitamin C, Vitamin A also stimulates the production of collagen, making it helpful in slowing the rate of cell aging and inhibiting hyperpigmentation of aging skin.

With sweet potatoes having high levels of Vitamins A (in the form of carotenoids), C, and E, the vegetable can play an important role in the repair and management of healthy skin and hair.

Fiber and Gut Health: The antioxidants combined with the soluble and insoluble fibers in sweet potatoes make them an excellent food for supporting the health of our gastrointestinal tracts. Soluble fiber absorbs water and softens stool. Insoluble fiber provides bulk and promotes movement of the contents of the GI tract. Studies have also found that antioxidants can help promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut, which further supports the health of the GI tract, and lowers the risk of conditions like irritable bowel syndrome. Some of each type of fiber provides food for the bacteria that live in the colon, creating short-chain fatty acids that fuel the cells lining the intestines keeping them healthy. Fiber-rich diets have been shown to lower the risk of colon cancer.

Cooking Method Makes a Difference. Some people are concerned about the sugar content of sweet potatoes. Yes, they do contain some sugar. However, they are high in fiber, which is very effective in stabilizing blood sugar. Interestingly, how a sweet potato is cooked affects the glycemic index of the vegetable.

Boiling with the skin intact appears to retain most of the antioxidants in sweet potatoes, when compared to roasting and steaming. The skin has nearly ten times the antioxidants as the flesh, which are drastically reduced when the potatoes are baked. The glycemic index of boiled sweet potatoes is much lower than that of baked ones. Steaming also seems to be a good way to preserve the nutrients in sweet potatoes, following second to boiling with the peel on.

A little fat will do. To get the most benefit from the beta-carotene content of sweet potatoes, it is helpful to include some fat with the meal, since sweet potatoes contain very little fat. Beta-carotene is a fat-soluble substance, so fat is needed for its best absorption. Note, that just a small amount of a fat-containing food will do. There is NO need to slather your sweet potato with butter. A mere 3 to 5 grams of fat in a meal can be enough to aid in the absorption of the beta-carotene in sweet potatoes. For instance, 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil has 14 grams of fat. Doing the math, a mere teaspoon of oil (providing 3-1/2 grams of total fat) per meal is enough fat to do the job. Or, instead of olive oil, only 3-1/2 walnut HALVES (that’s less than two whole walnuts) could also do the trick, providing about 4-1/2 grams of total fat. So, a little fat will go a long way in helping us to absorb the beta-carotene in sweet potatoes!

How to Select Sweet Potatoes
Choose sweet potatoes that are firm and without cracks, bruises or soft spots. Small to medium size sweet potatoes will tend to be sweet and creamy, whereas larger ones tend to be starchier.

How to Store Sweet Potatoes
Store sweet potatoes in a cool, dark, well ventilated place away from a heat source. Ideally, they should be stored below 60F (but above 40F, refrigerator temperature), which would be equivalent to a root cellar. Since most of us don’t have root cellars, a cool, well ventilated place will usually suffice. Refrigeration is not recommended as it will alter the flavor. Also, it is best to store sweet potatoes loosely, not in plastic bags, which could invite mold.

How to Prepare Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes can be baked, steamed, boiled, roasted, microwaved, dried, juiced, made into soups, added to casseroles, baked into breads, muffins, cakes, cookies, and pies, added to pancakes, and even eaten raw. How you use sweet potatoes is only limited to your imagination! Below are details of just a few ways that sweet potatoes could be cooked.

Wash the sweet potatoes and peel them, if desired. The skin is edible, so it is not mandatory to peel them. Sweet potato flesh will darken after being cut or peeled, so use them immediately after cutting into them. If needed, they can be submerged in a bowl of cold water to prevent oxidation, until you are ready to cook them.

To minimize nutrient loss, it is helpful to cook sweet potatoes with the peel on. Then remove the peel, if desired, after they are cooked. The peel is edible and nutritious. However, they may be coated with wax or even dyed if purchased commercially. In this case it may be wise to remove the peel before eating your sweet potatoes. Opting for organic sweet potatoes would avoid those potential issues.

Steaming Sweet Potatoes. Steaming sweet potatoes seems to be a valuable way to cook them while preserving nutrients. Steaming also allows them to cook quickly, while keeping the glycemic index low. Steam 1/2-inch sweet potato slices for 7 minutes, then top them with a small amount of a fat-containing food, like a couple chopped walnuts, to help utilize the beta-carotene in them.

Baking Whole Sweet Potatoes. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Scrub the potatoes and place them on a clean, dry baking sheet on the rack in the middle of the preheated oven. Bake the sweet potatoes for about 1 hour (or more depending on their size), until they are fork-tender. Remove the potatoes from the oven and allow them to cool.

Boiling Whole Sweet Potatoes. Boiling whole sweet potatoes is very easy and takes little effort. Wash the potatoes well in cool water. Do not peel them. Place them in a large pot and cover them with water. Place a lid on the pot and bring everything to boil. Turn the heat down to about medium, cock the lid and allow them to boil gently for anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes, until a sharp knife can easily pierce the potatoes. Drain the water and allow them to cool enough to be handled. Once cooled, the peel can very easily be removed, if desired.

Cooked sweet potatoes should be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator. Use them within three to five days.

How to Preserve Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes can be dehydrated, frozen or canned.

Dehydrating Sweet Potatoes. Sweet potatoes should be cooked first before being dehydrated. They may be either boiled, steamed or roasted. Wash the sweet potatoes and leave the peel on (if roasting or boiling the potatoes). Personally, I have found the best results for dehydrating sweet potatoes when they were roasted first. Roast them (unpeeled, washed, and with no added oil or spices on them) on a rimmed baking sheet at 375°F until they are fork-tender, about 1 hour or more, depending on the size. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool so they can be handled. Remove the peel and slice them about 1/4 to 3/8-inch thick. Place them in a single layer on your dehydrator mesh tray, making sure the slices do not touch each other. Follow your dehydrator manufacturer’s instructions for time and temperature for drying your sweet potatoes. When finished, store them in air-tight containers.

For a demonstration on dehydrating sweet potatoes with this method, see my video at https://youtu.be/SmalFyoROgU

Freezing Sweet Potatoes. Sweet potatoes can be frozen in a number of ways depending on how they will be used later. Here are directions for various ways to freeze sweet potatoes:

Freezing Boiled Sliced or Diced Sweet Potatoes. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Meanwhile, scrub the sweet potatoes and peel them*. Slice or dice the potatoes as desired. Add the potato pieces to the boiling water and cook for about 10 minutes, or until they just begin to get tender, but are still quite firm. Remove the cooked potatoes and let them stand at room temperature until they are cooled.

Transfer the prepared sweet potato pieces to freezer containers or bags and remove as much air as possible. Label with the current date and place them in the freezer. Alternatively, to keep the potato pieces from freezing in one big lump, you can place the prepared pieces in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet or tray. Place the tray in the freezer. When the pieces are frozen, transfer them to a freezer container or bag, label it with the current date, then return them to the freezer. For best quality, use the potato pieces within 12 months.

* Sweet potatoes may also be boiled whole, with the skin intact. Simply scrub them and submerge them in a pot of water. Bring the water to boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the potatoes can easily be pierced with a sharp knife. Remove them from the hot water and allow them to cool. Remove the skins, then slice them as desired, and proceed as detailed above.

Freezing Whole Baked Sweet Potatoes. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Scrub the potatoes and place them (unpeeled) on a clean, dry baking sheet on the rack in the middle of the preheated oven. Bake the sweet potatoes for about 1 hour (or more depending on their size), until they are fork-tender. Remove the potatoes from the oven and allow them to cool. Wrap the cooled sweet potatoes in foil and transfer them to freezer bags to freeze whole. Or, freeze the baked potatoes individually on a baking sheet. Once frozen, transfer them to freezer bags and return them to the freezer. For best quality, use them within 12 months.

To reheat whole baked sweet potatoes, remove the foil (if foil was used) and rewrap them in a new piece of foil. Bake at 350°F for about 25 to 35 minutes.

Freezing Mashed Sweet Potatoes. Bake the whole sweet potatoes as directed above. Slip the skins off the cooled potatoes, and put the flesh in a large bowl or food processor. Process until smooth. Add a tablespoon of lemon juice for each pint (2 cups) of mashed sweet potatoes, if desired. Lemon juice helps to prevent browning, but it is not absolutely necessary. The mashed sweet potatoes can be added to casseroles, breads, puddings, cakes, pies, and cookies.

Fresh vs Frozen vs Canned Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes can be found fresh, frozen (in some grocery stores), and canned. Fresh sweet potatoes offer the most versatility, but frozen ones (if you can find them) are a great convenience. Frozen sweet potatoes can be used for just about any cooking application and will save time in the kitchen. Canned sweet potatoes are a nice third option, but are usually packed with added sugars and possibly other ingredients. They may be convenient and time-saving, depending upon your intended use of them. They are a handy kitchen staple to have in the cupboard in case of emergencies or when time is running short.

Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Sweet Potatoes
* Try potato pancakes with a mix of white and sweet potatoes. Top with apple cranberry chutney.

* If you have leftover mashed sweet potatoes, add them to your usual pancake mix for breakfast the next day.

* Raw sweet potatoes will turn dark shortly after being peeled, so it’s best to peel them right before using them. If you need to peel them in advance, place them in a bowl of cool water to keep them from turning dark.

* Make a simple dessert with puréed cooked sweet potatoes and bananas, maple syrup, and a dash of cinnamon or allspice. Top with chopped walnuts.

* If you’re low on sweet potatoes and need them for a recipe, possible substitutes include carrots, pumpkin, and winter squash (such as butternut, buttercup, or kabocha).

* It’s best not to keep raw sweet potatoes in the refrigerator. When they get too cold, it can change how their starches break down, making them tougher to cook and eat. According to the USDA, the ideal temperature for keeping sweet potatoes is around 60°F.

* For a quick meal, slice a cooked whole sweet potato in half lengthwise. Top with leftover chili and grated cheese, or black beans and salsa, or baked beans, or scrambled eggs.

* One pound of sweet potatoes will be about 4 cups chopped or sliced.

* Try adding mashed cooked sweet potatoes to baked goods for added moisture without adding extra fat.

* Try sautéed, spiralized sweet potatoes. Top it with your favorite sauce or sweet potato seasonings.

* Try roasted Hasselback sweet potatoes; drizzle with maple syrup and a sprinkle of thyme.

Herbs and Spices That Go Well with Sweet Potatoes
Allspice, basil, bay leaf, cardamom, cayenne, chili pepper flakes, chili powder, cilantro, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, curry powder (and spices), garam masala, lemongrass, marjoram, mustard (seeds, powder), nutmeg, oregano, paprika, parsley, pepper, rosemary, sage, salt, savory, thyme, turmeric, vanilla

Foods That Go Well with Sweet Potatoes
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Almonds, beans (in general, esp. black, green beans), chickpeas, duck, eggs, ham, lentils, nuts and nut butters (in general), peanuts, pecans, pine nuts, poppy seeds, pork, poultry, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, tempeh, tofu, walnuts

Vegetables: Arugula, bell peppers, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chard (Swiss), chiles, fennel, garlic, ginger, greens (all types), kale, mushrooms, onions, parsnips, potatoes (white), radicchio, scallions, shallots, spinach, tomatoes, turnips, watercress

Fruits: Apples (fresh, cider, juice, sauce), apricots, bananas, coconut, cranberries (dried, juice), dried fruit, figs, lemon, lime, oranges, pears, pineapple, raisins

Grains and Grain Products: Barley, corn, couscous, millet, oats, pasta, quinoa, rice

Dairy and Non-Dairy Products: Browned butter, butter, cheese (esp. blue, feta, Fontina, goat, Parmesan), coconut butter, coconut cream, coconut milk, cream, crème fraiche, ghee, milk (dairy and non-dairy), sour cream, yogurt

Other Foods: Agave nectar, bourbon, caramel, chocolate, hoisin sauce, honey, maple syrup, miso, molasses, mustard (Dijon), oil (esp. grapeseed, hazelnut, olive, peanut, sesame, walnut), rum, soy sauce, stock, sugar (esp. brown), tamari, vinegar (esp. balsamic, red wine, rice wine, sherry)

Sweet potatoes have been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
Baked goods (i.e., biscuits, breads, cakes, cookies, muffins, pies), burritos, casseroles, chips (vegetable), croutons, curries, custards, desserts (i.e., custards, pies, puddings), gratins, hash, Indian cuisine, Italian cuisine, Japanese cuisine, pancakes, pasta dishes, pâtés, purees, quesadillas, salads, salsa, shepherd’s pie, soufflés, soups (i.e., black bean, sweet potato, tomato), stews, tempura, waffles (sweet potato)

Suggested Food and Flavor Combos Using Sweet Potatoes
Add sweet potatoes to any of the following combinations…

Allspice + Cinnamon + Ginger + Maple Syrup + Nutmeg [+ vanilla]
Almond milk + Cinnamon + Maple Syrup + Nutmeg [+ vanilla]
Almonds + Almond Milk + Apples
Apples + Ginger
Avocado + Black Beans + Chiles
Balsamic Vinegar + Kale + Sage
Bell Peppers + Garlic + Onions [in hash]
Black Beans + Cilantro + Mango [in salsa]
Black Beans + Salsa [in tortillas]
Browned Butter + Sage
Brown Sugar + Cinnamon + Vanilla
Brown Sugar + Citrus Juice
Brown Sugar + Ginger
Chiles + Ginger + Lime + Salt
Chiles + Honey
Chocolate + Cinnamon + Nuts + Vanilla
Coconut Milk + Curry Spices
Garlic + Herbs (i.e., rosemary, sage, thyme)
Ginger + Honey + Sesame Seeds/Oil + Soy Sauce
Ginger + Lime + Pears
Ginger + Orange + Yogurt
Ginger + Sesame Oil/Seeds
Greens + Quinoa
Honey + Lime
Maple Syrup + Pecans
Molasses + Sesame Seeds
Nuts + Raisins
Sesame Seeds/Oil + Soy Sauce

Recipe Links
Butter Roasted Sweet Potatoes https://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-butter-roasted-sweet-potatoes-248389

Sweet Potato Pancakes https://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-sweet-potato-pancakes-224305

7-Minute “Quick Steamed” Sweet Potatoes http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=325

Healthy Mashed Sweet Potatoes http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=94

Sweet Potatoes with Ginger and Cinnamon http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=205

Maple Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Bacon https://producemadesimple.ca/maple-mashed-sweet-potatoes-bacon/

Sweet Potato Muffins https://producemadesimple.ca/sweet-potato-muffins/

Spicy-Sweet Roasted Sweet Potatoes https://spicysouthernkitchen.com/spicy-sweet-roasted-sweet-potatoes/

Rosemary Roasted Sweet Potatoes https://tasty.co/recipe/rosemary-roasted-sweet-potatoes

50+ Delicious New Ways to Prepare Sweet Potatoes https://www.countryliving.com/food-drinks/g877/sweet-potato-recipes-1009/

Glazed Sweet Potatoes https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/glazed-sweet-potatoes/

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Honey and Cinnamon https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/tyler-florence/roasted-sweet-potatoes-with-honey-butter-recipe-1946538

57 Killer Sweet Potato Recipes to Make This Fall https://www.delish.com/holiday-recipes/thanksgiving/g622/sweet-potato-recipes/

Sweet Potatoes with Apple Butter https://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/sweet-potatoes-apple-butter

20 Diners That All Start with Sweet Potatoes https://www.thekitchn.com/15-ways-to-turn-sweet-potatoes-into-dinner-236137

6 Amazing Ways to Stuff a Sweet Potato https://www.onelovelylife.com/6-amazing-ways-to-stuff-a-baked-sweet-potato/

Honey Roasted Chicken and Sweet Potatoes Skillet https://www.lecremedelacrumb.com/honey-roasted-chicken-sweet-potatoes-skillet/

Red Lentil Sweet Potato Soup https://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-red-lentil-sweet-potato-soup-253246#post-recipe-13007

 

Resources
http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=64

https://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-nutrition/diet/sweet-potato-nutrition-benefits-recipes-more/

https://www.thekitchn.com/whats-the-difference-between-yams-and-sweet-potatoes-word-of-mouth-211176

https://draxe.com/sweet-potato-nutrition-facts-benefits/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14747225

https://www.runtastic.com/blog/en/7-eating-habits-of-the-worlds-healthiest-populations/

https://nutritionfacts.org/2018/01/11/what-do-the-longest-living-people-eat/

https://curiouschef.com/wordpress/crisp/blog/flavors-pair-well-sweet-potato/

https://www.almanac.com/plant/sweet-potatoes#

https://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/shopping-storing/food/fresh-pick-sweet-potatoes

https://www.thespruceeats.com/how-to-freeze-sweet-potatoes-three-ways-3061558

https://nutritionfacts.org/2015/11/24/is-it-better-to-bake-boil-or-steam-sweet-potatoes/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12002680

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/sweet-potato-benefits

https://www.loc.gov/everyday-mysteries/item/what-is-the-difference-between-sweet-potatoes-and-yams/

https://www.thekitchn.com/sweet-potato-recipes-tips-and-ideas-22928259

https://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/blog/glycemic-index-confusion/

https://lacanadacarecenter.com/15-health-benefits-of-sweet-potatoes-according-to-science/

https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2667/2

https://www.stilltasty.com/fooditems/index/18450

https://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Cooking-And-Food/Vegetables-and-Fruit/All-About-Sweet-Potato.aspx

Joachim, David. (2010) The Food Substitutions Bible. 2nd Edition. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Robert Rose, Inc.

Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.

 

About Judi

Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

Carrots

Carrots 101 – The Basics (UPDATE)

This is an updated version of my original post on “Carrots 101 – The Basics.”  The information has been expanded and new sections added for more comprehensive information. Hopefully, any question you have about carrots will be answered below.

Enjoy!
Judi

Carrots 101 – The Basics (UPDATE)

About Carrots
Carrots are root vegetables that most of us are familiar with. No one knows exactly when carrots first came about, but they can be traced back 5,000 years through historical documents and paintings. They are native to many regions around the world, including Africa, Asia, and Europe. Carrots were eventually carried around the world, and are now grown in most areas as a food crop. Currently, China is the world’s top carrot producer, with many other countries, including the United States, playing important roles in the world’s production of carrots. In America, most carrots are grown in California, followed by Michigan, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. Carrots are the sixth most consumed vegetable in the United States, preceded by potatoes, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, and sweet corn.

The name “carrot” stems from the Greek word “karoton.” The first three letters were used to designate anything with a horn-like shape. In this case, the name was referring to the taproot of the carrot plant. The Vitamin A precursor, beta-carotene, was actually named from carrots (karoton), because they are so rich in this important nutrient. In America, we are most familiar with the orange variety of carrots. However, they also come in black (actually very deep purple), purple, red, white, and yellow varieties. The color of the carrot root results from various pigments that are intermediate products in the production of the carotenoids in the taproots. There are valuable nutritional qualities about each variety of carrot.

Nutrition and Health Benefits
Carrots are an excellent source of Vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids). They also supply a lot of biotin, Vitamin K, dietary fiber, molybdenum, potassium, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, manganese, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B1, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, folate, copper, Vitamin E and Vitamin B2.

Carrots are well-known for their high beta-carotene content. This gives them their color and valuable health properties. But they also contain other carotenoids and phytonutrients that provide strong health-promoting properties.

Antioxidant Benefits. All varieties of carrots supply valuable antioxidants in the form of assorted carotenoids. Various research studies have shown that subjects who ate deeply colored foods rich in antioxidant carotenoids, such as carrots, had a lower risk for cardiovascular disease, cancer, eye disease, and liver disease.

Cardiovascular Disease.  The fiber and potassium found in carrots have been shown to lower blood pressure, thereby reducing the risk for cardiovascular disease.

Cancer. Antioxidants are known to stop the activity of harmful free radicals in the body. Too many free radicals increase our risk for cancer. A series of research studies has shown that dietary carotenoids, like those found in carrots, can decrease our risk specifically for prostate cancer, leukemia, colon cancer, and lung cancer.

Eye Disease. The Vitamin A (carotenoids) in carrots have been shown to help ward off xerophthalmia, an eye disease due to Vitamin A deficiency. If not treated with Vitamin A, this disease leads to night blindness, and can eventually dry out the eyes culminating in total blindness. In fact, xerophthalmia is one of the leading causes of blindness globally, especially in children in underdeveloped nations. Simply eating carrots or other deeply orange-yellow pigmented vegetables can help you avoid this devastating problem.

Liver Disease. The plant-flavonoids and beta-carotene in carrots stimulate and support overall liver function and also help to prevent liver disease. Carotenoids are fat-soluble compounds. When a carrot leaves the stomach, bile is released from the gallbladder into the intestinal tract to help with the digestive process. This stimulates the liver to produce more bile, promoting healthy liver function. In an animal study, researchers at the School of Pharmacy, Taipei Medical University in Taiwan, found that beta-carotene may prevent liver damage caused by alcohol. So, carrots seem to have multiple ways they can help to keep the liver healthy.

Blood Sugar Control. Many people shy away from carrots because they believe they are full of sugar. Actually, the carbohydrate content of carrots is about 10%, with about half of that being sugar. Another 30% of the carbohydrate content is fiber. With a medium carrot providing only 25 calories, that makes carrots a high-fiber, low-calorie food that is relatively low in sugar. Because of this, carrots have a low glycemic index. Boiled carrots have a glycemic index of around 39. This means they are unlikely to trigger a blood sugar spike and are safe for people with diabetes to eat. Researchers have determined that high-fiber foods may help prevent Type 2 diabetes, along with helping those with the disease to manage their blood sugar levels. So, there is no valid reason to fear carrots because of their natural carbohydrate content.

How to Select Carrots
In most grocery stores, fresh carrots can be found whole, with or without their green tops, sliced, shredded, and ground down to “baby” carrot size. This selection can make food preparation faster and easier, depending upon your needs. The following information pertains to purchasing whole, uncut carrots.

Look for carrots that are firm, smooth, bright in color and relatively straight. Avoid those that are excessively cracked, limp or rubbery. If the green tops are not attached, look at the color of the stem end. Darker color indicates an older carrot. If the green tops are still attached, they should be brightly colored, feathery, and not wilted.

The sugars are concentrated in the core of the carrot. So, larger carrots should be sweeter than very thin ones.

How to Store Carrots
Store carrots in the refrigerator, preferably in the coolest part. Minimize moisture loss by keeping them in a plastic bag or in the crisper drawer, wrapped in paper towels to help reduce condensation. Another way to store them is in a separate container with a lid, lined with a clean cotton cloth or paper towel. The cloth or paper towel will help to maintain a humid environment while absorbing excess moisture released by the carrots, keeping them from laying in water.  Carrots stored like this should keep well for about two weeks, or longer.

If your carrots came with the green tops attached, the tops should be cut off from the carrots before being stored in the refrigerator. Leaving them attached will pull moisture from the carrot roots, causing them to wilt prematurely. To store carrot greens, wrap them in a slightly damp paper towel or cloth and place them loosely in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. They are fragile and should be used soon after purchase, before they wilt.

Store carrots away from ethylene-producing fruits and vegetables such as apples, pears and potatoes. The ethylene gas can cause the carrots to taste bitter. They should keep well for about two weeks in the refrigerator. When you go to use them, discard any that smell or look bad…when in doubt throw them out!

How to Prepare Carrots
Wash and scrub carrots when you are ready to use them. Peeling them is not mandatory, but optional. Cut away and discard the stem end and any parts that look aged or unhealthy.

Peeled carrots that are allowed to sit unused for a while may turn whitish. This is simply a sign of dehydration from being exposed to the air. A little time in a bowl of water will revive them, if desired.

The green carrot leaves ARE edible and are not toxic. However, they do contain some compounds (alkaloids and nitrates) that some people may react to. Therefore, whether you choose to eat the tops or not is solely up to you. If you opt out, toss them outside for your local rabbit to enjoy!

Should You Peel Carrots?
Do you have to peel carrots? Can you eat carrots with the skin on? Should you eat carrots without peeling? These are questions that many people have. Well to answer that in a word: NO…you do not need to peel carrots. Carrots are perfectly safe to eat with the peel, as long as they are thoroughly washed. So, scrub them well to remove any dirt and debris, and also cut off the stem end and any areas that don’t look fresh.

Even if you’re an avid carrot peeler, here are circumstances where you really don’t need to peel:
1. When you’re making stock. They will be strained out anyway!
2. When you’re juicing carrots.
3. When they will be pureed. (Who would know they weren’t peeled?)
4. When they’re in a thick and chunky stew.
5. When they’re roasted (with the change in color/texture, the peel would be unnoticeable).
6. When they will be grated or finely chopped.
7. When you’re trying to get the most nutrients from your food. Vitamin C is most concentrated in the peel and immediately below the peel. Whether it’s peeled or not, it’s still very nutritious, but why not take advantage of the added nutrients in the peel?

So, when would we want to peel carrots?

  1. If you’re buying standard-grown carrots, those grown with the use of chemicals, those chemicals may be concentrated in the peel. So, if you want to avoid eating any added chemicals, in this case you may want to peel your carrots. Note that scrubbing them well under running water or soaking them for 15 minutes in a vinegar or baking soda solution will also remove most of the chemicals from the surface. Rinse and scrub them well after soaking in these solutions. No worries with organically grown carrots.
  2. Some people find that carrot peels have a bit of bitterness to them. If you are in this camp, then by all means, peel away if this bothers you! It’s more important to enjoy your food than struggle to eat something you don’t like. Or even worse, to avoid some nutritious food because the peel doesn’t taste good to you. In this case, peel them if that’s what it takes to eat them!
  3. Appearance. Peeled carrots certainly look nicer than unpeeled carrots. If you’re presenting raw carrot sticks to guests or taking food to some special occasion and you want your food to look its best, then peeling them may be something you want to do.

Whichever way you prefer to go…to peel or not to peel (THAT is the question), just know that as long as they are scrubbed well, and they look fresh and are blemish-free, there’s not a food safety issue with eating unpeeled carrots.

Fresh vs Frozen vs Canned Carrots
In most American grocery stores, carrots are available fresh, frozen and canned, year-round.

Fresh carrots are usually your best nutritional option and they are the most versatile, since they can be eaten raw or cooked in whatever way you want.

Frozen carrots are a great second choice since they are usually processed quickly after being harvested and a lot of their nutritional content has been preserved.

Canned options are always a good staple to have on hand for many reasons, especially in case of emergencies. But nutritionally speaking, they are the least preferred option.

How to Preserve Carrots
Freezing Carrots. Fresh carrots can easily be frozen.  Wash and trim your carrots, removing the stem end and any blemishes. Peeling carrots is optional. Cut them into desired size pieces. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Place your prepared carrots (of equal size) into the boiling water and set your timer immediately. Whole small carrots should remain in the boiling water for 5 minutes. Diced or sliced carrots, or those cut into thin lengthwise strips should remain in the boiling water for 2 minutes. As soon as the timer is finished, transfer the blanched carrots to a bowl of ice water and leave them there for the same length of time they were in the hot water. Then drain them well and place them in freezer containers or bags, removing as much air as possible. Label the container with the current date. The blanched carrots should keep well for 10 to 12 months in the freezer.

Dehydrating Carrots. Carrots may also be dehydrated. They should be cut into thin slices or shredded for the best results. The carrots should be washed, trimmed, and blanched as detailed above. Then spread out the blanched, cooled, and drained carrots in a single layer on a mesh dehydrator tray. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the recommended temperature and length of time suggested for dehydrating your carrots. When finished, they should be brittle or very tough and leathery. When broken in half, there should be no soft spots within. If there are, they are still moist inside and should be returned to the dehydrator until completely dry. Store your dried carrot pieces in an airtight container in a cool, dry place away from sunlight. Placing an oxygen absorber in the container with the dehydrated carrots, and removing as much air as possible from the container will help to keep them fresh for an extended period of time. Properly prepared and stored dehydrated carrots will potentially last for years, so it is worth the effort to prepare them for the long haul.

Some people choose to dehydrate carrots without blanching them first. Yes, carrots may be dehydrated this way, but their quality will be poor. Blanching helps to preserve their color, texture, and flavor by deactivating enzymes that cause the vegetables to age while in storage. Furthermore, blanching kills any microorganisms that may be on the carrots, which can prevent foodborne illness later. Also, blanched vegetables dehydrate faster than those that were not treated first. If you opt to dehydrate carrots without blanching them first, they should be used within three months.

Tips for Using Dehydrated Carrots: To rehydrate your carrots, place them in a bowl and cover them with boiling water. Use twice the amount of water as dried carrots. (Example: Use 2 cups of boiling water to rehydrate 1 cup of dried carrot slices.) Allow them to soak for 20 to 45* minutes. They will be best used in soups, casseroles, sauces, stuffing, baked goods, stews, and any other dishes where they may continue to soak up liquid as needed.

* When using dehydrated carrots in soups or stews, allow them to soak for 20 to 30 minutes. Add any remaining soaking liquid to the pot. When using dehydrated carrots in fried rice, stir-fries, casseroles, etc., allow them to soak for 30 to 45 minutes, then drain any extra liquid before adding the rehydrated carrots to the recipe. The longer the dried carrots are allowed to soak, the more they will resemble freshly cut carrots.

Conversion Rates:
3/4 cup of dried carrot slices = 1 pound of fresh carrot slices
1 cup of dried carrot pieces = 2 cups rehydrated carrot pieces

Here is a link to my video on “Dehydrating or Freezing Carrots”  https://youtu.be/f1XZRLbrL5A

Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Carrots
* Add shredded carrots to coleslaws, salads, and wraps.

* Add shredded carrots to baked goods like muffins.

* Enjoy carrot sticks with your favorite hummus as a snack or part of a meal.

* Add carrots to juices or smoothies.

* Enjoy carrots raw or steamed for the most nutritional value.

* Try a simple salad with shredded carrots, beets, and apple.

* For something different, try spiced carrot sticks. Soak carrot sticks in hot water spiced with cayenne, coriander seeds and salt. Allow them to cool in the water, drain, then serve.

* The carotenoids in carrots are fat-soluble, so you’ll absorb them best if they’re eaten with a little fat. [Note that’s a little fat; a lot of fat is not needed.] A couple walnuts, a little diced avocado, or a sprinkle of sesame seeds would provide plenty of fat for adequate absorption.

* For something different, add finely shredded carrots to your next batch of pancakes.

* Here’s a twist on pumpkin pie…make carrot pie instead! Substitute cooked, puréed carrots instead of pumpkin and make your pie as usual.

* FYI…Baby carrots are not a special variety of carrots that grow small. They are regular carrots that were “whittled” down to their small size.

* Top roasted carrots with a blend of yogurt and dates. Sprinkle with sunflower seeds.

Herbs and Spices That Go Well with Carrots
Allspice, anise seeds, basil, bay leaf, caraway seeds, cardamom, chervil, chili pepper flakes, chili powder, cilantro, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, curry powder, dill, fennel seeds, marjoram, mint, mustard (ground, seeds), nutmeg, paprika, parsley, pepper, rosemary, salt, tarragon, thyme, turmeric, vanilla

Foods That Go Well with Carrots
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Almonds, beans (in general, esp. black, broad, green), beef, cashews, chicken, chickpeas, edamame, ham, hazelnuts, lentils, macadamia nuts, nuts (in general), peanuts, peanut butter, peas, pecans, pine nuts, pork, seafood, seeds (esp. poppy, sesame, sunflower), sesame paste, snap peas, tahini, tofu, walnuts

Vegetables: Artichokes, asparagus, beets, bell peppers, broccoli, broccoli rabe, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, celery, celery root, chiles, chives, cucumbers, fennel, garlic, ginger, greens (in general), leeks, mushrooms, onions, parsnips, potatoes, radishes, root vegetables (in general), shallots, spinach, tomatoes, turnips, watercress, sweet potatoes, Swiss chard, zucchini

Fruits: Apples, apricots, avocados, citrus fruits (in general), coconut, dates, dried fruits (in general), lemons, limes, olives, oranges, pineapple, pomegranate, raisins

Grains and Grain Products: Barley, bulgur, corn, couscous, farro, millet, oats, pasta, quinoa, rice

Dairy and Non-Dairy: Butter, browned butter, cheese (esp. cheddar, cream, feta, goat, Parmesan, ricotta, Swiss), coconut butter, coconut milk, cream, crème fraiche, mascarpone, yogurt

Other Foods: Honey, maple syrup, miso, molasses, mustard (Dijon), oil (esp. coconut, olive, peanut, sesame, walnut), pesto, soy sauce, sugar (esp. brown), vinegar (esp. balsamic, cider, red wine, rice wine, white wine)

Carrots have been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
Baked goods (i.e., cakes, muffins), chili, crudités, curries, desserts (i.e., cakes, mousses), Moroccan cuisine, noodle dishes (esp. Asian), purees (i.e., carrot, root vegetable), risotto, salads, slaws, soups (i.e., carrot, onion, vegetable), stews (i.e., Moroccan tagines)

Suggested Food and Flavor Combos Using Carrots
Add carrots to any of the following combinations…

Almonds + Pineapple + Vanilla
Apples + Cinnamon + Pecans + Vanilla
Apples + Raisins + Walnuts
Balsamic Vinegar + Beets + Chives + Greens
Brown Sugar + Orange + Pineapple + Raisins
Caraway Seeds + Cumin
Caraway Seeds + Garlic + Lemon + Olive Oil + Parsley
Cardamom + Maple Syrup + Orange + Yogurt [in a soup]
Celery + Onions
Chiles + Cilantro + Lime Juice
Cilantro + Ginger + Scallions + Sesame Oil
Cinnamon + Coconut + Nuts + Pineapple
Cinnamon + Nutmeg + Pineapple + Walnuts
Cinnamon + Orange + Vanilla
Coconut + Garlic + Ginger + Lime Juice
Cranberries + Orange + Walnuts
Cumin + Garlic + Lemon + Parsley
Dates + Sunflower Seeds + Yogurt
Dill + Lemon + Lentils
Fennel + Garlic
Fruit + Nuts (i.e., apples, oranges, pineapple, raisins; almonds, cashews, pecans, walnuts)
Garlic + Potatoes + Thyme
Ginger + Honey + Rosemary
Ginger + Orange (or other citrus fruits)
Honey + Lemon Juice + Olive Oil + Raisins + Vinegar + Walnuts
Honey + Orange
Honey + Pineapple + Yogurt
Lemon Juice + Mustard + Parsley
Maple Syrup + Mustard
Nuts + Raisins
Parsnips + Thyme
Sesame Seeds + Sugar Snap Peas

Recipe Links
Easy Orange Glazed Carrots (with Frozen Carrots) https://youtu.be/eVo8j8nzQoc

Roasted Honey (or Maple) Carrots with Walnuts https://youtu.be/AEe-sWP2J0E

Fast, Easy, Honey Glazed Carrots (from fresh carrots) https://youtu.be/pQLXzTl9wIs

Cook Easy, Fast, Glazed Carrots (from frozen carrots) https://youtu.be/2JYgp5d7fBk

Easy Kale, Carrot and Mushroom Combo https://youtu.be/kbLtLD1RSug

Kohlrabi Carrot Pineapple Salad https://youtu.be/fYSuyqJc12I

Carrot Coconut Soup http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=187

Primavera Verde http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=166

Steamed Vegetable Medley http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=58

Super Carrot Raisin Salad http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=164

Minted Green Peas and Carrots http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=189

Carrot Cashew Pate http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=294

Roasted Brown Butter Honey Garlic Carrots https://therecipecritic.com/roasted-brown-butter-honey-garlic-carrots/

Assorted recipes using carrots https://producemadesimple.ca/?s=carrot

20 of Our Best Carrot Recipes You Need to Try https://www.thekitchn.com/20-ways-to-use-up-a-bag-of-carrots-242467

32 Simple Carrot Recipes We Love https://www.foodandwine.com/slideshows/carrots#4

Minted Green Peas and Carrots http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=189

Raw Carrot Salad with Turmeric Dressing https://producemadesimple.ca/raw-carrot-salad-with-turmeric-dressing/

Apple-Carrot Muffins https://producemadesimple.ca/ontario-apple-carrot-muffins/

20+ Carrot Recipes https://www.rachaelraymag.com/recipes/20-carrot-recipes

Carrot Cake Pancakes https://www.rachaelraymag.com/recipe/carrot-cakes

51 Carrot Recipes Worth Their Weight in Gold https://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/slideshow/carrot-recipes

Resources
https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/5-healthy-facts-about-carrots

http://www.carrotmuseum.co.uk/carrotcolours.html

http://snaplant.com/vegetables/a-rainbow-of-carrot-colors/

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=21

http://www.berkeleywellness.com/healthy-eating/nutrition/article/are-cooked-carrots-better-raw

http://www.carrotmuseum.co.uk/carrotops.html

https://producemadesimple.ca/?s=carrot

https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminK-HealthProfessional/#h3

http://britishcarrots.co.uk/recipes/carrot-combos/

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/270191#nutrition

https://www.healthline.com/health/eye-health/xerophthalmia

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/270191#diet

https://www.gettystewart.com/how-to-dehydrate-carrots-and-how-to-use-them/

https://thedevilwearssalad.com/what-goes-well-with-carrots/

https://www.onehundreddollarsamonth.com/14-ways-to-use-up-and-preserve-fresh-carrots/

https://www.fishertitus.org/health/what-foods-cleanse-your-liver

https://www.amsety.com/livermatters/what-to-eat/vegetables-best-support-liver-health/

https://www.thekitchn.com/5-times-you-dont-have-to-peel-carrots-tips-from-the-kitchn-220405

https://www.livestrong.com/article/518814-should-carrots-be-peeled-or-are-they-more-nutritious-with-the-peel-left-on/

https://www.nutritionletter.tufts.edu/issues/13_10/ask-experts/Q-Is-it-true-that-most-of-a-carrots-nutrients_2222-1.html

https://www.bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/cooking-tips/article/why-you-shouldnt-peel-your-vegetables

Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.


About Judi

Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

Oregano

Oregano 101 – The Basics

 

Oregano 101 – The Basics

About Oregano
Oregano is a perennial herb that grows into a small shrub with multi-branched stems, with small, oval, grayish-green leaves. As the plant matures, it produces small white or pink flowers that are edible.

Oregano is an herb in the mint family. It is a close “cousin” to marjoram. Oregano is native to the Mediterranean region and western Asia. People have used it for thousands of years for both culinary and medicinal uses. Ancient Greeks and Romans associated oregano with joy and happiness, and used it at both weddings and funerals. The couple to be married was adorned with wreaths or garlands of oregano to ensure long years of love and happiness. Graves were planted with oregano to help the deceased find peace and tranquility in the next life.

Ancient Greeks discovered the plant had medicinal properties and used it to treat a variety of ailments. Oregano eventually was taken to China where it was prescribed to relieve fevers, vomiting, diarrhea, jaundice, and itchy skin. In the middle ages, people used oregano to treat rheumatism, toothache, indigestion, and cough. Later, oregano was consumed throughout Europe and Northern Africa where it was used to flavor meats, fish, and even wine. Oregano was hardly known in the United States before World War II. Soldiers discovered the herb during the Italian Campaign and brought the herb to the United States, with suggested ways to use it. Its popularity in America has grown ever since.

Oregano is very popular in Mediterranean cuisines, especially Greek and Italian foods. The leaves have a distinct aroma with a warm, slightly bitter flavor. The intensity of the flavor of oregano can vary among the different varieties. Also, growing conditions (season, climate, and soil) affect the flavor of oregano, so it can vary from a mild to intense, biting flavor.

Nutrition and Health Benefits
Even though we don’t eat a lot of oregano at any one time, the herb has an impressive list of compounds known to have disease prevention and health promoting properties.

Antibacterial and Antifungal Properties. Thymol, one of the noteworthy compounds in oregano is known to have antibacterial and antifungal properties. In a 2019 study, thymol and carvacrol, another important compound found in oregano essential oil, were found to prevent various strains of Staphylococcus aureus from developing in meat and dairy products, suggesting it could be used to deter bacterial growth in food. Researchers tested the antimicrobial effects of oregano oil against an array of microbes and found it to be effective against eleven different strains of bacteria.

Oregano is also an excellent source of Vitamin C, which is well-known for its antioxidant properties and help in warding off infections.

Antioxidants. Oregano is rich in antioxidant compounds, including Vitamin A, carotenes, lutein, zeaxanthin, and cryptoxanthin. It has been rated to be a plant among the highest with antioxidant benefits. These compounds protect us from dangerous free radical molecules that play a role in aging and various disease processes. Animal studies suggest that oregano extract may reduce inflammation associated with autoimmune arthritis, allergic asthma, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Promotes Healthy Digestion. Oregano stimulates the release of gastric juices, promoting healthy digestion and movement of intestinal contents.

Source of Important Minerals. Oregano is an excellent source of minerals like potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, and magnesium. Potassium, an important electrolyte in cellular and body fluids, is well-known for helping to control heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese functions as a co-factor in the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Iron is well-known for helping to prevent anemia, while magnesium and calcium are essential for healthy bones.

How to Select Oregano
Dried oregano is available in just about any grocery store you can name. Fresh oregano is found in the refrigerated produce section of many grocery stores. Many people prefer the flavor of fresh oregano over dried. Also, fresh oregano is richer in essential oils, and vitamins and minerals than its dried counterpart.

When shopping for fresh oregano, select those with a vibrant green color and a firm stem. There should be no mold, discoloration or yellowing.  They should not look wilted.

How to Store Oregano
Do not wash fresh oregano until you are ready to use it. The excess moisture could invite decay.

There are different ways fresh oregano can be stored…

(1) Store fresh oregano in the refrigerator in the original clamshell container it came in. Stored this way, it will keep for a few days.

(2) Store fresh oregano in the refrigerator, in a zip-lock bag. Like the plastic clamshell container, fresh herbs kept this way will have a tendency to dry out and should be used within three days.

(3) Store fresh oregano loosely wrapped, jelly roll style, in a slightly damp paper towel or cloth, placed loosely in a plastic bag, and kept in the refrigerator. When stored this way, it may keep for up to one week.

(4) Fresh oregano may also be kept like fresh cut flowers, standing up, cut side down, in a glass with a little water. Cover loosely with a plastic bag and store it in the refrigerator. Change the water every day or two. Try to use oregano kept this way within one week.

Store dried oregano in an airtight container in a cool, dry, place, away from a heat source and light. For best flavor, use it within six months.

How to Freeze Oregano
First, wash and dry your fresh oregano sprigs. Remove the leaves from the stems and place them loosely in a freezer bag. Remove as much air from the bag as you can. Try to place it somewhere in the freezer where the leaves won’t get crushed. Use within one year.

Fresh oregano may also be frozen in ice cubes. Wash and remove the leaves from stems. Place a measured amount of leaves in ice cube trays. Fill with water and freeze. Once frozen, transfer the cubes to a freezer bag or container. To use, simply add however many cubes you need to soups, sauces, stews, or marinades. Use your cubes within one year.

How to Dry Oregano
Like storing and freezing fresh oregano, there are different ways it can be dried.

(1) Wash and dry the fresh oregano on the stems. Tie the stems toward the cut side, and hang them upside down to dry in a cool, dry place, away from sunlight. The area should have plenty of ventilation. Once dried, the bundle can be placed in a bag or container and stored away from light and heat. Use within six months for best flavor. To save space, the leaves can easily be removed from the stems before being stored.

(2) Wash and dry the fresh oregano on the stems. Place the oregano, stems and all, in a clean paper bag that is large enough so the stems won’t be overly crowded. Close the paper bag by folding over the top. Lay the bag on its side in a cool, dry place. Two or three times a day, gently shake the bag to keep any branches from sticking together and turn the bag over. Check it periodically for dryness, starting after a week or so. When they are completely dry, remove the leaves from the stems and place them in an airtight container. Store it in a cool, dry place away from sunlight. Use within six months for best flavor.

(3) Fresh oregano may also be dried in a dehydrator. Wash and pat the stems and leaves dry. Place the stems on a mesh dehydrator sheet and follow the manufacturer’s directions for drying your herbs. The usual temperature for drying herbs is as low as possible, about 95°F. Allow them to dehydrate until they are crispy and completely dry. Remove the leaves from the stems and transfer them to an airtight container. As with the other methods, store it in a cool, dry place away from a heat source and light. Use within six months for best flavor.

Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Oregano
* Add dried oregano at the beginning of cooking to allow it to rehydrate and the flavor to be released. Add fresh oregano at the end of cooking so the flavor will remain in your food.

* Some varieties of oregano can be spicier than others. Italian oregano is sweeter and milder in flavor. Greek and Mexican oregano is hotter and spicier in flavor.

* If your pizza is lacking that “classic” pizza flavor, sprinkle it with a little dried oregano. Oregano is the herb that makes pizza taste like pizza.

* Try adding oregano to tomato-based pasta dishes, omelets, breads, roasted potatoes, kebabs, chicken, and lentils.

* Add a little sprinkle of dried oregano leaves to a green salad for a spicy flavor.

* If a recipe calls for fresh oregano and all you have is dried (or vice versa), here’s the conversion rate: 1 part of dried oregano = 3 parts of fresh. Example: 1 teaspoon of dried oregano = 1 tablespoon (3 teaspoons) of fresh oregano.

* If you’re making your own fresh dinner rolls, finely mince a few tablespoons of fresh oregano leaves, and knead it directly in the dough for fresh herb rolls.

* Try adding some fresh, chopped oregano leaves to a pot of beans during the last 15 minutes of cooking for an earthy oregano flavor.

* Make a robust, savory pesto using fresh oregano instead of basil leaves. Serve a little on a green salad, toss it with roasted vegetables, or brush it on your favorite bread.

* For a simple and satisfying salad, sprinkle oregano on sliced tomato and mozzarella cheese. Drizzle lightly with olive oil.

* If you elect to use oregano oil on your skin, be sure to dilute it with a carrier oil.

Herbs and Spices That Go Well with Oregano
Basil, capers, cayenne, cilantro, cumin, marjoram, pepper (black), salt

Foods That Go Well with Oregano
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Beans (in general), beef, chicken, chickpeas, eggs, fish (and other seafood), lamb, pork, tahini, turkey, veal

Vegetables: Bell peppers, chiles, eggplant, endive, fennel, garlic, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, scallions, squash (summer and winter), tomatoes and tomato sauce, vegetables (roasted, stir-fried), zucchini

Fruits: Citrus (in general), lemons, olives, orange

Grains and Grain Products: Corn, grains (in general), pasta, rice

Dairy and Non-Dairy: Cheese (i.e., feta, soft, white)

Other Foods: Mustard (Dijon), oil (esp. olive)

Oregano has been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
Chili, Greek cuisine, Italian cuisine, kebabs, marinades, Mediterranean cuisines, Mexican cuisine, Middle Eastern cuisines, pasta dishes, pizza, salad dressings, salads (esp. Greek), sauces (esp. pasta, pizza, tomato), soups (esp. minestrone, spinach, tomato, yogurt), Southwest American cuisine, stews, stuffings

Suggested Food and Flavor Combos Using Oregano
Add oregano to any of the following combinations…

Cannellini beans + zucchini
Feta cheese + tomatoes [in salads]
Garlic + lemon [in salad dressings]
Lemon juice + olive oil [in marinades]

Recipe Links
Chimichurri Sauce https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/68003/chimichurri-sauce/

Fast, Fresh Grape Tomato Salad https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/223168/fast-fresh-grape-tomato-salad/

Cajun spice Mix https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/149221/cajun-spice-mix/

Greek Lemon Chicken and Potatoes https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/242352/greek-lemon-chicken-and-potatoes/

Daddy Eddie’s Roast Pork, Puerto Rican-Style https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/254168/daddy-eddies-roast-pork-pernil-puerto-rican-style/

Homemade Pizza Sauce https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/234536/how-to-make-homemade-pizza-sauce/

Herbs de Provence https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/223272/herbs-de-provence/

Absolutely Fabulous Greek/House Salad https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/36520/absolutely-fabulous-greekhouse-dressing/

Oregano Recipes https://www.foodandwine.com/seasonings/herbs/oregano/oregano-recipes?slide=91503ca7-1673-4fde-b3b1-1f75cdfa0db9#91503ca7-1673-4fde-b3b1-1f75cdfa0db9

Grilled Yellow Squash and Zucchini Pasta Salad https://www.sunset.com/recipe/grilled-yellow-squash-zucchini-pasta-salad

Orange, Radicchio, and Oregano Salad https://www.sunset.com/recipe/orange-radicchio-oregano-salad

Grilled Potato Salad https://www.sunset.com/recipe/grilled-potato-salad

Tagliatelle with Fresh Oregano Pesto https://www.tastymediterraneo.com/tagliatelle-with-fresh-oregano-pesto/

 

Resources
https://www.americanspice.com/blogs/fun-facts-on-oregano/

https://www.nutrition-and-you.com/oregano.html

https://www.thespruceeats.com/oregano-storage-1807785

https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/herbs/hgen/freezing-herbs.htm

https://www.livingonadime.com/herb-guide/

https://www.spicesinc.com/p-510-what-spices-go-with-what-meat.aspx

https://www.spicesinc.com/p-510-what-spices-go-with-what-meat.aspx

https://www.thekitchn.com/5-ways-to-use-fresh-oregano-from-your-garden-ingredient-spotlight-191094

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266259#benefits

https://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/herbal-history-oregano

http://www.indepthinfo.com/oregano/history.shtml

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266259#risks

Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.

 

About Judi

Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

Broccoli

Broccoli 101 – The Basics (UPDATE)

This is an update to my original post on Broccoli 101 – The Basics. This post has expanded, more comprehensive information about broccoli. However, the original post has a lot of valuable information, so please check it out too! https://www.judiklee.com/2019/02/28/broccoli-101-the-basics/

Enjoy!
Judi

Broccoli 101 – The Basics (UPDATE)

About Broccoli
Broccoli is one of the best-known vegetables in the cruciferous family and is enjoyed worldwide in many different cuisines. It is a member of the Brassica family of plants, and is related to many other popular vegetables such as cabbage, kale, cauliflower, bok choy, collards, mustard greens, turnip greens, and Brussels sprouts.

The most popular variety of broccoli forms a “head,” referring to a flowering portion of the plant. This is the part of the plant we commonly refer to as the “florets.” If the plant is left to mature, the florets (head) would develop flowers that eventually produce seeds. Non-heading varieties of broccoli produce florets throughout the plant at the ends of the shoots. Broccoli varieties can range in color from deep sage to dark green to purplish green.

From what we understand, broccoli had its origins as a type of wild cabbage. Through centuries of selective planting, it was developed into the varieties that we are familiar with today. It is now grown in virtually all continents around the world and is especially diverse and plentiful in the Mediterranean area of Europe, the central and western parts of Asia, and the western half of North America. Almost all of the broccoli produced commercially in the United States is grown in California, followed by Arizona. Broccoli imported to America mostly comes from Mexico.

Nutrition and Health Benefits
Broccoli is exceptionally high in many vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. It is an excellent source of Vitamin K, Vitamin C, chromium and folate. It also supplies a lot of fiber, pantothenic acid, Vitamin B6, Vitamin E, manganese, phosphorus, choline, Vitamin B1, Vitamin A, potassium, copper, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, zinc, calcium, iron, niacin, and selenium. One cup of cooked broccoli has as much Vitamin C as an orange. It is also very low in calories, with one cup having only 31 calories. It is truly a powerhouse of nutrition!

In addition to its long list of vitamins and minerals, broccoli is concentrated with an array of phytonutrients which are key to its important health-promoting benefits.

Anti-Cancer Connection. Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables are particularly high in glucosinolates, which are converted into a group of compounds called isothiocyanates. These compounds are known to help shut down the inflammatory process. Sulforaphane is one of the well-known isothiocyanates known to squelch the inflammatory process, providing powerful health benefits.

There are other compounds in broccoli that work together synergistically providing potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits, helping to reduce our risk for assorted types of cancer. Laboratory animal and test tube studies have shown sulforaphane to reduce both the size and number of cancer cells. Population studies have found that people who have a higher intake of cruciferous vegetables have a significantly lower cancer rate than those who eat less cruciferous vegetables.

It is noteworthy that sulforaphane is only activated through enzyme interaction when the vegetable is cut or chewed. Also, raw mature broccoli has more sulforaphane potential than lightly steamed broccoli. Broccoli sprouts have been found to have many times more of the health-boosting phytonutrients, including sulforaphane, than mature broccoli. To learn how to grow your own broccoli sprouts, see my video … https://youtu.be/U-e87xKofPs

Detoxification. In conjunction with the anti-cancer benefits of broccoli, it also has detoxification properties. Compounds in broccoli have been shown to improve Phase 2 of our detoxification process, which also helps to reduce our risk for cancer. The amount of broccoli shown to produce this effect is from 1 to 2 cups per day.

The vast blend of compounds in broccoli makes it a unique food in terms of cancer prevention. Oxidative stress, chronic inflammation, and inadequate detoxification are well-documented connections to the development of cancer. Research has shown that broccoli has compounds that fight all three of those problems, thereby making it a highly valuable food in the fight against cancer. Even though 1 to 2 cups of broccoli a day may be ideal, researchers have found benefit with as little as ½ cup of broccoli daily. Even a 2-cup serving twice a week is enough to offer valuable benefits.  So, “the moral of the story” is…Eat your broccoli, whenever you can, as much as you can!

Cardiovascular Support. Recent studies have shown that broccoli can lower LDL cholesterol levels, decreasing our risk for heart disease. A recent study showed that as little as 1/3 cup of broccoli per day for 3 months lowered LDL cholesterol in subjects by 2.5 percent. Both raw and steamed broccoli showed cholesterol-lowering effects, although a stronger LDL-lowering effect was found with steamed broccoli.

Broccoli is also high in Vitamin B6 and folate, both of which are important nutrients in lowering homocysteine levels. Having lower homocysteine levels is associated with lowered risk for atherosclerosis, stroke, and heart attack.

Eye Health. Lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids found in significant amounts in broccoli, are especially important for eye health. Low levels of these compounds can lead to cataracts and macular degeneration, both raising our risk for vision loss. Therefore, eating broccoli on a regular basis can help to prevent eye issues that can lead to vision loss over time.

Diabetes Risk. A human study reported in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, showed significantly reduced insulin resistance in subjects with Type 2 diabetes who ate broccoli sprouts daily for one month.

Healthy Digestion. Broccoli is high in fiber and antioxidants, both of which support healthy digestive function and the gut microbiome. Nutrients, such as those found in broccoli, have been found to promote reduced levels of inflammation in the colon along with favorable changes in the gut bacteria.

Brain Support. Some of the compounds in broccoli may slow mental decline and support healthy brain function. A study with 960 older adults showed that one serving a day of dark green vegetables, such as broccoli, helped to resist mental decline associated with aging. Animal studies showed that a compound in broccoli, kaempferol, lowered the incidence of brain injury and reduced inflammation following a stroke-like event. Another animal study showed that mice treated with sulforaphane had significant brain tissue recovery and reduced inflammation after a brain injury or toxic exposure.

Most of the current research on the effects of compounds found in broccoli on brain health are limited to animal studies. However, they are promising and may lead to further human studies.

Other Benefits of Broccoli. There are numerous other potential benefits of eating broccoli on a regular basis. The high Vitamin C level in broccoli supports a healthy immune system. The antioxidants found in broccoli, especially sulforaphane, may help to slow the aging process. Some of the compounds found in broccoli have been shown to support dental and oral health. Vitamin C, calcium, and kaempferol, a flavonoid found in broccoli, appear to play a role in preventing periodontal disease. Sulforaphane in broccoli may also reduce the risk for oral cancers. Broccoli is high in Vitamin K, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C, all of which are nutrients vital for maintaining strong bones. Researchers have extensively studied the health benefits of broccoli and its components, and are finding new implications regularly. Joint health, pregnancy support, and skin health are also among the areas being studied.

How to Select Broccoli
Look for bright green heads of broccoli with tightly clustered florets. The more open the florets, the older the broccoli is. The florets should be uniformly colored with no yellowing. Look for firm, strong stalks (flimsy stalks that bend are older and becoming dehydrated). Broccoli should feel heavy for its size. Any attached leaves should be vibrant in color and not wilted.

How to Store Fresh Broccoli
Do not wash fresh broccoli until you are ready to use it. Store it in the refrigerator. It may be stored in a plastic bag if you plan to use it quickly. However, for the longest storage life, place it in a container with a lid, with the bottom lined with a paper towel or clean cloth. That will absorb any moisture released by the broccoli, preventing it from sitting in water. At the same time, the cloth or paper towel will help to maintain a humid environment when it becomes damp from the moisture released by the broccoli. This will help to keep it from dehydrating. Use your fresh broccoli within 7 days.

How to Prepare Fresh Broccoli
Rinse fresh broccoli when you’re ready to use it. If it has started to dehydrate (get limp) in the refrigerator, it may be soaked in cold water for about 10 minutes to help crisp it back up.

The florets may be cooked whole or cut into smaller pieces, depending upon how you plan to use them. Of course, the smaller pieces will cook faster than the whole florets.

The stalks are often cut off and discarded. This is unfortunate, because they are edible and taste just like the florets. The outer edges of the stalks me be somewhat “woody.” If they are, the outer, tough area may be trimmed away (and discarded) either with a paring knife or vegetable peeler. Then simply cut the stalks into desired size pieces, roughly the same size as the florets and cook them along with the florets.

Fresh broccoli may be eaten raw or cooked and used in just about any way imaginable: steamed, boiled, stir-fried, stir-steamed, roasted, added to casseroles, soups, stews, salads, smoothies, and juices. The use for broccoli is limited only to your imagination!

How to Preserve Fresh Broccoli
There is a trend today among some people to simply wash, chop, and place vegetables in the freezer without being pretreated first. Although this method does save time, it is appropriate for some vegetables (such as onions and bell peppers), but not for all. Broccoli is one of the vegetables that should be pretreated first to stop the enzyme activity that will cause the vegetable pieces to continue to age while in the freezer. If you insist on freezing broccoli without pretreating it, be sure to label it with the current date and use it within three months for best quality. Pretreating your broccoli first to disable the enzymes, will allow you to keep your broccoli for much longer with a better quality, up to about a year. It will be edible beyond that but the quality will dwindle over time.

Freezing Broccoli (Blanching). First wash the broccoli, and cut the florets into desired size pieces. The stems may be frozen, but first remove the woody area along the outer edges, then cut the stems into desired size pieces, comparable to the size of the florets. If you prefer larger pieces, it is best if all of the florets are no more than one inch across and stems are no longer than five inches.

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Place your prepared broccoli in the boiling water and set your timer right away. Allow smaller pieces to blanch (remain in the hot water) for 3 minutes. If your pieces are very large, they will need to remain in the water for 4 to 5 minutes, depending on size. Once the timer has finished, immediately transfer the broccoli to a large bowl of ice water. Allow the broccoli to chill in the cold water for as long as it was in the hot water. Then drain the broccoli well and transfer it to freezer bags or containers. To prevent it from freezing in a large lump, you could first spread your blanched broccoli pieces on a tray and place that in the freezer. When the pieces are frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag or container. Label the container with the current date, and return them to the freezer. Use your broccoli within 12 months for best quality.

For a video demonstration on how to blanch broccoli, watch this video… https://youtu.be/RdLuEKq5wtw

Freezing Broccoli (Steaming). Fresh broccoli may also be preserved by steaming it first, instead of water blanching. Prepare your broccoli as detailed above. Place a steamer basket in a pot (that has a lid) and add water to a level that will not rise above the bottom of the steaming basket when the water boils. Bring the water to boil. Add the broccoli pieces and place the lid on the pot. Set the timer for 4 minutes if the pieces are small, or 5 minutes if the pieces are large. When the timer is finished, transfer the steamed broccoli pieces to a large bowl of ice water and follow the same procedure as detailed above for chilling and freezing your broccoli.

Dehydrating Fresh Broccoli: Broccoli florets may be dehydrated. The stems may remain a bit tough with dehydration, so it is only recommended to dehydrate the florets. Blanch and cool your broccoli pieces as detailed above. They may either be water blanched or steam blanched. Once the broccoli pieces have been cooled, spread them on your dehydrator mesh tray. Follow the dehydrator manufacturer’s directions for the length of time and temperature for proper dehydration with your machine.

Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Broccoli
* Try raw broccoli served with a dip or hummus.

* Add broccoli, raw or cooked, to your next green salad.

* Try roasting broccoli with cauliflower, flavored with olive oil and garam masala.

* Add broccoli to your next breakfast omelet or quiche.

* For a quick pasta dish, toss cooked pasta with some olive oil, pine nuts, and steamed broccoli. Season with a pinch of garlic powder, parsley and oregano. Garnish with Parmesan cheese.

* Try making “broccoli rice.” Simply place chopped raw broccoli in a food processor. Pulse until the broccoli is in small, rice-like pieces. Then briefly sauté it in a skillet like you would make fried rice.

* Try adding some frozen and thawed chopped broccoli along with some shredded cheddar cheese to your next batch of corn bread. The bread will be moist and flavorful.

* If your raw broccoli has started to get limp, soak it in cold water for about 10 minutes and it will crisp back up.

* Make a broccoli dip by blending steamed broccoli, yogurt, chives or green onions, paprika, and fresh garlic. Use it as a dip for raw vegetables like carrots, celery, bell peppers, yellow squash, and zucchini.

* Try steamed broccoli topped with your favorite hummus.

* For some citrus-flavored broccoli, stir-steam broccoli in a little orange juice with a pinch of orange zest. Add some crushed red pepper flakes or black pepper for extra “zing.”

* Make your broccoli with a Mediterranean flare. Top steamed broccoli with a little marinara sauce and sprinkle with a little Parmesan cheese or shredded mozzarella.

* Make a salad with lightly steamed broccoli, feta cheese, grape tomatoes, olive oil and red wine vinegar.

* Try a stir-fry with broccoli, red bell peppers, and sesame oil. Top with a sprinkle of sesame seeds.

* Make delicious side dish by roasting broccoli pieces flavored with olive oil, salt and pepper. When it’s finished, drizzle it with a little lemon juice, then sprinkle with pine nuts and Parmesan cheese.

Herbs and Spices That Go Well with Broccoli
Basil, capers, cayenne, chili pepper flakes, cilantro, coriander, curry powder, dill, marjoram, mustard (seeds, powder), oregano, parsley, pepper (black), rosemary, sage, salt, savory, tarragon, thyme, turmeric

Foods That Go Well with Broccoli
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Almonds, beans (esp. cannellini, green, white), beef, cashews, chicken, chickpeas, eggs, flax seeds, ham, hazelnuts, mung bean sprouts, nuts (in general), peanuts, pecans, pine nuts, pork, pumpkin seeds, sausage, seafood, sesame seeds, soybeans, tahini, tofu, walnuts

Vegetables: Bell peppers, cauliflower, chiles, chives, garlic, ginger, greens (in general), leeks, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, scallions, shallots, spinach, squash (summer and winter), tomatoes, watercress

Fruits: Avocado, coconut, lemon, lime, olives, orange

Grains and Grain Products: Bread crumbs, bulgur, noodles and pasta (in general), quinoa, rice, seitan, wheat berries

Dairy and Non-Dairy: Butter and browned butter, cheese (in general, esp. feta, cheddar, goat, Parmesan), coconut milk, cream, yogurt

Other Foods: Mayonnaise, miso, mustard (Dijon), oil (esp. olive, peanut, sesame, walnut), sauces (esp. Hollandaise), soy sauce, stock, tamari, vinaigrette, vinegar (esp. balsamic, rice, tarragon), wine (dry white)

Broccoli has been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
Casseroles, crepes, crudités, curries, egg dishes (custards, omelets, quiches), gratins, guacamole, hummus, pizzas, baked potatoes (toppings), salads (i.e., green, pasta, tomato, vegetable), sauces, slaws, soufflés, soups (esp. broccoli, creamy), stews, stir-fries, tempura

Suggested Food and Flavor Combos Using Broccoli
Add broccoli to any of the following combinations…

Almonds + Citrus Fruits + Garlic
Almonds + Mushrooms
Almonds + Romano Cheese
Basil + Garlic + Olive Oil + Parmesan Cheese + Walnuts
Bell Peppers + Capers + Olives
Bell Peppers + Mozzarella Cheese
Chiles + Garlic + Ginger + Lime + Olive Oil
Chiles + Garlic + Olive Oil
Chiles + Garlic + Orange (juice, zest)
Feta Cheese + Mint + Red Onions
Flax Seeds + Lemon
Garlic + Ginger + Sesame Oil/Seeds + Tamari
Garlic + Lemon + Olive Oil + Chili Pepper Flakes
Garlic + Lemon + Tahini
Ginger + Orange
Lemon + Parsley
Lime + Noodles + Peanuts
Onions + Orange
Orange + Parmesan Cheese + Tomatoes
Red Onions + Yogurt
Rice Vinegar + Sesame Oil + Sesame Seeds + Soy Sauce or Tamari

Recipe Links
Cook Frozen Broccoli (Not Mushy) https://youtu.be/Ig6CeSmgU0c

How to Steam Broccoli https://youtu.be/adqpjc_OJIg

How to Blanch Broccoli https://youtu.be/RdLuEKq5wtw

Easily Cut Fresh Broccoli with Less Mess https://youtu.be/mKX8jfNl5IM

How to Grow Broccoli Sprouts https://youtu.be/U-e87xKofPs

Lemon-Garlic Broccoli (NOT Mushy! Using Frozen Broccoli) https://youtu.be/bg6hb9qIQIM

35+ Of Our Best Broccoli Recipes https://www.thekitchn.com/20-ways-to-eat-more-broccoli-tonight-237483

27 Broccoli Recipes You’ll Want to Make Tonight https://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/slideshow/broccoli-recipes

Broccoli Soup https://producemadesimple.ca/broccoli-soup/

50 of the Best Broccoli Recipes We’ve Ever Tasted https://www.tasteofhome.com/collection/superstar-broccoli-recipes-even-picky-eaters-will-love/

15 Best Broccoli Recipes https://www.thespruceeats.com/recipes-that-will-make-you-rethink-broccoli-4155771

11 Best Broccoli Recipes/Easy Broccoli Recipes https://food.ndtv.com/lists/10-best-broccoli-recipes-731246

Beef with Broccoli https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ree-drummond/beef-with-broccoli-2495686

Broccoli Recipes https://www.allrecipes.com/recipes/1113/fruits-and-vegetables/vegetables/broccoli/

Simple and Satisfying Broccoli https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/melissa-darabian/simple-and-satisfying-broccoli-recipe-1923557

10 Family-Friendly Broccoli Recipes https://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/recipe-collections-favorites/popular-ingredients/broccoli-recipes

Sweet and Sour Cod with Cabbage and Broccoli http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=136

Asian-Flavored Broccoli with Tofu http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=254

Seriously, The Best Broccoli of Your Life https://www.errenskitchen.com/seriously-best-broccoli-life/#wprm-recipe-container-7680

33 Amazing Broccoli Recipes Even Broccoli Haters Can’t Hate https://www.delish.com/cooking/nutrition/g241/broccoli-recipes/

15 Favorite Broccoli Recipes https://www.acouplecooks.com/tasty-broccoli-recipes/

Broccoli Cornbread with Cheese https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/231966/broccoli-cornbread-with-cheese/

Our 15 Best Broccoli Salad Recipes https://www.allrecipes.com/gallery/best-broccoli-salad-recipes/


Resources
http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=9

https://www.phytochemicals.info/plants/broccoli.php

https://www.masterclass.com/articles/what-is-broccoli-rabe-broccoli-rabe-vs-rapini-and-9-ways-to-cook-broccoli-rabe

https://producemadesimple.ca/broccoli-go-well/

https://www.allrecipes.com/article/all-about-broccoli/

https://athleanx.com/for-women/10-new-ways-to-make-broccoli-taste-awesome

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/sulforaphane

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/sulforaphane#benefits

https://www.livestrong.com/article/433053-broccoli-sprouts-vs-broccoli/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22537070/

The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service. (1993) So Easy to Preserve. 3rd ed. Athens, Georgia: The University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.


About Judi

Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

Bell Peppers

Bell Peppers 101 – The Basics

 

Bell Peppers 101 – The Basics

About Bell Peppers
Bell peppers are native to the Caribbean and North, Central, and South America. These popular peppers were gradually distributed around the world and are now grown in a number of countries. Bell peppers are commercially grown in greenhouse and non-greenhouse settings. In the United States, most greenhouse bell peppers are imported, usually from Mexico. The United States also imports bell peppers from Canada, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Spain. Within the United States, bell peppers are a popular summer food to grow among home gardeners. They are also grown commercially in California, Florida, New Jersey, Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, and Michigan.

Bell peppers are members of the nightshade (Solanaceae) family of plants, along with chili peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, and potatoes (not sweet potatoes). The name “bell peppers” was applied to these fruits (that we use as vegetables) to distinguish them from their hot cousins, including cayenne and jalapeno peppers.

Classic bell peppers have four lobes on the bottom. Increasingly, we’ll find three-lobed green bell peppers in the bin in grocery stores. These are more elongated in shape and are referred to as the Lamuyo type of pepper. Bell peppers are considered to be sweet rather than hot because they do not contain capsaicinoids that give hot peppers their classic, flavorful “heat.” The amount of capsaicinoids in a pepper is measured on the Scoville heat scale. It’s an indication of how “hot” a pepper is. Bell peppers are given a score of “0” on this scale, whereas the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion peppers have a score of 2 million! Ouch!!

Most varieties of bell peppers are green during the growing process and will undergo a color change during maturation. The colors can be yellow, orange, red, purple, lilac, brown, and even ivory. The colorful peppers are usually more expensive than the green, less mature peppers. This is because it takes a longer growing time to allow the peppers to mature, so the cost of production is increased. It is noteworthy that some varieties of bell peppers remain green, even with maturation, and others undergo color changes early in the development process.

Mini bell peppers are relatively new on the market. They are not young bell peppers, but are separate varieties of peppers. They can be more challenging to grow since they are less disease resistant than the larger peppers. Hence, they can be more expensive.

Nutrition and Health Benefits
Bell peppers are an excellent source of Vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids), Vitamin C, and Vitamin B6. They also contain a lot of folate, molybdenum, Vitamin E, fiber, Vitamin B2, pantothenic acid, niacin, and potassium. They also contain Vitamin K, manganese, Vitamin B1, phosphorus, and magnesium.

The shining star of bell peppers is their abundant content of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds. These many, assorted compounds in bell peppers provide an array of health benefits. Overall, such compounds reduce oxidative stress. This in itself reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity.

Eye Health. The carotenoids and other antioxidants have been shown to help prevent age-related macular degeneration of the eyes, which can result in vision loss.

Neurodegenerative Diseases. The compounds in bell peppers can help ward off neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Compounds in bell peppers, especially ripe, colorful bell peppers, have been shown to block the release of amyloid proteins. It is the release of such proteins that allows them to accumulate around certain nerve cells in the brain (cholinergic neurons) that increases the risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Although all bell peppers contain these antioxidants (primarily lutein and zeaxanthin), the darker, richer colored peppers contain more than the green, immature peppers.

How to Select Bell Peppers
Choose bell peppers that are bright in color, firm, with smooth skin, and no blemishes. The stems should be green and fresh looking. They should be heavy for their size. Avoid those that are soft and wrinkled, have blemishes, or are damaged in some way.

How to Store Bell Peppers
Store bell peppers, unwashed, in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator. The drawer slider should be set on high humidity (with the air vent closed). Since bell peppers are high in water content, this will help to keep them hydrated during storage. They should be in a humid, but not wet environment. Stored this way, they should keep for about 7 to 10 days.

Once cut, bell peppers should be placed in an airtight container and stored in the refrigerator. Use them as quickly as possible, within two or three days.

How to Prepare a Bell Pepper
Preparing bell peppers is very easy. Simply wash them well under cold water and pat them dry. With a sharp knife, cut across the top of the pepper, as if you were creating a “lid” for the lower portion of the pepper. The stem can then easily be removed from the top section and the top portion can then be cut and used as desired. Then, the seed core can easily be grasped and removed from the lower portion of the pepper. It’s best to do that over a trash can or bowl, since individual seeds will likely be released in the process. If desired, remaining membranes can easily be removed from the interior of the peppers. The pepper can then be cut and used as desired.  To see my demonstration on how to cut bell peppers with this method, watch this brief video … https://youtu.be/HTWMHMy6fmk

How to Freeze Bell Peppers
Freezing bell peppers is really about as easy as it can get. They can be blanched, but it’s optional. Bear in mind, that once frozen, they will not be appropriate for use like you would have used fresh peppers. Their texture will be soft, so they will be suitable only for cooked applications.

First, simply wash and dry your whole peppers. Remove the stems and seeds (like detailed under “How to Prepare a Bell Pepper” in this article). Cut the peppers into whatever size pieces you want, depending upon your intended use(s) later. To allow them to freeze separately so they won’t freeze into one big lump, spread the cut peppers out on a baking sheet or tray. Place it in the freezer until the peppers are completely frozen. Transfer the frozen pepper pieces to an airtight freezer container or bag. Label them with the date and return them to the freezer. To avoid freezer burn, use them within six months.

Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Bell Peppers
* Add slices of bell peppers to your snack trays for scooping up dips. They would add color, crunch, flavor, AND nutrition.

* Add bell peppers to omelets, soups, and pasta sauces.

* Use diced or sliced bell peppers as pizza toppings.

* Are you looking for ways to get children to eat more veggies? Stuff bell peppers with macaroni and cheese.

* Add bell peppers to your favorite stir-fry.

* Add chopped bell peppers to tuna, chicken, and potato salad.

* Don’t store bell peppers in sealed plastic bags (even in the refrigerator). Moisture will develop inside the bag, inviting them to spoil faster.

* Sauté sliced bell peppers with onions, tomatoes, garlic and herbs. Add the mixture to tacos, fajitas, sandwiches, wraps, pizzas, pastas, frittatas, and quiches. This mixture can also be used as a foundation for soups, stews, and sauces.

* Add diced bell peppers to any green salad for extra flavor, crunch, and nutrition.

* Stuff bell peppers with any meat or bean, grain, and vegetable mixture that you enjoy. Bake them until the peppers are just tender and enjoy! Embellish the baked stuffed pepper with your favorite tomato or other sauce for added flavor and moisture.

* Mix up a batch of your favorite hummus and use bell pepper slices for dipping the hummus. Take this one step farther by stuffing mini bell peppers with hummus, making small, bite-size appetizers.

* Add diced bell peppers to your next batch of corn bread. It’s a perfect match and will give the corn bread a touch of sweetness.

* Add diced bell peppers to your favorite green smoothie. Using red, orange or yellow peppers will add a touch of sweetness.

Herbs and Spices That Go Well with Bell Peppers
Anise, basil, bay leaf, capers, cayenne, celery seeds, chervil, chili pepper flakes, chili powder, cilantro, coriander, cumin, marjoram, mint, oregano, paprika, parsley, pepper (black), saffron, sage, salt, thyme

Foods That Go Well with Bell Peppers
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Beans (esp. black, fava, red), beef, chicken, chickpeas, eggs, ham, lentils, pine nuts, pork, sausage, seafood (in general), sesame seeds, snow peas, tahini, tempeh, tofu, tuna, walnuts

Vegetables: Artichokes, arugula, asparagus, bok choy, broccoli, broccoli rabe, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chard, chiles, chives, cucumbers, eggplant, fennel, garlic, ginger, greens (salad), jicama, leeks, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, shallots, squash (summer), sweet potatoes, tomatoes (fresh, paste, sauce, sun-dried), vegetables (summer), zucchini

Fruits: Lemon, lime, mango, olives, peaches, pears, pineapple, raisins

Grains and Grain Products: Barley, bread, bulgur, corn, corn bread, grains (whole), millet, noodles (Asian), pasta, polenta, quinoa, rice (esp. brown, wild)

Dairy and Non-Dairy: Cheese (esp. cheddar, feta, goat, mozzarella, Parmesan, provolone, soft), coconut milk, yogurt

Other Foods: Honey, miso, oil (esp. canola, corn, olive, peanut, sesame), pomegranate molasses, stock, vinegar (esp. balsamic, red wine, sherry), wine (dry red, white)

Bell peppers have been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
Bruschetta, casseroles, chili, coulis, couscous, curries, dips, egg dishes (frittatas, omelets, quiches, scrambled, tortillas), gazpacho, gratins, hash, meatloaf, Mediterranean cuisines, Mexican cuisine, pasta dishes (lasagna, linguini, orzo, spaghetti), pilafs, pizzas, purees, quesadillas, ratatouille, relishes, risottos, romesco sauce, salads (bean, green, pasta, potato, tomato, vegetable), sandwiches, sauces, slaws, sofritoes, soups (i.e., bean, gazpacho, gumbo, red pepper, tomato, vegetable), South American cuisines, spreads, stews, stir-fries, stuffed peppers, stuffings, Tex-Mex cuisine, Thai cuisine, Turkish cuisine

Suggested Food and Flavor Combos Using Bell Peppers
Add bell peppers to any of the following combinations…

Balsamic vinegar + basil + garlic + olive oil
Balsamic vinegar + chili pepper flakes + garlic + olive oil
Balsamic vinegar + olive oil + red onions
Basil + chiles + garlic
Basil + eggplant + garlic
Basil + fennel + goat cheese
Basil + garlic + olive oil + onions + oregano + tomatoes
Cheese + eggs + tomatoes
Chiles + cilantro + lime + mint + scallions
Cucumbers + garlic + tomatoes
Dried cranberries + mushrooms + sage + wild rice
Eggs + mushrooms + onions
Garlic + olive oil + tomatoes + zucchini
Cider vinegar + garlic + honey + olive oil + red onions
Lemon juice + mint + pine nuts + rice
Olive oil + onions + red wine vinegar + thyme
Pomegranate molasses + walnuts

Recipe Links
45 of Our Favorite Bell Pepper Recipes https://www.tasteofhome.com/collection/bell-pepper-recipes/

25 Bell Pepper Recipes That Make the Most of This Colorful Veg https://www.marthastewart.com/275370/bell-pepper-recipes

Pan-Roasted Peppers https://www.thespruceeats.com/pan-roasted-peppers-482763

15 Favorite Bell Pepper Recipes https://www.acouplecooks.com/favorite-bell-pepper-recipes/

Healthy Veggie Salad http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=311

Zesty Mexican Soup http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=30

Braised Kidney Beans and Sweet Potato http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=110

Spicy Black Bean Burrito http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=248

Sautéed Vegetables with Cashews http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=229

Tahini and Crudités Appetizer http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=312

Romaine and Avocado Salad http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=45

Black Bean Chili http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=43

Bell Pepper Lentil Dip https://www.naturefresh.ca/recipes/bell-pepper-lentil-dip/

11 Best Bell Pepper Recipes/Easy Bell Pepper Recipes https://food.ndtv.com/lists/10-best-bell-pepper-recipes-1395400


Resources
https://producemadesimple.ca/what-do-sweet-peppers-go-well-with/

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=50

https://www.thespruceeats.com/how-to-freeze-fresh-peppers-for-later-use-4775099

https://food52.com/blog/11214-what-to-do-with-an-overload-or-not-of-peppers

https://fruitsandveggies.org/stories/top-10-ways-to-enjoy-bell-peppers/

https://www.naturefresh.ca/how-to-use-up-your-extra-peppers/

https://www.naturefresh.ca/12-creative-ways-prepare-peppers/

https://www.naturefresh.ca/bell-pepper-faqs-facts/

https://homeguides.sfgate.com/wont-red-bell-peppers-im-growing-turn-green-red-96236.html

Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.

 

About Judi

Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.