Category Archives: Nutrition

Glass Jars

Glass 101 – Why Switch From Plastic to Glass Food Jars or Containers AND Ways to Use Them

From Plastic to Glass Food Containers
Why Switch, and Ways to Use Them

Why switch to glass food containers?

There is a growing trend with people moving away from using plastic in the kitchen. This includes plastic wrap, plastic bags, plastic utensils, and plastic containers for storing, freezing, heating food, and eating. There are many reasons for this trend including:

* The desire to be more earth-friendly with less waste. Plastic waste is littering the planet in insurmountable amounts. Switching to glass helps to reduce potential plastic waste and is ultimately recyclable, even when broken. Also, the production and reuse of glass products creates less pollution in the environment than does the production of plastics.

* Avoiding chemicals that may be in or released from plastics that could leach into foods. Plastics are made from assorted chemicals, some of which are endocrine disrupting chemicals such as Bisphenol-A (BPA) and phthalates. These chemicals can affect the brain, hormone system, reproductive system, and may also increase the risk of getting cancer. Furthermore, many such chemicals have not been completely tested for their health effects. Research has shown that some of these chemicals can leach into foods and beverages, in addition to possibly contaminating air, creating hazardous dust, and getting onto our hands. Glass does not leach chemicals into food or liquids, nor into the air or surfaces it comes in contact with.

* Durability. Glass lasts longer than plastic, unless of course, it gets broken. Also, plastic containers can melt or get warped when in contact with hot food, whereas most glass can tolerate hot to warm food without being damaged. Also, plastic wears out, becomes scratched or cracked, and breaks down much faster than glass, possibly causing chemicals to leach into the contents of the plastic container.

* Functionality. Glass has more potential uses than plastic containers, and may be reused indefinitely. Plastic containers wear out over time and may develop odors, scratches, a greasy film, and/or cracks.

* Glass is easier to clean. It will not absorb grease nor stain like plastic.

* Odor control.  Glass does not absorb odors, whereas plastic can.

* Glass is microwavable.  Most glass may be used in the microwave, whereas most plastics should not be microwaved. When plastic containers are microwaved, they may soften or melt. Also, the heat from the contents may cause plastic containers to leach chemicals into the contents of the container.

* Oven use. Most glass intended for kitchen use may be used in the oven, whereas plastic may not be used in the oven.

* Flavor. Glass preserves flavor better than plastic and won’t impart its own flavor into food, like plastic can, especially with prolonged storage.

* Glass containers are reusable for a much longer time than plastic containers. When purchasing items like tomato sauce, pickles, jelly, jam, beverages, nut butters, or anything that may be packaged in a glass jar or container, opt for glass packaging rather than plastic, if possible. It will help to reduce waste and the glass containers can be reused at home for many different purposes in the kitchen and around the house.

Uses for Glass Jars and Containers

There are many ways to reuse cleaned out food jars of all sizes and shapes, in addition to using canning mason jars for applications other than preserving food. For instance, glass jars can be used in any of the following creative ways:

* Sort and store assorted hardware such as nuts, bolts, screws and nails in separate jars.

* Store vegetables cut in advance for salads or meal preparation in jars.

* Use a lidded jar as a beverage glass at home or “to go.”

* Use a glass jar for drinking a smoothie at home or “to go.”

* Store small craft or sewing items such as pins, buttons, ribbons, or small tools in a jar.

* Use a jar as a pencil holder. Place pencils, pens, crayons, and/or markers in a jar on a desk.

* Store paper clips in a jar.

* Package your own prepared foods such as a “to-go” lunch in a jar.

* Make (and serve) a layered salad in a jar.

* Store leftover liquid items in a jar in the refrigerator. Examples include soups, sauces, beverages, or baby formula.

* Store leftover foods such as cooked rice, mashed potatoes, vegetables, cooked beans, tuna salad, cut fruit, etc. in a jar.

* Store pre-measured baking ingredients in jars. When you want to measure ingredients in advance to shorten meal prep time, measure baking ingredients in advance and store them in clean, dry food jars.

* Use a jar as a simple vase for cut flowers or a decorative floral arrangement with artificial flowers.

* Use a glass jar as a small vessel for rooting plant cuttings.

* Store extra dried herbs or spices in small glass jars with lids.

* Store extra dry foods such as beans, rice, pasta, flour, nuts, and seeds in jars.

* Store and mix homemade salad dressing in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid.

* Use a jar as a container for homemade cake, brownie, bar, quick bread, and cookie mixes. Decorate the jar and give it as a gift.

* Make a homemade luminary in a jar.

* Make homemade candles in jars. Decorate and give them as gifts.

* Make a homemade terrarium in a decorative jar.

* Make and store homemade cosmetics in small jars with tight-fitting lids.

* Pack a homemade first-aid kit in a small jar for traveling.

* Store extra matches in a jar for safe keeping.

* Make painted or decorated jars for gift giving.

* Make a decorative, colorful sand art in a jar for your home or gifting.

* Make a decorative holder for a tea light with a pretty jar.

* Make flavored oils or vinegars in jars.

* Make overnight oats in a jar.

* Make a mini planter (such as for one flower bulb) with a decorative jar.

* Make a citronella candle in a jar for keeping mosquitoes away when you’re outside on a summer evening. Simply put the lid on the jar when it’s not being used.

* Store cotton balls and cotton swabs in a jar in the bathroom.

*  Use a glass jar for an easy piggy bank for saving extra change at the end of the day.

* Make a homemade, reusable soap dispenser by putting a pump in the top of a glass jar.

* Freeze food in jars, such as chopped bell peppers or onions, leftover soup in individual servings, or easy to-go lunches made in advance.

* Store extra garden seeds in the freezer in a glass jar.

* Make a decorative table centerpiece with a pretty jar.

* Store extra hair care items such as hair ties, bows, bobby pins and hair barrettes in jars.

* Use a jar as a toothbrush holder in the bathroom.

* Store extra combs in a glass jar.

* Use a small jar as a toothpick holder.

* Decorate a small glass jar to be used as a small planter for succulents.

* Make and serve a parfait in a tall jar.

* Carry “to go” snacks in a jar.

* Store makeup brushes in a jar.

* Store extra granola in a jar so it keeps fresh.

* Make a bug catching jar for children.

* Store extra candy in a jar after the bag/container is opened.

* Organize extra pantry items by placing dry food in jars, especially after the original packaging has been opened.

* Marinate meat in a jar. It would be much easier to clean than a plastic bag, or would save trashing the bag after it was used.

* Store painting supplies in jars. Larger jars can be used for storing paint brushes. Smaller jars can be used to store small amounts of extra paint.

* Display small vacation souvenirs in a jar for a decorative memoir.

The uses for glass jars of any size and shape are only limited to your imagination. So, start saving them when any store-bought food item is finished and you’ll have enough containers for all sorts of uses before you know it!




Blackberries 101 – The Basics


Blackberries 101 – The Basics

About Blackberries
Blackberries are large, deep purple berries that often grow wild on thorny bushes. The plants are members of the Rubus (rose or Rosaceae) family. They are closely related to raspberries, which are in the same plant genus, Rubus. Blackberries are native to northern temperate areas, especially in eastern North America, and on the Pacific coast of North America.

There are 375 species of blackberry plants, found around the world. Today there are thousands of blackberry hybrid varieties, including thornless bushes, which were developed in recent years. The first modern blackberry variety was developed in 1880 by Judge Logan of California. His plant was released as the Loganberry. Blackberries are sometimes referred to as brambleberries. However, the term “brambleberry” can also be used to refer to other thorny bushes that produce fruits, such as raspberries, boysenberries, loganberries, and others.

Blackberries are sweet/sour, with a juicy texture and lots of crunchy seeds. They can be enjoyed fresh, cooked, and frozen, and are popular in desserts, jams, jellies, candy and sometimes wine. Blackberries are often combined with other fruit, such as apples, for pies and crumbles.

Ancient cultures rarely cultivated blackberry bushes. Instead, they were treated as wild plants and used for medicinal purposes. The ancient Greeks used blackberries as a remedy for gout. The ancient Romans made a medicinal tea from the leaves of the blackberry plant to treat assorted illnesses.

Nutrition and Health Benefits
Blackberries are an excellent source of Vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, C, E, and K, and also folate, calcium, manganese, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc. They are a good source of amino acids (protein) and fiber. Blackberries have only 43 calories in 3.5 ounces (100 grams), and 1 cup (about 140 grams) has about 62 calories. They are a low-calorie food, so eat all you want!

Blackberries also have an abundant supply of antioxidants, especially anthocyanins and phenolic compounds, that give blackberries their deep color and offer a variety of health benefits.

Antioxidant Protection, Anti-Cancer and Other Health Effects. Research studies have suggested that berries high in anthocyanins (like blackberries) may protect against cancers of the esophagus, mouth, breast, colon, and possibly other types of cancer. Blackberry extracts have been shown to demonstrate antimutagenic effects by suppressing tumor promoting factors. This in itself helps to lower the risk of developing cancer. Research to this effect is scarce, but warrants further testing.

Blackberries, along with other berries are high in antioxidants that keep harmful free radical molecules under control. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage cells when their numbers get too high, causing oxidative stress. Reducing oxidative stress lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.

The antioxidants found in blackberries and other berries have been shown to help protect eyes against harmful free radicals and oxidative stress. Rutin, a plant pigment (flavonoid) found in blackberries, has been shown to strengthen blood vessels to the eyes and thereby improve eye health and ward off diseases like macular degeneration and cataracts.

High in Vitamin C. Just one cup of fresh blackberries has about 30 milligrams of Vitamin C. That’s half of the recommended daily intake of this crucial antioxidant vitamin needed for collagen formation in bones, connective tissue and blood vessels. Vitamin C is also used in wound healing, regenerating skin, fighting harmful free radical molecules in the body, iron absorption, fighting disease, and preventing scurvy (the Vitamin C deficiency disease). Vitamin C also is an important antioxidant in the body that helps reduce oxidative stress that can lead to the development of cancer.

Low Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load: Blood Sugar and Insulin Response. Blackberries may improve your blood sugar and insulin levels. They have a low Glycemic Index of only 25. This means they will not cause a big spike in blood sugar when eaten and should be safe for diabetics to eat. This improves blood sugar regulation and may be helpful in keeping cholesterol levels in check.

The Glycemic Load of blackberries is also very low, being only 4. This represents how one’s blood sugar levels may be affected after eating a specific food. With a very low Glycemic Load of only 4, blackberries will hardly, if at all, affect blood sugar levels. Research studies suggest that blackberries may protect cells from high blood sugar levels, help increase insulin sensitivity, and reduce blood sugar and insulin response to high-carbohydrate meals. These effects appeared to happen in both healthy people and those with insulin resistance. This is critical information for diabetics and those managing blood sugar levels, which means that blackberries are fruit such individuals should be able to eat without issue.

High Fiber Benefits. Blackberries are a good source of fiber, including soluble fiber. This type of fiber slows the movement of the intestinal contents, helping to increase the feeling of fullness, reducing hunger. This can help in weight management, reducing the need to eat frequently. Increased fiber also helps to reduce the number of calories absorbed from mixed meals. One research study found that doubling fiber intake could result in eating up to 130 fewer calories in a day.

The high fiber content of berries also means they are low in digestible or net carbohydrates (which is determined by subtracting the total fiber from total carbohydrates). For instance, 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of blackberries has 10.2 grams of total carbohydrates, 5.3 grams of which are fiber. This brings the net carbohydrates of 100 grams of blackberries to 4.9 grams. Because of their low net carbohydrate content, blackberries are considered to be a low-carb-friendly food.

Anti-Inflammatory Benefits. Because of their many antioxidants, berries (including blackberries) have been shown to have strong anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is a natural part of the body’s defense mechanism in fighting infection and injury. However, current lifestyles often contribute to excessive, long-term inflammation brought on by increased stress, inactivity, and unhealthy foods. This type of chronic inflammation contributes to diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Research has shown that the antioxidants in berries may help to lower inflammatory markers, thus reducing the risk of diseases brought on by long-term inflammation.

Skin Health.  Antioxidants in berries help to control free radicals in the body. Free radicals are among the leading causes of skin damage that contribute to aging. Ellagic acid, one of the antioxidants found in blackberries and other berries, appears to be responsible for some of the skin-related benefits attributed to berries. Research suggests that this antioxidant may protect skin by blocking the production of enzymes that break down collagen in sun-damaged skin. Collagen is a protein within the skin’s structure that allows skin to stretch and remain firm. When collagen is damaged, the skin may sag and develop wrinkles.

Brain Health. Blackberries and other berries may improve brain health and prevent memory loss caused by aging. In a review published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, researchers concluded that antioxidants in berries help fight free radicals and alter how brain neurons communicate. This may help reduce inflammation in the brain, which can lead to cognitive and motor issues that often accompany aging.

High in Vitamin K. Blackberries are high in Vitamin K. This vital vitamin plays an important role in the blood clotting function. It is also important in bone metabolism. A deficiency of Vitamin K can lead to bone thinning and fractures, and may cause easy bruising. Just one cup of raw blackberries provides over one-third of the daily recommended value of Vitamin K.

It is noteworthy that if you take blood thinners, monitoring your intake of Vitamin K is important because it can interfere with medications. Eating a consistent amount of Vitamin K-rich foods such as blackberries, green leafy vegetables, soybeans, and fermented dairy foods, helps in the management of medication dosages. Consult with your healthcare provider if you expect to make significant dietary changes that may affect your medication dosages.

High in Manganese. Blackberries are high in manganese. This mineral is vital to healthy bone development, a healthy immune system, metabolizing carbohydrates, amino acids, and cholesterol, and also plays a role in the formation of collagen during wound healing. Manganese may also help prevent osteoporosis, manage blood sugar levels, and reduce epileptic seizures. One cup of fresh blackberries contains almost half the daily recommended value of manganese, so they are clearly a great source of this vital mineral.

How to Select Blackberries
When buying blackberries, choose ones with color ranging from deep purple/black to deep blue/purple. They should not have any green or white patches on them. They should be moderately firm, plump, dry, uniform in color, and not wrinkled or dried out.

When buying blackberries in a grocery store, examine the container for signs of dampness from crushed berries or water droplets that have accumulated, stains and mold. Avoid any containers with any of those indications, which would be signs of age and possible decay. Most blackberries will be packaged with a moisture absorber in the container to help extend the life of the berry (which is desirable). Avoid containers without them, since the berries will age faster.

When picking your own blackberries, choose ones that are plump with a slightly tender feel. They should be dark in color. The skin of a ripe blackberry is dull black and not shiny. [Note that fully ripe blackberries have a short life, so plan to use them right away. Those packaged commercially are picked earlier, when not fully ripe, so they will last longer.] Red to light purple berries are not ripe yet. A ripe blackberry will release from the plant with a slight tug. If a blackberry is dull (not shiny), soft, and starting to leak its juices, it is overripe.

Blackberries start to ripen when the weather is consistently warm. When picking your own blackberries, don’t overfill your container. Limit stacking them to no more than 5 inches high (maximum) to avoid crushing the berries on the bottom. If you pick berries in the heat of the day, the warmth in the picked berries will cause them to age fast. It’s best to spread them out and/or expose them to air conditioning as soon as you can to release the heat and preserve your delicate berries.

How to Store Blackberries
First, remove any damaged or decaying blackberries from the container. Do not wash blackberries until you are ready to use them. Refrigerate unwashed blackberries right away in an open area in the refrigerator. They need to be kept dry. If storing them in a crisper drawer, be sure to have the air vent open, or on the low humidity setting.

For best quality, use your blackberries within 3 days. If they are very fresh, they may keep for up to one week.

How to Prepare Blackberries
Simply wash your berries right before you want to enjoy them. Place them in a colander and rinse them under cold water. Allow them to drain. Or, place them in a bowl of cold water. Gently swish them around, then carefully remove them to a colander to drain.

How to Preserve Blackberries
Extra blackberries can easily be frozen. Simply wash them, drain well to remove as much water as possible. Remove any hulls or stems from the berries and place them in a freezer bag or container. Remove as much air as possible and freeze.

To freeze blackberries so they don’t form one big clump, spread the washed berries out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place the tray in the freezer. When the berries are frozen, transfer them to a freezer container or bag. Use frozen blackberries within one year.

Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Blackberries
* Combine blackberries with apples in a pie.

* If a recipe calls for blackberries and you don’t have any, loganberries, boysenberries, or raspberries may be used as substitutes.

* One pint of fresh blackberries is about 2 cups.

* Ten ounces of frozen blackberries is about 2 cups.

* Ten blackberries count as one serving.

* Make easy Blackberry-Banana Overnight Oats. Blend 1 cup of blackberries with ½ banana, ½ cup milk of choice, and ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract. Pour into a mason jar. Stir in ½ cup oats. Cover the jar and place it in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, top with more blackberries and the other half of the banana and enjoy!

* Try a Blackberry-Pomegranate Salad. Make a salad base with red cabbage, lettuce, spinach, blackberries, slivers of pears, and a little red onion. Dress it with a mixture of 2 cups of pomegranate juice, up to ¼ cup honey for a little sweetener, and the juice of ½ lime. Sprinkle the salad with toasted, sliced almonds and enjoy!

* Unripe blackberries will not further ripen after being picked. So, if you’re picking your own, choose only the ripe berries.

* Try easy blackberry popsicles. In a blender, combine ½ cup unsweetened coconut milk, 1/3 cup honey or maple syrup, 2 tsp lemon juice, and 4 cups fresh or frozen blackberries. Blend until smooth, then pour into popsicle molds. Freeze then enjoy! Makes 4 popsicles.

* If you can’t get fresh blackberries locally, opt for frozen. They are usually picked at their peak of ripeness and frozen very quickly after being harvested, sometimes as soon as 20 minutes after being harvested. You can’t get much fresher than that!

* Try toping some pancakes or waffles with fresh blackberries and a little yogurt.

* Top your favorite pudding with fresh blackberries and a sprinkle of granola.

* How about a nut butter and fresh blackberry sandwich? Make it richer by adding sliced banana.

* Try a savory blackberry sauce by gently cooking until smooth: 1 pint of blackberries, ½ cup of balsamic vinegar, and 2 teaspoons of maple syrup or honey. Try it over grilled meat, chicken or seafood. It would work really well with grilled salmon.

* Try an easy frozen treat by blending mashed banana, blackberries, and fruit-flavored yogurt. Pour into muffin cups with a popsicle stick in the middle and freeze.

* Make a parfait by layering yogurt, granola, blackberries and banana slices.

* Add blackberries to a smoothie.

* Use blackberries as a topping for frozen yogurt or ice cream.

* Make a simple fruit salad by combining blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, banana slices, and orange segments. Top with a dollop of yogurt and enjoy!

* Add fresh blackberries to your favorite green salad. Dress it with a balsamic vinaigrette and top it off with a sprinkle of slivered almonds or toasted walnuts.

Herbs and Spices That Go Well with Blackberries
Basil, chamomile, cinnamon, lemon herbs (i.e., lemon balm, lemon verbena), mint, nutmeg, pepper, vanilla

Foods That Go Well with Blackberries
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Almonds, beef, chicken, ham, hazelnuts, pecans, poppy seeds, pork, pumpkin seeds, salmon

Vegetables: Endive, ginger, rhubarb

Fruits: Apples, bananas, blueberries, figs, lemon, lime, mangoes, melons, nectarines, oranges, papaya, peaches, raspberries, strawberries, watermelon

Grains and Grain Products: Granola, oats

Dairy and Non-Dairy: Cheese (i.e., cream, ricotta), cream, crème fraiche, ice cream, mascarpone, milk (in general), sour cream, yogurt

Other Foods: Caramel, chocolate, honey, liqueurs, maple syrup, meringue, rose geranium, sugar, vinegar (balsamic), wine (i.e., fruity, sweet red)

Blackberries have been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
Cereals (breakfast), coulis, desserts (i.e., cobblers, crisps, crumbles, tarts), muesli, pies, puddings, salads (fruit), sauces, smoothies, sorbets, soups (fruit)

Suggested Food and Flavor Combos Using Blackberries
Add blackberries to any of the following combinations…

Apples + Brown Sugar + Cinnamon
Apples + Cinnamon + Hazelnuts
Cinnamon + Orange
Honey + Yogurt
Lime + Mint
Lime + Yogurt
Papaya + Yogurt

Recipe Links
50 Blackberry Recipes to Make Summer So Much Sweeter

Blackberry-Glazed Chicken

Blackberry Freezer Jam

Blackberry Banana Overnight Oats

Blackberry Pie Bars

Blackberry Cobbler in Mason Jars

Blackberry Arugula Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

Watermelon, Blackberry, and Mint Salad

Fall Spiced Skirt Steak Tacos with Blackberry and Pear Slaw

Sweet Potato Quinoa Cakes with Blackberry Salsa

45 Blackberry Recipes Bursting with Juicy Flavor

Berry-Beet Salad

Blackberry Frozen Yogurt

Avocado Fruit Salad with Tangerine Vinaigrette

Four-Berry Spinach Salad

Arugula Salad with Berry Dressing

34 Blackberry Recipes

20 Totally Beautiful Blackberry Desserts

30 Delicious Blackberry Recipes You Should Try At Least Once

18 Knockout Blackberry Recipes

Spiced Roasted Apples and Blackberries

Blackberry Strawberry Sorbet [Vegan]


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.


Peaches 101 – The Basics


Peaches 101 – The Basics

About Peaches
Peaches are stone fruits, native to northwest China. From there, the trees spread westward through Asia into the Mediterranean countries, then onward to other parts of Europe. Spanish explorers transported peaches to the Americas, where they were found in Mexico as early as 1600. Large-scale production of peaches started in the United States in the 19th century. Early crops were of poor quality. With improved techniques of grafting, large commercial peach orchards were eventually established.

The color of peach flesh can be white or yellow to orange. There are two main varieties of peaches: freestone, where the flesh easily separates from the one large pit or stone, and clingstone, where the flesh adheres securely to the stone. The freestone varieties are usually eaten fresh, “out of hand,” since the pit almost falls out once exposed. They can also be used in any application, like baking, cooking, canning and freezing. Clingstone peaches are a bit sweeter, smaller, and juicier than freestone varieties. They are excellent options for canning and preserving. Most commercially canned peaches are clingstone varieties.

Thousands of varieties of peaches have been developed over the years. Yellow-fleshed varieties are the most popular in North America.  Europeans enjoy both white and yellow fleshed peaches. Globally, China, Italy, Spain, and the United States are major producers of peaches.

Nutrition and Health Benefits
Peaches have noteworthy nutritional value and health benefits. One medium peach contains Vitamin C, Vitamin A, fiber, potassium, niacin, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, copper and manganese. They also have smaller amounts of magnesium, phosphorus, iron, and B-vitamins. One medium peach has about 58 calories, so they would make a healthy, low-calorie snack or addition to any meal or dessert.

Peaches also contain a number of antioxidants, compounds that are known to neutralize harmful molecules in the body, protecting us from aging and assorted diseases. It’s noteworthy that the fresher and riper a peach is, the more antioxidants it contains.

Digestive Help. The fiber in peaches is half soluble and half insoluble. This is especially helpful since each type of fiber serves its own purpose and they are not interchangeable. Soluble fiber feeds our gut bacteria, keeping colonies strong and active. Soluble fiber also binds with bile in the digestive tract, removing it in the feces. This forces the liver to make more bile from existing cholesterol, which in turn, helps to keep our blood cholesterol levels in check. Insoluble fiber is important for helping to propel the contents of the digestive tract forward, preventing constipation. This also helps to ward off disorders like Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and ulcerative colitis. It is important to note that much of the fiber in peaches is found in the skin, so to get the most benefit from your peaches, don’t peel them, if possible.

Heart Health. As mentioned under “Digestive Help,” the soluble fiber in peaches helps to keep cholesterol levels down. This in itself helps to ward off heart and cardiovascular diseases. Also, potassium, which is found in peaches, is an electrolyte known for helping to manage the balance of fluids in the body. It also promotes lower blood pressure, by helping blood vessels to relax and expand appropriately, allowing for better blood flow and transport of nutrients and oxygen throughout the body.

Skin Health. The high level of Vitamin A and antioxidants found in peaches helps to promote healthy skin. First, peaches are high in Vitamin C. This crucial vitamin is important in the development and maintenance of collagen in the body. Collagen is vital in providing a support system for the skin, promoting wound healing, and strengthening the skin. It can also improve the appearance of skin by reducing wrinkling, improving elasticity, smoothing roughness, and improving skin color.

Vitamin A, Vitamin E, and the other antioxidants (along with Vitamin C) found in peaches work together as anti-inflammatory agents, helping to protect the skin from sun damage, improving the skin tone, calming inflammation by squelching harmful free-radical molecules, and helping to protect against premature aging. Also, since peaches are largely water, they help to hydrate the skin, giving it a healthy glow and minimizing wrinkles.

Cancer Protection. The skin and flesh of peaches are rich in carotenoids, caffeic acid, and polyphenols. These types of antioxidants have been found to have anticancer properties, limiting the growth and spread of cancer cells and also helping to prevent non-cancerous tumors from becoming malignant. Animal and human studies confirm that peaches may be helpful in preventing breast cancer.

Allergy Symptoms. Peaches may help to reduce allergy symptoms. Studies have shown that peaches may help to reduce or prevent the release of histamines in the blood after exposure to allergens, thereby reducing allergy symptoms. More research is needed in this area, but the findings look promising.

Immunity. The antioxidants found in peaches may help to boost immunity by fighting certain types of bacteria.

Diabetes. Animal studies found that compounds in peaches may help to prevent high blood sugar levels and insulin resistance. More studies with humans are needed in this area, but it appears that peaches, along with other foods high in antioxidants, may be helpful in preventing and treating diabetes and insulin resistance.

Eye Health. The powerful antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin found in peaches, helps to protect the retina and lens of the eyes. Along with that, the compounds have been shown to reduce the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts, two common eye disorders that hinder the vision of many people. The Vitamin A found in peaches also is important for supporting eye health. A serious Vitamin A deficiency causes xerophthalmia, which can result in eye damage causing problems from night blindness to complete and irreversible total blindness. In fact, severe Vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of blindness among children in underdeveloped nations around the world.

Cognitive Health. Antioxidants, like those found in peaches, are known to fight harmful molecules in the body. When affecting the brain, harmful free-radical molecules can cause neurodegenerative diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Ingesting ample antioxidants from foods in their natural form is the best way to obtain these helpful compounds. Including peaches and other fresh fruits and vegetables in your daily diet is a simple way to help ensure you lower your risk for serious conditions as detailed above.

How to Select Fresh Peaches
When choosing fresh peaches, bear in mind your personal preference or intended use. The white-fleshed peaches are sweeter and less acidic than the yellow-fleshed peaches, which are more of a sweet-tart flavor.

When buying fresh peaches, look for those that are hard or only slightly soft, with no bruises or wrinkles. Don’t be shy…smell the peach before you place it in your cart. Those that smell sweeter will be riper, sweeter in flavor, and ready to eat sooner than those with little to no aroma. Also, you can tell if a peach is ripe and ready to eat by gently pressing down on its flesh and feeling it slightly give…like you would test an avocado for ripeness.

Avoid peaches that are brownish, damaged, mushy or wrinkled, because they are old, overripe, and will not last long.

How to Store Fresh Peaches
If your fresh peaches are not fully ripe, they can be placed on the kitchen counter in a single layer, away from sunlight and heat. They should ripen within one to three days.

Ripe peaches will last up to one week when kept at room temperature. If you won’t be able to use them within that time, place them in the refrigerator to slow down the ripening process. They may be kept in an open area of the refrigerator, or in a crisper drawer to help protect them from damage. If they are placed in the crisper drawer, leave the air vent open, on the low humidity setting.

Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Peaches
* Try grilling or roasting peaches, then add them to a salad.

* Try grilled or roasted peaches with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or mascarpone cheese.

* Serve chicken with a peach sauce.

* Make a peach salsa to serve on tacos or pork tenderloin.

* On a hot day, try adding some sliced peaches to your favorite iced tea. For the most flavor, smash the peaches in the bottom of the glass before adding the ice cubes and tea.

* Blend some peaches with coconut milk for a “peaches and cream” smoothie or dessert. Add some dates or sweetener of choice, if desired. Add banana for more richness, if desired. Spice it up if you want with a little cinnamon and nutmeg.

* Blend peaches with yogurt or coconut cream and freeze it in popsicle molds. Sweeten it with dates or sweetener of choice, if desired. Add a touch of lemon juice for a little tartness and color retention, if desired.

* Add diced peaches to your morning oatmeal.

* Blend peaches with raspberries to make a sauce, then serve it over ice cream or coconut milk sorbet. Top with chopped almonds and enjoy!

* Try a salad with a bed of mixed greens mixed with cherry tomatoes and peach slices. Top with some fresh basil leaves and drizzle with a balsamic-honey dressing.

* The lighter, white flesh peaches taste sweeter and are less acidic than the traditional yellow flesh peaches. The yellow flesh peaches are sweet, but more acidic which makes them a little tangier.

* Peaches come in two basic varieties regarding their pits or stones. They can be freestone, where the flesh separates easily from the stone. Or they can be clingstone, where the flesh adheres to the stone and is not easily removed. The freestone peaches are easier to work with since the stone comes out easily. They also tend to be larger and less juicy than their counterparts, the clingstones. Clingstone peaches tend to be slightly softer, sweeter, and juicier than freestone peaches.

* Botanically speaking, nectarines are actually a variety of peach. They are so closely related that sometimes nectarines naturally appear on peach trees.

* 1 pound of fresh peaches = 4 medium peaches = about 2-1/2 cups chopped or sliced = about 1-1/2 cups pureed.

* If you need fresh peaches for a recipe and don’t have enough, even though the flavors may be a bit different, the following fruit may be used as a substitute: nectarines, apricots, plums, mangoes, papaya, cherries, and pluots or apriums (crosses between plums and apricots).

* If you need dried peaches for a recipe and don’t have enough, even though the flavors may be a bit different, the following may be used as a substitute: dried apricots, dried nectarines, and dried cherries.

* Top rice pudding (or any other pudding) with diced fresh peaches.

* Try a peach parfait by layering diced fresh peaches, yogurt, banana, pistachios, and granola.

* If you buy conventionally grown peaches and are concerned with pesticide or other chemical residues on your fruit, most of it can be easily removed by a simple (scienced-based!) 15-minute soak in a baking soda solution. Combine a ratio of 1 teaspoon of baking soda in 2 cups of water. Make up enough solution to be able to submerge your peaches. Weigh the peaches down with a plate to keep them under the water and allow them to soak for 15 minutes. Then simply rinse them with clean water and pat them dry. Store them and use them as usual. To see a demonstration on this technique, watch this video …

Herbs and Spices That Go Well with Peaches
Allspice, basil, cardamom, cilantro, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, lemongrass, lemon verbena, mint, nutmeg, pepper, rosemary, saffron, salt, tarragon, vanilla

Foods That Go Well with Peaches
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Almonds, bacon, beef, cashews, ham, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, nuts (in general), pecans, pistachios, pork, poultry, prosciutto, pumpkin seeds, salmon (and other seafoods), walnuts

Vegetables: Arugula, chiles, endive, fennel, ginger, greens (salad), onions (red), radishes, scallions, tomatoes, watercress

Fruits: Apples (fresh, juice), apricots, avocado, bananas, berries (in general), blackberries, blueberries, cherries, coconut, currants, grapes, lemon, lime, mangoes, nectarines, orange (fresh, juice, liqueur, zest), papaya, passion fruit, pineapple, plums, pomegranates, raspberries, strawberries

Grains and Grain Products: Grains (in general), oatmeal, oats, quinoa, wheat berries

Dairy and Non-Dairy: Butter, buttermilk, cheese (esp. blue, burrata, cream, goat, mozzarella, ricotta), cream, crème fraiche, mascarpone, sour cream, yogurt

Other Foods: Caramel, chocolate, honey, lavender, maple syrup, molasses, oil (olive), rum, sherry, spirits (i.e., bourbon, brandy, cognac, Cointreau, Kirsch), sugar, vinegar (i.e., apple cider, balsamic, champagne, rice, wine), whiskey, wine (i.e., red or white, fruity, sparkling, and/or sweet)

Peaches have been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
Baked goods (i.e., pies, scones), chutneys, compotes, desserts (i.e., cobblers, crisps, crumbles, Melba, pies), ice cream, salads (i.e., fruit, grain, green), salsas, smoothies, sorbets, soups (i.e., cold and/or fruit), Southern (U.S.) cuisine

Suggested Food and Flavor Combos Using Peaches
Add peaches to any of the following combinations…

Almonds + Cinnamon + Yogurt
Almonds + Lemon + Olive Oil + Saffron
Balsamic Vinegar + Lettuce + Spinach + Maple syrup + Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar + Mint + Ricotta
Basil + Mozzarella Cheese
Berries + Lemon
Blueberries + Lemon + Maple Syrup
Blue Cheese + Hazelnuts
Cashew Cream + Balsamic Vinegar
Cherries + Balsamic Vinegar
Cilantro + Ginger + Lime
Cinnamon + Honey + Lemon + Yogurt
Fennel + Lemon
Ginger + Honey + Lemon + Lemongrass
Ginger + Lemon
Honey + Nuts + Oats/Oatmeal
Mangoes + Raspberries
Maple Syrup + Nuts + Orange Juice + Ricotta
Maple Syrup + Orange + Vanilla
Mascarpone + Strawberries + Vanilla
Pistachios + Vanilla

Recipe Links
34 Peach Recipes to Make This Summer

13 Most Delicious Ways to Eat Peaches

Baked Peaches

Peaches and Berries with Lemon-Mint Syrup

39 Perfect Peach Desserts

Peach Pie Smoothie

Savory Peach Chicken

Grilled Chicken Breasts with Spicy Peach Glaze

15 Savory Peach Recipes

Fresh Peaches with Blueberries and Yogurt

43 Peach Recipes That Make the Most of Summer’s Juiciest Fruit

55 Juicy Peach Recipes for (an Endless) Summer

70+ Fresh Peach Recipes to Savor This Summer

60 Ways to Use a Farmers’ Market Haul of Fresh Peaches



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.


Apricots 101 – The Basics

Apricots 101 – The Basics

About Apricots
Apricots are small, golden orange fruits with smooth, sweet flesh. Their flavor is barely musky with a faint tartness. The tartness is more pronounced in dried apricots than in fresh. Their flavor has been described as being in between that of a peach and plum.

Apricots appear to have originated in China and were first cultivated there before 2,000 B.C. (some resources say as early as 4,000 B.C). They were transported through Armenia and into Europe. In the 1700’s, Spanish explorers carried apricots to America. They were then carried to California, where the climate is well-suited for their culture. Today, apricots that are grown in the United States are found primarily in orchards of California.

Apricots are enjoyed fresh, dried, simmered into jams and preserves, and added to both sweet and savory dishes.  Apricots are also distilled into brandy and liqueur, and used for the essential oil extracted from their pits, which is sold as bitter almond oil. Today, the leading producers of apricots are Turkey, Italy, Russia, Spain, Greece, the United States, and France. Since fresh apricots do not travel well, most are dried, making them available year-round.

Nutrition and Health Benefits
Apricots are known for being rich in Vitamin A (in the form of various carotenoids, including lycopene). They are also high in Vitamin C, copper, fiber, potassium, manganese, all of the B-Vitamins, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, and iron. Two fresh apricots provide all of 34 calories, so they are certainly a low-calorie food.

Antioxidant Protection. Apricots are rich in a variety of antioxidants including Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, quercetin, a variety of flavonoids and polyphenols, and others that have been linked to many health benefits ranging from protection against cancer, heart disease, diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases, autoimmune conditions, and skin and eye diseases, among others.

Protection from Heart Disease.  Since apricots are a rich source of antioxidants, fiber and potassium, they are known to help ward off heart disease. Antioxidants are known for fighting harmful free radical molecules in the body that damage cells leading to disease. The fiber in apricots helps to keep cholesterol levels in check. The ample potassium in apricots helps to balance the electrolyte system, keeping fluids balanced and the heart working (along with other muscles) as it should. Also, the potassium in apricots helps to keep our blood pressure reduced by relaxing blood vessels. Apricots are small, but mighty fruits when it comes to disease prevention!

Anti-Inflammatory Properties. Apricots are an excellent source of catechins, a family of flavonoids that is often prized as being found in green tea. According to The World’s Healthiest Foods ( one apricot provides as much as 4 to 5 grams of catechins. These compounds are strong anti-inflammatory agents and have been the subject of many research projects. Researchers have found that catechins can inhibit the activity of the cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) enzyme, which controls one of the critical steps in the inflammation process. Diets rich in catechins have been found to provide significant protection from blood vessel inflammation-related damage. This protection leads to better blood pressure control, which in turn, helps to lower the risk of heart disease.

Eyesight Protection. Apricots are rich in carotenoids and xanthophylls that have been found to help protect eyesight from age-related damage. One of those compounds, lutein, appears to help protect the retina from damage caused by blue light. Apricots are known to help reduce the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.

Researchers have found that people who eat at least three servings of fruit each day have less risk of vision loss as they age. This includes not only apricots, but other fruits such as berries, cantaloupe, kiwi, grapes, oranges, peaches, and others.

Skin Health. Antioxidants are known for helping to protect the health of our skin, guarding us from the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation, reducing wrinkles, and improving the skin’s elasticity. Also, fresh apricots contain a lot of water, helping to hydrate the skin.

With all things considered, it’s worth including apricots in your diet whenever you can, in any form available to you…fresh, frozen, dried, or canned.

How to Select Apricots
Fresh Apricots. Fresh ripe apricots are very perishable and do not travel well. So, whenever they are found fresh in your local market, consider it to be a “gold mine” and grab some while you can. Fresh apricots in the United States are in season from June through August. Fresh apricots found during other times of year are imported from South America.

When shopping for fresh apricots, choose those with a rich orange color. They should be slightly soft, which means they are ripe. Those that are very firm have not been allowed to ripen long enough on the tree, and will not taste as good as those that were allowed to further ripen on the tree. Harvested apricots will ripen and age, but their flavor and sweetness will stay at the level it was when picked from the tree.

Avoid fresh apricots that are rock hard, pale yellow or have any tinge of green, which indicates that they were picked extremely early. Also avoid any that are shriveled, or very soft, since they will be old and past their prime.

Dried Apricots. Dried apricots were a major commodity during ancient times and were very important along the “Silk Road.” Today, drying apricots allows them to be transported around the world with year-round availability.

Larger apricots are dried in halves, whereas smaller apricots are dried whole. All should have had their pits removed. Dried apricots usually do not have added sugars, but are most often treated with sulfur dioxide, a type of sulfite, to preserve color, texture, and extend shelf life. This presents problems for people who are sensitive to added sulfite ingredients. Such individuals should be very careful and always read labels for any foods they buy, especially dried fruits.

Dried apricots may be found that were not treated with sulfur dioxide. They are only rarely found in grocery stores, but may be purchased through the internet. These will be darker in color and coarser in texture. The flavor may also change over time. So, if you prefer to eat unsulfured dried apricots, be sure to use them relatively quickly for the best quality. Researchers have found that they will keep for up to 6 months, but their quality and nutritional value may decline through time.

Canned Apricots. Apricots to be canned are usually left on the trees to fully ripen before being harvested. Because of that, they will often have a richer flavor than those sold fresh in markets. The loss of nutrients is relatively small during the canning process, so consider canned apricots to be a good choice in that respect. Optimally, choose ones that were packed in water or juice, without added sugars or artificial sweeteners.

How to Store Apricots
Fresh Apricots. Apricots will continue to ripen after being harvested. If your apricots are not slightly soft with a sweet aroma, store them at room temperature, away from sunlight and heat. This will allow them time to further ripen. Unripe apricots will usually ripen within 5 days. To speed up the process, they can be placed in a paper bag (on the counter, away from sunlight and heat) for 2 or 3 days. Check apricots often, as they can ripen quickly.

Once they ripen, refrigerate the unwashed apricots to help prolong their life. It is notable that some authorities caution that cold temperatures may change their texture and flavor. So, once they are fully ripe it is best to eat your fresh apricots as soon as possible. Ripe apricots may keep in the refrigerator for up to one week, but ideally should be used within a few days.

Dried Apricots. For optimal nutritional value and shelf life, dried apricots should be stored in the refrigerator and used within 6 months. To extend the shelf life of dried apricots, they may be stored in an airtight bag or container in the freezer. There is usually a “Best by” date on the original packaging of dried apricots. For best flavor, enjoy them by that date. However, when kept in the refrigerator or freezer, their quality will likely extend beyond that original date.

Canned Apricots. Store unopened canned apricots in a cool, dry place, such as your pantry. Once opened, store any leftovers in a covered, nonmetallic container in the refrigerator. Use within 4 days.

How to Prepare a Fresh Apricot
First wash your apricot under cold water, and pat it dry. Then run a knife around the entire fruit at the natural indentation. Then grasp each half in your hands and gently twist the halves in opposite directions, separating the halves (like you would an avocado). Remove the pit, and enjoy!

Fresh vs Dried vs Canned Apricots
Fresh. When considering fruits and vegetables, fresh is always best with regard to nutrition. However, since fresh apricots have a short season, and don’t travel nor store well, dried and canned are our only options most of the time. Nevertheless, if you can get some fresh apricots when they are in season, consider them a good “find” and take advantage of the moment. Their nutritional value will be at its peak in the fresh state and they make a wonderful treat that we don’t get very often.

Dried. Dried apricots are usually found year-round in most stores and online. They may be found sulfured or unsulfured. The sulfured options maintain their beautiful orange color and flexible texture. The sulfur flavor may be objectional to some people with more discriminating taste buds. Also, some people react to sulfites that have been added to foods, so these would not be good options for them. The nutritional value of dried apricots is similar to their fresh counterparts, although the Vitamin C content will be reduced. Also, since water has been removed from the fruit when dried, their calorie and sugar contents will be more concentrated. It’s very easy to overeat dried fruit, so if you’re monitoring your calorie and sugar intake, it may be helpful to remove your “allotment” of dried apricots from the container and put the rest away before eating your treat. It’s far too easy to overeat them when eating “from bag to mouth,” so beware! Note that one-fourth to one-third cup of dried apricots is roughly equivalent to one cup of fresh. Bear that in mind when snacking on dried apricots to help keep you from overeating them.

Canned. Canned apricots are handy to keep in your pantry for whenever the need or desire for apricots comes up. When shopping for canned apricots, it’s important to read the label before making your purchase. Many are packed in syrup with added sweetener. If that is no issue for you, then that’s your choice. Many people cannot or choose not to indulge in added sweeteners. In that case, look for apricots canned in water or unsweetened fruit juice. The natural sugars in the fruit and juices will provide plenty of sweetness to the apricots, and will give you the option of adding more sweetness if needed in the dish you make with them.

When compared with fresh apricots, canned apricots are similar in nutritional content, with some nutrients actually increasing, while others decrease somewhat during the canning process. As reported in 2018 in the Journal of Food Science, researchers compared the nutritional content of fresh, canned, and frozen apricots from the same source. The canned apricots had increased in antioxidants such as beta-carotene and phenols, with a decrease in Vitamin C content. The frozen apricots exhibited increased antioxidant levels in all compounds tested, and remained higher than those found in fresh apricots, even after 3 months of being frozen.

One can conclude that apricots are healthful treats in whatever form they can be found—fresh, frozen, canned, or dried. It’s just important to be mindful of how many dried apricots you eat at one time, with regard to calorie and natural sugar content.

Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Apricots
* Add sliced apricots to hot or cold cereal.

* Add chopped apricots to pancake batter.

* Add diced apricots to chicken dishes or vegetable stews.

* Add diced apricots to a green salad.

* Apricots can be used in most recipes that call for peaches or nectarines.

* Apricots work well in many savory dishes, including those with lamb or poultry.

* Fresh apricots will turn dark after being cut. To help keep their color, dip the pieces in a solution with water and citrus or pineapple juice.

* Most recipes using fresh apricots don’t call for peeling them. But if you need to remove the skins, dip them in boiling water for 20 seconds, then quickly transfer them to a bowl of ice water. The skins should easily peel off.

* If your dried apricots have gotten too dry and hard, they can be revived either in the microwave or on the stove. For the microwave, place the dried apricots on a microwave-safe dish. Sprinkle a little water on them and cover them. Microwave on high for 1 to 2 minutes. Check often for pliability so they are not overcooked. On the stove, dried apricots may be steamed until they soften. Check them often and remove them when they are the desired texture. Also, dried apricots can be softened by placing them in a bowl and covering them with hot water. Remove them when they are the desired texture.

* When chopping dried apricots in a food processor, add a little flour of choice with the apricots. The added flour will keep the small pieces from sticking together.

* When chopping dried apricots with a knife, oil the blade of the knife or dip it in flour to help keep the small pieces from sticking to the knife.

* If you enjoy salads but are trying to do without added oil, try pureeing canned apricots to use as an oil substitute. Ideally, opt for those packed in water or fruit juice, without added sweeteners of any type.

* If you use canned apricots, freeze the drained juice in ice cube trays and use them in smoothies or cold beverages, like iced tea. They will add extra flavor and sweetness to your beverage.

* A fruit sauce can be made from the drained juice of canned apricots. Simply thicken it with a little flour of choice or cornstarch. Use it over ice cream, desserts, or even pancakes.

* Canned apricots are an excellent choice to be used in baking, cobblers, and crisps.

* Try adding some chopped dried apricots to a cooked grain such as rice, quinoa, couscous, millet, or wild rice.

* If a recipe calls for dried apricots and you don’t have enough, you can substitute dried peaches, dried nectarines, or dried apples.

* Add chopped dried apricots to homemade granola.

* Make a pie with canned or fresh apricots.

* Try a parfait by layering yogurt with chopped apricots (canned, fresh, or dried), and granola. Add in some chopped nuts, if desired. Top with a little shredded coconut.

* Try apricot shortcake in place of strawberry shortcake.

* Top cottage cheese with sliced or chopped apricots (canned, fresh, or dried).

* For a healthful apricot jam, cook dried apricots in apple juice until they are very tender. No added sweetener is needed. Then puree them and serve. Store leftovers in a closed container in the refrigerator.

* For an easy apricot salsa, combine chopped fresh or canned apricots with chili peppers, lime juice, chopped onion, and a little ground cumin. Serve with chicken or fish.

* For something different, use sliced fresh apricots on a sandwich in place of sliced tomatoes.

* One pound of fresh apricots contains about 8 to 12 whole apricots, and about 2-1/2 cups of sliced apricots.

* One pound of dried apricots is about 2-3/4 cups, and about 5 cups when cooked.

* 2-1/2 pounds of fresh apricots is about 2 to 3 pints of frozen apricots, or 1 quart when canned.

Herbs and Spices That Go Well with Apricots
Allspice, anise, basil, bay leaf, cardamom, cayenne, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, curry powder, curry spices, fennel seeds, lemongrass, lemon thyme, mint, nutmeg, parsley, pepper, rosemary, saffron, star anise, tarragon, thyme, vanilla

Foods That Go Well with Apricots
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Almonds, bacon, cashews, chestnuts, chicken, ham, hazelnuts, lamb, nuts (in general), pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, pork, poultry, prosciutto, pumpkin seeds, salmon, sesame seeds, turkey, walnuts

Vegetables: Arugula, beets, cabbage, carrots, chiles, fennel, garlic, ginger, jicama, kale, lettuce, onions, spinach, sweet potatoes, zucchini

Fruits: Apples, bananas, berries (in general), blueberries, cherries, coconut, cranberries, dried fruits (in general), figs, fruit juices (in general), grapefruit, lemon, lime, mangoes, nectarines, oranges (fresh, juice, liqueur, zest), peaches, pears, pineapple, plums (dried, fresh), raisins, raspberries, strawberries

Grains and Grain Products: Barley, bulgur, cereals (hot and cold), couscous, grains (in general), granola, oats, quinoa, rice, wheat berries, wild rice

Dairy and Non-Dairy: Buttermilk, cheese (i.e., Brie, cottage, cream, goat, ricotta, soft white), cream, ice cream, mascarpone, sour cream, whipped cream, yogurt

Other Foods: Brandy, caramel, chocolate, Cognac, crème fraiche, honey, maple syrup, sugar, (i.e., brown, powdered), vinegar (i.e., balsamic, champagne, rice), white chocolate, wine (i.e., sweet, white)

Apricots have been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
Baked goods (i.e., breads, cakes, cookies, muffins, pies), cereals (hot and cold), chutneys, compotes, desserts (i.e., crisps, crumbles, custards), French toast, granola, ice cream, jams, juices, Middle Eastern cuisines, Moroccan cuisine, pancakes and crepes, pilafs, porridges, preserves, puddings (i.e., rice), salads (i.e., fruit, rice), salsas, sauces, smoothies, sorbets, soups (i.e., fruit), stews, stuffings, tagines (i.e., Moroccan stews), tarts

Suggested Food and Flavor Combos Using Apricots
Add apricots (any type) to any of the following combinations…

Almonds + Cinnamon + Oats
Almonds +Raisins + Orange + Yogurt
Brown Sugar + Sweet Potatoes + Vanilla
Chiles + Ginger + Honey + Lime + Vinegar
Chocolate + Walnuts
Citrus (orange, lemon, lime) + Ginger
Dried Cherries + Walnuts + Oats + Yogurt
Grains (i.e., couscous, wild rice) + Nuts

Recipe Links
Raw Refrigerator Apricot Jam with Chia Seeds

Pear Apricot Chutney

Apricot Scones

Grilled Apricot Caprese Salad

Apricot Chicken with Ginger and Cayenne Pepper

Grilled Apricot Salad

Apricot Rice Pilaf

Apricot Almond Bites

Apricot Ice Cream

42 Apricot Recipes That Show Off This Fuzzy Little Fruit

Our 21 Best Apricot Dessert Recipes

23 Sweet and Savory Apricot Recipes

Slow Cooker Apricot Preserves

Stewed Dried Apricots

Stewed Apricots and Dried Plums



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.


Cabbage 101 – The Basics (UPDATE)

This is a completely revised, expanded and updated version of my original article on “Cabbage 101 – The Basics.” If you need information about cabbage, such as what it is, tips and ideas on using cabbage, what herbs, spices or other foods pair well with cabbage, nutrition facts and health benefits, how to select and store your cabbage, along with suggested links to recipes for cabbage, this article should help! All those topics and more are included below.


Cabbage 101 – The Basics (UPDATE)

About Cabbage
Cabbage is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family, so it is related to kale, broccoli, collards, mustard, cauliflower, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, and others. There are many types of cabbage, with four types commonly found in the United States. They are… (1) Green cabbage, which is what most Americans are familiar with. It is round with smooth, tightly packed leaves that wrap around each other. (2) Red or purple cabbage, resembling green cabbage, but with purple leaves instead of green. (3) Savoy cabbage, with curly leaves that are less densely packed than the usual round green or red/purple variety. There are different varieties of savoy cabbage, ranging in color from light green to dark green, and red to purple. This type of cabbage is excellent in stir-fries and wraps. (4) Napa or Chinese cabbage, that looks more like an elongated head of lettuce than the round, green cabbage we commonly buy. This type of cabbage is often used when making kimchi and stir-fries.

There are two general colors of cabbage: red or purple, and green. The green cabbages can range in color from very dark to very light green. The red cabbage (which is called red, but is actually more purple) can also range in shades from lighter to darker purple. Sometimes the very dark purple cabbages are called “black cabbage.”

Because there are so many types of cabbage, researchers have not been able to trace the exact origin and history of this vegetable. Many historians believe that cabbage originated in Europe, Asia, and Africa. It was believed to have started as wild cabbage in Europe, which is a distant ancestor to the common green cabbage we typically see in grocery stores. However, the original forms of cabbage, found over 2,000 years ago were likely to be non-head-forming and more closely resembling vegetables like kale or collards.

In 2014, the average adult ate about 7 pounds of cabbage a year. This places cabbage as being the tenth most popular vegetable in America, with about half of that being made into coleslaw. The production of sauerkraut accounts for another 12 percent of cabbage use.

Cabbage is widely grown across the United States, but most is produced in California, Florida, Georgia, New York, and Texas. The United States also imports a sizeable amount of cabbage from Mexico and Canada.

According to the Economic Research Service at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), cabbage is the second most economical vegetable in terms of price per edible cup. So, if you’re on a tight budget, buy more cabbage!

Nutrition and Health Benefits
Cabbage is an excellent source of Vitamin K, Vitamin C, and Vitamin B6. It also supplies a lot of manganese, fiber, potassium, Vitamin B1, folate, copper, choline, phosphorus, Vitamin B2, magnesium, calcium, selenium, iron, pantothenic acid, and niacin. One cup of raw cabbage has a mere 22 calories, so feel free to eat all you want!

All types of cabbage are rich in phytonutrients with assorted health benefits stemming from their potent antioxidant activity. However, red cabbage tops the list with its anthocyanins that give the vegetable its purple color.

Antioxidant-Related Benefits. Cabbage of all types is very rich in Vitamin C, a well-known very important antioxidant in the body that stops harmful free radical molecules and also supports the immune system, among other functions in the body. Cabbage also contains other antioxidants, including a number of polyphenols that have strong antioxidant activity. These compounds have been the subject of many research studies exploring the health benefits of cabbage. These compounds contribute to the anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory benefits of cabbage and other vegetables in the cruciferous family, helping in the detoxification process and in reducing the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Purple cabbage is even richer in such phytonutrients that provide its rich color. The high level of anthocyanins found in purple cabbage provides even greater antioxidant protection against disease, so opt for purple cabbage whenever you can to get the greatest antioxidant benefits from cabbage.

Gastrointestinal Health Support. Research has long verified that cabbage is valuable in helping to heal stomach ulcers (also known as peptic ulcers). More recent studies have shown that cabbage is restorative to not only the stomach, but to the overall digestive tract. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds in cabbage help to regulate the population of Helicobacter pylori in the stomach. This bacterium, which normally lives in the stomach, is responsible for the development of stomach ulcers and cancer when their population increases beyond a certain point. Eating cabbage can help to keep H. pylori under control, thus lowering the risk of gastric ulcers and cancer.

Furthermore, cabbage is rich in both soluble and insoluble fiber. This benefits the gastrointestinal tract by providing bulk and moving contents forward, preventing constipation. It also helps to feed the important microbes that live in the colon, along with helping to keep blood cholesterol in check by removing bile from the body along with the feces. This forces the body to use more of its existing cholesterol to make more bile, thereby reducing blood cholesterol.

How to Select Cabbage
Choose a head of cabbage that is firm and heavy for its size. Look for leaves that look fresh, crisp, and tightly packed, with few blemishes or cracks. Severe damage to the outer leaves may indicate insect damage, decay, or infestation of some sort on the inside. There should be only a few outer leaves that are loosely attached to the stem.

With regard to nutrition, it is best to buy whole cabbage heads. Although precut and shredded cabbage is a great convenience, the vegetable tends to lose some of its Vitamin C once it has been cut. If you do opt to buy precut cabbage, it is advisable to wash it, even though it may have already been prewashed. Any bacteria within the package can multiply over time. Also, when buying pre-cut cabbage, it is important to check the “Best by” date and choose a package that has the farthest date outward to help ensure freshness.

How to Store Cabbage
Store whole unwashed heads of cabbage in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. Red and green cabbage should keep this way for about 2 weeks. Savoy cabbage will keep for about 1 week.

Partial heads, or cut cabbage should be tightly wrapped and stored in the refrigerator. Try to use cut cabbage within a couple days to reap the best nutritional value from it.

How to Prepare Cabbage
Cabbage can be enjoyed raw in salads and slaws, or cooked in just about any way imaginable. It may also be stuffed and rolled, or pickled and fermented.

Wait to wash cabbage until you’re ready to use it. Cabbage leaves may be cut off at the base of the stem end if you want to use whole leaves. Otherwise, the whole head may be cut in half lengthwise from the stem end downward. Then the sections may be further cut into wedges. The wedges can be used as they are or further cut crosswise into thin strips or shredded. Be sure to remove the core from the wedges, since that would be tough and fibrous to eat.

Sometimes worms or insects can make their way inside a head of cabbage. If you notice any living creatures inside your cabbage as you’re preparing it, soak the cabbage in salt water or vinegar water for 15 to 20 minutes.

How to Preserve Cabbage
Freezing Cabbage. Cabbage may be frozen and used later in cooked dishes. Cabbage that has been frozen would not be suitable for raw dishes like coleslaw, because the texture will change after being frozen and thawed.

To freeze cabbage, wash the leaves and cut them into desired size pieces. Bring a pot of water to boil and place the prepared cabbage in the boiling water. Immediately set your timer for 1-1/2 minutes for small pieces, or 3 minutes for wedges. As soon as the timer is finished, transfer the cabbage to a bowl of cold water and allow it to cool for at least as long as it was in the hot water. Then drain it well and place it in freezer bags or containers. To prevent it from freezing in a big lump, you could first spread the blanched, chilled and drained cabbage in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined tray. Place the tray in the freezer until the cabbage is frozen. Then transfer it to freezer bags or a container. Label it with the current date and use it within one year for best quality.

Some people choose to freeze cabbage without blanching it first. This method does not stop the enzymes in cabbage from aging the vegetable while it is in the freezer. The quality will deteriorate quickly, so cabbage frozen this way should be used within 4 to 8 weeks at the most.

Dehydrating Cabbage. Fresh cabbage may also be dehydrated. Some resources say cabbage can be dehydrated without being blanched first. However, like freezing it without first blanching cabbage, this method does not stop enzymes that cause the vegetable to continue to age, nor does it kill any pathogens that may be on the food. Reliable sources emphasize that blanching cabbage before drying it is an important step.

To dehydrate cabbage, prepare it as you would for freezing, as detailed above (by blanching, chilling, then draining the cabbage pieces). After it has been drained well, spread it out in a single layer on a mesh dehydrator tray. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the temperature and approximate length of time needed to dry your cabbage. It is considered to be dry when the texture is brittle, dry looking, and shriveled.

Dehydrated cabbage can be eaten as a snack and is sometimes used by backpackers as a lightweight food to carry along the trail.

Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Cabbage
* If your grocery budget is short these days, buy a head of cabbage. They are one of the most frugal fresh foods available. A large head of cabbage can be used in a number of meals and in many different types of dishes.

* Add some shredded cabbage to your next green salad.

* Try a different slaw by combining shredded cabbage with chopped papaya, pineapple, red bell pepper, and a sprinkling of chopped cilantro. Dress it with a combination of pineapple juice, a little lime juice, olive oil, and a pinch of salt, if desired. For added savory flavor, add a little ground cumin. Leave out the oil and salt, if you prefer.

* Cabbage is a “forgiving” food that can easily be prepped in advance and will store well in a covered container in the refrigerator. Do if you prefer to prepare your fruits and veggies on the weekend so week-night meals are faster, include cabbage and it will keep well until you need it. Please note that cutting cabbage in advance will cause it to lose some of its Vitamin C content.

* If you shy away from cabbage because of the strong flavor and aroma when it’s cooking, try it again. Next time, cook it for as short a time as possible in as little liquid as possible. Prolonged cooking releases the strong sulfur odor and makes it mushy in texture. Cooking it briefly in the least amount of liquid possible will keep the sulfur compounds from being released and make the flavor more palatable.

* If you enjoy wraps, try using outer cabbage leaves in place of tortillas.

* When cooking red cabbage in water, add a little lemon juice or vinegar to help keep the color from leaching into the cooking water.

* For an oil-free way to sauté shredded cabbage, heat a skillet with 5 tablespoons of broth or water. Once bubbles begin to form, add the shredded cabbage, place the lid on the pan, and cook it for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Cook until the cabbage is just barely tender, remove it from the heat, and serve.

* For something different, try adding some shredded cabbage instead of lettuce leaves on a sandwich.

* One pound of fresh cabbage will yield about 6 cups when shredded.

* One medium head of cabbage weighs about 1-3/4 pounds.

* If a recipe calls for red or green cabbage and you’re out, you could substitute Brussels sprouts, savoy cabbage, or napa cabbage. In a pinch, you could even substitute bok choy.

Herbs and Spices That Go Well with Cabbage
Basil, bay leaf, caraway seeds, cardamom, cayenne, celery seeds, chili pepper flakes, chili powder, cilantro, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, dill, fennel seeds, juniper berries, lovage, mint, mustard seeds, nutmeg, parsley, pepper, rosemary, salt, thyme, turmeric

Foods That Go Well with Cabbage
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Almonds, bacon, beef (esp. ground, corned), chestnuts, chicken, green beans, ham, hemp seeds, lentils, peanuts, peas, pecans, pine nuts, pork, poultry, sausage, seafood, seitan, sesame seeds, snow peas, sugar snap peas, sunflower seeds, tofu, turkey, walnuts

Vegetables: Arugula, beets, bell peppers, broccoli, cabbage (other types), carrots, celery, celery root, chiles, cucumbers, dulse, fennel, garlic, ginger, greens (bitter and salad), horseradish, kale, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, radicchio, radishes, scallions, shallots, tomatoes, turnips, watercress

Fruits: Apples (fresh, juice, cider), cranberries (dried, fresh, juice), lemon, lime, pears, pomegranates, raisins

Grains and Grain Products: Bread, bread crumbs, cornstarch, croutons, noodles (esp. Asian), rice

Dairy and Non-Dairy: Browned butter, butter, cheese (esp. blue, cheddar, feta, goat, Parmesan), cream, milk (dairy and non-dairy), sour cream, yogurt

Other Foods: Brown rice syrup, honey, miso, mustard (prepared, i.e., Dijon), oil (esp. flax, hemp, nut, olive, safflower, sesame, walnut), soy sauce, stock, sugar, tamari, vinegar (esp. apple cider, balsamic, champagne, rice wine, sherry, red and white wine), wine (esp. dry red)

Cabbage has been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
Asian cuisines, cabbage rolls, Chinese cuisines, coleslaw, fermented cabbage (sauerkraut), Hungarian cuisine, kimchi, relishes, risottos, salads, slaws, soups, spring rolls, stews, stir-fries, stuffed cabbage

Suggested Food and Flavor Combos Using Cabbage
Add cabbage to any of the following combinations…

Apples + Brown Sugar + Caraway Seeds + Vinegar
Apples + Brown Sugar + Onions + Vinegar
Apples + Caraway Seeds
Apples + Garlic + Olive Oil + Tarragon + Vinegar
Apples + Yogurt
Asian Noodles + Cilantro + Sesame Oil + Sesame Sauce + Soy Sauce
Balsamic Vinegar + Feta Cheese + Sunflower Seeds
Brown Rice + Pine Nuts + Tomatoes
Carrots + Cider Vinegar + Mayonnaise + Mustard
Carrots + Ginger + Mint + Wine Vinegar + Sesame Oil
Cheese (i.e., blue, goat) + Walnuts
Chili Pepper Flakes + Garlic + Ginger
Cilantro + Lemon + Mint
Garlic + Ginger + Sesame Oil
Ginger + Lemon
Ginger + Soy Sauce
Pears + Red Onions + Walnuts
Potatoes + Turnips
Rice + Mushrooms + Tofu

Recipe Links
Easy Homemade Sauerkraut (Fermented Cabbage) [Judi in the Kitchen video]

Easy Sautéed Cabbage (NOT Mushy) [Judi in the Kitchen video]

Vegetarian Healthy Sauté

Gingered Cabbage

Napa Cabbage Salad

5-Minute Healthy Sautéed Red Cabbage

Spicy Cabbage Soup

Sweet and Sour Cod with Cabbage and Broccoli

Sesame Braised Chicken and Cabbage

Cabbage, Smoked Sausage and Apple Soup

Cabbage Roll Casserole

Hearty Brussels Sprouts and Cabbage Salad

20 Ways to Eat More Cabbage

18 Delicious Ways to Eat More Cabbage This Year

39 Recipes to Make Anyone Love Cabbage

26 Creative Cabbage Recipes That Are Way Better Than Coleslaw

Our 35 Best Cabbage Recipes

Cabbage and Apple Slaw with Honey-Lime Dressing


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.


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!


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…

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

Pickled Cauliflower with Carrots and Red Bell Peppers

Judi’s Fermented Cauliflower [YouTube Video]

Asian Sautéed Cauliflower

Cauliflower, Fennel and White Bean Winter Salad

Five Ways to Eat Cauliflower

Recipe Roundup: Roasted Cauliflower (links to many recipes for roasted cauliflower)

25 Ways to Cook with Cauliflower

Everything Bagel Style Cauliflower Rolls

Everything Bagel Cauliflower Steaks

Roasted Garlic Cauliflower

Cauliflower Parmesan Crisps

Our 41 Best Cauliflower Recipes

Crispy Sea Salt & Vinegar Cauliflower “Popcorn”

30 Life-Changing Cauliflower Recipes for Every Comfort Food Craving

13 Healthy Cauliflower Recipes

Cauliflower Aloo Gobi

How to Make Cauliflower Rice or Couscous

Asian Sautéed Cauliflower


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.


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 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

Herb and Pear Glazed Roast Turkey with Fig and Goat Cheese Stuffing

Pear and Parsnip Soup

Pear and Cranberry Salsa

Caramel Dipped Pears

Veggie Skillet (with Pears)

Pear and Walnut Flatbread with Gorgonzola, Arugula and Balsamic Glaze

Pear and Lentil Stir-Fry

20 Perfect-for-Fall Pear Recipes You’ll Want to Eat All Year Round

Arugula and Pear Salad with Maple Vinaigrette

55 Delicious Pear Recipes You’ll Make Again and Again

15 Perfect Pear Desserts That’ll Make It Your New Favorite Fruit

28 Pear Recipes for Breakfast, Dinner, Dessert and More

The 17 Best Pear Recipes for Any Meal

Red Bartlett, Sweet Corn, and Strawberry Salad

Brown Sugar Pear Butter

Holiday Cranberry Relish



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.



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

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

Sweet Potato Pancakes

7-Minute “Quick Steamed” Sweet Potatoes

Healthy Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes with Ginger and Cinnamon

Maple Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Bacon

Sweet Potato Muffins

Spicy-Sweet Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Rosemary Roasted Sweet Potatoes

50+ Delicious New Ways to Prepare Sweet Potatoes

Glazed Sweet Potatoes

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Honey and Cinnamon

57 Killer Sweet Potato Recipes to Make This Fall

Sweet Potatoes with Apple Butter

20 Diners That All Start with Sweet Potatoes

6 Amazing Ways to Stuff a Sweet Potato

Honey Roasted Chicken and Sweet Potatoes Skillet

Red Lentil Sweet Potato Soup



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.


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

Fast, Fresh Grape Tomato Salad

Cajun spice Mix

Greek Lemon Chicken and Potatoes

Daddy Eddie’s Roast Pork, Puerto Rican-Style

Homemade Pizza Sauce

Herbs de Provence

Absolutely Fabulous Greek/House Salad

Oregano Recipes

Grilled Yellow Squash and Zucchini Pasta Salad

Orange, Radicchio, and Oregano Salad

Grilled Potato Salad

Tagliatelle with Fresh Oregano Pesto



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 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!


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 …

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…

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)

How to Steam Broccoli

How to Blanch Broccoli

Easily Cut Fresh Broccoli with Less Mess

How to Grow Broccoli Sprouts

Lemon-Garlic Broccoli (NOT Mushy! Using Frozen Broccoli)

35+ Of Our Best Broccoli Recipes

27 Broccoli Recipes You’ll Want to Make Tonight

Broccoli Soup

50 of the Best Broccoli Recipes We’ve Ever Tasted

15 Best Broccoli Recipes

11 Best Broccoli Recipes/Easy Broccoli Recipes

Beef with Broccoli

Broccoli Recipes

Simple and Satisfying Broccoli

10 Family-Friendly Broccoli Recipes

Sweet and Sour Cod with Cabbage and Broccoli

Asian-Flavored Broccoli with Tofu

Seriously, The Best Broccoli of Your Life

33 Amazing Broccoli Recipes Even Broccoli Haters Can’t Hate

15 Favorite Broccoli Recipes

Broccoli Cornbread with Cheese

Our 15 Best Broccoli Salad Recipes


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.