The Brussels Sprout is a member of the Gemmifera Group of cabbages (Brassica oleracea), grown for its edible buds. The leaf vegetables are typically half and inch to one-and-a-half inches in diameter and look like miniature cabbages. They have long been popular in Brussels, Belgium, and may have gained their name there.
BENEFITS: Brussels sprouts are low in calories but high in many nutrients, especially fiber, vitamin K and vitamin C. They contain kaempferol, an antioxidant that may reduce cancer growth, decrease inflammation and promote heart health. Because of their high fiber content, they promote regularity, support digestive health and reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes. They are very high in Vitamin K, which is important for blood clotting and bone metabolism. The fiber and antioxidants in Brussels sprouts may help keep your blood sugar levels stable. They are a good source of ALA omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce inflammation, insulin resistance, cognitive decline and blood triglycerides.
Brussels sprouts can be roasted, boiled, sautéed or baked. For a simple side dish, cut off the ends of the Brussels sprouts. Mix the sprouts with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper, and then roast them on a baking sheet until they’re crispy. Brussels sprouts can also be added to pasta, frittatas or stir-fries.
The Brazil nut (Bertholletia excelsa) is a South American tree in the familyLecythidaceae, and is also the name of the tree’s commercially harvested edible seeds. It is one of the largest and long-lived trees in the Amazon rainforest. The fruit and its nutshell – containing the edible Brazil nut – are relatively large, possibly weighing as much as 2 kilograms (4 lb 7 oz) in total weight. As food, Brazil nuts are notable for diverse content of micronutrients, especially a high amount of selenium.
BENEFITS: Brazil nuts are energy dense and rich in healthy fats, selenium, magnesium, copper, phosphorus, manganese, thiamine, and vitamin E. Among the claims for Brazil nuts are that they may support thyroid, heart, and brain function, and reduce inflammation.
USES: Brazil nuts are delicious just as they are, but individual intake should be limited to one to three a day because excessive amounts of selenium have been linked to increased risk of diabetes and prostate cancer.
The black-eyed pea (Vigna unguiculata), also called black-eyed bean, cowpea or southern pea, is an annual plant from the pea family (Fabaceae) and is grown for its edible legumes. Black-eyed peas get their name from their appearance. They’re cream-colored with a little black spec that resembles an eye. Although their name would make you think they’re a type of pea, black-eyed peas are actually beans.
BENEFITS: Black-eyed peas have high levels of dietary fiber, which helps to promote regular bowel movements and improve digestive health. They are high in iron and in folate, a B vitamin needed to make normal red blood cells. Low levels of folate can cause anemia. Black-eyed peas are rich in potassium, a mineral that helps keep your blood pressure levels at healthy numbers and lowers your risk of heart disease. They are surprisingly high in vitamin A, with more than one-fourth of your daily vitamin A needs in one cup. Vitamin A helps maintain healthy skin and mucus membranes, and it produces the pigments in the retina of the eye.
The jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus), also known as jack tree, is a species of tree in the fig, mulberry, and breadfruit family. Its origin is in the region between the WesternGhats of southern India and the rainforests of Malaysia.
BENEFITS: Claims for jackfruit are that it may help regulate blood sugar, protect against disease with antioxidants, prevent skin problems, and promote heart health.
USES: Jackfruit is commonly used in South and SoutheastAsian cuisines. Both ripe and unripe fruits are consumed. The jackfruit is the nationalfruit of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, and the state fruit of the Indian states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. It is available internationally canned or frozen and in chilled meals as are various products derived from the fruit such as noodles and chips.
“We’ve got sunlight on the sand We’ve got moonlight on the sea We’ve got mangoes and bananas we can pick right off a tree” (Rogers and Hammerstein, “There is Nothing Like a Dame” from the musical South Pacific.
It’s always nice to sit down to a complete meal, but the truth is that most of us often need something quick and easy. Fortunately, plants provide a wealth of foods that require little or no preparation and are really at their best and most nutritious when eaten fresh from the tree, bush, or vine. Just wash and enjoy. Some, you can eat with the peeling. Some, like bananas and oranges, come in an easy-to-remove biodegradable wrapper. If you have just a bit of time, you can combine them in salads or fabulous dessert plates.
It’s a good idea to clean the surfaces carefully to eliminate bacteria that they might have picked up in the process of bringing it from the farm or orchard to your pantry. Here’s a quick guide to getting these natural fast foods ready to eat.
How to clean them
1. If you will eat the peeling, it’s a good idea to scrub it with a vegetable brush.
2. If you’re going to peel it, a good rinse, clean hands, and maybe a clean knife are all you need.
3. For porous foods like lettuce or strawberries, soak briefly (3 minutes or less) in a solution of water and vinegar (plain old cheap vinegar will do the trick)–about 1 part of vinegar to 3 parts of water.
I tasted my first guayaba as a newlywed when I moved to Guadalajara, Mexico. I was hooked. When ripe, the guayaba, or guava, is very sweet and delicious, peeling, seeds and all. Just wash and eat it like an apple. They are also made into a popular candy called ate. (pronounced ah–tay). Guayabate is one of my all-time favorite sweets.
Guava is a tropical fruit cultivated in many tropical and subtropical regions. Psidium guajava is a small tree in the myrtle family, native to Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and northern South America. Although related species may also be called guavas, they belong to other species or genera, such as the pineapple guava. The most frequently eaten species, and the one often referred to as “the guava,” is the apple guava (Psidium guajava). Guavas are typical Myrtoideae, with tough dark leaves and white flowers with five petals and numerous stamens. The fruits are many-seeded berries.
BENEFITS: Among the claims for guavas are that they improve heart health; help lower blood sugar levels; relieve painful symptoms of menstruation; benefit the digestive system; are good for your skin; may aid weight loss; may have an anticancer effect; help boost immunity.
USES: Guavas are delicious as they are–just wash and eat like an apple. Chop them up and add them to smoothies or fruit salads. The sugar in the popular guayabate probably cancels out the health benefits, but it is a yummy treat!
Zucchini, also known as courgette, is a summer squash in the Cucurbitaceae plant family, which includes melons, spaghetti squash, and cucumbers. It can grow to more than 3.2 feet (1 meter) in length but is usually harvested when still immature — typically measuring under 8 inches (20 cm). Although zucchini is often considered a vegetable, it is botanically classified as a fruit. It occurs in several varieties, which range in color from deep yellow to dark green. While squashes originated in the Americas, this particular variety was first developed in the early 1800s in Italy.
BENEFITS: Zucchini contains a variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Cooked zucchini is particularly high in vitamin A. It is rich in water and fiber, promoting healthy digestion. Zucchini’s fiber may increase insulin sensitivity and stabilize blood sugar levels, potentially reducing risk of type 2 diabetes. Zucchini may lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and other risk factors for heart disease. It contributes to healthy vision and may lower risk of age-related eye conditions.
USES: Zucchini is delicious raw or cooked. Since the skin of the plant contains high levels of antioxidants, it is best served unpeeled. Zucchini can be grated, sliced, or stuffed. It is delicious boiled, steamed, grilled, baked, broiled, or breaded and fried. It is a healthy ingredient in salads, soups, and breads, and a tasty addition to many favorite dishes.
The blackberry is an edible fruit produced by many species in the genus Rubus in the Rosaceae family. The taxonomy of the blackberries has historically been confused because of hybridization and apomixis, so that species have often been grouped together and called species aggregates.
BENEFITS: Blackberries are rich in fiber, manganese and Vitamins C and K. They are credited with improving brain and oral health. With a Glycemic Index (GI) of 25 and a Glycemic Load (GL) of 4, blackberries are an excellent food for weight loss and diabetes control. There is promising ongoing research that indicates blackberries fight cancer and help prevent heart disease. The leaves are rich in tannin and have antibacterial properties. They have been used medicinally since at least the time of the ancient Greeks. They are made into an astringent tea which is used to relieve sore throats, mouth ulcers, diarrhea and thrush.
USES: Blackberries are delicious just as they are with no more preparation than washing. They make a delicious and healthy addition to smoothies, fruit salads, or green salads.