Already More Plant-based Than We Think

It is helpful and inspiring to think about all the wonderful, colorful, tasty food plants at our fingertips. Some days I feel like concocting a fancy meat substitute dish, but other days I can just slice an avocado or dig into a watermelon, and go to the beach! I hope you find the glossary helpful and will refer to it often as more items are added.

I am bilingual and bicultural, so I included names in English and Spanish. Since food names vary greatly from place to place, I settled on Southwest American English and Central Mexican Spanish. The links contain details about specfic items.

¡Saludos! and ¡Salud! from beautiful Cancún, México!

Hibiscus Flower TACOS / TACOS de Flor de Jamaica

Hibiscus flowers are commonly used in Mexico to make a cold, sweetened beverage or to brew a relaxing tea that can also be used to treat hipertension (high blood pressure). The flowers are usually discarded after brewing, but they can be used as a meat substitute in a number of dishes. I have also discovered in the process that I can get a lot more beverage from a batch of flowers than I thought. The chewy texture resembles that of shredded beef or pork, and they absorb the flavors of garlic and onion when sauteed. If you don’t live in Mexico, you may be able to find hibiscus in a supermarket or Mexican grocery, or you can order it on Amazon. These tacos got a hearty thumbs-up even from the non-vegans at my house in Cancún.

PRIOR TO MAKING THE TACOS Cover 1 c HIBISCUS FLOWERS with water and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and steep for 10 minutes. Strain and keep the liquid to make tea or beverage. Repeat with the same flowers 2 more times, until the liquid is very light in color. Drain the flowers well and set them aside.

PREP TIME 20 min / COOK TIME 10-15 min, med heat / NEED skillet / MAKES 8-10 tacos

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 c hibiscus flowers, boiled and drained
  • 1/2 c onion, finely chopped, for sauteeing
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil for sauteeing
  • salt to taste
  • 8 corn tortillas
  • 1 c lettuce, finely chopped
  • 1 c onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 c fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)
  • salsa, to taste (about 2 Tbsp for each taco)
  1. Sautée 1/2 c FINELY CHOPPED ONION and 2 CLOVES OF GARLIC, PEELED AND CHOPPED in 1 Tbsp OLIVE OIL until onions are soft and transparent.
  2. Add 1 c WELL-DRAINED HIBISCUS FLOWERS and SALT to taste.
  3. Cook thoroughly over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, turning with spatula.
  4. Place hibiscus mixture on a fresh hot corn tortilla, add lettuce, chopped onion, CILANTRO and salsa.
  5. Recommended side dishes are refried beans, Mexican Rice, avocado slices, and cold agua de jamaica. ¡Buen provecho!

Amaranth Facts

Recipes sometimes call for ingredients that you may not have heard of, like nutritional yeast or agar-agar. Some familiar ingredients like cauliflower, black beans, and lentils may be used in unfamiliar ways to make good-tasting plant-based dishes. You may not be aware of nutritional and medicinal properties of familiar foods like sweet potato or avocado. You can find links to this information on the Glossary page. If you have a question or want to see a particular ingredient featured, send an email to fruitandstuff@wfpbvida.com.

Amaranth is a pseudocereal grown for its edible starchy seeds; it is not in the same botanical family as true cereals such as wheat and rice. Amaranth, which is gluten-free, is a good source of fiber, protein, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus and iron. Uncooked amaranth is not digested. It can be boiled and eaten as a cereal like oatmeal or added to granola and many other dishes.

One cup (246 grams) of cooked amaranth contains these nutrients:

  • Calories: 251
  • Protein: 9.3 grams
  • Carbs: 46 grams
  • Fat: 5.2 grams
  • Manganese: 105% of the RDI
  • Magnesium: 40% of the RDI
  • Phosphorus: 36% of the RDI
  • Iron: 29% of the RDI
  • Selenium: 19% of the RDI
  • Copper: 18% of the RDI

Sources: Wikipedia / healthline

Chia Facts

Recipes sometimes call for ingredients that you may not have heard of, like nutritional yeast or agar-agar. Some familiar ingredients like cauliflower, black beans, and lentils may be used in unfamiliar ways to make good-tasting plant-based dishes. You may not be aware of nutritional and medicinal properties of familiar foods like sweet potato or avocado. You can find links to this information on the Glossary page. If you have a question or want to see a particular ingredient featured, send an email to fruitandstuff@wfpbvida.com.


Salvia hispanica, commonly known as chia, is a species of flowering plant in the mint family, native to central and southern Mexico and Guatemala. It is considered a pseudocereal, cultivated for its edible, seed. The word “chia” is derived from the Nahuatl word chian, meaning oily.

A one-ounce (28 grams) serving of chia seeds contains

  • Fiber: 11 grams
  • Protein: 4 grams
  • Fat: 9 grams (5 of which are omega-3s)
  • Calcium: 18% of the RDI
  • Manganese: 30% of the RDI
  • Magnesium: 30% of the RDI
  • Phosphorus: 27% of the RDI
  • They also contain zinc, vitamin B3 (niacin), potassium, vitamin B1 (thiamine) and vitamin B2

Chia seeds may be added to other foods as a topping or put into smoothies, breakfast cereals, tortillas, and bread. They also may be made into a gelatin-like substance or consumed raw. The gel from ground seeds may be used to replace the egg content in cakes and is a common substitute in vegan baking.

Sources: Wikipedia / healthline

Curcumin / Turmeric Facts

Recipes sometimes call for ingredients that you may not have heard of, like nutritional yeast or agar-agar. Some familiar ingredients like cauliflower, black beans, and lentils may be used in unfamiliar ways to make good-tasting plant-based dishes. You may not be aware of nutritional and medicinal properties of familiar foods like sweet potato or avocado. You can find links to this information on the Glossary page. If you have a question or want to see a particular ingredient featured, send an email to fruitandstuff@wfpbvida.com.

Curcumin is a bright yellow chemical produced by Curcuma longa plants. It is the principal curcuminoid of turmeric, a member of the ginger family. There is some confusion in the two names because curcumin is a component of turmeric. Reports say that turmeric is better for some conditions, while curcumin alone is better for others. Turmeric, commonly used in Asian food, is the main spice in curry. It is a bright and tasty addition to everything from smoothies to soups and stir-fry vegetables.

Turmeric or curcumin is recommended for pain and inflammation, such as that associated with osteoarthritis. It is also used for hay fever, depression, high cholesterol, a liver disease, and itching. Some people use turmeric for heartburn, thinking and memory skills, inflammatory bowel disease, stress, and many other conditions, but there no good scientific evidence to support these uses.

In small amounts, turmeric has few reported side effects, though there have been reports of nausea, dizziness or diarrhea. You should consult a health professional if you are taking therapeutic amounts of turmeric or curcumin.

Sources: Wikipedia / WebMD / healthline / Today