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.
Hibiscus flowers are 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. I have discovered in the process that I can get a lot more beverage from a batch of flowers than I thought. The chewy texture resembles 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.
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)
PREP TIME 20 min / COOK TIME 10-15 min, med heat / NEED skillet / MAKES 8-10 tacos
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.
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.
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.
BENEFITS: Even in small amounts, nutritional yeast is a significant source of some B–complex vitamins. Some brands are fortified with additional B12. It has approximately 9 grams of protein in 2 tablespoons. It provides 9 amino acids that the human body cannot produce and 5% (unfortified) to 20% (fortified with B12) of recommended daily iron.
USES: It can be used as a flavor enhancer in cheese substitutes, mashed or fried potatoes, scrambled tofu, and popcorn.
WARNINGS: In large amounts, the high fiber content may cause digestive discomfort, and high niacin content can cause facial flushing. Some brands may contain tyramine, which can trigger migraines in some individuals.
This basic method can be used for all kinds of beans. Garlic, onion, salt, and pepper are recommended if you are planning to eat them “as is” but they are optional if you are going to use them in a recipe, such as refried beans or hummus (made from chick peas). You may want to experiment with other seasonings as well, such as barbecue sauce for pinto beans.
INGREDIENTS 1 cup dried BEANS / 2 cups WATER for soaking / approximately 3 cups WATER for cooking / 1/2 small ONION / 1 clove minced GARLIC / 1/2 tsp SALT, or to taste / 1/4 tsp BLACK PEPPER or to taste
PREP TIME 5 minutes for cleaning and washing / 8-12 hours for soaking / COOK TIME approximately 2 hours / NEED strainer for washing / covered pan / MAKES 3 cups
Agar or agar-agar is a jelly-like substance, obtained from red algae. Agar has been used as an ingredient in desserts throughout Asia. It is used as a laxative, an appetite suppressant, a gelatin substitute, a thickener for soups, in fruit preserves, ice cream, and other desserts, and as a clarifying agent in brewing.
1. Accept responsibility for your health and your choices. Advice from others, including health professionals, is helpful, but you have the final say about what you eat and how you live.
2. Eliminate animal products from meal plans. Do what works for you, and take as much time as you need.
3. Be conscious of EVERYTHING you take into your body–what it is doing FOR you and TO you and WHY you are taking it in. If you eat it as food, drink it as beverage, swallow, inject, snort or smoke it as therapeutic or recreational drug, be conscious of what you are doing.
4. Start with what you know. Meat-based meals and fast food culture make us settle for potatoes as just about the only vegetable, but most of us are familiar with many edible plants. Some are delicious with no more preparation than washing. You can try new foods as you’re ready, but don’t get overwhelmed by making too many changes or trying to understand too many “requirements.”
5. Eat a variety of foods. Eliminating animal products clears the way for health-building foods to do what they do best, but you have to provide those foods.
6. Keep learning. The more you know about nutrition the more you will be able to choose foods that build and maintain good health. Don’t settle for distorted studies as reported on social media. This Resources link will lead you to some reliable videos, books, studies and articles.
7. Have fun! If for you that means keeping it simple, then keep it simple. If it means learning about new and exotic ingredients or making gourmet plant-based meals, go for it!