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Garden Vegetables: A Kaleidoscope of Health

November 20th, 2010

 

Fruits and vegetables come in all shades of vibrant colors—green, orange, red, yellow and more—that will make your plate and palette pop. But did you know that each color offers health benefits as well?

Plants contain phytochemicals which protect them from things like UV rays and garden villains. These same phytochemicals help boost our immune system when consumed and have been shown to act as free radical scavengers. Here is a short list of vegetables with some of their benefits.

- Tomatoes and red bell peppers: their bright red color comes from lycopene, a carotene and caratenoid pigment. Lycopene has been considered a potential agent for prevention of some types of cancer, such as prostate cancer.

- Carrots and winter squash: their vibrant orange color comes from beta carotene, which can be converted to active vitamin A. The phytochemicals found in orange and yellow vegetables may help lower the risk of some forms of cancer, as well as help vision and heart and immune systems.

- Broccoli: its green comes from indole-3 carbinol (I3C), a compound that occurs naturally in broccoli and other green vegetables such as cabbage, Brussels sprouts, turnips, and more. I3C has been shown to inhibit the development of cancers of the breast, colon, liver, lung and stomach in some animals.

- Eggplant: it’s chock-full of anthocyanins, water-soluble vacuolar pigments that belong to the parent class of molecules called flavonoids. These anthocyanins have been shown to protect cell membranes from damage.

So much potential in small packages! The next time you eat your favorite fruit or vegetable look at its color and think about the health benefits that may come from eating it. There’s so much to appreciate and more there than meets the eye!

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Urban Sharecropping: A Win-Win Situation

November 17th, 2010

 

If you’ve ever happily gardened then moved into a new apartment or home that did not have sufficient garden space or sun exposure, you know how frustrating it is to not be able to grow your own foods. And, if you’ve ever tried to enjoy the freshest foods possible from growing your own then realized your thumb is far from green, you know the disappoint that ensues from genuinely wanting the best to no avail.

Today there are more opportunities for people to work together to obtain the joys of gardening and best foods for eating. One opportunity is through urban sharecropping, where gardeners partner with homeowners to reap the bounties of freshly grown foods. The gardener tends to a garden that they prepare in a homeowner’s yard then both parties split the harvest.

It’s a win-win situation and it makes perfect sense, especially when someone has a big yard that goes unused and there is someone else who is itching to dig in the dirt and enjoy the many rewards from gardening.

One business that helps gardeners and homeowners connect is Sharing Backyards, whose goal is to make sure that anyone who wants to garden and grow food for themselves can. With programs across the globe, from Berkeley, CA to Wellington, NZ to Edmonton, AB, Sharing Backyards helps to make healthy, local, organic food access to many people a reality.

For an interesting article on urban sharecropping read ‘The Rise of the Lazy Locavore,’ via The Wall Street Journal | Food & Drink.

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Seed Spotlight: Lancer Parsnip

November 14th, 2010

 

One of our favorite cold-weather root vegetables is parsnip. Cultivated in Europe since ancient times and a relative of the carrot, the ivory-colored, fibrous parsnip offers sweet, nutty flavor and celery-like fragrance. It can be harvested through the end of November, and if you wait until after the first frost of the year, you’ll find that they are delightfully sweeter, because cold temperatures turn the parsnip’s starch into sugar.

Because parsnips are so fibrous, they’re generally cooked before eating. Parsnips are the sweetest of all the root vegetables and easy to prepare. They can be cut up or left whole then baked, cut up or left whole then boiled and mashed with butter and cream, cut into big chunks then microwaved, or peeled, sliced and steamed like carrots. Vitamin C-rich parsnips make a great addition to roasts, soups and stews. Flavors that complement this root vegetable include: allspice, brown sugar, chives, cinnamon, ginger, maple syrup, nutmeg, rosemary, and sage, to name a few.

Here is a mashed parsnips recipe, perfect for pairing with roasted meats.

Mashed Parsnips

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds parsnips, peeled, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Pinch ground nutmeg
  • ¼ cup heavy cream

Preparation

Place parsnips in a large saucepan then cover with water. Add 1 teaspoon of the salt to the water. Bring to a boil, lower heat then simmer for about 12 minutes or until parsnips are very tender. Drain parsnips then place in a food processor. Add butter nutmeg, cream, and remaining 1 teaspoon of salt; Process ingredients until smooth. SERVES 4

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