Energetics of Umeboshi: Try Something New

umeboshi

Umeboshi Facts

Umeboshi (梅干) are pickled ume fruits common in Japan. The word “umeboshi” is often translated into English as “Japanese salt plums,” “salt plums” or “pickled plums.” Ume is a species of fruit-bearing tree in the genus Prunus, which is often called a plum but is actually more closely related to the apricot.  Pickled ume which are not dried are called umezuke (梅漬け). Umeboshi are usually round, and vary from smooth to very wrinkled. Usually they taste salty, and are extremely sour due to high citric acid content, but sweeter versions exist, as well.

Umeboshi were notorious for their ability to eat their way through the plain drawn aluminum lunch boxes commonly used in the 1960s. The combination of organic acids and salt in the umeboshi were the cause of this phenomenon.

Umeboshi were esteemed by the samurai to combat battle fatigue.

How Is Umeboshi Made?

6a0120a71b1d39970b0192ab2da552970d-800wiUmeboshi are traditionally made by harvesting ume fruit when they ripen around June and packing them in barrels with salt. A weight is placed on top and the fruit gradually exude juices, which accumulate at the bottom of the barrel. The left over salty and sour liquid is called umezu (梅酢), or ume vinegar, although it is not a true vinegar. It is great for making pickled vegetables.  The ume is then taken out of the barrels and laid out flat on reed/grass mats to dry in the hot sun for about 3 days.

How To Eat Umeboshi

Umeboshi Makizushi

Umeboshi Makizushi

Umeboshi are usually eaten in small quantities with rice, for added flavor. It is also a common ingredient in onigiri, rice balls wrapped in nori, and they may also be used in makizushi. Makizushi made with umeboshi may be made with either pitted umeboshi or umeboshi paste (which is cheaper.  Another usage of umeboshi is in “Ume ochazuke,” a dish of rice with poured in green tea topped with umeboshi.

Umeboshi is used as a cooking accent to enhance flavor and presentation. They may also be served as a complement of a green tea or a drink with shochu and hot water.

Energetics – Health Benefits of Eating Umeboshi

umeboshiThe health benefits of Umeboshi are as follows: it treats indigestion, diarrhea and dysentery, removes worms, and acts on the liver. Umeboshi is hailed as the “Japanese Alka-Seltzer” because of its use in treating digestive upset.

The Japanese folk remedy for colds and the flu is okayu (rice congee) with umeboshi.

Caution: Habitual consumption can add too much salt to one’s diet.

 

How To Make Umeboshi At Home

This Umeboshi recipe is not for the light-hearted or impatient.  If you are of the said type, you can find pre-made umeboshi in jars at your local Japanese or Asian foods store.

Ingredients and Equipment

  • Ume Plums
  • Coarse Seas Salt
  • Red Shiso Leaves
  • Shochu (Can use vodka or other distilled alcohol if needed)
  • Bowls
  • Flat Baskets
  • Large wide-mouth container
  • Weights (Can use water in tightly sealed plastic bags)
  • Large Jars

Prepping the Ume

When you buy them, make sure you choose ones that are firm, plump and unblemished. Even small blemishes or cuts on the plums could lead to mold, which is the biggest reason umeboshi can fail. Once you have the ume plums, carefully remove any remaining stems. The best way to do this is with a cocktail stick. Try not to pierce the ume plum when you’re doing this – again, this can lead to mold. Once the stems are removed, wash the plums in several changes of water, and then fill a large bowl with cold water and leave the ume plums to soak overnight. This gets rid of some of the bitterness in the plums.

After soaking overnight, drain and dry the plums. Made ready a bowl of shochu or vodka, and dunk the ume plums completely in the alcohol. This is to kill any kind of mold spores on the surface.

Prepping the Red Shiso Leaves

Red shiso or perilla leaves give color and flavor to the umeboshi. Use about 10% of the ume plus in weight of shiso leaves – so for 1 kilo of ume plums, use 100g of shiso leaves. Wash them, take off any tough stems, sprinkle with a little salt and massage the leaves with your hands until they are limp.

Salt Ratio for Fermenting

Traditional umeboshi uses around 20% salt, which is fairly salty.  You can lower the salt percentage if you choose, but beware that the lower the salt ratio the higher risk of mold developing.  So we suggest starting at 10% or 12% for beginners.

Here’s the amount of salt vs. ume plums at different percentages:

  • 8%: For every 1 kilo of ume plums, use 80 grams of salt
  • 10%: For every 1 kilo of ume plums, use 100 grams of salt
  • 12%: For every 1 kilo of ume plums, use 120 grams of salt

Getting Pickling Container Ready

Use a large, wide-mouth jar or other fairly deep container. Wash it inside and out thorougly, then disinfect the inside. Some people do this by putting the container in boiling water, but the most common – and convenient – way is to spray it with some shochu or vodka.

Filling the Pickling Container

Start with a layer of coarse salt. Cover with a layer of ume plums, then a bit of the shiso. Repeat the salt-ume-shiso layers, until the ume are used up. Now, cover the whole thing with a plastic bag or sheet, then put on a weight that is at least half as heavy as the ume plums – in other words, 1 kilo of ume plums requires at least a 500g weight.

While there are dedicated ceramic weights available, you can use anything you can find such as a bagful of water (as long as it doesn’t leak), a full water bottle, clean rocks in a plastic bag, hand weights or dumbbells, and so on.

Once the container is full and weighted down, cover the top with a clean, porous cloth like a cheesecloth or open weave kitchen towel; secure this with a rubber band or string. Leave in a cool, dark area of your house, until the ume plums become soft and completely immersed in a reddish liquid.

Once the liquid is about 2 cm above the top of the ume plums, reduce the weight by half, and leave the ume plums in the jar in the liquid until it’s time to dry them in the sun.

Drying Out

Take the plums and the shiso leaves out of the jar. Put the ume plums in a single layer on flat baskets, and the shiso leaves in spread-put clumps separately.

Leave the plums like this in a fairly sunny place with good ventilation, for about 3 days. If it rains, take them inside before they get wet. Turn them over at least once a day.

Finish

The umeboshi are now done. You can store them as-is, in a jar, layering plums with the shiso leaves. Or you can pour back in some of the ume vinegar, to give them a softer texture.

Umeboshi improves with age for a few years. The best time to start eating them 3 years after making them, though you can eat them right away. The best time flavor wise is at the 5 year mark. Do not store over 10 years, as they will start getting mushy, if stored with a liquid, or dry and brittle.

Alternate Umeboshi: White Umeboshi

You can make umeboshi without the red shiso leaves. This results in light brown umeboshi and an almost clear ume vinegar.

Source

 

 

Energetics of Plums: 1 In a 1000

European Plums

Plum FactsEuropean Plums

Plum Facts

Did you know that there are over 100 varieties of plums in the US alone? Between the US, Europe and Asia there are thousands of varieties in a wide range of sizes and colors.  There are very few fruits that have such a range.  Plums have been cultivated since the ancient times.  European plums are believed to have originated from Damacus, Syria and Persia, while Japanese plums originated from China.

Plum Varieties

Plums are from the genus Prunus and are related to peaches, nectarine, and almonds.  They are considered drupes, which are fruit that have a hard stone pit surrounding their seeds.  Dried plums are also known as prunes.

Japanese Plums

Japanese Plums

Plums belong to one of six categories: Japanese, American, Damson, Ornamental, Wild, and European/Garden.  The plums in each category vary by size, shape and color.  The two main varieties found in the supermarkets are Japanese and European plums.

Japanese: These are known as clingstone because their flesh clings to the pit.  The skins of Japanese plums range from crimson to black-red (but never purple).  They are very juicy with yellow or reddish flesh.

European: These are characterized by their blue or purple skins. They are smaller in size, denser and less juicy then their Japanese counterpart. They are considered freestone because their flesh easily separates from the pit. This type is used most often in making prunes.

The Plum season starts in May and ends around October, with Japanese plums making the first appearance and peaking in August. European plums start peaking in the fall.

How to Pick Plums; How to Store Plums

Japanese Plums

Japanese Plums

When selecting plums look for ones that are fully ripe.  They should yield to gentle pressure and are slightly soft at the tip. Better quality plums will have a rich color.  Avoid plums with soft spots as this is an indicator that it is overripe. Overripe plums with brown flesh should not be eaten.  Make sure that the plums you are selecting are free of puncture marks, bruises, or any signs of decay. You should also avoid hard plums, as they have been picked too soon and will never develop their full taste, texture or nutritional benefits.

Plums are a very delicate fruit and bruise easily, so always handle them with care.

Proper storage is the key to keeping plums fresh.  If properly stored, fresh plums can last up to 10 days.  Any plums that you are planning to eat within a day or two can stay on the counter, store any other plums in fridge.  To enjoy maximum flavor and juiciness, make sure you allow plums to get back to room temperature before eating them.

Plums Nutrition

Plums - Nutrition FactsPlums (both fresh and dried) are an excellent source of antioxidant protection.   They have a high content of unique phytonutrients called neochlorogenic acid and chlorogenic acid.  These are classified as phenols and they have been found to be very effective in neutralizing a particularly destructive oxygen radical called superoxide anion radical. Another antioxidant that is found plums is catechins, a flavonoid phytonutrient that have been found to protect LDL cholesterol from oxidation.  Plums have many heart healthy nutrients as well, including vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium and dietary fiber.

 

Plum Energetics

European Plums

European Plums

 

 

The purple varieties tend to be slightly cooling, while its yellow varieties tend to be neutral.  Plums build body fluids.  Plums can be used in the treatment of liver diseases, cirrhosis of the liver, hardened for expanded liver conditions in general, diabetes and dehydration.  The purple plums are best for liver conditions that express themselves as emotional repression, pain, and nervous disorders. Stewed prunes are a traditional remedy for constipation and are especially beneficial when excess liver and heat signs are present.

Caution: Plums are not good for people with delicate digestion or gastrointestinal ulcers or inflammations.  Rich in oxalic acid, plums can deplete calcium in the body.

 

Plums Recipe

Pork Tenderloin with Balsamic Plum Reduction

Pork Tenderloin with Balsamic Plum ReductionIngredients

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with foil.
  2. Season the pork tenderloin with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet over high heat until the oil shimmers; gently lay the tenderloin into the hot oil. After about 1 minute, gently loosen the meat from the bottom of the skillet, if necessary. Cook until the pork is seared a golden brown color, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the pork to the lined baking sheet.
  3. Roast the seared tenderloin in the preheated oven until a thermometer inserted into the center of the pork reads at least 145 degrees F (63 degrees C), about 15 minutes. Remove the pork from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing into medallions.
  4. Cook the plums, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, honey, and blueberry juice in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring often, until the plums are soft, about 10 minutes. Transfer the sauce to a blender and blend until smooth. Return the sauce to the saucepan and simmer until reduced and thickened to the consistency of apple butter, about 5 more minutes. Spoon plum sauce over the sliced pork to serve.

Source

 

Energetics of Tomato: Fruit or Vegetable?

The great debate, what is a tomato?!  Well, while it is used and consumed as vegetable it is botanically a fruit. Tomatoes have seeds and grows from a flowering plant, therefore it is botanically classified as a fruit. The confusion comes from the fact that in 1887, US tariffs imposed a duty on vegetables, but not fruits.  Then in 1893 the US Supreme Court ruled in the case of Nix V. Hedden that tomatoes were to be considered a vegetable based on the popular definition that classifies vegetables by use, meaning that since tomatoes were usually served with dinner and not as a dessert they were a vegetable.

 

Varieties

Cherry Tomatoes

Cherry Tomatoes

Tomato plants originated in the South America Andes in an area in modern day Peru. It was first consumed as food by the Aztecs. Now a days, the main producer of tomatoes is China, followed closely by the US and India. There are literally about 7,500 different types of tomatoes in the world, but today we are going to talk about 5 categories of tomatoes most commonly found at your local market.

Cherry Tomatoes are red, orange or yellow in color, and are bite-sized. These are used mostly in salads or as a garnish.

Slicing Tomatoes

Slicing Tomatoes

Plum Tomatoes and Roma/Italian Tomatoes are small, egg-shaped tomatoes that contain less juice than Slicing Tomatoes. Since they contain less juice these types of tomatoes are ideal for cooking, especially tomato sauces.

Slicing Tomatoes are small, round, and juicy.  These are the most commonly found tomato in local markets.  These include the flat beefsteak tomato.

Heirloom Tomatoes actually have no standard definition, but most experts consider them to be varieties that have been passed down for generations of a family and developed to bring out their best characteristics. They can be found in a variety of colors, shapes, and tastes. They are usually a soft tomato with a short shelf life, thus are not as wide distributed.  Most are found in farmer markets, natural food stores and supermarkets with a larger expanse of produce.

Heirloom Tomatoes

Heirloom Tomatoes

Green Tomatoes are unripe tomatoes. They contain less nutrients than fully ripe tomatoes.  This is due to the fact that the phytonutrients that result in the tomatoes red coloring have not yet developed.

While tomatoes are available throughout the year, their peak season runs from July through October.

Best Way to Choose and Store

Plum Tomatoes

Plum Tomatoes

When selecting tomatoes look for ones that are deeply and evenly colored, and ones that are firm and heavy for their size. They should also be well shaped and have smooth skin.  Ripe tomatoes will yield to slight pressure and have a slight sweet smell. Avoid tomatoes with wrinkles, cracks, bruises, or soft spots.  Also avoid ones with a puffy appearance, as they tend to have inferior flavor.

Since ripe tomatoes are too fragile to ship, most commercially sold tomatoes are actually picked green and are exposed to ethylene gas (do not fret, this is the gas that fruit and veggies naturally give off that help quicken the ripening process) to ripen them to a red color once they reach their destination.  Since these tomatoes are picked early, their taste is not as flavorful as tomatoes found at farmers markets.

For canned tomatoes, make sure that you purchase tomatoes canned in the United States. Many countries do not have the same strict policies about controlling lead content in their food containers.  The high acid content in tomatoes can lead to corrosion of the container’s metal and result in migration of metals (especially lead) into the food.

Green Tomatoes

Green Tomatoes

It is best to eat tomatoes the same day you buy them, but if that is not a possibility make sure you store them correctly.  Tomatoes can be stored uncut for up to 10 days.  It is best to keep them at room temperature and to keep them away from direct sunlight. Refrigerating unripe tomatoes can cause them to lose flavor and become spongy. Only put tomatoes in the fridge if they are overripe and you have not had a chance to eat them yet. Try to place them in the butter compartment if possible and eat with 2 days. Take them out of the fridge at least 30 mins before preparing them, so that you can regain the optimal flavor and juiciness.  For tomatoes that are already cut, place it in an airtight container or bag with all the excess air removed.  Sliced tomatoes will only last up to 2 days in the fridge.

Nutrition

tomato-nutritionTomatoes are rich in nutrients that have antioxidant activity.  They are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, due to their concentration of pro-vitamin A carotenoids such as alpa- and beta-carotene. Tomatoes also contain the carotenoids lutein, zeaxanthin and lycopene.  Other great benefits of tomatoes are their heart healthy potassium, folic acid, dietary fiber, and vitamin B6; bone-building vitamin K, magnesium and phosphorus; sulfite-detoxifying molybdenum; free-radical-scavenging manganese, copper and vitamin E; energy-producing vitamin B1, vitamin B12, vitamin B5, niacin, and iron; muscle-building protein; blood-sugar-regulating chromium; and sleep-promoting tryptophan.

 

 

 

Energetics

Tomatoes are very cooling in nature. They build yin fluids and relieves dryness and thirst, tonifies the stomach and cleans the liver, purifies the blood and detoxifies the body in general, encourages digestion and used in cases of diminished appetite, indigestion, food retention, anorexia, and constipation. Tomatoes relieve liver heat and accompanying symptoms such as high blood pressure, red eyes, and headache. It can also be used to treat areas of blood stagnation, as both food and an external pack of raw finely sliced pieces. Even though tomatoes are highly acidic, after digestion they alkalizes the blood and thus is useful in reducing the acid blood of rheumatism and gout.  Try to eat vine-ripened tomatoes, as green-picked tomatoes that are later ripened can weaken the kidney-adrenal function.

Caution: Tomato upsets calcium metabolism and should be avoided in cases of arthritis. Large amounts of tomatoes are weakening of everyone.

 

Roasted Cherry Tomato Chutney on Squash

Tomato RecipeIngredients

  • 1 2 – pound spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 pints cherry and/or grape tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 8 – ounce container bite-size fresh mozzarella balls, cut up
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

  1. Brush cut sides of squash with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place squash halves, cut sides down, in a large baking dish. Prick the skin all over with a fork. Bake, uncovered, in a 375 degrees oven for 30 to 40 minutes or until tender.
  2. Meanwhile, place cherry tomatoes in a large bowl. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, the minced garlic and salt to taste; stir well to coat. Place tomato mixture in a 15x10x1-inch baking pan. Bake in oven with the squash for the last 20 minutes.
  3. In a large skillet, bring the chicken broth to boiling; add onion. Cook about 3 minutes or just until tender. Remove skillet from heat. Add roasted tomatoes to the skillet with the onion. Using a fork or potato masher, gently press down on tomatoes to pop their skin and release their juice. Add mozzarella, basil and mint to the tomato mixture; toss well.
  4. Using a fork, remove the squash pulp from shell. Top squash with tomato mixture and Parmesan cheese.

Source

Energetics of Onions: Don’t Cry for Me

Fun fact, ancient Egyptians had such a high regard for onions that they actually used them as currency for the workers who built the great pyramids! Not only that, but they were also thought to have high spiritual significance and as such were placed in the tombs of the pharaohs.  Nothing like a nice snack to accompany you to the afterlife.  Nowadays onions have become a staple in almost every region in the world.

 

 

Varieties

Onions are actually native to Asia and the Middle East, having been cultivated for over 5,000 years.  They vary in size, color, and taste depending upon their variety.

Spanish Onions

Spanish Onions

Storage Onions

Storage Onions are a variety of onion that, as you can guess, store for a long time.  They are grown in colder climates because they are dried for a period of several months after harvesting. They tend to have a more pungent flavor than Spring/Summer Onions, and they are named after their color.  Spanish onions also fall into this category.

Yellow Storage Onions are very flavorful and the most commonly used variety. They also contain the highest concentration of antioxidants called quercetin.

Spanish Onions are large yellow onions with a mild flavor.

Red or Bermuda Onions are the hottest and sweetest of the Storage Onions. They are high in quercetin and anthocyanins.

Pearl Onions

Pearl Onions

White Onions are not very sweet and have a mild taste.

Pearl or Boiling Onions are a smaller version of Storage Onions.

Spring/Summer Onions

These juicy onions are grown in warm climates and since they remain in soil longer than Storage Onions, much of their carbohydrates turn to sugar giving them their characteristically sweet taste. The extended time in the ground results in the reduction of their nutritional value and loss of sulfur-containing compounds.  The loss of these compounds is the reason these onions do not bring tears to your eyes.  Varieties of Spring/Summer include Walla Walla, Vidalia, and Maui Sweet Onions.  These are best eaten raw and should not be kept longer than a week.

Summer/Spring Onions

Summer/Spring Onions

Other Varieties

Scallions and Green Onions are bright in color with long, narrow hollow leaves and a small pear-shaped white bulb.

While Storage Onions are available throughout the year, Spring/Sumer Onions are available only a few months of the year.

Maui Onions- April through June

Vidalia Onions- May and June

Walla Walla- July and August

 Best Way To Choose and Store

Red Onions

Red Onions

Always look for ones that are clean and well-shaped, have no opening at the neck, and feature crisp, dry outer skins. Avoid selecting onions that are sprouting or have signs of mold.  Spots, moisture at their neck and dark patches may be indications of decay ad reflect inferior quality.

Onions actually last a while if you store them correctly.  The length of time you can store it depends on the variety of onion you bought. Varieties that are more pungent in flavor, such as Yellow Onions, can be stored longer than those with a sweeter taste, such as White Onions.

The best way to store uncut Storage or Spring/Summer Onions is in a cool, dark place, away from heat and bright light.  Make sure that they are well ventilated and do not put them in a storage bag. You can put them in a wire hanging basket or a perforate bowl with a raised base so air can circulate. Do not place uncut onions in the fridge, as this will cause it to spoil quickly. Do not store onions with potatoes.

The best way to store portions of onions not used should be placed in a sealed container to limit its exposure to airflow and store in the crisper in your fridge. Use any cut onions within a day or two, as onions will oxidize and lose its nutrients quickly.

Prevent Onions from Irritating Your Eyes

imgresThere are actually a few methods to help prevent onions irritating your eyes while cutting them.  The irritating factor comes from allyl sulfate, which while annoying to the eyes, it is where their significant nutritional value comes from.  One way to do this is to chill the onion for at least an hour before cutting.  Another method is to cut the onion while running it under running water. The problem with this method is the water can dilute the amount of allyl sulfate. There are some people that say putting a slice of bread or metal spoon in your mouth while cutting onions can help neutralize the irritating compounds. If none if these work, may I suggest using goggles.

 Nutrition

Onions help promote blood sugar balance, experimental and clinical evidence shows that there is a link between allyl propyl disulfate and an increased amount of free insulin available to usher glucose where it needs to go.  Also, onions are a great source of chromium, a mineral component in glucose tolerance factors, which helps cells responds appropriately to insulin.

Regular consumption of onions have shown to lower high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure, both actions that can help prevent atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease, and reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke.  Onion’s heart benefits are likely due to its sulfur compounds, chromium, folate, and vitamin B6 content. Folate and vitamin B6 also help prevent heart disease by lowering high homocysteine levels.

Onions contain many anti-inflammatory agents, these agents are helpful in reducing the severity of symptoms associated with inflammatory conditions.  They have this power because they contain compounds that inhibit lipoxygenase and cyclooxygenase, the enzymes that generate inflammatory prostaglandins and thromboxanes. These effects are due to vitamin C, quercetin, and isothiocyanates found in onions. Quercetin and other flavonoids also work with vitamin C to kill harmful bacteria, making onions great for soups and stews during cold and flu season.

Energetics

imgresOnions are pungent and influence the lungs, promote warmth, move energy around the body, resolve blood stagnancies, reduce clotting, and expel coldness.  They are rich in sulfur, a warming element that purifies the body, helps remove heavy metals and parasites, and facilitates protein/amino acid metabolism. Onions also clean the arteries and retard the growth of viruses, yeast, ferments, and other pathogenic organisms. Onions lower blood pressure and cholesterol, decreases catarrh (phlegm and inflammation of the nose and throat), treats dysentery, inhibits allergic reactions, induces sweating, and can help cure the common cold.

Traditional cough remedy: Simmer onions in water until soft with a little added honey.  Also one should eat an onion every 4 hours.

Caution: While onions have many medicinal values, they are not recommended for those seeking mental and spiritual refinement as onions foster excessive emotional desire.

Onions are a concentrated source of manganese, copper, phosphorus, and tryptophan.

7-Minute Healthy Sautéed Onions

dsc01880Traditional caramelized onion sautéing destroys many health benefits. Low heat sautéing brings out onion’s sweet flavor and preserves the most nutrients.

Prep and Cook Time: 15 minutes
Ingredients:

  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 TBS + 2 TBS chicken or vegetable broth
  • 3 TBS extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and pepper to taste

 

Directions:

  1. Slice onions and let sit for 5 minutes to enhance health-promoting benefits.
  2. Heat 2 TBS broth over medium heat in a stainless steel skillet.
  3. When broth begins to steam, add onions and cover for 3 minutes. The onions will ‘sweat’.  Add another 2 TBS broth and stir uncovered for 4 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat when onions become translucent, about 7 minutes. Increase cooking time for more tenderness.
  5. Transfer to a bowl. For the best flavor toss onions with olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste while still hot.

Serves 2: Calories 206 (100g) Recipe Courtesy of WHFoods.com

 

Energetics of Grapefruit: Delicious and Nutritious

Grapefruit TreeHave you ever wondered why this large cousin of the orange is named after its smaller counterpart grapes? It is because like grapes, grapefruits grow in clusters on trees! The grapefruit is a native of Barbados and has only been around since the 1700’s. Many botanist believe the grapefruit is actually a cross breeding between oranges and pomelos, a citrus fruit brought to Barbados from Indonesia.

photo credit: Darwin Bell via photopin cc

photo credit: Darwin Bell via photopin cc

Best Way to Choose and Store

While available all year round, peak season is early winter through early spring. Grapefruit are designated white, pink or ruby depending on inner flesh color, not skin color. They come in many varieties and sizes. Duncan, a white grapefruit, are large with yellow skin and is used primarily to make juice. Lavender Gem, a white grapefruit, is a grapefruit-tangelo hybrid with a lemon-yellow or pink blush colored skin. The inner flesh is a pinkish-blue and has a delicate flavor. The most popular variety is the White Marsh, which is a white seedless grapefruit. Pink and ruby varieties tend to be sweeter and have a higher concentration of vitamin A. You can select the best tasting grapefruit by looking for ones that are heavy with smooth skin. Ripe grapefruit are heavy and firm, yet slightly springy when gently squeezed. At room temperature they should have a sweet aroma.   Skin discoloration, scratches, or scales do not affect the taste. Avoid grapefruit that show signs of decay or overly soft spots at the stem. These are signs that they will be less flavorful and more bitter. While grapefruit tend to be juicer when warm, they only last 5 days at room temperature. If refrigerated they can last up to 10 days.

grapefruit nutrition

Energetics

Grapefruit contain lycopene, a carotenoid phytonutrient that is responsible for its pink coloration and provides protection from free-radical activity. They are also an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin A, that provide immune support and powerful antioxidant protection. Grapefruits are great for heart health, they contain pectin and mineral potassium. Pectin is a soluble fiber that helps trap fats like cholesterol in the intestinal tract.   Mineral potassium helps regulate blood pressure. The pulp of citrus fruit, like the grapefruit, contain glucarates, compounds that may help prevent breast cancer. Grapefruits are also a good source of pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) which plays an important role in the body’s production of cellular energy.

photo credit: woodleywonderworks via photopin cc

photo credit: woodleywonderworks via photopin cc

Grapefruit increases appetite during pregnancy, helps overcome alcohol intoxication, and treats poor digestion and belching. Grapefruit peels move and regulate spleen-pancreas digestive energy, resolves mucus conditions of the lungs, lung congestion and coughing, and are used to alleviate intestinal gas, pain, swelling, and promote peristalsis. To extract these properties from the peels, make it into a tea. The tea is also good for frostbite when applied at room temperature with a compress, as it helps restore circulation to the damaged tissue. The juice from grapefruits when combined with tea made from grapefruit pulp will reduce fevers.

Grapefruit seeds are even more beneficial. The extract made from the seeds, Citrus Seed Extract, is an extremely potent antibiotic.   The extract dries damp conditions in the body, inhibit members of several classes of microbes and parasites, among them: protozoa, amoebas, bacteria, viruses, and at least thirty types of fungi. The extract comes in a variety of forms, including liquids, capsules, sprays, and ointments. Internal uses include prevention of “traveler’s diarrhea”, allergies, gardida, parasites, flu, strep throat, and staph infections. External uses include wart removal, treatment of athlete’s foot, nail fungi, dandruff, and poison oak.   This extract is also used in household settings by soaking produce to remove parasites and pesticides, sterilizing laundry, cleaning contaminated surfaces and kitchen utensils, and ridding drinking, bathing, and swimming water of microbes.

Caution: Those with signs of dryness and/or deficiency, including deficient yin syndrome, should use Citrus Seed Extract sparingly.

Energetics of Persimmons: A Winter Fruit

It is that time the year again, persimmon season. Their harvest starts in November and goes through February. Persimmons are consumed world wide, from Asia to South America. Like tomatoes, they are considered a fruit but are on fact a berry.

Persimmons are delicious fresh, dried, raw, or cooked. One way to consume very ripe persimmons, which can have the texture of pudding, is to remove the top leaf with a paring knife and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Riper persimmons can also be eaten by removing the top leaf, breaking the fruit in half and eating from the inside out.  Dried persimmons, or hoshigaki, are a great way to have a nutritious snack.

 

Best Way to Choose and Store

Persimmons are categorized by astringent and non-astringent. The two most common types found in the US are the hachiya and fuyu. The hachiya is the most common, heart shaped and very astringent.  The astringent nature is due to the high tannin content which is lessened as it is ripened, therefore it must be ripe to be edible.

photo credit: amira_a via photopin cc

photo credit: amira_a via photopin cc

The Fuyu is flat and can be eaten firm or soft.  The fuyu is less astringent and contains less tannins and loses the tannins quicker, therefore can be eaten firm but becomes sweeter the softer they are.

So just remember, Hachiya;  heartshaped and eaten soft.  Fuyu; flat and eaten firm or soft .

Before ripening, persimmons usually have a “chalky” taste or bitter taste. To soften or ripen a persimmon, place it in a well lighted place for several days, or place in a paper bag.  For even speedier ripening add an apple or banana to the bag which exposes the fruit to ethylene gas.  Or the fruit to extreme cold which will also result in ripening.

Energetics

Persimmon NutritionPersimmons have high levels of dietary fiber, sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron and manganese, but lower levels of copper and zinc. hey also contain vitamin C and provitamin A beta-carotene.  Persimmon fruits contain phytochemicals, such as catechin and gallocatechin. These phytochemicals increase plasma antioxidant activity (ability of plasma to scavenge free radicals), brachial artery dilation (blood vessel expansion), and fat oxidation. Persimmons also contain betulinic acid, which has anti-inflammatory properties, as well as a more recently discovered potential as an anticancer agent, by inhibition of topoisomerase.

Persimmons cool heat (especially lung heat), builds body fluids, moistens the lungs, removes phlegm, tonifies the spleen-pancreas, and soothes mucous membranes in the digestive tract to relieve gastrointestinal inflammation.  They are used to treat heat and/or dry conditions, thirst, canker sores, and chronic bronchitis. Partially ripe persimmons, which are mildly astringent, are used in treating diarrhea, dysentery, hypertension, and spitting up, coughing up, or vomiting blood.

 

Persimmon Curry SoupCurried Persimmon Soup

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 lb. peeled Fuyu Persimmmns
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 1/2 tsp. minced fresh garlic
  • 5 cups chicken stock (Reduced Sodium)
  • 1/2 tsp. Curry Powder
  • Lemon
  • Cilantro

 

Step 1: Gather 3 ½ pounds of persimmons together and bathe them.  After they’re washed, remove the four leaves that sit atop the persimmon’s crown.  Take a knife and cut away at the persimmon’s sides like you would an orange, saving as much flesh as possible.  Next, remove the core and cut the persimmon into slices and set them aside.

Step 2: Mince ½ cup of onions as well as one teaspoon of freshly grated ginger.  Add them to the pot along with ¼ cup of reduced sodium chicken stock and let the smell engulf your kitchen.  Take your 3 ½ pounds of persimmons and add them to the mixture, letting the mixture reduce.

Step 3: When the persimmons begin to stick to the bottom of the pan due to a lack of liquid, add another ½ cup of chicken stock to the mixture.  Follow this step several times, allowing the persimmons to become soft and the mixture to become somewhat thick in consistency.  Add curry powder to the mix 30 seconds before you remove the soup from the heat.

Step 4: Remove your mixture from its pan and place it into a blender (provided it has cooled somewhat).  Blend until you’re satisfied with the texture, pour your soup into a bowl and garnish with a sprig of cilantro and a few drops of lemon.

Source

Curried Persimmon Soup

Energetics of Cranberries: Or is it the Bounceberry?

Did you know that cranberries have once been called bounceberries and craneberries? Bounceberry comes from the fact that ripe cranberries will bounce when dropped! Whereas, craneberries was an allusion to the fact that their pale pink blossoms look a bit like the heads of the cranes that frequent cranberry bogs.

American Indians have used cranberries in many different ways. They enjoyed eating them cooked and sweetened with honey or maple syrup, the first version of cranberry sauce! American Indians also used cranberries as a source of red dye. Cranberries were also used medicinally as a poultice for wounds.

In the 18th century many sailors carried cranberries on their ships to prevent scurvy. Related fun fact, British sailors used to carry limes for this same reason and thus were given the derogatory name of Limeys!

Varieties

The cranberry is a part of the Vaccinium genus, along with blueberries. The three most common varieties are American, Mountain and European. Cranberries are at their peak from October to December.

American cranberries are bright red and are cultivated mostly in the northern United States and southern Canada. The USDA categorizes American cranberries as the standard cranberry.

The mountain variety is mostly uncultivated and can be occasionally found in markets. They are bright red to dark red in color. This variety is better known as the lingonberry!

European cranberries are much smaller than the American variety. It is not eaten as often and is used mostly as an ornamental.

Highbrush cranberries are primarily used for jams, jellies, and sauces. This variety actually belongs to a different genus than the other varieties.

How to Choose and Store

The best tasting cranberries are the ones that are firm, plump and deep red. The best indicator for quality is in the firmness of the berries. Here is where calling them bounceberries is actually accurate! During harvesting, high quality cranberries are often sorted by bouncing the berries against barriers made of slanted boards. The best berries actually bounce over the barrier while the ones that do not go to the reject pile. Also, go for the ones with deeper red coloring as it is an indicator that the concentration of beneficial anthocyanin is at its peak.

Avoid fresh cranberries that are soft, mushy and pale as they will be sour or lack any flavor.

Cranberries will last up to 20 days in the fridge if stored correctly. Before storing your cranberries, pick through the berries and discard any that are soft, pitted, discolored or shriveled, as they will speed up spoilage. Also, do not wash cranberries before storage, as the water will also encourage spoilage.

Cranberries also store well in the freezer. Wash and dry the cranberries prior to freezing. Spread cranberries evenly on a cookie sheet and in a couple of hours they will be ready to transfer to a freezer bag. Once frozen, cranberries will be good up to one year. Once thawed, they will be soft and should be used immediately.

Nutrition

cranberryHere is a no brainer for nutrition and health benefits of cranberries, they are great for the prevention of urinary tract infections (bladder infections). Cranberries acidify the urine, contains an antibacterial agent called hippuric acid and also contain other compounds that reduce the ability of e.coli bacteria (the pathogen responsible for 80-90% of UTIs) to adhere to the walls of the urinary tract.  Cranberries also have an antiviral compound called proanthocyanidin A-1 that has been found to  inhibit the attachment and penetration of herpes type 2 virus.

Cranberries can also help prevent the formation of kidney stones.  They contain quinic acid which acidifies the urine to prevent the binding of calcium and phosphate ions.  In addition, they help decrease the salivary levels of Streptoccoccus mutans, the major cause of tooth decay, and inhibit the growth of other common foodborne pathogens.  For example, cranberries have been found to prevent the bacterium Helicobacterpylori (responsible for most gastric ulcers) from adhering to stomach lining cells.

Do not forget cranberries heart healthy benefits! Cranberries have an amazing antioxidant effect on the body shown to lower LDL cholesterol and increase in HDL cholesterol. The exact reason from cranberries effect on cholesterol is not clearly established, but researchers theorize that the effect is due to the high levels of polyphenols, a powerful antioxidant. Speaking of antioxidants, cranberries are packed with vitamin C, manganese and phenolic phytonutrients. Cranberries have 5 times the antioxidant power of broccoli!

Energetics

Cranberries are great for cleaning out infections, especially bladder infections.  Cranberries are bitter, cooling and alkalizing which helps remove dampness and heat.  Do not overeat cranberries during the painful, acute phase of the bladder infection, as overeating can actually increase the damp-heat.  During this time it is best to eat or drink juice/tea lightly. Be aware that almost all commercial cranberry juice is full of sugar and artificial sweeteners, it is best to find find an unsweetened variety or stick to cranberry tablets.

Energetics of Adzuki Beans: The healthy dessert bean?

Ever order dessert in a Japanese restaurant and see only green tea and red bean flavored items?  Many people hesitate at these “non-sweet” flavors, I mean everyone knows that green tea is bitter.  What about red beans?  Red beans are actually adzuki beans, a bean produced by the adzuki vine that has an unmistakable red coloring. Hence the both names. Adzuki vines grow through East Asia and the Himalayas. Analysis of unearthed beans indicates that it was first cultivated in Japan during the period from 4000 BC to 2000 BC.

 

In East Asia, the adzuki bean is commonly eaten sweetened. In particular, it is often boiled with sugar, resulting in red bean paste, a very common ingredient in many desserts and snacks. It is such a popular flavor that in 2009 Pepsi Japan released an adzuki-flavored soda. I am a huge fan of red bean paste, especially in mochi ice cream!

 

Preparation

soaking adzukiAdzuki beans, like many legumes, come dried and need to be re-hydrated before using.  To start, adzuki beans need to be soaked in water at least 8 hours before cooking with them.  If you are in a hurry you can do a “quick rinse”. To do that you boil the beans in water for 10 mins, remove from heat, cover and let soak for 1 hour.

To cook adzuki beans you need 4 cups of water to 1 cup of beans (Note: This should be fresh water, not the water you soaked them in).  Then bring the water and beans to a boil, once the boiling point has been reached reduce the temperature and simmer for 45-55 mins. As a note, salt and spices can slow the cooking process, so it is best to add them once the beans are completely cooked.

Nutrition

adzuki nutritionAdzuki beans are a good source for a variety of minerals like iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and folic acid. These beans are a great source of protein. Although protein packed, they are still lacking in many amino acids, so you will need to supplement adzuki beans with other vegetables and grains.  As an excellent source of dietary fiber, these beans help regulate blood sugar and cholesterol  levels, as well as promote healthy bowel movements.  They are also very low in fat, it is estimated that 1 cup of adzuki beans only has 1 gram of fat.

Energetics

Adzuki beans influence the heart and small intestine, tonifies the kidneys-adrenal function, detoxifies the body, removes heat conditions, disperses stagnant blood, reduces swelling, diuretic and drying.  Use in the treatments of damp and watery conditions, leukorrhea, jaundice, ascites, diarrhea, edma, and boils.  It is also used to promote weight loss. For pro-longed menstruation, chew well five raw adzuki beans daily until menses stop.

adzuki beansAdzuki juice is used as a remedy for nephritis and most other kidney complaints. Regular use with meals also increases mother’s milk.  To make the juice, simmer one cup of beans in 5 cups of water for an hour and drain the juice. Dosage is 1/3 cup juice 30  mins before meals.

Adzuki paste can be made for external application.  It is used in the treatment of mumps, and boils.  Grind raw beans to a powder and mix with water and enough honey to make a paste.  Apply to affected area and cover with a cloth bandage.  This paste is effective for 5 hours and can be applied as often as necessary. Using aduki juice or beans in the diet will also help these disorders.

Caution: Thin, dry people should use adzuki beans sparingly (combine adzuki with seaweeds and sufficient salt to improve moistening effect).

 

Chicken Soup with Adzuki Beans, Escarole & Sweet Potato

Chicken Soup w/ adzuki beansIngredients:

  • 1 ½ quarts chicken broth
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 cup dry adzuki beans
  • 1 cup uncooked wild rice
  • 2 onions, cut into large chunks
  • 1 tbsp bottled minced garlic
  • 1 tsp dried sage
  • 1 tbsp dried thyme
  • 1 tbsp dried rosemary
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1 zucchini, cubed
  • 1 yellow squash, cubed
  • 1/3 medium head escarole, coarsely chopped

Preparation:

  1. Place the chicken broth in a large pot. Mix in the chicken thighs, adzuki beans, wild rice, onions, and garlic. Season with sage, thyme, and rosemary. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cook 1 hour.
  2. Remove chicken from the pot, shred with a fork, and set aside.
  3. Stir the sweet potato into the pot. Continue cooking about 5 minutes, until sweet potato is slightly tender. Mix in the zucchini, yellow squash, and escarole. Continue cooking 15 minutes.
  4. Return the shredded chicken to the pot. Cook until heated through. Increase the amount of broth if the soup seems too thick.

 

Energetics of Radish: Radical Groudlings

photo credit: Carrdish via photopin (license)

Radishes are grown and consumed all around the world with the first written records being found from the 3rd century B.C. They are generally eaten raw as a crunchy salad vegetable.  Surprisingly, there are numerous varieties of radishes, varying in size, flavor, color and length of time they take to mature.  Radishes can be sweet or spicy, owing their sharp flavor to the various chemical compounds produced by the plants, including glucosinolate, myrosinase, and isothiocyanate.

About seven million tons of radishes are produced yearly, that is roughly 2% of the global vegetable production.

 Varieties

photo credit: radishes via photopin (license)

photo credit: radishes via photopin (license)

Radishes come in groupings categorized by the season they are grown in.

Summer Radishes are sometimes referred to as European radishes or spring radishes if they are planted in cooler weather. Summer radishes tend to be smaller and have a relatively short cultivation time. There are many different summer radishes, almost to many to name.  Cherry Belle is the one that is commonly found in grocery stores, it is bright red-skinned with a white interior.  Snow Belle is very similar to the Cherry Belle, but it is all white.   Gala and Roodbol are two varieties popular in the Netherlands in a breakfast dish, thinly sliced on buttered bread.  Champion is round and red-skinned like the Cherry Belle, but with slightly larger roots, up to about 2 in, and has a milder flavor.  Easter Egg is not an actual variety, but a mix of varieties with different skin colors, typically including white, pink, red, and purple radishes. Sold in markets or seed packets under the name, the seed mixes can extend harvesting duration from a single planting, as different varieties may mature at different times

black radishWinter Radishes are, as the name states, grown in the cold winter months.  As with the spring radishes, radishes grown in the fall are considered winter radishes. The most prominent winter radish is the Black Spanish, also called Black Radish and Spanish Heirloom.  This radish has a tough black skin with a very spicy white flesh.  It tends to be round in shape, but can grow as in a pear shape.  Another popular winter radish is the Daikon, which refers to a wide variety of winter oilseed radishes from Asia. While the Japanese name Daikon has been adopted in English, it is also sometimes called the Japanese radish, Chinese radish, Oriental radish or mooli (in India and South Asia). 

There is one last grouping, the seed pod variety.  The seeds of radishes grow in pods, following flowering that happens when left to grow past their normal harvesting period. The seeds are edible, and are sometimes used as a crunchy, spicy addition to salads.

 How to Choose and Store

photo credit: Roots via photopin (license)

photo credit: Roots via photopin (license)

When shopping for radishes, always check the leafy tops first.  They should be bright green and crisp. The roots should be brightly colored and free from cracks and nicks. Give them a quick squeeze to make sure there’s no hollow or soft center. Avoid radishes with wilted or soft roots and avoid radishes with oversized roots as well.

As soon as you get home, separate your radishes from the greens and using a sturdy vegetable brush, scrub the radishes thoroughly so they are free of any sand and dirt. Then, make sure to rinse them thoroughly in cold water. Get either a large wide mouth glass jar or a large gallon-sized resealable bag and line the bottom of the jar or bag with a layer of paper towels. Put your still-damp radishes on top, then put another layer of paper towel and repeat until you are out of radishes. If using a bag, squeeze out excess air.  This should keep them crisp for up to a week.

Nutrition

Radish NutritionLow in calories and high in antioxidants, radishes are high in vitamin C, vitamin B-6, riboflavin, thiamin, folates, and the flavonoid antioxidants, lutein, zeaxanthin and beta carotene. Radishes also contain a high amount of iron, magnesium, copper and calcium.

Radishes contain goitrogens, which may cause thyroid gland swelling.   Those with thyroid dysfunction should avoid radishes.

Energetics

photo credit: Radishes via photopin (license)

photo credit: Radishes via photopin (license)

Radishes moistens the lungs, transforms thick mucus conditions and mucus associated with heat, removes food stagnation, detoxifies, relieves indigestion, and abdominal swelling.  It clears sinuses, hoarseness, phlegm, sore throats.  The cooling nature of radishes benefits many common heat-induced conditions;: nosebleed, spitting up blood, dysentery, and occipital headache.  Regular use can prevent viral infections like the common cold and the flu.  It is also a traditional western medicine remedy for gallstones and kidney and bladder stones.

Caution: People who are deficient in and cold should avoid radishes.

 

Vegan + Gluten Free Chinese Daikon Radish Cakes (aka Turnip Cakes)

This savory, doughy radish cake has many adoring fans. Note: This dish calls for overnight refrigeration.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 cups daikon radish (1.5 lbs)
  • 4 large green onions, finely chopped
  • 1.5 cups rice flour (not the glutinous or sweet kind,like basmati works well)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tsp + pinch salt and white pepper

Directions

Saute mushrooms and garlic with a pinch of salt and pepper until mushrooms wilt slightly.  Transfer to a large bowl.  Grate daikon into mushroom mixture, add green onions, rice flour, water and 2 tsp salt.  The mixture should look like lumpy oatmeal.  Oil a cake pan and pour batter in.

Typically the cake is covered then steamed on a steamer rack over simmering water for 45 min but after a minor setback (aka almost setting my kitchen on fire), I decided to bake it in the oven.  Tightly cover with aluminum foil and cook for 45 min at 350F. The cake should be firm to the touch and pulling away from the sides of the pan when done.  Cool, cover and refrigerate overnight. The next day, slice and fry in oil (olive or canola) until browned and crust forms on the exterior (about 2 min each side).

Recipe courtesy of Beakers & Bouillabaisse: Food Science Meets Culinary Escapades.

Energetics of Strawberry

Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, my best friend and I would go on adventures.  We’d ride our bikes to the local Dairy Queen and she’d always get a strawberry cone with chocolate shell and I’d always get vanilla with the vanilla shell.  A true case of opposites attracting.  My friend also loved strawberry shortcake, but I preferred my ice cream pure and my strawberries right off the vine in the backyard.  Growing in what used to be our Sand Box, but the neighborhood cats thought it was their litter box, so we cleaned it out and traded toys for strawberry vines.

Turns out strawberries are stuffed with more than little seeds.  They have powerful antioxidants and free radical scavengers, namely, anthocyanins and ellagic acid.   Yum!  Those anti-inflammatory  phyto-nutrients are good news for (rheumatoid) arthritis suffers.  Along with almost a full dose of Vitamin C (antioxidant), as well as Vitamin B-complex (metabolize fats, balance mood).  For a beauty treatment there’s Vitamin E and for sparkling eyes some lutein and zeaxanthin.  Get a cardio assist with beta carotene . But wait, there’s more; potassium (blood pressure), manganese (precursor for SuperOxide Dismutase – S.O.D.), fluorine (teeth and bones), copper (to produce red blood cells), iron (healthy red blood cells) and iodine.

Energetics of Strawberries:  Cooling thermal nature; sweet-and-sour flavor; benefits the spleen-pancreas and improves appetite; moistens lungs and generates body fluids.  Eaten before meals to improve poor digestion accompanied by abdominal pain and swelling.  Relieves urinary difficulties, including painful urination.

In season April to July.  Be sure to eat organic strawberries to avoid pesticides.   Best eaten within two days of harvesting for maximum nutritional value – wash just prior to eating and pat dry to retain freshness.  Store in the coldest part of the refrigerator.  Cooking destroys strawberry’s nutrients, so enjoy them raw, 3-4 times a week when possible.

Nutrient %  Daily Value

1 cup Strawberries (144.00 grams)

Vitamin C 141.1%
Manganese 28%
Fiber 11.5%
Folate 8.6%
Iodine 8.6%
Potassium 6.2%
Magnesium 4.6%
Vitamin K 3.9%
Omega-3 fats 3.7%
Calories (46)2%

Fruit Celebration

Ingredients

  • 1 pint strawberries, washed and cut in halves or quartered
  • 3 Kiwis, sliced and quartered
  • 2-3 bananas, sliced in ½ inch pieces
  • 1 pint blueberries, washed and dried in a paper towel
  • Honey to taste
  • ½ lemon

Directions

Mix all ingredients together and chill.