Garlic

native to: central Asia
in season here: late summer-fall
f1686_159027_garlicStrip
One of the best-known benefits of garlic is prevention of high blood pressure. It does this by providing alliin, which keeps blood vessels from contracting, and (according to more recent research) because red blood cells use the polysulfides in garlic to make hydrogen sulfide gas that helps blood vessels expand. Not all garlic extracts have the sulfur compounds for this second effect, so you’re better off eating garlic in your food and putting up with garlic breath. To help mitigate the problem, encourage all your friends and family to eat garlic, too; if they smell of it, they’re less likely to smell it. Some less-known effects of garlic include improving iron metabolism, lowering cholesterol, preventing blood clots, and just possibly reducing the number of fat cells the body produces, a side effect of its anti-inflammatory properties (apparently researchers have decided that obesity is characterized by chronic low-grade inflammation; who knew?).

There are lots of flavonoids in there too, along with selenium, manganese, copper, phosphorus, germanium, and vitamins B1, B6 and C, and it’s an anti-oxidant and anti-arthritic. It can even help reduce airway inflammation during allergic reactions (but you should still keep your medication on hand…). Its anti-cancer properties include inhibiting carcenogen formation during high-temperature cooking of meat. There’s also some interesting research being done on the antimicrobial properties of garlic.

Garlic is a member of the Allium family, related to lilies, onions, chives, shallots, and leeks. There are two basic types, hardneck and softneck. Hardneck garlic has a tough central stalk while softneck has a softer leaflike stalk that allows for braiding. Softneck garlic keeps longer, nine months or more, has a larger bulb with more cloves, and is generally milder in flavor. Hardneck garlic is closer to wild garlic and tends to larger cloves, if fewer per bulb, and richer flavor, but will only keep about half a year, if that.

Folklore claims it will bring good luck and ward off evil (including vampires), and that eating raw garlic will prevent colds; and it does in fact boost the immune system. Ancient Egyptians were the first (that we know about) to cultivate garlic, and it was used in the ancient and classical worlds to enhance strength. There was even a Roman dish, called moretum or garlic cheese, that is described in a poem (possibly by Virgil and giving us the national motto “E pluribus unum“) as using four bulbs of garlic — some fifty cloves — in one mortar-full. It was used for millennia for ear infections, cholera, and typhus. In both world wars it was used as a disinfectant, and even now is being used against MRSA.

The longest string of garlic in the world was 123 feet long and contained 1600 garlic bulbs.

Read more:
label-style nutrition information for raw garlic
whfoods.com
Really Garlicky has some home remedies using garlic
The Mother Earth News Organic Gardening blog discusses hardneck vs. softneck garlic

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Esperanta traduko: this post is also available in Esperanto, because Dana is a language geek.

Tuscan white bean and roasted garlic soup

1 lb dry Cannellini beans, rinsed
1 bulb garlic, peeled
8 cups water
4 fresh sage leaves, plus more for garnish
2 tsp olive oil
1 Tbsp chicken or vegetable bouillon powder
salt and pepper to taste

Place beans, 3 cloves garlic, water, and a few sage leaves in slow cooker; cover and cook on high 4 hours, or until beans are soft.

Place remaining garlic cloves in the center of a 7×7 inch square of aluminum foil and drizzle with oil; salt lightly. Seal foil and bake at 400F 25-30 minutes, until garlic is soft and golden. Remove from oven and let cool.

Add bouillon to the cooked beans and mix to dissolve. Transfer some of the beans and liquid to a blender; add roasted garlic (reserve a few cloves for garnish if desired). Blend until smooth and return to slow cooker. Repeat until desired texture is reached. Adjust seasonings.

Garnish with fresh sage leaves, white pepper, whole roasted garlic cloves, if desired.

Makes about 7 3/4 cups, or 7 servings.

Adapted from Skinnytaste.com

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Winter squash

native to: Mexico and Central America
in season here: fall
f1656_150909_KabochaStrip
Winter squash come in many varieties, but they all have a fairly hard outer shell and a hollow inner cavity full of seeds. Modern squashes developed from the wild squash of an area between Guatemala and Mexico, and were first cultivated for their seeds, the flesh being meager and very bitter. While roasted pumpkin seeds are the best known these days, the seeds of all winter squashes can be toasted to make a healthy snack, full of linoleic and oleic acids. Place them on a baking sheet and roast them at 160-170F for 15-20 minutes to minimize damage to these fatty acids.

Winter squash has been known to be an important source of carotenoids, especially alpha-carotene and beta-carotene. 90% of their total calories come from carbohydrates, and about half of that has a starchy composition, so they’re one of the starchier vegetables, but not all starch is created equal: there are a number of animal studies showing that the pectins in winter squash have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, and insulin-regulating properties. Other antioxidants in winter squash include good ol’ vitamin C and manganese. Cucurbitacins, named after the squash family, Cucurbitaceae, are also found in brassicas, some mushrooms, and some molluscs, but were first discovered in winter squash. They have anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties. Winter squash also have valuable amounts of omega-3s, especially when you consider that less than 15% of their calories come from fats. They also provide plenty of B-complex vitamins: B1, B3, B6, pantothenic acid, folate, and the B-vitamin-like compound d-chiro-inositol, which are all important to blood sugar regulation.

Winter squash can be used to help clean up contaminated soil, absorbing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and other contaminants; which is great if you’re doing environmental work, but not so great if you’re planning to eat the squash. This is a good time to insist on that “organic” label, even though conventionally-grown squash is not known for containing pesticide residues. It keeps best out of the light in a steady 50-60F.

Read more:
label-style nutrition information for cooked butternut squash
label-style nutrition information for cooked acorn squash
label-style nutrition information for cooked spaghetti squash
label-style nutrition information for cooked pumpkin
a guide to 10 common types of winter squash
and apparently you can also eat pumpkin blossoms

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Esperanta traduko: this post is also available in Esperanto, because Dana is a language geek.

Zucchini coleslaw

2 cups shredded zucchini, drained about 15 minutes
1 cup shredded carrots
1/2 bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/4 cup onion, thinly sliced
1 apple, shredded

dressing:
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. celery seed
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 cup vinegar
2 tsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. sesame oil
1 Tbsp. honey or sugar

Toss vegetables. In a separate bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients and toss with vegetable mixture.

Yield: 4 servings

From the Thurston County Food Bank

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Turkey

native to: North and South America

After all the fruits and vegetables I’ve written about, I thought it was about time to give our friends at Moir Country Farm a chance (plus I found this intriguing recipe for Tandoori Turkey…). The advantage to buying your meat at a farmers’ market is that the better life and better feed the animals have at a small farm does produce better meat. Also, some of the ethical objections to a carnivorous lifestyle really only apply to factory farms; the farmers’ market is where you can find meat from animals that, in the words of one farmer, “have a good life… and one really bad day.”

So let’s get to the details. A turkey that gets to forage naturally produces meat that is higher in omega-3 fats, and has a better ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats (omega-6s are the ones that encourage inflammation, that most of us get too much of). Also, turkey is one of several high-protein foods (tuna and egg whites are others) that help prevent blood sugar spikes. As well as the protein (more per gram than chicken or beef), turkey supplies all of the B vitamins, although the levels of some of these (notably biotin, which is good for the hair and helps metabolize sugars) will vary depending on how well the turkey has been eating. Turkey is also and excellent source of selenium and provides zinc, copper, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, and iron.

Turkey hasn’t been studied as much as other poultry, and few studies differentiate between conventional, organic, and pastured turkey, so here’s another area of opportunity for any researchers who might be listening. One thing to be aware of is that turkey contains purines, which break down into uric acid, so if you have kidney problems or gout you’ll want to be careful about how much turkey you eat. Turkey is reputed to cause sleepiness, being a natural source of tryptophan, which is a serotonin precursor, but in fact it doesn’t contain that much. The sleepiness you feel after a turkey dinner is more likely to be from the associated high-carb foods and just generally the amounts you’ve probably eaten.

While there are many different breeds of turkey, they all belong to the species Meleagris gallopavo and are native to the Americas. Wild and heritage breeds seldom deserve turkeys’ reputation for deep stupidity; it is only certain popular commercial breeds that have had all the brains bred out of them.

If you’re going to eat skinless turkey to reduce the amount of fat you’re getting, consider removing the skin after cooking it to retain moisture and flavor during cooking. If you’re not ruthlessly cutting every ounce of fat you can, go ahead and eat the skin and greasier cuts to get more omega-3s from turkey’s particularly nutritious fat.

Read more:
label-style nutrition information for turkey breast
label-style nutrition information for dark meat
whfoods.com

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Esperanta traduko: this post is also available in Esperanto, because Dana is a language geek.

Turkey and Butternut Squash Chili

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1 lb. ground turkey breast
1 lb. butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup chicken broth
4.5 ounce can chopped green chilies
2 cans (14.5 ounces each) petite diced tomatoes
15 ounce can kidney beans with liquid
15.5 ounce can white hominy, drained
8 ounce can tomato sauce
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. garlic salt

Heat olive oil over medium heat and cook the onion and garlic about 3 minutes, stirring. Add the turkey and cook, crumbling, until no longer pink. Add remaining ingredients, bring to a simmer, and simmer over medium-low heat about 20 minutes, until the squash is tender and turkey is done.

Adapted from allrecipes.com

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Tandoori turkey

12-14 lb. whole turkey, rinsed and patted dry
1/4 cup kosher salt
5 black cardamom pods
5 green cardamom pods
1 Tbsp. cumin seeds
1 medium red onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic
turkey roasting bag

Marinade:
4 cups plain whole-milk yogurt
1/2 cup chopped peeled ginger
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup finely chopped garlic
1/4 cup paprika
2 Tbsp. tandoori masala (see below for recipe)
2 Tbsp. garam masala (see below for recipe)
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Rub turkey inside and out with salt and place in roasting bag. Stuff turkey with cardamom and cumin, then with onion, celery, and garlic.

Purée marinade ingredients in a blender and pour into roasting bag, making sure turkey is coated. Tie bag and place breast side down in roasting pan. Refrigerate overnight. When ready to cook, let turkey stand in bag at room temperature for 1 hour, then turn breast side up. Poke steam holes in bag if required. Roast turkey for 30 minutes at 400F, then reduce heat to 350F and continue to roast about another 1 1/2 hours, until meat thermometer registers 160F. Cut open bag and pull away from turkey. Continue to roast another 15-30 minutes more, until breast is deeply browned but not burned and thermometer registers 165°F. Transfer to carving board and let rest at least 20 minutes.

Strain juices into a large saucepan and skim off fat. Simmer over medium heat about 20 minutes, until sauce is reduced to 3 1/2 cups.

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Tandoori masala:
2 1/2 Tbsp. coriander seeds
2 Tbsp. cumin seeds
1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. whole black peppercorns
1 Tbsp. ground cardamom
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. dried fenugreek
1 tsp. whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick, 3-4 inches, broken into pieces
1/4 tsp. ajwain seeds

Toast spices over medium heat until fragrant, stirring frequently, about 2 minutes. Let cool. Grind mixture in a spice mill or with mortar and pestle, working in batches. Store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 month.

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Garam masala:
24 bay leaves, crumbled
3 Tbsp. black cardamom pods
2 1/2 Tbsp. cumin seeds
2 Tbsp. black peppercorns
1 1/2 Tbsp. green cardamom pods
1 Tbsp. coriander seeds
2 tsp. ajwain seeds
2 tsp. whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick, 3-4 inches, broken into pieces

Toast spices over medium heat until fragrant, stirring frequently, about 2 minutes. Let cool. Grind mixture in a spice mill or with mortar and pestle, working in batches. Sift through medium-mesh strainer and store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 month.

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Adapted from a recipe by Heather Carlucci-Rodriguez from Bon Appétit, November 2011, as reprinted by epicurious.com

Versión en español: this post is also available in Spanish
Esperanta traduko: this post is also available in Esperanto, because Dana is a language geek.