Leeks

native to: probably Central Asia
in season here: fall through early spring

Leeks, Allium ampeloprasum (Leek Group), are members of the Amaryllidaceae family, related to onions and garlic. They have plenty of kaempferol, which protects blood vessel linings. Another way leeks protect blood vessels is with their high concentrations of polyphenols (garlic and onions have more, but leeks are still up there). They also provide lots of folate in a bioactive form, meaning you’re not only eating this B vitamin, you’re absorbing it and getting that cardiovascular support. Leeks’ flavonoids are more abundant in the bulbs and lower leaves, which is the part most commonly used. They also contain compounds which convert to allicin after the leek is cut or crushed; allicin reduces cholesterol formation (how about some leeks in that omelet?), reduces blood vessel stiffness, lowers blood pressure, and has anti-microbial functions. Leeks also provide the important vitamins pyridoxine, niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, and vitamins A, C, and E. Their good fiber content makes them helpful for weight loss.

Ancient Greeks and Romans ate leeks to benefit the throat and make the voice stronger, and the Romans introduced them into many of the colder areas of their empire. The leek is the national symbol of Wales; according to some sources this is because of their use in a battle against Saxon invaders in 1620, but sources I find more credible trace the presence and importance of leeks in Wales into far earlier times.

Read more:
label-style nutrition information for raw leeks
label-style nutrition information for boiled leeks
Nutrition and You
Organic Gardening News and Info

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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.

Newsletters: 26 Oct., 2011

Excerpt from the Market Newsletter originally published on 26 Oct., 2011. View the full newsletter for all the photos and links.

In the belly
Pumpkins, of course, are just one of the many winter squashes. Winter squashes are members of the Cucurbitaceae family, related to both the melon and the cucumber. They were originally cultivated, 10,000 years ago in South America, for their seeds. Now they offer us complex carbohydrates, fiber, alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and other carotenoids, omega-3 fats, and a whole alphabet of vitamins. They are said to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-diabetic and insulin-regulating properties. Research has suggested that growing winter squash can help remove contaminants from soil, which is good as long as you weren’t planning to eat them. The corollary is that this is a good vegetable to buy organic if you do plan to eat it.

In the kitchen
Being a bit pressed for both time and inspiration, I turn once again to good ol’ Epicurious for, of course, pumpkin recipes.

Ginger-Pumpkin Muffins
5.5 tablespoons minced crystallized ginger
1/2 cup dried currants or raisins
2 tablespoons brandy
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1.5 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cooked pumpkin puree (or canned solid pack pumpkin)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons low-fat buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large egg whites
1 large egg
3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons golden brown sugar
1/2 cup light molasses
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Mix 2.5 tablespoons crystallized ginger, currants and brandy in small bowl. Sift together flour, ground ginger, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt. Whisk pumpkin puree, buttermilk and vanilla. Beat egg whites and egg until foamy; beat in 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar. Beat until light, about 2 minutes; beat in molasses and oil. Beat in dry ingredients alternately with pumpkin mixture in 3 additions each. Stir in currant mixture. Divide batter among sixteen 1/3-cup muffin cups with paper liners. Mix 3 tablespoons crystallized ginger and 1 tablespoon brown sugar and sprinkle evenly over muffins. Bake at 375F about 25 min., until tester inserted into center comes out clean. Cool on a rack.

Sugar Pumpkin, Feta, and Cilantro Quesadillas
3 cups peeled seeded sugar pumpkin or butternut squash in 1.5-inch cubes (about 1 lb. whole pumpkin)
1 finely chopped seeded jalapeño (about 2 tablespoons)
salt and pepper to taste
12 flour tortillas, 8-inch diameter
10 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1.5 cups coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
2 limes, each cut into 6 wedges, to serve
Cook pumpkin in boiling salted water until tender but not falling apart, about 10 minutes. Drain and cool 10 minutes; transfer to a food processor and puree until smooth. Stir in jalapeño; season with salt and pepper. Spread about 1/4 c pumpkin mixture evenly on each of 6 tortillas. Sprinkle with feta, 1/4 cup cilantro and pepper to taste. Top each with a second tortilla. Cook in a heavy skillet over med-high about 1 min. per side, until golden with dark char marks.

Pumpkin-Seed Brittle
1/2 cup fresh pumpkin seeds, not rinsed
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
salt to taste
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
Toss seeds with oil and salt and bake at 250F on an ungreased baking sheet, stirring occasionally, for 1 – 1.25 hours, or until golden and crisp. Combine sugar and water and cook over moderately low heat, stirring and washing down the sugar crystals with a brush dipped in cold water until the sugar is dissolved, and simmer it, undisturbed, tilting and rotating the skillet, until it is a deep caramel color. Stir in the pumpkin seeds until they are coated well, and turn the mixture out onto a buttered sheet of foil, spreading it evenly. Let the brittle cool completely and break into pieces.

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Newsletters: 28 Sept. 2011

Excerpt from the Market Newsletter originally published on 28 Sept. 2011. View the full newsletter for all the photos and links.

In the belly
This seems like a good time to look at stress. Stress is, at heart, the feeling that things are out of control. It can be counteracted to a certain extent just by taking charge of your life — if not of the events themselves, then at least of your reactions to those events. This is at the heart of stress management. Nothing can really stress you out without your permission, but of course just not worrying about it isn’t that easy. There are all kinds of techniques out there for dealing with stress, and we all have our own methods as well — some healthy, some not so good. Some popular methods of stress management are over-eating, smoking, and excessive drinking; healthier options include meditation and relaxation in many forms, exercise, laughter, gratitude, altruism, various sorts of social activity, improved time management, counseling, journaling, and various sorts of “me-time” or self-care (I was going to say self-indulgence but that has negative connotations; that’s what we’re really talking about here, though). Stress has a bad reputation these days, but a certain amount of stress is actually good for you, and keeps life from being boring. Too little stress can lead to depression. The trick is finding the right balance.
Standard disclaimer: I’m a librarian, not a doctor. Make up your own mind and don’t believe anything just because I put it in this newsletter.

In the kitchen
A friend of mine just bought 30 lbs. of onions for the winter. I can’t imagine what she’s going to do with them all. She says she puts them in everything.

Cabbage with red onion and apple
1 large apple, cored but not peeled, shredded
2 med. carrots, scraped and shredded
10 oz shredded cabbage
6 oz shredded red onion
1 t cumin
3/4 t ground coriander
pepper
Place all ingredients in a pot over med-low heat. Stir, cover, cook 6-8 min. until soft.
From: 20-minute menus / Marian Burros. 1st Fireside ed. Simon & Schuster, 1995.

Caramelized onion and parsnip soup
2 T butter
3 large onions, halved and thinly sliced
2 T light brown sugar
1 c dry white wine
3 large parsnips, peeled and chopped
5 c vegetable stock
1/4 c cream
fresh thyme leaves, to garnish
Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the onions and sugar and cook over low heat for 10 min. Add the wine and parsnips and simmer, covered, for 20 min. or until the onions and parsnips are golden and tender. Pour in the stock, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 min. Cool slightly, then place in a blender or food processor and blend in batches until smooth. Season. Drizzle with a little cream and sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves.
From: Bowl food / edited by Kay Scarlett.

Pickled onions
16 white boiling onions (about 1 lb.)
2 tsp. coriander seeds
1 tsp. fennel seeds
1 Tbsp. coarse salt
1 c white wine vinegar
1 c water
3 Tbsp. sugar
Bring all ingredients to a gentle simmer in a non-reactive saucepan; simmer, covered, 10 min. Remove from heat and let cool, still covered. Pour into a 1-quart jar and refrigerate at least 12 hours; keeps up to two weeks.
From: Vegetables / James Peterson. William Morrow and Co., c1998.

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Newsletters: 29 Sept. 2010

Excerpt from the Market Newsletter originally published on 29 Sept. 2010. View the full newsletter for all the photos and links.

Cooking, and reading about cooking
Your market manager, Connie, asked me about veggie burgers, which she was sure could be made at home at a considerable savings. I was surprised to find that neither of my good vegetable cookbooks had anything at all to say about vegetable patties, while my two favorite recipe sites had all kinds of variations. Here are the two most interesting, and I’ll put some of the others up on the Market recipe pages sometime in the next couple of weeks.

>Veggie Burgers
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small onion, grated
2 cloves crushed garlic
2 carrots, shredded
1 small summer squash, shredded
1 small zucchini, shredded
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Cook onion and garlic in olive oil over low heat until tender, about 5 minutes. Mix in the carrots, squash, and zucchini; cook and stir for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and mix in oats, cheese, and egg. Stir in soy sauce, transfer the mixture to a bowl, and refrigerate 1 hour. Form the vegetable mixture into eight 3-inch-round patties and dredge in flour to lightly coat both sides. Grill on an oiled grate 5 minutes on each side, or until heated through and nicely browned.
From: AllRecipes.com

Indian Vegetable Patties
1.25 cups fresh corn kernels or frozen, thawed
1 medium carrot, grated
1 medium russet potato, peeled, grated
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup shredded fresh spinach leaves
6 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded, minced
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 large egg, beaten to blend
1 tablespoon (or more) vegetable oil
Mix corn, carrot, potato, onion, spinach, flour, peas, cilantro, jalapeño, garlic, ginger, and cumin; season to taste and stir in egg. Form patties (3 tablespoons make a 3-inch-diameter patty) and place on large baking sheet. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. Cook in oil over medium heat in batches until golden, about 4 min. per side, adding more oil as necessary. Serve with yogurt and chutney if desired.

From: Epicurious

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Newsletters: 21 Sept. 2011

Excerpt from the Market Newsletter originally published on 21 Sept. 2011. View the full newsletter for all the photos and links.

In the belly
It’s pickling season, so I thought I’d do a little research on vinegar. I know vinegar as an old thirst-quencher; Roman legionaries added it to their water both to kill whatever might be in there and for its rehydrating properties. You can make your own old-fashioned sports drink by mixing 1 c sugar, 1 Tbsp. ginger, and 6 Tbsp. vinegar into 2 quarts of water, but I’ve heard it’s only drinkable if you really need it. It is also widely used as a mild antiseptic, deodorizer, and cleaner — adding a dollop of white vinegar to your laundry helps eliminate that winter mistiness; a dab on insect bites keeps them from itching. Dilute cider vinegar is said to be good for the skin and is sometimes used as a sunburn remedy. Whatever your health problem, you can probably find someone to tell you vinegar is the cure, and someone else to tell you that’s nonsense. Until a lot more research is done, all that can be said for sure is that, while it doesn’t offer any great nutritional surprises, its acetic acid helps with digestion and the absorption of important minerals.

In the kitchen
Here we are with corn in season again, but last year when I looked for corn recipes they mostly involved cutting it off the cob, which I think is a waste. I suppose you could go all ’50s and put it (cob and all) into a casserole, pour condensed cream-of-mushroom soup over it, and bake it, but that sounds like a waste as well. I’ll leave you to boil or roast it, and give you some interesting fruit recipes instead.

Fruit pizza
Crust:
1 c. shortening/margarine
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 3/4 c. flour
2 eggs
2 t. cream of tartar
1/4 t. salt (optional)
1 t. baking soda
Cream shortening, sugar, and eggs until fluffy. Add dry ingredients, mix well. Spread dough in 10-inch pizza pan (or larger; it’s pretty thick at 10″ dia.). Bake 10-15 min. at 350. Let cool.

Topping:
16 oz. cream cheese
6 T. sugar
fruit (whatever you like, sliced in most cases, fresh is best but canned is OK too; I tend to use bananas, kiwis, peaches, strawberries (all sliced) and sometimes canned mandarin orange segments)
Cream cream cheese and sugar; spread on cooled crust. Top with fruit (you can make decorative designs if you want. You want to end up with a single layer of fruit, closely spaced but not overlapping).

Glaze:
2-3 c. fruit juice, sweetened if necessary
4 T corn starch
Cook, stirring, until thick (this step is very important; failure to cook the glaze will require sponging down the inside of the fridge). Spoon glaze over fruit, making sure air-sensitive fruit such as bananas and apples are covered entirely. Glaze should set on its own; if it seems reluctant, refrigerate.
From: Dorothy Huffman’s collection

Peach milk shake
3 sm. peaches, skinned, pitted, and roughly chopped
1.25 c milk
1 T superfine sugar
1 T apricot or peach brandy (optional)
grated chocolate for garnish
Place all ingredients except grated chocolate in a blender and process until smooth. Chill, garnish, and serve.
From: Fruit fandango / Moya Clarke. Chartwell Books, c1994.

Peach duff
1/4 c butter
1 c flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c sugar
2/3 c milk
1.5 lb peaches (4-6), peeled and thickly sliced
Melt butter in an 8-inch square baking dish. Sift flour, baking powder, salt, sugar together; gradually add milk and stir just until moistened. Spoon batter evenly onto melted butter and arrange peach slices on top. Bake 35 min. at 375F. Serve warm.
From: Cooking with fruit : the complete guide to using fruit throughout the meal, the day, the year / Rolce Redard Payne and Dorrit Speyer Senior. Wings Books, 1995.

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Kiwis

native to: Northern China
in season here: winter, but they store well and can be found in supermarkets year-round

Kiwifruit, or Chinese gooseberries, are most commonly either green or golden, the green Hayward Kiwi being the most commonly found in US stores. Their fuzzy skins are edible, although most people prefer not to eat them. Kiwis contain a protein, actinidain, that will tenderize meat and liquefy whipped cream and gelatin. The easiest way to eat a kiwi (other than whole, skin and all) is to cut it in half end scoop the flesh out of the peel like a tiny melon. To peel it, cut off both ends and slip a spoon between the skin and flesh.

The kiwifruit arrived in New Zealand from China at the turn of the 20th century, where they were renamed after the kiwi bird they resemble to avoid an export tax on berries. Kiwi trees, climbing shrubs that can reach 30 feet, can be difficult to establish, but the small-fruited hardy variety can be grown in the Olympia area.

Kiwis provide a huge amount of vitamin C — more than oranges — as well as potassium, vitamin E, vitamin A, vitamin K, omega-3s, magnesium, copper, and various phytonutrients. They’re particularly good for the upper respiratory and digestive systems, and contain polyphenols that stimulate the immune system. Their polysaccharides boost collagen synthesis, making them good for skin, muscles, and tendons; they also contain lutein, which protects the skin against UV light and prevents eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration. Their potassium is good against high blood pressure, while their vitamin K prevents calcium buildup in the arteries, moving it into the bones where it belongs. There’s also plenty of serotonin in there, which is good against insomnia and may boost memory and reduce depression. Kiwis, and especially their seeds, also have antifungal and antibacterial properties. Kiwis retain their nutrients in storage better than many fruits. Kiwis and kiwi roots appear in traditional Chinese medicine in treatments for joint pain, bladder stones, and several cancers.

Kiwis are higher in sugar than oranges, but they have a moderate glycemic index so it’s not that big a problem. The biggest concern is allergies: kiwis are a common allergy, especially among those with latex-fruit syndrome (an allergy to latex and fruit with similar proteins such as avocados and bananas) or allergies to hazelnuts, wheat, figs, or poppy seeds. They can slow blood clotting (good or bad, depending on whether you need to keep your blood thin for your heart or are facing surgery in a week or two). Also, those taking beta-blockers or with other potassium-related concerns should keep kiwis’ high potassium content in mind and save them for a special treat.

They’re not at our market, but Burnt Ridge is a knowledgeable local source for kiwi vines.

Read more:
label-style nutrition information for raw kiwi fruit
heathline.com
Medical News Today
World’s Healthiest Foods

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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.

Newsletters: 14 Sept. 2011

Excerpt from the Market Newsletter originally published on 14 Sept. 2011. View the full newsletter for all the photos and links.

In the belly
The eggplant, also called an aubergine, belongs to the nightshade family, along with tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers. Like tomatoes, it is really a fruit. When immature it contains toxins that can cause illness (but it grows out of it). People with arthritis and related issues should consider avoiding eggplant and its relatives, because the solanine they contain can be a problem for them. However, eggplant has also been used to reduce other kinds of swelling and bleeding, and to treat dysentery, so you’ll have to make up your own mind whether to eat it or not. Eggplant is full of bioflavinoids, and the skin of the purple varieties contains another kind of anti-oxidant, anthocyanins. It has some nice B-complex vitamins, but it is more known for its minerals, especially manganese, copper, iron and potassium. It is also a very low-calorie fruit and provides plenty of fiber.

Eggplants probably originated in India or Southeast Asia, and was cultivated in China as early as the 5th century. The Moors brought it to Spain in the 8th century, and the Italians were trading with the Arabs for it in the 13th century. In India it is called brinjal, Australians call it an eggfruit, and West Africans call it garden fruit. Some use it to treat scorpion bites or frostbite.

In the kitchen
I went looking for some nice leek recipes because they looked so pretty, and of course I immediately ran up against my collection of Welsh recipes. So here are two traditional Welsh soups and a fairly modern chicken, just for variety.

Swp cennin a thatws (leek and potato soup)
3 leeks
1 lb. potatoes
2 oz butter
1 oz flour
3 pints chicken stock
1 c milk
3 sprigs parsley
salt, pepper
Trim leeks, wash thoroughly and slice finely. Peel and dice the potatoes. Place leeks and potatoes with 1 oz butter in a large saucepan. Cover and heat gently 5 min. until the leeks are very lightly coloured. Shake the saucepan gently to prevent the vegetables burning. Pour on the stock and simmer 3/4 hour. Melt the rest of the butter in a small saucepan and stir in the flour using a wooden spoon. Stir in the milk, making sure there are no lumps. Simmer 2-3 min. on a gentle heat and add to soup. Stir well and bring back to a boil. Serve hot, garnished with parsley.
From: The Welsh dresser : more recipes from Wales / by Sian Llewellyn. Cardiff : Emeralda, c1986.

Cawl Aberaeron (Aberayron broth)
1.5 lb. bacon
1 lb beef
1 white cabbage
1/2 lb. carrots
1/2 lb turnips
1/2 lb parsnips
1 lb potatoes
2 small leeks
oatmeal
salt, pepper
Wash and shred the cabbage. peel and cut up all the other vegetables. Dice the bacon and beef. Place the meat and all the vegetables except the leeks in a large saucepan; cover with water and season to taste. Simmer 2-2.5 hr. Add the leeks and continue heating for a further 10 min. Serve hot.
From: The Welsh kitchen : recipes from Wales / by Sian Llewellyn. Cardiff : Emeralda, 1972.

Chicken braised with leeks and figs
1 T butter
3 c coarsely chopped leek (ca. 4-5)
2 T flour
3/4 t salt
1/4 t pepper
4 chicken drumsticks, skinned (4 oz ea.)
4 chicken thighs, skinned (4 oz ea.)
2 c dry white wine
2 T balsamic vinegar
1 T honey
6 parsley sprigs
1 sprig thyme
16 medium light-skinned fresh figs, halved (ca. 1.5 lb)
1 T chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
thmye sprigs, for garnish
Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over med-high. Add leeks; saute 5 min or until tender. Remove leeks from pan and set aside. Combine flour, salt, pepper, chicken in a plastic bag and shake to coat. Place chicken in the skillet and brown on all sides, ca. 10 min. Return leeks to pan and add wine, vinegar, honey, parsley, thyme. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat. Simmer 15 min. Add figs and simmer another 10 min. or until chickien is done. Remove parsley and thyme sprigs. Sprinkle with parsley and thyme garnish if desired.
From: Cooking light, Aug. 2004.

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