Friday, December 24, 2010

Superfood: Kale

Kale or borecole is a form of cabbage (Brassica oleracea Acephala Group), green or purple, in which the central leaves do not form a head. It is considered to be closer to wild cabbage than most domesticated forms. The species Brassica oleracea contains a wide array of vegetables including broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens, and brussels sprouts. The cultivar group Acephala also includes spring greens and collard greens, which are extremely similar genetically. The name borecole most likely originates from the Dutch boerenkool (farmers cabbage).
Nutritional Value
Kale is considered to be a highly nutritious vegetable with powerful antioxidant properties; kale is considered to be anti-inflammatory. Kale is very high in beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, lutein, zeaxanthin, and reasonably rich in calcium.
Kale, as with broccoli and other brassicas, contains sulforaphane (particularly when chopped or minced), a chemical believed to have potent anti-cancer properties. Boiling reduces the level of the anti-cancer compounds; however, steaming, microwaving, or stir frying do not result in significant loss. Along with other brassica vegetables, kale is also a source of indole-3-carbinol, a chemical which boosts DNA repair in cells and appears to block the growth of cancer cells. Kale is also a good source of carotenoids.
Culinary uses
Kale freezes well and actually tastes sweeter and more flavourful after being exposed to a frost. Tender kale greens can provide an intense addition to salads, particularly when combined with other such strongly-flavoured ingredients as dry-roasted peanuts, tamari-roasted almonds, red pepper flakes, or an Asian-style dressing.
In the Netherlands it is very frequently used in the winter dish stamppot and seen as one of the country's traditional dishes, called Boerenkool. In Ireland kale is mixed with mashed potatoes to make the traditional dish colcannon. It is popular on Halloween when it is sometimes served with sausages. Small coins are sometimes hidden inside as prizes.
A traditional Portuguese soup, caldo verde, combines pureed potatoes, diced kale, olive oil, broth, and, generally, sliced cooked spicy sausage. Under the name of couve, kale is also popular in Brazil, in caldo verde, or as a vegetable dish, often cooked with carne seca (shredded dried beef). When chopped and stir-fried, couve accompanies Brazil's national dish, feijoada.
In East Africa, it is an essential ingredient in making a stew for ugali, which is almost always eaten with kale. Kale is also eaten throughout southeastern Africa, where it is typically boiled with coconut milk and ground peanuts and is served with rice or boiled cornmeal. In Montenegro collards, locally known as rashtan is a favorite vegetable. It is particularly popular in winter, cooked with smoked mutton (kastradina) and potatoes.
Curly kale is used in Denmark and Halland, Sweden, to make (gron-)langkal, an obligatory dish on the julbord in the region, and is commonly served together with the Christmas ham (Sweden, Halland). The kale is used to make a stew of minced boiled kale, stock, cream, pepper and salt that is simmered together slowly for a few hours. In Scotland, kale provided such a base for a traditional diet that the word in dialect Scots is synonymous with food. To be "off one's kail" is to feel too ill to eat.
Kale is a very good source of iron, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin K and Carotenoids (which provide vitamin A). In Japan, kale juice (known as aojiru) is a popular dietary supplement.
Many varieties of kale are referred to as "flowering kales" and are grown mainly for their ornamental leaves, which are brilliant white, red, pink, lavender, blue or violet in the interior or the rosette. Most plants sold as "ornamental cabbage" are in fact kales. Ornamental kale is as edible as any other variety, provided it has not been treated with pesticides or other harmful chemicals.
When uncooked, standard Kale is a popular garnish.

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Superfood: Watercress

Watercresses (Nasturtium officinale, N. microphyllum; formerly Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum, R. microphylla) are fast-growing, aquatic or semi-aquatic, perennial plants native from Europe to central Asia, and one of the oldest known leaf vegetables consumed by human beings. These plants are members of the Family Brassicaceae or cabbage family, botanically related to garden cress and mustard — all noteworthy for a peppery, tangy flavour.
The hollow stems of watercress are floating and the leaves are pinnately compound. Watercresses produce small white and green flowers in clusters.
Nasturtium nasturtium-aquaticum (nomenclaturally invalid) and Sisymbrium nasturtium-aquaticum L. are synonyms of N. officinale. Nasturtium officinale var microphyllum (Boenn. ex Reich.) Thellung is a synonym of N. microphyllum (ITIS, 2004). These species are also listed in some sources as belonging to the genus Rorippa, although molecular evidence shows that the aquatic species with hollow stems are more closely related to Cardamine than Rorippa. Watercresses are not closely related to the flowers in the genus Tropaeolum (Family Tropaeolaceae), popularly known as "nasturtiums".
Cultivation of watercress is practical on both a large scale and a garden scale. Being semi-aquatic, watercress is well-suited to hydroponic cultivation, thriving best in water that is slightly alkaline. It is frequently produced around the headwaters of chalk streams. In many local markets, the demand for hydroponically grown watercress exceeds supply. This is due in part to the fact that cress leaves are unsuitable for distribution in dried form and can only be stored for a short period.
However (in the UK at least), the packaging used by supermarkets using sealed plastic bags under some internal pressure (a plastic envelope containing moisture and pressurised (inflated) to prevent crushing of contents) has allowed the distribution of watercress. This has allowed national availability with a once purchased storage life of 1 – 2 days in chilled/refrigerated storage.
If unharvested, watercress can grow to a height of 50–120 cm. Also sold as sprouts, the edible shoots are harvested days after germination. Like many plants in this family, the foliage of watercress becomes bitter when the plants begin producing flowers.
New Market, Alabama, was once known (in the 1940s) as the "Watercress Capital of the World" in America. Watercress is often used in sandwiches, such as those made for afternoon tea.
Watercress is grown in a number of counties of the UK, most notably Hertfordshire, Hampshire, Wiltshire and Dorset, although the first commercial cultivation was along the River Ebbsfleet in Kent grown by William Bradbery (horticulturist) in 1808. Alresford, near Winchester, is often considered the watercress capital of Britain (to the extent that a steam railway line is named after the famous local crop). In recent years, watercress has become more widely available in the UK, at least in the South-East, being stocked pre-packed in some supermarkets, as well as fresh by the bunch at farmers' markets and greengrocers. Value-added produce such as the traditional watercress soup, as well as watercress pesto are increasingly easy to source.
Health benefits and cancer defense
Watercress contains significant amounts of iron, calcium and folic acid, in addition to vitamins A and C. In some regions watercress is regarded as a weed, in other regions as an aquatic vegetable or herb. Watercress crops grown in the presence of animal waste can be a haven for parasites such as the liver fluke Fasciola hepatica.
Many benefits from eating watercress are claimed, such as that it acts as a stimulant, a source of phytochemicals and antioxidants, a diuretic, an expectorant, and a digestive aid. It also appears to have antiangiogenic cancer-suppressing properties; it is widely believed to help defend against lung cancer. A 2010 study conducted by the University of Southampton found that consumption of watercress may also inhibit the growth of breast cancer. The PEITC content of watercress inhibits HIF which can inhibit angiogenesis.
Due to its high iodine content, watercress has a strengthening effect on the thyroid gland, thus beneficial for sufferers of hypothyroidism. In addition, watercress is a known inhibitor of the cytochrome P450 CYP2E1, which may result in altered drug metabolism for individuals on certain medications (e.g., chlorzoxazone).

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Superfood: Spinach

Spinach (Spinacia oleracea) is an edible flowering plant in the family of Amaranthaceae. It is native to central and southwestern Asia. It is an annual plant (rarely biennial), which grows to a height of up to 30 cm. Spinach may survive over winter in temperate regions. The leaves are alternate, simple, ovate to triangular-based, very variable in size from about 2–30 cm long and 1–15 cm broad, with larger leaves at the base of the plant and small leaves higher on the flowering stem. The flowers are inconspicuous, yellow-green, 3–4 mm diameter, maturing into a small, hard, dry, lumpy fruit cluster 5–10 mm across containing several seeds.
Spinach has a high nutritional value and is extremely rich in antioxidants, especially when fresh, steamed, or quickly boiled. It is a rich source of vitamin A (and especially high in lutein), vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, magnesium, manganese, folate, betaine, iron, vitamin B2, calcium, potassium, vitamin B6, folic acid, copper, protein, phosphorus, zinc, niacin, selenium and omega-3 fatty acids. Recently, opioid peptides called rubiscolins have also been found in spinach.
Polyglutamyl folate (Vitamin B9 or folic acid) is a vital constituent of cells and spinach is a good source of folic acid. Boiling spinach can more than halve the level of folate left in the spinach, but microwaving does not affect folate content. Vitamin B9 was first isolated from spinach in 1941.


Spinach, along with other green leafy vegetables, is considered to be a rich source of iron. For example, the United States Department of Agriculture states that a 180 g serving of boiled spinach contains 6.43 mg of iron, whereas one 170 g ground hamburger patty contains at most 4.42 mg.
The bioavailability of iron is dependent on its absorption, which is influenced by a number of factors. Iron enters the body in two forms: heme iron and non-heme iron. All of the iron in grains and vegetables, and about three fifths of the iron in animal food sources (meats), is non-heme iron. The remaining portion from meats is heme iron. The iron in spinach is poorly absorbed by the body unless eaten with a source of vitamin C. The type of iron found in spinach is non-blood (non-heme), a plant iron, which the body does not absorb as efficiently as blood (heme) iron, found in meat.
The larger portion of dietary iron (nonheme) is absorbed slowly in its many food sources, including spinach. This absorption may vary widely depending on the presence of binders such as fiber or enhancers, such as vitamin C. Therefore, the body's absorption of non-heme iron can be improved by consuming foods that are rich in vitamin C. However, spinach contains iron absorption inhibiting substances, including high levels of oxalate which can bind to the iron to form ferrous oxalate, which renders much of the iron in spinach unusable by the body. In addition to preventing absorption and use, high levels of oxalates remove iron from the body. But some studies have found that the addition of oxalic acid to the diet may improve iron absorption in rats over a diet with spinach without additional oxalic acid. However, foods such as spinach that are high in oxalic acid can increase the risk of kidney stones in some people.


Spinach also has a high calcium content. However, the oxalate content in spinach also binds with calcium, decreasing its absorption. Calcium and zinc also limit iron absorption. The calcium in spinach is the least bioavailable of calcium sources. By way of comparison, the body can absorb about half of the calcium present in broccoli, yet only around 5% of the calcium in spinach. Oxalate is one of a number of factors that can contribute to gout and kidney stones.
Types of spinach
A distinction can be made between older varieties of spinach and more modern varieties. Older varieties tend to bolt too early in warm conditions. Newer varieties tend to grow more rapidly but have less of an inclination to run up to seed. The older varieties have narrower leaves and tend to have a stronger and more bitter taste. Most newer varieties have broader leaves and round seeds.
There are three basic types of spinach:
  • Savoy has dark green, crinkly and curly leaves. It is the type sold in fresh bunches in most supermarkets. One heirloom variety of savoy is Bloomsdale, which is somewhat resistant to bolting.
  • Flat/smooth leaf spinach has broad smooth leaves that are easier to clean than savoy. This type is often grown for canned and frozen spinach, as well as soups, baby foods, and processed foods.
  • Semi-savoy is a hybrid variety with slightly crinkled leaves. It has the same texture as savoy, but it is not as difficult to clean. It is grown for both fresh market and processing. Five Star is a widely grown variety and has good resistance to running up to seed.
Spinach is sold loose, bunched, in prepackaged bags, canned, or frozen. Fresh spinach loses much of its nutritional value with storage of more than a few days. While refrigeration slows this effect to about eight days, spinach will lose most of its folate and carotenoid content, so for longer storage it is frozen, cooked and frozen, or canned. Storage in the freezer can be for up to eight months.

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Superfood: Eggplant

The eggplant, aubergine, melongene, brinjal, or guinea squash (Solanum melongena) is a plant of the family Solanaceae (also known as the nightshades) and genus Solanum. It bears a fruit of the same name, commonly used in cooking. As a nightshade, it is closely related to the tomato and potato and is native to Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
It is a delicate perennial often cultivated as an annual. It grows 40 to 150 cm (16 to 57 in) tall, with large coarsely lobed leaves that are 10 to 20 cm (4–8 in) long and 5 to 10 cm (2–4 in) broad. (Semi-)wild types can grow much larger, to 225 cm (7 ft) with large leaves over 30 cm (12 in) long and 15 cm (6 in) broad. The stem is often spiny. The flowers are white to purple, with a five-lobed corolla and yellow stamens. The fruit is fleshy, has a meaty texture, and is less than 3 centimetres (1.2 in) in diameter on wild plants, but much larger in cultivated forms.
The fruit is botanically classified as a berry, and contains numerous small, soft seeds, which are edible, but are bitter because they contain nicotinoid alkaloids, unsurprising as it is a close relative of tobacco. Different varieties of the plant produce fruit of different size, shape and color, though typically purple. There are even orange varieties.
The most widely cultivated varieties (cultivars) in Europe and North America today are elongated ovoid, 12–25 cm wide (4½ to 9 in) and 6–9 cm broad (2 to 4 in) in a dark purple skin.
A much wider range of shapes, sizes and colors is grown in India and elsewhere in Asia. Larger varieties weighing up to a kilogram (2 pounds) grow in the region between the Ganges and Yamuna rivers, while smaller varieties are found elsewhere. Colors vary from white to yellow or green as well as reddish-purple and dark purple. Some cultivars have a color gradient, from white at the stem to bright pink to deep purple or even black. Green or purple cultivars in white striping also exist. Chinese varieties are commonly shaped like a narrower, slightly pendulous cucumber, and were sometimes called Japanese eggplants in North America.
Oval or elongated oval-shaped and black-skinned cultivars include Harris Special Hibush, Burpee Hybrid, Black Magic, Classic, Dusky, and Black Beauty. Slim cultivars in purple-black skin include Little Fingers, Ichiban, Pingtung Long, and Tycoon; in green skin Louisiana Long Green and Thai (Long) Green; in white skin Dourga. Traditional, white-skinned, egg-shaped cultivars include Casper and Easter Egg. Bicolored cultivars with color gradient include Rosa Bianca and Violetta di Firenze. Bicolored cultivars in striping include Listada de Gandia and Udumalapet. In some parts of India, miniature varieties (most commonly called Vengan) are popular. A particular variety of green brinjal known as Matti Gulla is grown in Matti village of Udupi district in Karnataka state in India.
The raw fruit can have a somewhat bitter taste, but becomes tender when cooked and develops a rich, complex flavor. Salting and then rinsing the sliced fruit (known as "degorging") can soften and remove much of the bitterness though this is often unnecessary. Some modern varieties do not need this treatment, as they are far less bitter.  The fruit is capable of absorbing large amounts of cooking fats and sauces, allowing for very rich dishes, but the salting process will reduce the amount of oil absorbed. The fruit flesh is smooth; as in the related tomato, the numerous seeds are soft and edible along with the rest of the fruit. The thin skin is also edible, so peeling is not required.
The plant is used in cuisines from Japan to Spain. It is often stewed, as in the French ratatouille, the Italian melanzane alla parmigiana, the Turkish musakka, and Middle-Eastern and South Asian dishes.
It may also be roasted in its skin until charred, so that the pulp can be removed and blended with other ingredients such as lemon, tahini, and garlic, as in the Middle Eastern dish baba ghanoush and the similar Greek dish melitzanosalata. Grilled, mashed and mixed with onions, tomatoes and spices make the Indian dish Baingan ka Bhartha or Gojju, similar to Salata de vinete in Romania, while a mix of roasted eggplant, roasted red peppers, chopped onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, carrots, celery and spices is called Zacusca in Romania or Ajvar in Serbia and Balkans.
The fruit can also be stuffed with meat, rice, or other fillings and then baked. In the Caucasus, for example, it is fried and stuffed with walnut paste to make nigvziani badrijani. It can also be found in Chinese cuisine, braised, stewed, steamed or stuffed.
As a native plant, it is widely used in Indian cuisine, for example in sambhar, dalma (a dal preparation with vegetables, native to Orissa), chutney, curries, and achaar. Owing to its versatile nature and wide use in both everyday and festive Indian food, it is often described (under the name brinjal) as the 'King of Vegetables'. In one dish, Brinjal is stuffed with ground coconut, peanuts, and masala and then cooked in oil.
In Pakistan it is called Bengun while in Bangladesh, it is called Begun. It, along with the fish Hilsa, is used to cook a famous Bengali wedding dish. Slices of eggplant are marinated with salt and chilli powder, covered with a batter of bashone and deep-fried and eaten as a snack. This is called Beguni or Bataun or Bhata or Baigana Bhaja (In Oriya).
Health Properties
Studies of the Institute of Biology of Sao Paulo State University, Brazil, have shown that eggplant is effective in the treatment of high blood cholesterol. Another study from Heart Institute of the University of Sao Paulo found no effects at all and does not recommend eggplant as a replacement to statins. It helps to block the formation of free radicals and is also a source of folic acid and potassium.
Eggplant is richer in nicotine than any other edible plant, with a concentration of 100 ng/g (or 0.01 mg/100g). However, the amount of nicotine from eggplant or any other food is negligible compared to passive smoking. On average, 20 lbs (9 kg) of eggplant contains about the same amount of nicotine as a cigarette.

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Superfood: Chinese cabbage (Bok choy)

Chinese cabbage (Brassica rapa, subspecies pekinensis and chinensis) can refer to two distinct varieties of Chinese leaf vegetables used often in Chinese cuisine. These vegetables are both related to the Western cabbage, and are of the same species as the common turnip. Both have many variations in name, spelling and scientific classification–especially the "Bok choy" or chinensis variety.
This group is the more common of the two, especially outside Asia; names such as napa cabbage, da baicai (lit. "large white vegetable"); Baguio pechay or pechay wombok (Tagalog); Chinese white cabbage; baechu (Korean), wongbok and hakusai (Japanese) usually refer to members of this group. Pekinensis cabbages have broad green leaves with white petioles, tightly wrapped in a cylindrical formation and usually forming a compact head. As the group name indicates, this is particularly popular in northern China around Beijing (Peking).
Chinensis varieties do not form heads; instead, they have smooth, dark green leaf blades forming a cluster reminiscent of mustard or celery. Chinensis varieties are popular in southern China and Southeast Asia. Being winter-hardy, they are increasingly grown in Northern Europe. This group was originally classified as its own species under the name B. chinensis by Linnaeus.
Other than the ambiguous term "Chinese cabbage," the most widely used name in Northern America for the chinensis variety is bok choy (from Cantonese, literally "white vegetable"; also spelled pak choi, bok choi, and pak choy). Less commonly, the Mandarin term xiao baicai ("small white vegetable") as well as the descriptive English names Chinese chard, Chinese mustard, celery mustard, and spoon cabbage are also employed.
Nutritional Value
Bok choy contains a high amount of Vitamin A per 4 oz. serving - about 3500 IU. Bok choy also contains approximately 50 mg of Vitamin C per 4 oz. serving.
Bok choy contains glucosinolates. These compounds have been reported to prevent cancer in small doses, but are toxic to humans in large doses. In 2009, an elderly woman who had been consuming 1 to 1.5 kg of raw bok choy per day developed hypothyroidism, resulting in myxedema coma.

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Superfood: Cauliflower

Cauliflower is one of several vegetables in the species Brassica oleracea, in the family Brassicaceae. It is an annual plant that reproduces by seed. Typically, only the head (the white curd) of aborted floral meristems is eaten, while the stalk and surrounding thick, green leaves are used in vegetable broth or discarded. Cauliflower is nutritious, and may be eaten cooked, raw or pickled.
Its name is from Latin caulis (cabbage) and flower, an acknowledgment of its unusual place among a family of food plants which normally produces only leafy greens for eating. Brassica oleracea also includes cabbage, brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli and collard greens, though they are of different cultivar groups.
Botanical varieties
Cauliflower and broccoli are the same species and have very similar structures, though cauliflower replaces the green flower buds with white inflorescence meristem.
Major groups
There are four major groups of cauliflower.
Diverse appearance, biennial and annual types. Includes white, Romanesco, various green, purple, brown and yellow cultivars. This type is the ancestral form from which the others were derived.
Northwest European biennial 
Used in Europe for winter and early spring harvest. Developed in France in the 19th century. Includes the old cultivars Roscoff and Angers.
Northern European annuals 
Used in Europe and North America for summer and fall harvest. Developed in Germany in the 18th century. Includes old cultivars Erfurt and Snowball.
Tropical cauliflower used in China and India. Developed in India during the 19th century from the now-abandoned Cornish type. Includes old varieties Early Patna and Early Benaras.

Traditional varieties include 'Snowball', 'Hybrid White', 'Super Snowball', 'Snow Crown', 'Mayflower', Candid Charm', 'Mormon', 'Agrahani', 'poushi', 'maghi', 'Snow White', 'Snow Grace'.
Self-blanching varieties are 'Self Blanche', 'Early Tuscan', 'Late Tuscan'.
Heirloom varieties include 'All the Year Round', 'Early Pearl', 'Early Snowball', 'Igloo', 'Violetta Italia' and 'Walcheren Winter'. Commercial varieties includue 'Fremont', 'Igloo' and 'Snow Crown'. A comprehensive list of varieties is maintained at North Carolina State University.
Orange cauliflower (B. oleracea L. var. botrytis) contains 25 times the level of Vitamin A of white varieties. This trait came from a natural mutant found in a cauliflower field in Canada. Cultivars include 'Cheddar' and 'Orange Bouquet'.
Green cauliflower of the B. oleracea Botrytis group, is sometimes called broccoflower or brocliflower/broccliflower. It is available both with the normal curd shape and a variant spiky curd called "Romanesco broccoli". Both types have been commercially available in the US and Europe since the early 1990s. Romanesco's head is an example of a fractal image in nature, repeating itself in self-similarity at varying scales. Green curded varieties include 'Alverda', 'Green Goddess' and 'Vorda'. Romanesco varieties include 'Minaret' and 'Veronica'.
Purple cauliflower also exists. The purple color is caused by the presence of the antioxidant group anthocyanin, which can also be found in red cabbage and red wine. Varieties include 'Graffiti' and 'Purple Cape'. In Great Britain and southern Italy, a broccoli with tiny flower buds is sold as a vegetable under the name "purple cauliflower". It is not the same as standard cauliflower with a purple curd.


Cauliflower is low in fat, high in dietary fiber, folate, water and vitamin C, possessing a very high nutritional density. As a member of the brassica family, cauliflower shares with broccoli and cabbage several phytochemicals which are beneficial to human health, including sulforaphane, an anti-cancer compound released when cauliflower is chopped or chewed. Boiling reduces the levels of anti-cancer compounds, with losses of 20–30% after five minutes, 40–50% after ten minutes, and 75% after thirty minutes. However, other preparation methods such as steaming, microwaving, and stir frying had no significant effect on the compounds.
Along with other brassica vegetables, cauliflower is a source of indole-3-carbinol, a chemical which boosts DNA repair in cells and appears to block the growth of cancer cells. The compound also appears to work as an anti-estrogen, appearing to slow or prevent the growth of tumors of the breast and prostate. Cauliflower also contains other glucosinolates besides sulfurophane, substances which may improve the liver's ability to detoxify carcinogenic substances. A high intake of cauliflower has been found to reduce the risk of aggressive prostate cancer. Cauliflower is also a good source of carotenoids.
Cauliflower can be roasted, boiled, fried, steamed or eaten raw. Steaming or microwaving better preserves anti-cancer compounds than boiling. When cooking, the outer leaves and thick stalks are removed, leaving only the florets. The leaves are also edible, but are most often discarded. The florets should be broken into similar-sized pieces so they are cooked evenly. After eight minutes of steaming, or five minutes of boiling, the florets should be soft, but not mushy (depending on size). Stirring while cooking can break the florets into smaller, uneven pieces. Cauliflower is often served with a cheese sauce, as in the dish cauliflower cheese.
Low carb dieters can use cauliflower as a reasonable substitute for potatoes for while they can produce a similar texture, or mouth feel, they lack the starch of potatoes.

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Superfood: Carrot

The carrot (Daucus carota subsp. sativus, Etymology: Middle French carotte, from Late Latin carota, from Greek καρpτον karoton, originally from the Indo-European root ker- (horn), due to its horn-like shape) is a root vegetable, usually orange in colour, though purple, red, white, and yellow varieties exist. It has a crisp texture when fresh. The most commonly eaten part of a carrot is a taproot, although the greens are edible as well. It is a domesticated form of the wild carrot Daucus carota, native to Europe and southwestern Asia. The domestic carrot has been selectively bred for its greatly enlarged and more palatable, less woody-textured edible taproot.
It is a biennial plant which grows a rosette of leaves in the spring and summer, while building up the stout taproot, which stores large amounts of sugars for the plant to flower in the second year. The flowering stem grows to about 1 metre (3 ft) tall, with an umbel of white flowers that produce a fruit called a mericarp by botanists, which is a type of schizocarp.
Carrots can be eaten in a variety of ways. Only 3% of the β-carotene in raw carrots is released during digestion: this can be improved to 39% by pulping, cooking and adding cooking oil. Alternatively they may be chopped and boiled, fried or steamed, and cooked in soups and stews, as well as baby and pet foods. A well known dish is carrots julienne. Grated carrots are used in carrot cakes, as well as carrot puddings, an old English dish thought to have originated in the early 19th century. The greens are edible as a leaf vegetable, but are rarely eaten by humans. Together with onion and celery, carrots are one of the primary vegetables used in a mirepoix to make various broths.
In India carrots are used in a variety of ways, as salads or as vegetables added to spicy rice or daal dishes, and the most popular variation in north India is the Gaajar Kaa Halwaa carrot dessert, which has carrots grated and cooked in milk until the whole thing is solid, after which nuts and butter are added. Carrot salads are usually made with grated carrots in western parts with a seasoning of mustard seeds and green chillies popped in hot oil, while adding carrots to rice usually is in julienne shape.
The variety of carrot found in north India is rare everywhere except in Central Asia and other contiguous regions, and is now growing in popularity in larger cosmopolitan cities in South India. The north Indian carrot is pink-red comparable to plum or raspberry or deep red apple in colour (without a touch of yellow or blue) while most other carrot varieties in world are from orange to yellow in colour, comparable to halloween pumpkins.
Ever since the late 1980s, baby carrots or mini-carrots (carrots that have been peeled and cut into uniform cylinders) have been a popular ready-to-eat snack food available in many supermarkets. Carrot juice is also widely marketed, especially as a health drink, either stand-alone or blended with fruits and other vegetables.
The carrot gets its characteristic and bright orange colour from β-carotene, which is metabolised into vitamin A in humans when bile salts are present in the intestines. Massive overconsumption of carrots can cause carotenosis, a benign condition in which the skin turns orange. Carrots are also rich in dietary fibre, antioxidants, and minerals.
Lack of vitamin A can cause poor vision, including night vision, and vision can be restored by adding it back into the diet. An urban legend says eating large amounts of carrots will allow one to see in the dark. The legend developed from stories of British gunners in World War II, who were able to shoot down German planes in the darkness of night. The legend arose during the Battle of Britain when the RAF circulated a story about their pilots' carrot consumption as an attempt to cover up the discovery and effective use of radar technologies in engaging enemy planes, as well as the use of red light (which does not destroy night vision) in aircraft instruments. It reinforced existing German folklore and helped to encourage Britons—looking to improve their night vision during the blackouts—to grow and eat the vegetable.
Ethnomedically, the roots are used to treat digestive problems, intestinal parasites, and tonsillitis or constipation.
Carrot cultivars can be grouped into two broad classes, eastern carrots and western carrots. More recently, a number of novelty cultivars have been bred for particular characteristics.
The city of Holtville, California, promotes itself as "Carrot Capital of the World", and holds an annual festival devoted entirely to the carrot.
Eastern carrots
Eastern carrots were domesticated in Central Asia, probably in modern-day Afghanistan in the 10th century, or possibly earlier. Specimens of the eastern carrot that survive to the present day are commonly purple or yellow, and often have branched roots. The purple colour common in these carrots comes from anthocyanin pigments.
Western carrots
The western carrot emerged in the Netherlands in the 17th century, its orange colour making it popular in those countries as an emblem of the House of Orange and the struggle for Dutch independence. The orange colour results from abundant carotenes in these cultivars. While orange carrots are the norm in the West, other colours do exist, including white, yellow, red, and purple. These other colours of carrot are raised primarily as novelty crops.
The Vegetable Improvement Center at Texas A&M University has developed a purple-skinned, orange-fleshed carrot, the BetaSweet (also known as the Maroon Carrot), with substances to prevent cancer, which has recently entered very limited commercial distribution, through J&D Produce of Edinburg, Texas. This variety of carrot is also known to be high in β-carotene which is an essential nutrient.

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Superfood: Brussels sprout

The Brussels (or brussels) sprout (Brassica oleracea Gemmifera Group) of the Brassicaceae family, is a Cultivar group of wild cabbage cultivated for its small (typically 2.5–4 cm (0.98–1.6 in) diameter) leafy green buds, which visually resemble miniature cabbages.
In the home garden, "sprouts are sweetest after a good, stiff frost".
Brussels sprouts are a cultivar of the same species that includes cabbage, collard greens, broccoli, kale, and kohlrabi; they are cruciferous. They contain good amounts of vitamin A, vitamin C, folic acid and dietary fibre. Moreover, they are believed to protect against colon cancer, due to their containing sinigrin. Although they contain compounds such as goitrin that can act as goitrogens and interfere with thyroid hormone production, realistic amounts in the diet do not seem to have any effect on the function of the thyroid gland in humans.
Nutritional and medicinal value
Brussels sprouts, as with broccoli and other brassicas, contains sulforaphane, a chemical believed to have potent anti-cancer properties. Although boiling reduces the level of the anti-cancer compounds, steaming, microwaving, and stir frying does not result in significant loss.
Brussels sprouts are also a source of indole-3-carbinol, a chemical which boosts DNA repair in cells and appears to block the growth of cancer cells.
The most common method of preparing Brussels sprouts for cooking begins with removal of the buds from the stalk. Any surplus stem is cut away, and the surface leaves that are loosened by this cutting are peeled and discarded. Cooking methods include boiling, steaming and roasting; however, boiling results in significant loss of anti-cancer compounds. To ensure even cooking throughout, buds of a similar size are usually chosen. Some cooks will make a single cut or a cross in center of the stem to aid the penetration. Some people buy them frozen in a microwave-safe plastic bag, microwaving them on High for five to six minutes.
Whatever cooking method is employed, overcooking is to be avoided. Overcooking releases the glucosinolate sinigrin, which has a sulfurous odor. The odor is the reason many people profess to dislike Brussels sprouts, if they've only tried them overcooked with the accompanying sulfurous taste and smell. Generally 6–7 minutes boiled or steamed is enough to cook them thoroughly, without overcooking and releasing the sinigrin.

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