Spring is here… and so are some delicious fruits and veggies!! Artichokes, asparagus, beets, cherries, kohlrabi, spinach, mushrooms, parsley, tangerines, raspberries, and strawberries are all in season. Shop at your local farmers market and find organic, local and in season produce.
Considered the true artichoke, the globe artichoke is cultivated mainly in California’s midcoastal region. It’s the bud of a large plant from the thistle family and has tough, petal-shaped leaves. To eat a whole cooked artichoke, break off the leaves one by one and draw the base of the leaf through your teeth to remove the soft portion, discarding the remainder of the leaf. The individual leaves may be dipped into melted butter or some other sauce. Once the leaves have been removed, the inedible prickly choke is cut or scraped away and discarded. Then the tender artichoke heart and meaty bottom can be eaten. Globe artichokes are available year-round, with the peak season from March through May. Buy deep green, heavy-for-their-size artichokes with a tight leaf formation. The leaves should “squeak” when pressed together. Heavy browning on an artichoke usually indicates it’s beyond its prime, though a slight discoloration on the leaf edges early in the season is generally frost damage and won’t affect the vegetable’s quality. Store unwashed artichokes in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 4 days; wash just before cooking.
Artichoke is a rich source of dietary fiber; provides 5.4 g per 100 g, one large artichoke contains a quarter of the recommended daily intake of fiber. A medium artichoke has more fiber than a cup of prunes. Artichoke is an excellent source of folic acid provides about 68 mcg per 100 g. It is also rich in B-complex group of vitamins such as niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin, and pantothenic acid that are essential for optimum cellular metabolic functions. Artichokes help the digestive system. They are a natural diuretic, they aid digestion, improve gallbladder function and, as mentioned above, they are of great benefit to the liver. A study done by the USDA found that artichokes have more antioxidants than any other vegetable and they ranked seventh in a study of the antioxidant levels of 1,000 different foods. Some of the powerful antioxidants in artichokes are quercertin, rutin, anthocyanins, cynarin, luteolin, and silymarin.
Thanks to their positive effects on the liver, many people swear by artichokes as a hangover treatment. Instead of the hair of the dog, try the leaves of an artichoke.
A favorite vegetable of the ancient Greeks, asparagus was highly regarded for its cleansing and healing properties. Rich in the diuretic asparagine, asparagus is thought to benefit the kidneys, although too much can be an irritant. Modern alternative medicine cites asparagus as beneficial for vascular problems, arteriosclerosis and cleansing the arteries of cholesterol. The high folic acid content in asparagus is crucial to blood cell formation and growth, and aids in the prevention of liver disease, and birth defects such as spina bifida.
Tall and slender, asparagus shoots up like a blade of grass. It is a member of the lily family and not a grass at all, even though asparagus is often referred to as “grass” on the docks of the produce market. To keep your “grass” in peak condition, remove the band, clip the ends & store upright on a wet paper towel. It’s important to note that asparagus keeps growing after harvest, drawing water away from the lower stalk. Without water, your grass could get tough and fibrous. Too much moisture will cause rot, but just a little will keep it tender. As always, it is best to use your fresh spears within a few days.
Look for firm, fresh, spears with closed, compact tips and uniform diameter – this will ensure that all spears will cook in the same amount of time.
Rich in Vitamin K which helps promote strong, healthy bones as well as potassium, a terrific blood-pressure regulator, asparagus offers you more than just a reminder that warm weather and baseball season are on its way. And there are a multitude of ways you can prepare it, so you won’t get bored before the season is out.
Foods belonging to the chenopod family — including beets, chard, spinach and quinoa — continue to show an increasing number of health benefits not readily available from other food families.Commonly known as the garden beet , this firm, round root vegetable has leafy green tops, which are also edible and highly nutritious. Small or medium beets are generally more tender than large ones.
Beets are a unique source of phytonutrients called betalains. Betanin and vulgaxanthin are the two best-studied betalains from beets, and both have been shown to provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification support. What’s most striking about beets is not the fact that they are rich in antioxidants; what’s striking is the unusual mix of antioxidants that they contain. The combination of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory molecules in beets makes this food a highly likely candidate for risk reduction of many cancer types. Lab studies on human tumor cells have confirmed this possibility for colon, stomach, nerve, lung, breast, prostate and testicular cancers.
Recipe for Roasted Beet Salad with Mint and Feta
- 1 bunch organic beets, trimmed (about 5-6 medium beets)
- cold pressed organic olive oil
- course sea salt
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 2 teaspoons minced preserved lemon rind (or substitute lemon zest)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon raw honey or maple syrup
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Clean under water and cut off any thick skin pieces. Chop the beets into bite-sized pieces. Cover the beets all over with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt. Roast for 1 hour.
In a medium bowl, mix the chopped beets with the mint and the feta.
Add the preserved lemon rind, the olive oil, and the honey. Mix well to combine.
Garnish with additional fresh mint, if desired.
This vegetable is a member of the turnip family and, for that reason, is also called cabbage turnip . Like the turnip, both its purple-tinged, white bulblike stem and its greens are edible. The kohlrabi bulb tastes like a mild, sweet turnip. Those under 3 inches in diameter are the most tender. Choose a kohlrabi that is heavy for its size with firm, deeply colored green leaves. Avoid any with soft spots on the bulb or signs of yellowing on leaf tips. Store tightly wrapped up to 4 days in the refrigerator. Kohlrabi’s best steamed, but can also be added to soups and stews as well as used in stir-frys. It’s rich in potassium and vitamin C.
Roasted Kohlrabi recipe
- 1 1/2 pounds fresh kohlrabi, ends trimmed, diced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon garlic
- Salt to taste
- 2 tbsp Bragg’s or coconut aminos
(lemon zest and turmeric are also good on top)
Set oven to 450F. Toss the diced kohlrabi with olive oil, garlic, aminos, and salt in a bowl. Spread evenly on a rimmed baking sheet and put into oven and roast for 30 – 35 minutes, stirring every five minutes after about 20 minutes.
Red, and juicy the strawberry is a member of the rose family and has grown wild for centuries in both the Americas and Europe. The Romans valued the fruit for its reputed therapeutic powers for everything from loose teeth to gastritis. However, it wasn’t until the late 13th century that the plant was first cultivated. Choose brightly colored, plump berries that still have their green caps attached and which are uniform in size.
Many foods commonly consumed in the U.S. are valuable sources of antioxidants. But researchers have recently ranked the 50 best antioxidant sources among commonly eaten foods and found strawberries to be quite exceptional. When total antioxidant capacity was measured against a uniform amount of food (100 grams, or about 3.5 ounces), strawberries ranked 27th best among U.S. foods. In addition, when only fruits were considered, strawberries came out 4th among all fruits (behind blackberries, cranberries, and raspberries). Improved blood sugar regulation has been a long-standing area of interest in research on strawberries and health.
Given their unique combination of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients, it’s not surprising to see strong research support for strawberry health benefits in three major areas: (1) cardiovascular support and prevention of cardiovascular diseases (2) improved regulation of blood sugar, with decreased risk of type 2 diabetes, and (3) prevention of certain cancer types including breast, cervical, colon, and esophageal cancer. In this section, we’ll review the outstanding research-based benefits of strawberries in each area.