Sunday, December 21, 2008

No.33: Lima Beans

Note: This week's Lima Beans has also been requested by Sam's Mistress & J

Favored for their lovely nutty taste, lima beans make a great addition to any meal!

1. During the Spanish Viceroyalty of Peru, lima beans were exported to the rest of the Americas and Europe, since the boxes of such goods had their place of origin labeled "Lima - Peru", the beans got named as such.

2. Raw lima beans are not to be consumed raw! They contain linamarin (also called cyanogen), which releases a cyanide compound when the seed coat is opened. Don’t worry, cooking deactivates this compound.

3. The United States sets regulations to restrict commercially grown lima beans to those varieties with very low levels of this linamarin, but lima beans grown elsewhere,
may have 20 to 30 times the concentration allowed in the United States.

4. Before the late 19th century, most beans were raised for shelled, dried beans, not fresh green beans. Because beans dry so well, they are easy to transport and store.

5. Soak dried limas for six hours and cook on the stove uncovered for about one hour, or until tender. 1 cup of dried limas makes approximately 2 1/2 cups of cooked beans.

Reference: Food Reference, Wikipedia

Sunday, December 14, 2008

No.32: Cauliflower

Note: This week's Cauliflower has been requested
by Sam's Mistress

Sporting green leaves to shade itself from the sun gives
this yummy veg its original whitish shade!

1. Apart from the white variety of cauliflower, there are also green, purple and orange varieties! Orange cauliflower contains
25 times the level of Vitamin A of
white varieties.

2. While broccoli opens outward to sprout bunches of green florets, cauliflower forms a compact head of undeveloped white flower buds. The heavy green leaves that surround the head protect the flower buds from the sunlight, hence its white color.

3. To prevent moisture from developing in the floret clusters, store it with the stem
side down.

4. Cauliflower contains phytonutrients that release odorous sulfur compounds when heated. Some phytonutrients may react with iron in cookware and cause the cauliflower to take on a brownish hue. To prevent this, add a bit of lemon juice to the water in which you blanche the cauliflower.

5. Low carb dietiers 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; cauliflower is used to produce a potato substitute known as fauxtato.

Reference: Wikipedia, World's Healthiest Food, Food Reference

Monday, October 27, 2008

No.31: Patty pan Squash

Being so cute & colorful makes patty pan squashes big hits
with children!

1. Brightly colored, this little squash comes in numerous varieties: white, bright yellow or orange, and ends in a thick green tail.
The pattypan is about the size of a pepper, semi-spherical in shape with
a scalloped border.

2. The French name pâtisson comes from the Provençal word for a cake made in a scalloped mould. It also bears the French nicknames of "Israel artichoke" and
"Priest's bonnet."

3. In fine cuisine, its tender flesh is sometimes scooped out and mixed with flavorings such as garlic prior to reinsertion; the scooped-out husk of a pattypan also is sometimes used as a decorative container for other foods.

4. Choose the smallest ones available if you want the best taste and texture as once it gets older, its flesh whitens and toughens. Since pattypans are picked when immature, they should be eaten as soon as possible.

5. Mini pattypans are best used raw, since high heat can turn their flesh floury and slightly sour. Or you could always preserve them in vinegar!

Reference: Wikipedia, Nation Master, Ezine Articles, The Worldwide Gourmet, Wisegeek

Sunday, October 5, 2008

No.30: Brussel Sprouts

Brussel sprouts are your one of your best sources of Vitamins K & C!

1. The Brussels sprout is a cultivar group of Wild Cabbage cultivated for its small (typically 2.5 - 4cm, 1 - 1.5 inches diameter) leafy green heads, which resemble miniature cabbages.

2. Brussels sprouts grow in bunches of 20 to 40 on the stem of a plant that grows from two to three feet tall.

3. The sprouts are usually cooked whole. To allow the heat to permeate throughout all of the leaves and better ensure an even texture, cut an "X" in the bottom of the stem before cooking.

4. Overcooking releases sulphur compounds in the vegetables that give it a distinctive smell commonly found unpleasant.

5. Don't overcook sprouts or they'll taste bland. Steaming, rather than boiling, helps to preserve their sweet flavour.

Reference: Wikipedia, Cabbage Lore & Trivia, BBC, WHFoods,

Sunday, September 14, 2008

No.29: Petai

An interesting vegetable, petai should never be a 'no go'!

1.Like asparagus, it contains certain amino acids that give a strong smell to ones urine, an effect that can be noticed up to two days after consumption. And like other beans, their complex carbohydrates can also cause strong-smelling flatulence.

2. When young the pods are flat because the seeds have not yet developed, and they hang like a bunch of slightly twisted ribbons, pale green, almost translucent.When dried the seeds turn black.

3. They are an acquired taste, but are popular in southern Thailand, Burma, Malaysia and Indonesia and are sold in bunches, still in the pod, or the seeds are sold in plastic bags. They are exported in jars or cans, pickled in brine.

4. Like mature broad beans, they may have to be peeled before cooking.Before you cook the petai, make sure that you split the bean into two with a paring knife as there are prone to worms burrowing their way into the heart of the petai.

5. They are best when combined with other strong flavoured foods such as garlic, chili peppers, and dried shrimp, as in "sambal petai" or added to a curry.

Reference: Wikipedia, Permais, Asia Food, Lemniscate

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

No.28: Mashua

Hardy little roots, mashua seem almost invincible!

1. Mashua is probably the Andean region's fourth most important root crop—after potato, oca, and ulluco. The tubers—about the size of small potatoes—have shapes ranging from conical to carrotlike.

2. Mashua grows vigorously in nearly any type of garden soil, making this plant very easy to grow. The plant is also extremely pest-resistant and is often used as a companion plant for potatoes and other crops to aid in repelling insects.

3. Eaten raw, some have a peppery taste—reminiscent of hot radishes. But when boiled, they lose their sharpness and become mild—even sweet.

4.In trials in Ayacucho, Peru, and Turrialba, Costa Rica, the nutritional value of mashua was shown to equal or surpass that of cereals.

5. Popularization of mashua may be limited by its strong flavor, and its reputation as an anti-aphrodisiac. It been recorded by the Spanish chronicler Cobo that mashua was fed to their armies by the Inca Emperors, "that they should forget their wives". Indeed, studies of male rats fed on mashua tubers have shown a 45% drop in testosterone levels!

Reference: Wikipedia,, Tuberosas Andinas, CIP, Planting Flower Bulbs,
The National Academies Press

Sunday, June 22, 2008

No.27: Samphire

Tasting far from being a poor man's asparagus, samphire's just the side dish for seafood!

1.Though there are two types of samphire - marsh and rock - only marsh samphire is widely available. Samphire is at is best in July and August. Buy samphire as you need it - it doesn't keep for long. If you must, tightly wrap and refrigerate for not longer
than a few days.

2. In England it is one of several plants known as samphire, the term samphire is believed to be a corruption of the French name, herbe de Saint-Pierre, which means "St. Pierre's Herb." In the United States the edible species are known as sea beans.

3. Marsh samphire has vibrant green stalks, similar to baby asparagus, with a distinctively crisp and salty taste. Rock samphire has fleshy, divided aromatic leaves that have been described as having a "pleasant,hot and spicy taste".

4. Marsh samphire ashes were used to make soap and glass (hence its other old English name, "glasswort.") In the 14th century glassmakers located their workshops near regions where this plant grew, since it was so closely linked to their trade.

5. It is even mentioned by Shakespeare in King Lear: "Half-way down Hangs one that gathers samphire; dreadful trade!" This refers to the dangers involved in collecting Rock samphire on sea cliffs.

According to Alison Gathercole of Dorset: "In Dorset it grows high up on cliffs, & therefore one presumes it does not require marshy conditions as suggested. I was told about the Shakespeare quote by a former ranger at Lulworth, who said that 'horrible trade' was a reference to the fact that children were dangled over cliffs tied by ropes on their feet .... which does sound a rather horrible task ... in order to pick the plant."

Reference: Wikipedia: Samphire , Wikipedia: Salicornia, Wikipedia:Rock Samphire, BBC Good Food, Cafe Fernando, Istanbul, Gardener's Question Time

Sunday, June 15, 2008

No.26: Fennel

Fennel looks like a cross between a chunky bunch of celery and leek!

1. In India, it is common to chew fennel seed (or saunf) as a mouth-freshener.

2. Florence fennel (finocchio) was one of the three main herbs used in the preparation of absinthe, an alcoholic mixture which originated as a medicinal elixir in Switzerland

3. Fennel is disliked by fleas, and can therefore be used around the house in doorways and near pet bedding to reduce flea populations.

4. Fennel water has properties similar to those of anise and dill water: mixed with sodium bicarbonate and syrup, these waters constitute the domestic 'Gripe Water,' used to correct the flatulence of infants.

5. Fennel is chiefly used medicinally with purgatives to allay their side effects and for this purpose forms one of the ingredients of the well-known compound Liquorice Powder.

Reference: Wikipedia, Fruit and Veggie Guru, Gardens Ablaze, Bellybytes

Sunday, May 18, 2008

No.25: Snow Peas

Snow Peas also have the french name Mange Tout. Mange (meaning eat) and tout (meaning all), they are eaten whole.

1. The snow pea is a legume, more specifically a variety of pea eaten whole in its pod while
still unripe.

2. Snow peas should be shiny and flat, with very small peas that are barely visible through the pod. Smaller pods are the sweetest and the most tender.

3. They have to be refridgerated as half of their sugar content will turn to starch within six hours if they are kept at room temperature.

4. The name snow peas may come from the fact that they are picked in early spring, when snow is still on the ground.

5. To prepare, slice through the stem end of each pod but do not sever the string on the side of the pod. Pull the stem end and string down the pod and repeat the procedure on the other side. You may leave the strings intact, if desired.

Reference: Wikipedia, Food Reference,, Snow Peas, Waitrose

Sunday, March 30, 2008

No.24: Chilli Padi

Chilli padi, as it is fondly known in Malaysia, is one heck of a firestarter!

1. Watch out for these, preferably wear gloves whilst cutting them up! They really burn! However, if you do handle them by mistake, try rubbing the afflicted area with salt to reduce the burning sensation!

2. These tiny little fiery chillies point downward from the plant and their colors change directly from green to red.

3. Although small in size compared to other types of chili, the chili padi is relatively strong at 50,000 to 100,000 on the Scoville pungency scale.

4. The seeds and white pith of a chilli are the hottest part, so remove them if you don't want your dish to be too fiery.

5. As a rule red fresh fruit are two or three times hotter than green fruit, and dried pods are up to ten times hotter than fresh pods!

Reference: BUUUUURRRRNING Hot!, Wikipedia, TheTipsBank

Sunday, March 23, 2008

No.23: Leeks

Leeks are technically a bundle of leaf sheaths which look like a pretty fan!

1. Leeks are an essential ingredient of cock-a-leekie and vichyssoise, both,
yummy soups!

2. Like an onion, the leek has a lot of layers on the inside, except that the leek has a lot more finer layers. Each of these layers has an amazing amount of sandy grit between them. Leeks have to get washed really well to get rid of
all that grit.

3. The leek is one of the national emblems of Wales, whose citizens wear it on St. David's Day.

4. Leeks are sometimes called "the gourmet's onion" or the 'poor man’s asparagus'!

5. A favourite food of the Romans, leeks are lauded in the Bible (Book of Numbers),
have been eaten by saints (St. David), worn by the Welsh into battle and are said to possess mystical qualities.

Reference: Wikipedia, Kathy Maister's, British Leeks,, Fruits and Vegetables

Sunday, March 16, 2008

No.22: Lotus Root

Did you know that lotus roots hide a lovely pattern inside themselves? Great for stamping patterns with paint!

1. With swellings along its length, it resembles links of sweet potatoes, growing in strings up to a metre long.

2. Besides the subtle flavour and crunchy texture, in cross-section the root reveals a beautiful, lacy pattern.

3. The rhizome-root can also all be eaten raw, but there is a risk of parasite transmission, is therefore recommended that they are cooked before eating!

4. On the inside, several large air pockets
run the length of the tuber for buoyancy
in the water.

5. The starchy yet crisp flesh is slightly sweet; it may be sliced or grated to use in salads, stir-fried, or cooked in soups or stews.

Reference: Wikipedia, Asia Food Glossary Page, Special Foods, Asian Research

Sunday, March 9, 2008

No.21: Turnip

Amazingly the turnip is used as a symbol in the shield of arms of the town of Keutschach am See, Austria!

1. The most common type of turnip is mostly white-skinned apart from the upper 1–6 centimeters, which protrude above the ground and are purple, red, or greenish wherever sunlight has fallen.

2. Turnip leaves are sometimes eaten & resemble mustard greens.

3. You can eat the turnip raw if it is young, large ones have a strong flavor. To reduce this flavor, boil them for 5 minutes.

4. In Turkey, particularly near Adana, turnips are used to flavor 'salgam', a juice made from purple carrots and spices served ice cold.

5. Throughout Britain and Ireland, there is a long tradition of carving lanterns from vegetables, particularly the turnip before pumpkins came along!

Reference: Wikipedia, Turnip

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Hi folks!
Due to the time constraints & my expanding workload,
I've decided to post a
NEW veggie every Sunday! (instead of Wed & Sun)
Apart from the daily dosage of veges, I need my precious sleep too!
So stay tuned for the latest veggie this coming Sunday :)

Much Love,

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

No.20: Old Cucumber (Chinese Yellow Cucumber)

Looking leathery, this unusual cucumber is really not as old as it seems!

1. They turn a beautiful, yellow-orangish brown when mature whilst their young fruit is green.

2. Widely used for soup making in Chinese households or restaurants, the yellow cucumber's skin & soft flesh is cut into cubes and boiled.

3. Not only more distinct & milder in taste compared to other cucumbers, the yellow cucumber is juicier as well.

4. Its flesh is creamy white whilst the seeds are surrounded by a thin gelatinous coating.

5. The yellow cucumbers & their lighter skinned varieties are also extensively used to make pickles.

Reference: Rare Seeds, Delicious Asian Food, Oriental Vegetables, Strange Vegetables

Sunday, February 24, 2008

No.19: Sweet Potato

Never judge a potato by its jacket!
These tubers are sweetly popular
from the East to the West!

1. The most common flesh color (or the insides) of a SweetPotato is a vivid orange!

2. George Washington Carver was a
researcher who developed 118 products from Sweet potatoes! He used them to make glue
for postage stamps and a starch for
sizing cotton fabrics.

3. Unfortunately, when sweet potatoes begin to go bad, you cannot just cut away the bad part, since the damage will be reflected in the flavor of the entire potato.

4. Do not refridgerate below 55 degrees F. will chill this tropical vegetable giving it a hard core & an undesirable taste when cooked.

5. They have few natural enemies; pesticides are rarely needed. On top of that, they can also be grown in most poor soil conditions without the need for any fertilisers!

Reference: Wikipedia, NC Sweetpotatoes, Food Reference

Sunday, February 17, 2008

No.18: Bottle Gourd

Bottle gourds are also known as bottle squash, calabash, doodhi, or lowki!

1. The bottle gourd is a vine grown for its fruit, which can either be harvested young & as a vegetable or harvested mature, dried & as a bottle, utensil, or pipe.

2. When bottle gourds are to be used as containers, they may be constricted by bands to make particular shapes.

3. Well-treated gourds become durable containers. The dry hard shells are used for bottles, milk pots, churns, bowls, ladles, spoons, work baskets, floats, pipes, carved objects, and musical instruments.

4. They come in an amazing variety of shapes, sizes and colours. Some may reach 3 m in length whilst others may be up to 2 m round.

5. The bottle gourd is frequently used in southern Chinese cuisine as either a stir-fry or in a soup. In Japan, where it is known as kampyo, it is sold in the form of dried, marinated strips. It is used in place of seafood in a form of vegetarian makizushi (rolled sushi).

Reference: Wikipedia, University of Florida, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

No.17: Artichoke

Go on, have a (an artichoke) heart
this Valentine's!

1. The edible portion of the buds consists of the fleshy lower portions of the bracts & base, is the "heart"; the mass of inedible florets in the bud's center is the "choke."

2. The "vegetable" we eat is the plant's flower bud. If allowed to flower, the blossoms measure up to 7 inches in diameter and are a beautiful violet-blue color.

3.If you're trimming a lot of them, wear surgical gloves as the oils will work into your hands and under your nails making everything you touch taste bitter.

4. The leaves are often removed and eaten one at a time, sometimes dipped in butter, mayonnaise or aioli.

5. If the artichoke feels heavy for its size & when squeezed, you have found a fresh artichoke.

Reference: Wikipedia, Season by Season, Simply Recipes, History of Artichokes

Sunday, February 10, 2008

No.16: Black Moss Fungus (Dried Black Sea Moss)

Fatt Choy or black moss fungus as
it is more commonly known in the
Chinese language, is a primary
ingredient in Chinese New Year dishes!

1. Real fat choy is dark green in color, while the counterfeit fat choy appears black.

2. It grows deep in the ground in desert conditions in Mongolia & Northern China.

3. When soaked, this vegetable has a very soft texture which is like very fine vermicelli, and an appearance very similar to long, black human hair.

4. Some environmentalists are concerned that the harvesting of this plant, which grows up to 3 feet deep into the ground, destroys other vegetation and contributes to soil erosion.

5. The last two syllables of this name in Cantonese sound the same as another Cantonese saying meaning "struck it rich" (though the second syllable, choi, has a different tone) this is found, for example, in the Cantonese saying, "Gung hei faat choi" (meaning "congratulations and be prosperous"), which is often proclaimed during Chinese New Year.

6. Fatt choy is a terrestrial cyanobacterium (a photosyntetic bacteria).

7. Nowadays, people normally buy fatt choy to worship their ancestors, and cook it with fish belly and mushrooms for Lunar New Year feasts.

8. Real fatt choy is greenish grey and elastic after being soaked in water; the fake ones are black in colour and they tend to stick together when squeezed.

Reference: Wikipedia, SF Gate, The Standard, Cyanobacteria, Consumer Council

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

No.15: Bamboo Shoot

Happy Chinese New Year!! Bamboo shoots are so yummy in chinese dishes!

1.Bamboo shoots are the edible shoots (the new bamboo culms that come out of the ground).

2. To prevent them from becoming bitter, avoid keeping them for long periods or exposing them to sunlight.

3.The shoots are harvested before they reach 30 cm (1 foot) in height, generally before they are two weeks old.

4.At harvesting, a shoot may contain as much as 90% water. The edible content of a newly harvested shoot is typically around 30%.

5.Drop into boiling water and cook for about 20 minutes uncovered, to allow bitter substances in the bamboo to dissipate.

Reference: World Wide Gourmet, Invista, Bamboo NMBA
Note: This bamboo shoot is seen holding & hording hong bao in its sheaths.
Hong bao
(Chinese) translates as red packet. Hong bao are usually given to young children or unmarried young adults by married couples or their elders as a gift, symbolic of blessings & good fortune. As the bamboo shoot is the young offspring of a whole network of bamboo plants, it is most suitable for it to be receiving hong bao
from its family members.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

No.14: Pumpkin

Not only popular during Halloween, pumpkins are carving their way into households all year round!

1. Pumpkins consist of 90% water and if you fill a pumpkin with milk and then bake it, you will have a pudding.

2. Pumpkin seeds which can be roasted as a snack are also used for deworming.

3. Pumpkin carving was taken to the US by the Irish, who started carving turnips for their annual Samhain holiday. They soon found that pumpkins were easier to carve than turnips.

4. If your pumpkin lantern shrivels up, you can rehydrate it by soaking it overnight in water.

5. In early colonial times, pumpkins were used as an ingredient for pie crusts, not the filling.

Reference: Wikipedia, Ezine Articles, Farm Bureau Kids, BBC, Pumpkins & More

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

No.13: Onion

Tear through these layers of odd onion facts to determine which are for real!

1. Once an onion cell is pierced, the reactions release sulfur, which irritates our eyes.

2. To cut down on the crying, chill the onion and cut into the root end of the onion last.

3. In some Torontonian communities, the phrase "Diced onions!" can be used as an exclamation of disbelief or dismissal. (eg: "You can run a kilometer in 1 minute? Diced onions!")

4. The ancient Egyptians worshipped the onion,
believing that its spherical shape and concentric rings symbolized eternity.

5. A traditional Maltese remedy for sea urchin wounds is to tie half a baked onion to the afflicted area overnight.

Reference: Wikipedia, Fort Boise Produce, CDC

Sunday, January 27, 2008

No.12: Daikon (Japanese Radish)

This top notch root sure knows its place in most asian food cultures !

1. The word Daikon is derived from 2words:
dai (large) & kon (root).

2. A secret to cooking daikon is to use water in which rice has been washed or a bit of rice bran added. (to keep it white & reduce brittleness)

3. Newly harvested daikons are to be handled with much care as they are very brittle.

4. Fresh leaves of daikon can also be eaten as a leaf vegetable but they are often removed when sold in a store because they do not adjust well to the refrigerator, yellowing quite easily.

5. Daikon is popular in Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Indian cuisines.

Reference: Whats Cooking America, Garden and Hearth, Wikipedia

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

No.11: Bell Pepper (Capsicum)

It's tough not being the hottest pepper around when you're so cool!

1. Capsicums lack the spiciness that peppers have because of a recessive gene.

2. As bell peppers mature, their color changes from green to red and they become sweeter.

3. Their colors can be green, red, yellow, orange and, more rarely, white, purple, blue, and brown, depending on when they are harvested and the specific cultivar.

4. Green bell peppers have twice the vitamin C by weight than citrus fruits (oranges, lemons etc.) and red bell peppers have thrice what the green bells have.

5. Bell peppers can be frozen for future use.

Reference: Wikipedia, Wikipedia 2, Fun Facts

Sunday, January 20, 2008

No.10: Asparagus

These little spears of goodness are natural diuretics & the food for your healthy gut flora!

1. Under ideal conditions, an asparagus spear can grow 10" in a 24-hour period.

2. Some may have a strong urine odor after eating asparagus as they have a sulfur compound called "mercaptan",it releases an odd scent when broken down.

3. Select firm, thin stems with deep green or purplish closed tips.

4. The bottom portion of asparagus often contains sand, so its best to remove them.

5. A well cared for asparagus planting will generally produce for about 15 years without being replanted.

Reference: WH Foods, Asparagus, Wikipedia, Asparagus Facts, Asparagus Online