While Apples are pretty much a staple in most homes in North America, I imagine that there are many varieties that you have yet to try! My grandparents had an apple tree in their backyard and I grew making apple crumbles and apple pies with my grandma. Despite all those apples as a kid, I did not really like raw apples until I was an adult. Green were too tart for me and red and yellow were always too mealy (I now know that’s because they were OLD – many months out of season). Americans are so used to getting all types of produce year round in super markets, but in reality, those foods are either stored in cold storage for many months, grown in a different climate and shipped in, or grown in a greenhouse.
As an adult, I have come to really like all kinds of pink apples: pink lady, fuji, gala, and honeycrisp. I also only eat apples during apple season and during the very early weeks of cold storage. In Northern California, apple season begins in mid-late July and generally lasts until October. Thus, I only consume apples from July-December.
Besides eating apples with almond butter, my favorite thing to use apples for is apple pie, any surprises there??? Jennifer Tyler Lee recommends that folks make an apple galette, warm cinnamon apples, or apple chips.
Wild apples have SIGNIFICANTLY more phytonutrients than our domesticated varieties – some wild varieties have up to 475 times more phytonutrients than certain domesticated varieties.
If you were to plant the five apple seeds from an apple, you would get FIVE different varieties from those new trees. Once a variety is identified, new trees are grown by grafting (a method that involves cutting off branches from a tree and attaching that branch to a less desirable tree that has been trimmed back). This is known as extreme heterozygosity.
Any apple that is less than two inches in diameter is considered a crabapple.
Most of our modern apples can be traced back to central Asia.
There were once 15,000 varieties of apples growing in the United States, now there 500 varieties.
Apples harvested at the end of apple season will store the longest – several months, as compared with apples harvested in the beginning of apple season – several weeks.
Apples store best in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator.
An apple with the peel contains 50% more nutrients than an apple without the peel.
Raw apples contain more nutrients than cooked apples.
Apples are a good source of vitamins C and K and potassium.
Carrots are generally quite the crowd pleaser for kids and adults alike. Although I can imagine that it could be tricky to get kids to eat rainbow carrots. I have always liked carrots raw but only recently in the last few years have I really learned to love roasted carrots too. Jennifer Tyler Lee also recommends roasted carrots, but she also recommends a fresh carrot salad which also sounds delicious!
The ancestors of our modern carrots came from Afghanistan and were purple.
During the cultivation of carrots, two mutant varieties began appearing – white and yellow.
Orange carrots were not seen until 400 years ago when breeders crossed a red and yellow carrots.
Purple carrots contain nearly TWENTY times the amount of phytonutrients as orange carrots.
Baby carrots should be avoided whenever possible. They are not actually “baby carrots”, rather they are carrots that have been whittled down. The outer layers that have been peeled off contain the most nutrition
Carrots are sweetest and freshest when the green tops are still attached.
However, if you do not plan on using the carrots within a day or two of purchase, remove the tops, as the carrots will remain firm and fresh longer. They will also retain their moisture longer.
Frozen carrots are not as nutritious as fresh carrots.
Carrots are more nutritious when cooked!!
Sautéing or steaming carrots retains more nutrients than boiling carrots.
Whole cooked carrots contain more cancer-fighting compounds called falcarinol than carrots that have been cut before cooking.
Eat carrots with some fat! Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, which is a fat-soluble vitamin.
Carrots have a low respiration rate.
The anthocyanins in purple carrots have been shown to support a healthy liver in rodent studies.
Good source of fiber.
Good source of vitamins K, C, and B6, potassium, thiamine, and biotin.
Cauliflower is one of my favorite veggies. This is another childhood favorite. My mom steamed it with butter and if you put butter on veggies, I’ll eat it. Now I love cauliflower roasted in butter. It’s simple and delicious. I also love cauli mash (instead of potatoes), cauli rice (here’s one of my favorite recipes), and cauli alfredo. It’s such a versatile veggie AND it’s good for you!!!
Jennifer Tyler Lee suggests that folks try roasted caulitflower – especially the purple variety or use a yogurt dip for raw cauliflower.
Member of the Brassica/Cruciferous family.
White cauliflower is rich in glucosinolates, an important antioxidant.
Colorful varieties contain even more antioxidants than white cauliflower. For example, purple cauliflower, the graffiti variety, has two and a half more times the antioxidants than white cauliflower.
It is believed that the white variety is actually an albino mutant from the more colorful varieties.
For fresh cauliflower, look for:
bright green leaves
no spots, speckles, or bruises
no traces of grey mold
It can be stored for about week in the fridge without compromising the nutrient value.
Steaming or sautéing the cauliflower will retain the most nutrients. Avoid boiling cauliflower.
Opt for fresh over frozen for the most nutrition.
Good source of vitamins B6, C, and K, folate, potassium, maganese, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Good source of fiber.
Due to its sulforaphane content, it is veggie that is great for the liver.
B R U S S E L S S P R O U T S ! ! ! ! ! ! ! Hopefully that conveys my excitement for this fall and winter veggie. I could seriously have them nearly every day and still love them. But it wasn’t always that way. The first time I had Brussels sprouts was at my step sister’s wedding in 2009. I had avoided them for all of my childhood and well into my twenties. At the wedding, they were pretty boring, so I didn’t add them to my list of new favorites just yet. Then in 2010 I began working for Tomatero Organic Farm and in the fall we had Brussels. So I bought some and found a recipe in a cookbook for how to prepare them (roasted in butter and topped with bacon). And you know what? I LOVED them. From there on out, I was hooked!
Danielle Walker of Against All Grain has a great recipe and I have created my own favorite recipe too. Look for it soon! Jennifer Tyler Lee suggests Brussels Sprouts Chips, which surprisingly, I have yet to try! She also suggests roasting them with bacon [this is a very common way they are prepared] and also sautéed with lemon and walnuts.
VEGGIE TIP: If you aren’t on the Brussels bandwagon yet, it’s probably because these are DENSE little veggies and if not cooked through to the center, they aren’t very tasty. Using a food processor, try grating them or slicing them (my favorite). Now they will be cooked through and it won’t take an hour to chew them.
Member of the brassica/cruciferous family.
Sinigrin and progoitrin and the bitter chemicals that are responsible for some folks distaste of Brussels sprouts.
Brussels kill more human cancer cells than any other member of the cruciferous family.
When shopping for brussels:
It’s important to buy them in season for less of a bitter flavor.
Brussels should be bright green with densely packed leaves.
Frozen Brussels have only 20% of the caner-fighting compounds as fresh Brussels.
Like broccoli and artichokes, Brussels respire rapidly, so refrigerate immediately and eat as soon as possible.
Steaming Brussels for 6-8 minutes will help them to retain the most nutrients (although that’s not how I like to cook them).
Great source of vitamin B6, C, and K, folic acid, beta-carotene, thiamine, and potassium.
Rich in fiber.
Contain the antioxidant, glucosinolates, that help to fight cancer.
Boy! It has been waaayyyy too long since I blogged last! But I am nearly done with blogging about The 52 New Foods Challenge, so even though it’s Winter now and these foods are from the Fall portion of the book, I’m just going to finish up! PLUS, here in Northern California (where the self-proclaimed Artichoke Capital of the World is located) artichokes are in season in March, April, and May, so I feel like it’s okay that we’re talking artichokes in February.
Jennifer Tyler Lee suggests grilling artichokes or steaming them with lemon butter. Honestly, I don’t really get artichokes. I’d like to get them, but I don’t. As a kid, I thought they were weird and avoided them like the plague. As a grown up, I’ve only had them a handful of times because I’m really sure that I’m doing it wrong. Am I supposed to be getting some meat off of these leaves?!?!? I think they taste fine, so I’m willing to keep trying them, but I’m still baffled.
Native to Northern Africa.
We eat “… the leaflike bracts of the unopened flower” (Robinson, p.196, 2013).
Artichokes have been used historically for their liver protective properties. Recent studies have found that artichokes contain silymarin and cynarin, both liver protective compounds.
Artichokes have a higher ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity – a measure of antioxidant capacity) value than any other modern fruit and vegetable.
A rich source of inulin, a prebiotic fiber that helps to feed the probiotic colony in the gut.
Good source of fiber.
The Globe/French artichoke is the most nutrient dense variety.
In order to get the maximum nutrition from artichokes, they should be eaten as closet to harvesting as possible due to their high respiration rate.
To pick a fresh artichoke
Rub two together and they should squeak.
It should feel firm when you squeeze it.
Boiling artichokes is a great way to prepare them because it increases their antioxidant levels.
Steaming artichokes is the BEST way to prepare them – you get three times the antioxidant levels of boiled artichokes.
Good source of vitamins K and C, folate, potassium, lutein, niacin, riboflavin, and iron.
Well it’s hard to find folks out there that are not fans of garlic, although they do exist. I, however, am not one of them. There’s a garlic meme that I’ve seen floating out there and just I had to include it for this post. It is me to a T. While garlic is not new to most any of us, there are always new and inventive ways to include this superfood in your diet. I include it in tomato sauces, in my bone broth, in stuffed peppers, Asian StyleTurkey Lettuce Wraps, and in the fresh gingered beets recipe that my husband loves (it can be found here: Flavors of Health Cookbook), and in many, many more recipes. Jennifer Tyler Lee suggests roasting garlic because the flavor profile is more tolerable for kids. She also suggests making garlic mushroom toasts. (Again, I would opt for a gluten-free or paleo “bread” option instead of whole wheat toast. See this post for more on why.)
Member of the lily family.
Because garlic has not be breed to be sweeter, larger, or milder tasting, it contains most of its “wild” nutrients.
All varieties of garlic are quite similar nutritionally.
Allicin is the active health ingredient in garlic and is a combination of alliin, the protein fragment, and alliinase, the heat-sensitive enzyme. When raw garlic is either cut, pressed, or chewed, these two ingredients are combined. It was discovered that by cooking the garlic immediately after slicing, the heat-sensitive enzyme is destroyed and no allicin is created. Allicin is the active ingredient in garlic that is revered for fighting cancer and protecting the heart. In order to get the most nutrition out of garlic, it is important that you cut/mince/slice/chop the garlic and then let it sit for TEN MINUTES before exposing it to heat.
A garlic press is the best tool for combining the alliin and alliinase. Jo Robinson says, “press, then rest”.
Many grocery stores carry garlic grown in China; check where your garlic is coming from. This is frustrating for someone that grocery shops in the same county as Gilroy, the garlic capital of the world. I am a locavore, after all.
There are two garlic varieties: softneck and hardneck. Hardneck garlic has a hollow stub that protrudes from the top. Softneck garlic appears to have a stem, but it is simply the papery skin that has been twisted.
Store garlic in the fridge (not the crisper drawer) for the longest shelf life. Until it is cut it will not leave the fridge with bad odors.
It is native to the Mediterranean, Syria, and China.
Excellent source of vitamins B6 and C, manganese, and selenium and a good source of phosphorous, calcium, potassium, iron, and copper.
Has been demonstrated to protect against atherosclerosis, heart disease, elevated cholesterol levels, elevated blood pressure.
Historically has been used to to fight infections because of its antimicrobial activity.
I love sweet potatoes, but I haven’t alway loved them. I remember the first sweet potato French fry that I had back in 2003 in Monterey. I hated them. Now, I could each them nearly every day. One of my favorite recipes for sweet potatoes is for savory sweet potato cakes from Mediterranean Paleo Cooking. This is a great recipe. We usually just bake them and add plenty of Kerrygold butter (grass-fed). Jennifer Tyler Lee recommends mashed sweet potatoes or crispy sweet potato fries. Yum!
Sweet potatoes belong to the morning glory family and are not at all related to potatoes (nightshade family).
They are native to Central America/northern South America. Colobus brought sweet potatoes back to Spain with him, but those original sweet potatoes were similar to carrots, not like our modern sweet potatoes.
Their glycemic index is 45 (sugar is 100). The glycemic index of potatoes by comparison is 75-100. The glycemic index is a measurement of how much a food raises the blood sugar.
They are rich source of antioxidants, especially the carotenes.
In the supermarket, most yams are simply marked as yams, but are truly just another variety of sweet potatoes. True yams are hardly ever sold in the United States.
If you’re looking to grow a very nutrient dense variety of sweet potato, opt for the Carolina Ruby.
Do not store uncooked sweet potatoes in the fridge.
Boiling sweet potatoes reduces their antioxidant value, while steaming, roasting, or baking does not.
The skin is more nutritious than the flesh.
Good source of vitamins C, B2, B6, and manganese, copper, biotin, and pantothenic acid.
Good source of fiber.
In animal studies, they have been shown to help stabilize blood sugar levels.
This week’s new food is Corn. While I do love corn on the corn and am totally addicted corn tortilla chips, this is a contentious food for me for a couple of reasons.
Most corn is genetically modified. I personally don’t trust GMO foods and try to avoid them as much as possible.
Corn is in everything. Dextrose, corn syrup, HFCS, maltodextrin, corn starch, and more. Many foods that are highly processed and then added to processed foods are also highly allergenic foods. As a species survival mechanism, plant foods contain tiny amounts of toxins. Overconsumption of one type of food builds up the amount of toxins we are exposed to. So I recommend limiting corn consumption.
Corn is one of the top 8 most allergenic foods.
Ever seen whole corn kernels in your stool? MOST people don’t digest corn well.
It’s not a nutrient dense food and crowds out room for more nutritious foods.
With all that said, I do occasionally eat corn, I usually opt for blue or purple corn because these heirloom varieties are less likely to be genetically modified. Jennifer Tyler Lee recommends a corn salsa or popping the corn while it’s still on the cobb. That sounds like fun! I DO love heirloom popcorn made on the stove with ghee and then topped with real butter. It’s my vice.
Corn is native to Central America.
Corn is high in vitamins A, B5, B6, C, folate, thiamine, niacin, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, manganese, riboflavin, and zinc.
Good source of carotenoids, specifically zeaxanthin and beta-cryptoxanthin, as well as phenols.
Carotenoids can help to lower blood pressure as well as reduce risk of breast cancer for post-menopausal women.
Modern corn has been bred to have more sugar and is lower in phytonutrients.
Blue corn has nearly thirty times the antioxidant values of modern white corn.
Darker yellow corn varieties have more nutrients than white corn.
There are other varieties as well: red, orange, purple, blue, and black. These varieties are rarely found at the store but could be grown at home.
Frozen corn is equally nutritious as fresh corn; canned corn can also be as nutritious as fresh corn.
Corn is not a complete source of protein alone.
Corn contains niacin, but in whole food form, it is not bio-available. Native Americans soaked their maize in lime which allowed the niacin become available for the body.
It’s no secret, I’m not a fan of raw tomatoes. I’ve never liked them. In fact, I’m the black sheep of the family in regards to my dislike of tomatoes. With that being said, I believe that one day I will love raw tomatoes [growth mindset]. I do like cooked tomatoes of all kinds (except ketchup, yuck!). I am starting to like heirloom tomatoes in a caprese salad. I think the reason I don’t really like tomatoes is because of their strong flavor – it totally changes the taste of a burger, sandwich, or salad. Jennifer Tyler Lee and I are kindred spirits in this way. 🙂 The other fact that helps me feel justified in not liking raw tomatoes is that unless it’s summer, tomatoes are either grown in greenhouses or internationally, or are grown in Florida (Florida’s “soil” is actually just sand and is void of nutrients). So unless they are garden tomatoes or farmer’s market tomatoes, they are often mealy and are picked when green. The book Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit is fascinating. Highly recommended! Anywho… Jennifer Tyler Lee recommends roasted tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato pops! I recently made a cherry tomato chutney at a Sur la Table cooking class – it was delicious!
They are technically a fruit!
Tomatoes belong to the nightshade family (along with potatoes, eggplant, peppers- all kinds, and some spices). Nightshades are known to be inflammatory. Nightshades are commonly removed during a 5-R Protocol to determine food intolerances.
There are over a THOUSAND different types of tomatoes and can be a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors.
Native to South America.
The leaves of the tomato are toxic. It was long believed that tomatoes were poisonous because they belong to the nightshade family which houses other poisonous plants (poisonous nightshade and black henbane).
Great source of vitamins B6, C, and K, carotenes (especially lycopene), beta-carotene, biotin, folic acid, pantothenic acid, niacin, and fiber.
Lycopene content is FIVE times greater in cooked tomatoes because cooking causes the cell walls to burst and “free” the lycopene. Also, the redder and riper the tomato, the more lycopene content.
Lycopene in particular has been shown to protect against cancers of the breast, colon, lung, skin, and prostate. Additionally, it has been shown to lower the risk of heart disease, cataracts, and macular degeneration.
Highest levels of vitamin C can be obtained from raw tomatoes.
Fully ripe tomatoes cannot be shipped long distances. Therefore they are picked when underripe and then gassed with ethylene. You probably know what I’m going to say here….buy them at a local farmer’s market, CSA, or grown your own!
Cherry tomatoes have more lycopene per ounce and are sweeter and more flavorful than their larger counterparts. Smaller is better!
Butter lettuce is another favorite of mine. I appreciate that it has a mild flavor and is a healthier alternative to iceberg lettuce. While working for Tomatero Organic Farm, it was a very popular item. Jennifer Tyler Lee recommends Chinese chicken lettuce wraps and of course, salad. Like Jennifer, I use butter lettuce in salads and in lettuce wraps. I think this is a great gateway lettuce for those that like iceberg lettuce in their salads (as I used to as a kid and teenager). It’s mild with a nice texture and can hopefully get people to start liking more nutrient dense and flavorful greens in their salads.
This type of lettuce is has a delicate texture and a slightly sweet flavor.
Common varieties include Boston and Bibb.
The darker the leaves, the more nutrients due to higher photosynthesis activity, and therefore higher phytonutrient values.
Additionally, the less tightly packed leaves on a head of lettuce, the more phytonutrients it has (i.e. iceberg has very tightly packed leaves, whereas loose leaf lettuces are not tightly packed at all). Lettuce leaves need sunlight to grow but the UV rays can also damage them. In order to survive, plants make “sunscreen” in the form of antioxidants. Those antioxidants make the plant more nutrient dense and that plant protection then becomes our own protection when we eat them.
The inner leaves on the lettuce head are exposed to very little sunlight and therefore are very low in nutrients; as a result, the outer leaves are exposed to the most sunlight and are higher in nutrients.
Precut lettuces (like in pre-made salads) start loosing their antioxidant values as soon as they are cut.
Lettuce all are a good source of chlorophyll and vitamin K.
Moisture on lettuce leaves cause them to prematurely degrade, opt for a salad spinner to rinse and dry lettuce. This can help the lettuce to last several days.