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Sunday, July 31, 2011

BOTTLE GOURDS-SUMMER SQUASHES-HISTORY, USES AND HEALTH BENEFITS: RECIPE KADDU GOSHT


THE BOTTLE GOURD, KADDU, LANGENARIA SICERARIA
The origins of the bottle gourd are uncertain, but they either originated in Asia or Africa, where they can still be found growing wild. They are summer squash and members of the Cucurbitaceae family which includes pumpkins, courgettes, marrows and the ash gourd. We eat the unripe fruit of the plant, as the ripe fruit has a very hard rind and when dried and hollowed can be used to make bowls, dippers for water and decorative items, as well as a huge variety of musical instruments. I spent one summer in south western Turkey painting the ripe ones to make Turkish figures to decorate restaurants and shops. I was amazed when tourists wanted to buy them as I have never thought of myself as an artist!
  These days I content myself with eating kaddu or kaddo as they are called in Pakistan. These are pale green and round, and apparently are good to ease the burning prickly sensation some people have in the soles of their feet. Apparently the best part to use is the part near the stem and you rub this onto your soles to relieve the sensation. You can also use turnips or a henna paste to do the same thing, but henna leaves its orange mark on the feet (and toes).The fruit of this gourd can be dried for later use, for its cooling properties. It is an aid to digestion and has many uses in traditional medicine both in the Indian sub-continent and Africa, as well as other parts of the world where it is cultivated.
  It is one of the oldest cultivated crops and was grown in the Mediterranean in the Bronze Age. The gourds have been put to many uses, such as being made into penis sheaths in Papua New Guinea.
   In traditional medicine in the Indian subcontinent, a glass of the fresh juice of the fresh unripe gourd is mixed with lime juice and drunk to relieve urinary tract infections such as cystitis. The juice is also a thirst quencher and good for diabetics and for those who have consumed too much fatty food. It is also said to prevent fatigue.
  They say that if the juice is mixed with sesame oil and massaged into the scalp at night it will prevent insomnia and ensure a good night’s sleep. The juice has been prescribed for insanity and mental disorders as well as for epilepsy and to help with stomach ulcers and combat acidity in the gut. The juice mixed with ginger and pepper prevents constipation, bleeding and helps combat obesity, so they say. The fruit has a fairly high fibre content so is good for constipation and so for piles.
  The flowers are said to be an antidote for poison, and if you make a poultice with the crushed leaves of the plant and put it on your forehead, this will get rid of a headache. The stem bark and rind of the fruit makes a good diuretic, (personally I’d rather drink sattu or a tukh malanga and gond katira drink or eat a mooli).The fruit is said to be good to remove gravel and stones from the organs, and has cooling properties, and I think this last part is true at least. A poultice of the baked seeds is put on boils to burst them and then get rid of them, and it is good for diabetes. The seeds are used to remove internal worms, and the pulp around the seeds is used for its purgative properties.
  Some people eat the tender young shoots and leaves from the plant as a vegetable, and the leaves can be chopped and used to flavour soups and stews. The seeds yield pale yellow transparent oil which can be used in cooking and which like laverbread and spinach contains iodine.
  The fruit is rich in the B-complex vitamins, thiamin, riboflavin and niacin, as well as vitamin C in the form of ascorbic acid and bioflavonoids. It has antioxidant properties and so can help prevent cell damage from free radicals which can cause cancer. The fruit also contains 13 amino acids, including glutamic acid and the minerals calcium, phosphorous, iron, sodium and potassium.
  Modern medical research suggests that an extract from the bottle gourd can help with cases of Obsessive–Compulsive-Disorder, although more tests are needed. It has pain-killing properties and antiviral ones, as well as being a possible cancer preventative. It is a diuretic and has anti-inflammatory properties too. It may also protect the liver and regulate the immune system, so it is a very beneficial fruit to add to your diet. Why not try the recipe below?
  You need to scrape the outer skin from the fruit rather than peel it so that it retains its nutrients.

KADDO GOSHT (KADDO AND MEAT)
Ingredients
½ kg beef, cubed
½ kg kaddo
1 onion, sliced
2 tomatoes roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 inch ginger root, peeled and finely chopped
1 handful fresh coriander leaves, shredded 
6 green chillies, finely chopped
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp chilli powder
salt to taste
6 whole black peppercorns
1 cup oil

Method
Scrape the kaddo and cut into cubes then put it into water until ready to use.
Heat the oil in a deep pan and add the garlic, cumin seeds and ginger and fry for 1 min.
Put in the meat and seal on all sides (3-4 mins).
Add the onion and fry for 2 mins and then add the tomatoes and green chillies and fry for 2 to 3 mins.
Add 2 glasses of water with all the spices and stir well.
Cover the pot and cook over a medium heat for about ½ hour.
Put the drained kaddo in the pan and stir to mix. Keep stirring for 5 mins.
Add 2 more glasses of water and stir the mixture well, then cover and cook over a low heat for a further ½ hour.
Remove from the heat and add the coriander leaves, and stir them into the mixture.
Leave to stand for 10 mins and then serve with breads (roti or naan).
This has Taste and is a Treat.



Saturday, July 30, 2011

CHANTERELLE MUSHROOMS - FORAGERS' TREASURE: HEALTH BENEFITS AND USES OF CHANTERELLES: SIMPLE RECIPE FOR CHANTERELLES


CHANTERELLE MUSHROOMS, CANTHARELLUS CIBARIUS
Chanterelles have a meaty texture, with a mildly peppery taste and smell a little of apricots or peaches when freshly gathered. They grow under not on trees so if you go foraging for chanterelles (and they are well worth the effort) remember this point as they resemble other fungi which are poisonous. This is true of the False Chanterelle (Hygrophropsis arantiaca) which has orange gills and a darker cap than a true chanterelle. The Latin name Cantharellus comes from the Greek kανθαρέλλος which means cup or drinking vessel, given to it because of the shape of the chanterelles’ cap.
  Chanterelles grow in many parts of the world, although there are variants. It is the state mushroom of Oregon USA (but that’s the Pacific golden chanterelle) and is the girolle of Europe, (gallinaccio in Italian). The Italian variety has an intense flavour although the ones in Britain may be mild or intense in flavour, depending on where they grow. In German it is known as the pfifferling, because of that peppery taste. They grow in Asia too and I’m told there are a lot of them in Pakistan’s Kashmir province along with morels (gucchi).The locals call them siri.
Golden Pacific chanterelles
   They are one of the more expensive mushrooms, but are not anywhere near as expensive as truffles. Our ancestors would certainly have eaten them and they would have been gathered by peasants throughout history, with these and truffles, peasant food wasn’t too bad, although of course such food is seasonal with chanterelles being found mainly in the spring and autumn or in the rainy seasons. Traditionally mushrooms particularly chanterelles have been assumed to be aphrodisiacs, with the 11th century Normans in Britain feeding them to grooms at their wedding feasts. The minerals they contain along with the amino acids and vitamins, probably make them good for the libido, especially for men with erectile dysfunctions.
  Chanterelles have an affinity with certain trees and particularly birch, beech, oak, and pine in descending order, as they seem to like birch trees best, but they also seem to quite like larch and sweet chestnut trees too. They grow in soil which is damp, but not swampy or marshy ground.
  If you go picking them, make sure that you wash them thoroughly and clean the gills. This is best done with a soft toothbrush.
  They are great added to soups and stews and go well with eggs, but can be used to accompany any meat dish. Treat them as you would any other mushroom as far as cooking goes. Personally I love them and am always happy when I find them either in woods or on a supermarket shelf.
False chanterelles- poisonous!
  Like other mushrooms they contain vitamins A and D as well as some of the B-complex ones. They contain all the essential amino acids and glutamic acid is believed to boost the immune system and may help fight cancer, infections and rheumatoid arthritis. There is evidence that it inhibits blood clotting, which is valuable in the fight against heart disease. As for minerals, they contain potassium which regulates blood pressure and the contractions of the heart muscle; copper, manganese, magnesium, calcium, zinc and selenium which is good for the mood and the brain. It’s not so long ago that people used to think that there was little nutritional value in a mushroom; they thought they mainly consisted of water. (The same was true for lettuce.) They also contain fibre in the form of cellulose, which helps with the disposal of wastes from the body and so helps to prevent constipation and piles.
  Try this simple recipe, or use your chanterelles as a stuffing for crêpes or a topping for a homemade pizza. You can use this as a side dish or with pasta.


SIMPLE CHANTERELLES
Ingredients
Chanterelles, cleaned thoroughly and chopped
50 gr butter
3 tbsps olive oil
3 or 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 onion, finely sliced
a few sprigs curly-leaves parsley, shredded
freshly ground black pepper
salt if necessary to taste
a little brandy
¼ pt natural yoghurt or fresh single cream

Method
Heat the oil and butter in a pan and add the onion and garlic and fry until the onions are translucent, stirring so that they don’t burn.
Add the chanterelles and fry for 5 mins, stirring so that they don’t burn.
Add the brandy if using and the parsley and cook for two or three minutes, stirring.
Now add the yoghurt or cream, stirring and the black pepper, and bring to just under boiling point.
Remove from the heat and serve as a side dish or as a sauce for pasta.
This has Taste and is a Treat.



Friday, July 29, 2011

SPINACH ( PALAK ) - HISTORY: HEALTH BENEFITS AND USES OF SPINACH: SPINACH AND PINE NUTS STIR-FRY RECIPE


SPINACH, PALAK IN URDU, SPINACIA OLERACIA
Spinach is a native of south-west and central Asia, and comes in many forms. It is a member of the Amaranth family, Amaranthaceae, so is a close relative of the Elephant’s Head. It was not known to the ancient Greeks and Romans, because of its origins. The ancestor of spinach is thought to have been Spinacia telreindo an edible wild green which possibly came from the ancient Persian Empire, and which is still foraged for in modern-day Anatolia in Turkey. Spinach was cultivated by the Arabs in the 8th century AD and found its way to Spain with them by the 12th century. The first references to spinach in surviving literature is from Persian between 246 and 640 AD, and we know that it was taken from Nepal into China in 647AD where it became known as “the Persian green” a name by which it is still known today. It became a popular vegetable in France in the 15th century and in the 17th century the English philosopher John Locke who was a supporter of the French Revolution, mentions in his writing that he ate a soup of spinach and herbs while he was in France. He must have liked it to have written about it, I suppose.
  The Italians took to spinach and used it in the Arabian style, mixing it with pine nuts and sultanas, and in Turkey by the 13th century it was served with a garlic and yoghurt sauce with meat in much the same way as döner kebab is served today. The Italians, of all the Europeans have been the ones to most readily adopt new vegetables; just think of how much the tomato is associated with Italian cuisine.
  Red spinach such as elephant’s head has been used for its medicinal properties in the Asian subcontinent and China for centuries, and elsewhere it is used to relieve constipation and so help with piles, and for the skin, taken internally or externally. Bruised spinach is good for stings and insect bites and mixed with milk thistle (Silybum marianum) it has been a home remedy for poisoning by the Amanita mushroom, although if you suspect you have mushroom poisoning, go to hospital, don’t try to treat yourself! It is believed that the alpha-lipoic acid (also found in broccoli and red meat), which has antioxidant properties, may help against such poisoning, but this has not been proven.
  Spinach has also been used for anaemia, because of its iron content, think about Pop-Eye here, and it contains lots of vitamin C so can help in any diet, especially in summer when there is a dearth of fresh citrus fruit. The fibre in spinach is also good for the digestive system. The brighter the green of the spinach leaf, the higher the vitamin C content is.
  It contains all 8 essential amino acids and 10 others and is packed with nutrients, which are still being investigated by scientists. For example, the carotenoids “epoxyxanthophylls” abound in spinach and it is thought that these may protect against cancers despite the fact that the body does not absorb them as well as it does other carotenoids such as beta-carotene and lutein. Two of these are violaxanthin and neoxanthin which are found prolifically in spinach leaves, but scientists have yet to research their possibilities fully. The glycoclycerolipids which are necessary for photosynthesis to occur may from spinach at least help protect the lining of the digestive tract and prevent inflammation occurring in it.
  It is though that, like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts etc, consumption of spinach may protect against certain cancers, such as prostate cancer. The flavonoids present in spinach ensure that it has potent antioxidant properties, which also inhibit the growth of cancerous cells as they combat the free radicals which damage cells. Spinach contains vitamins A, K, 5 of the B-complex ones including B3 niacin, and folate. It also has most of the minerals, in particular potassium, but also iron, calcium, phosphorous, copper, selenium, boron, sodium, zinc, iodine (like laverbread), chloride, magnesium, manganese and sodium. Add to this Omega-3 and other “good” fats, and you can see for yourself how nutritious these leaves are.
  The carotenoid, lutein, contained in spinach is good for eyes and can help to at least delay the onset of age-related cataracts and macular degeneration. The body can absorb this better if it has a little oil such as olive oil with the spinach. In fact, you should at least blanch spinach leaves in boiling water for 1 minute to get rid of the oxalic acid in the leaves. It is doubtful that you could ingest enough to harm you by eating spinach, but perhaps it’s better to be on the safe side. You can refresh the blanched leaves in cold water to perk up the colour before adding to a salad.
  Spinach can boost the immune system, possibly protect against cancers and having anti-inflammatory qualities can assist in cases of arthritis, osteoporosis, asthma and migraines. It is also good for the heart and can lower blood pressure. The nutrients in spinach can also help protect the brain and its cognitive abilities from premature aging, and helps to retain memory. Not only does it do all these things when eaten, but you can also use it as a beauty treatment by making face packs with it. Try one of these: - for combination skin or problem skin (spots or acne) you need ½ a cup of spinach, 1 egg white and 1 tbsp of aloe vera juice. Blend these together or mash them and put the mixture on your face and leave it for 20 minutes; rinse off with warm water. This protects you skin from atmospheric pollution, smoothes out wrinkles, and nourishes the skin. Use this twice a week to get rid of spots and help with acne.
  For dry skin and wrinkles mix 2 tbsps cooked spinach with the same quantity of natural organic yoghurt and 1 tbsp of grated carrot. Use this face pack at night though as it can make the skin sensitive to UV rays. Leave this one on your face for 15 minutes then rinse off with warm water and use this mask twice a week for the best results.
  If your skin is sensitive, you should mix 2 tbsps cooked spinach leaves with the same quantity of fresh chamomile leaves and lettuce. Blend them together and leave on your face for 30 minutes before rinsing off. Again use this twice a week for the best results.
  Try our saag or spinach soup recipes or try this side dish given below. It’s good with fish, white or red meats and with pasta.

SPINACH AND PINE NUTS STIR-FRY
Ingredients
1 bundle of spinach, thoroughly cleaned and large stalks removed
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
50 gr pine nuts
20 gr sultanas soaked in lemon juice
1 small handful mint leaves shredded
freshly ground black pepper
olive oil for frying
freshly grated Parmesan cheese for topping

Method
Heat the oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds, then after 30 seconds add the onion and garlic and fry until the onion is soft and translucent.
Add the pine nuts and sultanas and fry for a minute or two.
Now add the spinach and stir until the leaves have wilted, and add the black pepper.
Stir for 5 minutes or less then remove from the heat and serve as suggested above.
Serve with Parmesan.
This has Taste and is a Treat.





Thursday, July 28, 2011

TARO/ TARO ROOT - HEALTH BENEFITS AND USES: TARO AND BEEF CURRY RECIPE


TARO, DASHEEN, COLOCASIA ESCULENTA, KACHALO IN PUNJABI
Taro is a starchy corm which originated probably in Malaysia and India, where it still grows wild. It can grow in wet or dry places although there is one variety which has been bred to only grow in dry ones. It has heart shaped leaves which can be eaten like spinach, and the root looks like a Jerusalem artichoke only bigger. In Urdu it is arvi and kachalo in Punjabi. It was cultivated in the Indian subcontinent by 5000BC. The Hawaiians call it kalo and have really taken to this root over the centuries. It comes into their Creation myth, and they believe that people are related to this root. It is now found throughout SE Asia and the Pacific Islands. It is known by other names around the world apart from those already listed, in Africa it is the old cocoyam and edoe or eddo is another name for it. It arrived in the Caribbean at some stage, and is now grown in many countries around the globe.
  The taro that grows on dry land is has a dark purple skin and white roots, and has a nutty flavour when cooked, and it must be cooked as it contains calcium oxalate a crystal-like substance that breaks down when cooked. You should take care when peeling taro as it can cause skin irritation.
  The Hawaiians hold this root sacred, and there are various ways of using it. It is used in traditional medicine, and when made into a purple paste they call poi, it turns up at the luaus or pig feasts. Research has been done into the health benefits of poi, and as the root is highly nutritious and easy to digest, it is good for infants who fail to thrive. Recent research has found that the root may be liver protective and can detoxify the liver, although the experiments were carried out in vitro on rat livers. It is also good for people who suffer from allergies.
Taro leaves
  In 2004 researchers Amy C. Brown and Ana Valiere found that poi might be beneficial to sufferers of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), diabetes, a depressed immune system, inadequate lactose digestion and some cancers, and Dr. Brown and others published results in 2005 which suggested that poi “might have novel tumour-specific anti-cancer activities”( Phytotherapy Research Journal 2005).
  It is believed that taro corms can help regulate blood pressure and blood sugar, and may help protect us from cardio-vascular disease and cancer.
Taro field
  Taro corms contain vitamins A, C, E and K plus the B-complex ones of thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, B6, folate B12 and pantothenic acid (B5) and choline. It also contains the minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, sodium, zinc and selenium, as well as Omega-3 and-6 fatty acids. There are 18 amino acids in the corm and bet-carotene, so it is packed with nutrients and a very healthy addition to a diet, which is good as it is a staple food in some Asian and African countries.
  It was also a staple in ancient Egypt and from there it became known to the Greeks and Romans. They ate not only the root or corm, but also the leaves which they say taste a bit like cabbage. I have only eaten the corm, which tasted like a starchy Jerusalem artichoke to me, in fact when I first saw it that’s what I thought it was. You can do the same with a taro corm as with a potato, a sweet potato or even a yam, and add them to soups or stews to thicken them.
  The leaf juice is used to treat piles and as a laxative in some traditional medicines systems, while in Hawaii poi is mixed with arrowroot for diarrhoea. The heated tubers are applied to joints to ease rheumatic pains, and the raw juice is mixed with other plant juices for fevers. The ash of a burnt coconut shell is mixed with grated corms for thrush (candida) and it is also used for insect stings. In Pakistan and India taro corms are sold on the street in much the same way as in Britain you can buy a baked potato at a stall and take it away to eat.
  Because taro corms contain a fair amount of sodium, you may not want to add salt to them. Try this recipe and is you haven’t got taro you can substitute potatoes or yams.


TARO AND BEEF CURRY
Ingredients
½ kilo beef, cubed
4 large taro corms, peeled and cubed
1 large onion, chopped
3 or 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 tbsp tamarind (imli) paste
½ tsp turmeric (haldi)
1 tsp chilli powder
2 tsps dry-fried coriander seeds, ground
1 cup water
oil for frying

Method
Heat the oil in a pan and add the cumin and mustard seed; fry until they release their aroma.
Add the onion, garlic and curry leaves and fry until translucent. Then add the meat and seal it on all sides.
Add the taro corms and fry for 3-4 minutes.
Now add the tomatoes, chilli powder and coriander and fry for 4 minutes.
Add the tamarind pulp cover, with water put a lid on the pot and cook for 30 mins.
Add the garam masala and black pepper, freshly ground if you want to use it (I do, but I can’t not have black pepper).
You shouldn’t need to add more water, but if you do add a little now.
Cook for 10 to 15 minutes then turn off the heat and let it settle for about 10 minutes.
Serve with rice.
This has Taste and is a Treat.













Wednesday, July 27, 2011

WHAT IS SORGHUM? JAWAR: HISTORY, HEALTH BENEFITS AND USES OF SORGHUM


Johnson grass

SORGHUM, JAWAR, SORGHUM BICOLOR AND JOHNSON GRASS, SORGHUM HALEPENSE
Johnson Grass is the parent of Sorghum bicolor, and is an invasive weeds which grows between the grain sorghum in many countries. It is also known as Sorghum vulgare. This grows wild in Pakistan and India and is sometimes used in traditional medicine as a soothing herb for digestion, and a decoction of the seeds can be made into a paste for skin problems and irritation. The grains are also a diuretic and a decoction of the seeds can be made using 2 ounces of them in 2 pints of water, boiled down to one pint. The seeds may be eaten raw or cooked and can be ground into flour used to make breads or made into porridge, like oatmeal.
  Sorghum is grown for its grain, while sweet sorghum is grown for its stalks which are made into sorghum syrup in a process similar to extracting the juice from sugar cane. Both sweet sorghum and Johnson’s grass can grow to more than 6 feet tall but the grain sorghums are dwarf varieties, making it easier to harvest the seeds, which, when on the plant look like huge heads of millet (bajra).
  Sorghum can be used instead of barley for brewing and this is done in Nigeria and Uganda where it is employed for making lager type beer. It is cheaper than barley so good for commercial producers of beers.
  Sorghum is indigenous to Africa, although it was domesticated in India before recorded history, and was growing in Assyria by 700 BC. It reached China in the 13th century and got to the rest of the world much later, although Johnson Grass is native to the Mediterranean and Europe as well as the Middle East, where it has been used as forage for animals. In fact there are somewhere between 20 and 30 species of sorghum growing around the world. S. bicolor is the one that is mainly produced commercially though.
  Sorghum is a drought resistant cereal crop as the leaf blade and sheaths are covered with a heavy white waxy substance which seals in moisture, protecting the plant from water loss. It is therefore useful in drought-ridden countries in the developing world and in Africa there is the Africa Biofortified Sorghum project which was set up to help reduce the deaths attributed to malnutrition, which, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) constitutes a “silent emergency” killing millions of people a year and depleting the long-term economy of still-developing countries. The sorghum is being enhanced with vitamin A, the amino acid lysine, along with the minerals iron and zinc.
  Sorghum naturally contains three of the B-complex vitamins, B1, B2 and B3 and all 8 essential amino acids as well as 10 more including lysine, but it does not contain vitamin A and only small amounts (relatively) of iron and zinc .It also is rich in phosphorous and potassium and also contains calcium and sodium. It is high in fibre and has both Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids present. It has potent antioxidant properties and is gluten free which makes it a good alternative grain for those with gluten allergies.
  Much of the sorghum grown around the world is for fodder, and a lot goes into the production of ethanol, which is used to raise octane levels in petrol. When it is eaten the hull is usually left on so that all the nutrients are present. It is the third most important cereal grown in the States, although it is not generally eaten there, but made into syrup or put into animal feed. It was taken to the US sometime in the early 17th century and was cultivated in the southern state by slaves. It is used to make industrial adhesives, in wallboard, and in paper-making.  It is also used for biodegradable packing material. In other countries where it is allowed to grow tall the stalks are used in weaving and the red pigment from the plant is used to dye leather. The dried stalks can be used for fuel for cooking so it is very useful. Sorghum dye has been patented in hair dying products.
   It is used in traditional medicine in the countries it grows in to treat a number of ailments wherever it grows. For example in Nigeria it is used to prevent miscarriages, as a soothing agent for the mucus membranes and to aid digestion, as a diuretic and to soothe the skin. It is also used as a poison. Sorghum bicolor is also used to treat stomach aches, cancer and epilepsy, and the seeds are made in a decoction for diarrhoea. The stem is used to reduce tubercular swellings. It is also used for anaemia sufferers and as a blood purifier and tonic.
  In India jawar is used to get rid of intestinal worms and as an effective insecticide as there are phenolic compounds and tannins in it which keep insects at bay.
  In Brazil a decoction of the seeds is given for respiratory problems, for example bronchitis, coughs etc as well as for kidney and urinary tract problems.
  Sorghum bicolor contains hydrocyanic acid and hordenium alkaloid and so is poisonous if ingested in huge quantities. The Saika people of Nigeria use sorghum extracts in arrow poisons.
   In medical research it has been found that the aqueous leaf-sheathe extract of S. bicolor can protect the liver and could be a treatment for anaemia. However a lot more research has to be done before this is proven. The red pigment in the leaf sheathe seems to have these protective properties. This research was published in the Journal of Cell and Animal Biology Volume 9 (4) in September 2010 by Akand I.S. et al. Other research has suggested that the plant may help in increasing cell immunity in people with HIV/AIDS, but once more this has yet to be demonstrated in humans.
  







Tuesday, July 26, 2011

SWEET CORN - HISTORY, USES AND HEALTH BENEFITS: HOW TO MAKE TUNA AND CORN SALAD


SWEET CORN, MAKAI IN URDU AND OTHERS ZEA MAYS
Sweet corn or corn on the cob is a variant of Zea mays, Zea mays var nigosa or Zea saccharata (meaning sugary). It originated in what is now Mexico and Central America, from a wild grass, which was crossed with teosinte (another wild grass) but the original ancestor no longer exists. Popcorn comes from Zea mays var. everta. Zea mays is the original corn that was grown by the tribes of Central America and Mexico, the Aztecs, Mayans and Olmecs and can be yellow, white, purple, red, brown and even have multi-coloured kernels. Some corn pollen grains were found in drill cores 200 feet below Mexico City which are believed to be 80,000 tears old, so it has a very ancient history. Perhaps it originated in the Tehuacan Valley in Mexico, but scientists are not certain of this.
  It is believed that it was first domesticated between 9,000 and 8,000 BC and by 2,000 to 1,500 BC it had become a staple food in the diets of the Olmecs and Mayans, who held it in great reverence, so much so that it became part of their daily rituals and took on religious significance. It also featured in their art.
  Native Americans also valued corn and used it as both a food and medicine as well as for other purposes, such as weaving the fibres from the plant into sleeping mats, moccasins, baskets and other items. Corn husk dolls were also made after using the edible kernels.
  They used corn for grinding into flour, and this cornmeal was also used in poultices for bruises, swellings and to cure sores and headaches. They also used corn as a diuretic to get rid of excess fluids in the body. The corn husks would be burned and parts of the body which had sores, ulcers, or other skin problems would be held over the smoke, to cure them.
  Corn has wound healing properties due partly to the presence of allantoin which is often used in herbal remedies, but which comes, in other countries, from comfrey, Symphytum officinale.
  The Spaniards came across corn in the 15th century and too it back to Spain in the 16th. It was the only grain known in the Americas at the time. To begin with sweet corn was greeted with suspicion in Europe and confined to having purely ornamental value. The same thing happened with the aubergine, potato, sweet potato and of course the tomato when they were first introduced into Europe.
  The introduction of corn caused some confusion in the England and Wales as corn was the name in those countries for what is now called wheat, and this is how cornflowers got their name. In Scotland and Ireland, corn was the name used for oats, which further confused the issue. Even now, wheat fields are referred to as corn fields by many in England and Wales. Corn on the cob is called that and sweet corn to distinguish between wheat and what the Native Americans called and still call maize.
Corn purple
  By 1575 corn had been introduced into the Philippines, Indonesia and western China. It was also taken to Africa where it has become a staple food. It was useful in that continent during the years of the slave trade, as although people were transported to the colonies in the New World, corn helped the population to grow rather than to diminish from illnesses such as malnutrition and because of the fact that so many people wee transported.
  Corn contains some of the B-complex vitamins including B1 (thiamin), B2 (niacin), B3 (riboflavin) B5 (pantothenic acid) and B6, making corn good for hair, skin, the digestion, heart and brain. It also contains vitamins C, A and K along with amino acids, flavonoids, and large amounts of beta-carotene and a fair amount of selenium which improves the functions of the thyroid gland and plays a role in the proper functioning of the immune system. Beta-carotene is also found in tomatoes, papaya, pumpkin and red peppers. Corn therefore possesses potent antioxidant properties which help to protect the body from the ravages of free radicals which can damage the cells and cause cancer. Corn also contains fibre which is essential to our diet. It also helps with production of sex and stress-related hormones and is good for our sexual health especially that of men as niacin can help with erectile dysfunctions.
  It is believed that it can help with the symptoms of arthritis and rheumatism as the B-complex vitamins can improve joint mobility.
   Today there are many uses for corn, and the majority of that grown is not used for human consumption, but to make ethanol which is used instead of lead to increase the octane level of petrol, and for animal feed. We use cornstarch for glue used in binding books, for printers’ ink, shoe polish, aspirin and cosmetics as well as for strengthening fabrics. Corn starch is also made from this plant, and that is found in more than 2,000 processed foods, including marshmallows (the sweet, not Marsh mallow the plant).and ice creams.
Corn purple
  Other types of corn include Popcorn, a type of hard corn called aptly flint corn, which has small hard kernels. The natural moisture inside the kernels builds up when they are heated and the hard outer skin explodes from the build-up of pressure inside the kernel. It is this corn that was grown by the ancient American tribes in Mesoamerica. There is Dent corn so-called because each kernel has a dent in it, which is softer than flint corn and used mainly for livestock feed and processed foods. Flour corn is starchy and easily ground for baking. Pod corn is the first type of corn ever grown, and each kernel has its own husk. This is grown purely for scientific research as it is too time-consuming to take each kernel out of an individual husk.
  It seems that sweet corn has some very beneficial properties although some of the traditional uses have yet to be proved, such as its use in the treatment of kidney stones and gravel. In China it is used as a diuretic and to help in cases of jaundice. It is believed that it can help in the treatment of diabetes mellitus, although this has not been proved without doubt. It does seem to help to reduce blood sugar levels and blood pressure, however.
  It goes well with tuna fish and can be used in many ways, however it is best to steam or grill corn on the cob to get its full nutritional benefits. In Pakistan, street sellers cook it in hot sand in covered metal trays, making a delicious snack on the hoof.


TUNA AND CORN SALAD
Ingredients 
225 gr pasta shapes, cooked
400gr tuna fish, flaked
75 gr sweet corn kernels, cooked
1 broccoli head, cut into florets and cooked in boiling water for 5 mins
1 small red onion, finely sliced
1 red pepper, seeds and veins removed and cut into rings
3-4 peeled tomatoes, roughly chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method
To peel the tomatoes drop them in water that has just boiled for 10 secs then plunge them into cold water for 10 secs. The skin will come off easily.
Put all the ingredients into a salad bowl and sprinkle with oregano, seasonings and olive oil.
Toss and serve warm.
This has Taste and is a Treat.

Monday, July 25, 2011

LOVAGE - OLD-FASHIONED HERB MAKING A COMEBACK: HEALTH BENEFITS, USES AND HISTORY OF LOVAGE: FRESH LOVAGE AND VEGETABLE SOUP RECIPE


LOVAGE, LEVISTICUM OFFICINALE
Lovage is native to the Mediterranean region, but has been cultivated in Britain for centuries in herbalists’ gardens and those of monasteries and is naturalized. It is a member of the Apiaceae family or Umbelliferae family of plants and as such is related to parsley, angelica, carrots, parsnips and fennel. It has been used in alcoholic cordials for centuries, although it was probably first sold commercially by Phillips’ of Bristol in their range of shrubs which date back to 1793. In the Lovage cordial it is mixed with tansy and yarrow, and this was used in winter (and still is) mixed with brandy. It seems that the original cordials were used on long sea voyages, so lime juice was a constituent to ward off scurvy (vitamin C deficiency), while lovage was to prevent rheumatism, and shrub, a mixture of plant juices which was alcoholic was the ingredient which staved off colds and flu. The first cordials containing lovage are recorded in the 14th century, and these contained tansy and yarrow or milfoil. Lovage is also used in some liqueurs and could be found with borage in one of the Pimms mixes.
  Lovage gets its name because it was reputed to be an aphrodisiac, but also this is a corruption of Liguria, (the Italian Riviera) which was where the plant was first cultivated, it is believed. It was certainly growing there in the first century AD and probably before. Levisticum is apparently a corruption of Ligustikos, the Greek for Liguria.
  The plant grows to 5 or 6 feet tall with large flower heads, rather like cow parsley, sweet cicely and elder flowers but they are a greeny-yellow colour. The seeds these heads bear after the flower has died contain oil and have been used in traditional medicine for centuries, along with all other parts of the plant.
  In ancient times, lovage leaves were used by travellers who put them in their shoes as deodorant and for their antiseptic qualities. Today it is generally believed that the root is the most potent part of the plant, but Culpeper, writing in the 17th century believed the seeds to be the best part of the plant and that they were more potent than the root. He wrote that an infusion of the seeds,” being dropped into the eyes taketh away their redness or dimness.” He also recommended it as a drink for fevers, and a gargle for sore throats and that it should be drunk two or three times a day as a remedy for pleurisy. He suggested that the leaves should be bruised and flattened and cooked in “hog’s lard” and used hot on boils and skin eruptions.
  Traditionally the plant has been used to stimulate the appetite, stop flatulence, aid digestion and an infusion of the roots has been used for gravel and kidney stones and urinary tract inflammation for problems such as cystitis. The leaves have been used for their diuretic properties and as deodorant.
  The leaves have been taken as an emmenagogue for centuries to ease period pains and bring on delayed menstruation as well as to alleviate the symptoms of PMT / PMS. The tisane can be made from 1 tbsp of fresh leaves shredded or 1 tsp dried, to one cup of boiling water which you pour over them and leaves to steep for about 15 minutes before straining and drinking .If you harvest the leaves, you can freeze them whole and shred them as you use them, rather than drying them as this may be easier. The tisane is good for a number of problems including stomach cramps during menstruation. (You should drink 2 cups a day.)
  You can use the leaves in salads- the young, tender ones are best, which come before the flower blooms. Some people confuse this plant with hemlock (Conium maculatum), which is poisonous, but the flowers are different and I think it’s more easily confused with angelica or sweet cicely. However be careful if you gather this from the wild.
  The plant has hollow stems, which can be dried and used as brushes to baste meat and fish with. They can also be used fresh as stirrers, instead of swizzle sticks or straws for Bloody Mary’s and the seeds of lovage may be substituted for celery seeds in the drink. (Lovage seeds are a little sweeter than those of celery though.)
  You can add shredded leaves to risottos and other rice dishes, and eggs-they go well in omelettes and scrambled eggs, and mashed potatoes too, as well as being testy additions to soups and stew. Use the stalks in salads as you would those of the globe artichoke, blanched and peeled or just blanched and eat it like celery. The leaves can be added to salads to give them a different flavour too.
  The roots, leaves and seeds of the plant have antispasmodic properties and have been used to speed up slow labour in child birth, and as a stimulant; .they are also mildly expectorant so are good for respiratory problems.
   You can add the leaves to your bath water or even better try this recipe:-Pour 2 pints of boiling water, over 1 cup of shredded lovage leaves, ½ a cup of the chopped root, ½ a cup of fresh mint leaves and 1 tbsp eucalyptus leaves that have been torn to the vein but are still in tact. Leave this to cool, strain and pour the liquid into the bath water when tepid for a relaxing bathe.
  Early American colonists used to chew the roots of lovage to help them stay alert, much as we chew gum, and in Mediaeval times, people wore bunches of the herb around their necks to avoid the general stench.
  In 1990 the German Commission E approved the lovage roots and dried rhizome for urinary tract inflammation (cystitis etc.) saying that “the linguistilide –containing essential oil is antispasmodic.” They concluded that it was suitable for “irrigation therapy for inflammation of the lower urinary tract and for the prevention of gravel.” The recommended daily dose is 4-8 grams of the root.
  In 2009 the European Food Safety Advisory Authority said that there was insufficient evidence for them to approve the use of the root for improved diuretic function, despite the German stance.
   Recent scientific research has shown that the essential oil from the leaves of lovage inhibit cancer cell growth in “Head and Neck Squamous Carcinoma Cells” (S. Sertel et al, University of Mainz, Germany, published in 2011 in the Anticancer Research Journal of Cancer Research and Treatment). Other research has also shown the oil to have antimycobacterial properties.
  It may be worth taking a look at the possibilities of using this herb in your kitchen and growing it in the garden; it has a number of uses.


FRESH LOVAGE AND VEGETABLE SOUP
Ingredients
20 gr butter
1 onion, finely diced
a few young lovage stalks, chopped
1 head Kos lettuce
½ cucumber diced small or a small cucumber
1 sprig thyme, stripped of its leaves
salt to taste and freshly ground black pepper
100 gr peas (shelled weight)
small handful of young lovage leaves, shredded finely
natural yoghurt to serve

Method
Warm the butter and add the onion, thyme, a pinch of salt and fry until soft and translucent.
Add the lovage stalks and fry for a further 2-3 minutes.
Add the stock and simmer for 10 minutes. (Add a glass of white wine if you like and adjust the amount of stock you use.)
Now add the rest of the vegetables, shred the lettuce, but reserve some shredded lovage leaves for garnish.
Simmer for 5-10 minutes then remove from the heat.
Serve in bowls with a swirl of natural yoghurt in each.
Serve with crusty fresh bread or garlic bread.
This has Taste and is a Treat.
  
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