Plant profile

There’s a leek in this kitchen!

You might know this one. It is the taller, greener and ‘cooler’ relative of the onion. It is not the easiest vegetable to carry in your grocery bag but it is the ingredient of many delicious recipes. And it has lots of benefits in terms of health. Since we’re well into the cold season, we introduce to you: the leek! Continue reading “There’s a leek in this kitchen!”

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Plant profile

Parsnip is your friend!

Is this a carrot? Not really. A beetroot? Not quite! Here is a vegetable that you may have seen in your local market/supermarket (especially if you live in the Czech Republic), and to which you maybe did not give a lot of interest. But don’t be fooled! The parsnip may look like a dull root, it can yet offer many culinary opportunities. Continue reading “Parsnip is your friend!”

Plant profile

Tomato

Well, tomato is the one which belongs to the nightshade family and which is not able to be classified easily by people. Is it a fruit or a vegetable? There is a common misconception which most people in the world have about tomatoes: they are vegetables. Even our friend ‘’Annoying Orange” got confused about it. Tomatoes are in fact fruits even though we can find them in veggie’s section in a supermarket. But their affinity with other savory ingredients means that they are usually classified as vegetables.

Tomatoes were discovered in western South America, then crossed the Atlantic Ocean to Spain. It took some time to be accepted by people, because they were thought to be poisonous like other members of the nightshade family (potatoes and eggplants).

The cultivation of tomatoes has started in around 19th century in the northern Europe. Nowadays, numerous varieties of tomatoes are widely grown in temperate climates across the world, with greenhouses allowing its production throughout the year and in cooler areas. Obviously, this is one of the most important and irreplaceable ingredient. that people can use in many recipes. It is completely edible except the leaves; you have to discard it as they are toxic.

There are plenty of varieties of tomatoes. They range widely in size, shape, color, plant type, disease resistance and season of maturity. You can find almost thousands different kind of tomatoes: beefsteak, salad, cherry, plum, green and etc.

Beefsteak: these are the biggest tomatoes, and have a meaty texture with a sweet, mellow flavor. They are good for salads, grilling or stuffing.

Salad (or round): this is the traditional British tomato and really needs to be ripe to get the best flavor.

Cherry: small and very sweet, cherry tomatoes are more experience than salad tomatoes but their intense flavor is worth the extra cash. They are good in salads, pasta sauces or roasted.

Plum: Available as a baby or full-grown tomato, plum tomatoes have an oval shape, with a rich flavor and comparatively few seeds. Good for making sauces.

Green: there are two types of green tomato. One is unripe, and is quite tart but good for fried.

Yellow: these ripen to a golden yellow color, and are good in salads and salsas.

The tomato is now grown and eaten around the world. You can find them in countless different foods, including pastas, pizzas, ketchup, various beverages, and as an included flavor element in dishes from breakfast to dinner. Unripe green tomatoes can also be breaded and fried, used to make salsa, or pickled. Tomato juice is sold as a drink, and is used in cocktails such as the Bloody Mary.

To sum up briefly the health benefits of tomatoes, include improved eye sight, good stomach health, and reduced blood pressure, as well as relief from diabetes, skin problems and urinary tract infections. Daily consumption of tomatoes provides a great boost to health, along with improving the flavor of food. So boost your health with tomato!

Written by

Oguzhan Kamberoglu, YEE intern

https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/glossary/tomato

https://extension.illinois.edu/veggies/tomato.cfm

https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/vegetable/tomatoes.html

Plant profile

Unknown eggplant

Aubergine, brinjal, tomato-fruited eggplant, gilos, guinea squash, mad apple, nasubi or…eggplant. Interesting name for an interesting plant. Not actually popular in European cuisine,  this plant was a victim of prejudices for a long time: it has been branded as a non-nutrition food and even assumed as one of the reason for insanity. But wait, eggplant will surprise you even more. First of all: it’s a berry.

It’s origin is probably India, where it continues to grow wild. This plant has already been cultivated in India and China for more than 1500 years. As these countries have a long history of consuming this berry, we can find some traditions and interesting facts about eggplant there:

  • Chinese fashion ladies made a black dye of eggplant, to polish their teeth so that they gleamed as metal;   
  • The oldest reference to eggplant is in a Chinese book of 5th century;
  • Brides in China had to know non less than 12 recipes with eggplant before their wedding days;
  • More than 30 names of eggplant in Sanskrit can be found in ancient Indian literature;
  • Eggplant is considered to be a king of vegetables in India.

Much later eggplant started it’s journey to the Arabic countries and Africa and Arabs introduced it to Europe. By 1800s eggplants were brought to a New World. But thanks to its bitter taste, people in Italy believed that “mad apple” can cause insanity, cancer and even leprosy. For centuries eggplant had been used just as a decoration for garden, until new varieties of eggplant, that were developed in the 18th century, changed the situation and it took its deserved place in cuisines of Greece, Turkey, France and Italy.     

People mostly know it as dark purple, stretched plant. But eggplant got Its name because of one of its’ variety, which looks exactly like an egg. Talking about variety, there are many types of eggplant: white, yellow, orange, purple, round, stretched, egg-sized and even the size of a pumpkin, with the plant itself growing from 45 cm to 5m.

Despite of its reputation, eggplant is a source of different necessary elements needed for you to live healthy. From 100g of eggplant you can get 31% of Calcium, 4% of Vitamin C and 2% of dietary fiber of daily value [1]. All this coming alone with 24 calories, which makes eggplant a good food for those who monitor their weight.

There are some benefits of consuming this berry:

  • Thanks to its skin, eggplant is a good source of nasunin – the antioxidant, which helps to eliminate free radicals;
  • Eggplants contain essential phyto nutrients which improve blood circulation and nourish the brain;
  • Eggplants rich in fiber, which protects the digestive tract and can help you feel full;
  • Thanks to the high fiber and low soluble carbohydrate, eggplant can be used for controlling diabetes;
  • Eggplants are high in bioflavonoids, which are known to control high blood pressure and relieve stress [2].

As usual, you just need to be careful with way of cooking this plant. It’s known as a natural “sponge”, which means that if you fry it, you will need a lot of oil and will get a really heavy meal in the end. The best solutions for eggplant is to either bake, grill or boil it. If you want to spoil yourself with eggplant out of season, you can try pickling: mash it or puree with a bit of garlic and enjoy your healthy choice on winter days!

Diana Podgurskaia

[1]http://foodfacts.mercola.com/eggplant.html

[2]http://www.care2.com/greenliving/8-great-reasons-to-eat-eggplants.html

https://cals.arizona.edu/maricopa/garden/html/pubs/0203/eggplant.html

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?dbid=22&tname=foodspice

http://tablematters.com/2012/10/10/a-history-of-eggplant-in-four-languages/

http://www.indepthinfo.com/eggplants/health-benefits.htm

 

Plant profile

He who can’t get bacon, must be content with cabbage!


Say the Danes. I say: skip the bacon no matter what and go straight for cabbage. Why? We will get to that soon, but first let’s have a look at how it all began…

Unlike our previous plant celebrities, buckwheat, apple, cinnamon and potato, cabbage is a plant that originates from Europe. Today, it’s wild ancestors can still be seen standing strong against the rough weather on cliffs across Great Britain. Humans domesticated cabbage some 2000 years ago and by the middle ages it conquered European cuisine.

Who goes bananas for cabbage today? Russians stand unchallenged on the throne of cabbage lovers with their 20 kilograms per person per year, followed by the  Belgians with 4.7 kg and the Dutch 4 with kilograms.

Which is not so surprising, for the plant has several qualities, valuable both for farmers and consumers. Firstly, cabbage is very rewarding when it comes to yields – one cabbage head can weigh up to 4 kilograms. That means a whole lot of cabbage, if you consider that you can grow up to 45000 heads per hectare. Speaking of heads, did you know that the name cabbage comes from the French word caboche, which means head?

Secondly, the plant is not demanding to cultivate. Moreover, it is perfect to grow in colder conditions (it thrives easily at 4,5 degrees Celsius) and is frost resistant. Last but not least, it stores really well over longer periods.

Thirdly, it can enrich your diet in several ways. Be it pickled, fermented or plain raw, cabbage can be a good addition to almost any meal. Why? A 100 grams of this white, green or even purple vegetable will satisfy over 20 % of your organisms demand for vitamin C, B and K. Low on fat and with only 25 kilo-calories per 100 grams, cabbage is also perfect for getting rid of those extra kilograms in a healthy fashion. And not just that. Research suggests that cabbage may even protect you from colon cancer.

Don’t get carried away with this crunchy and sour delight though. Too much cabbage can cause unease in the belly department – bloating and flatulence. Not the best qualities for social interactions, especially a date.

So, what are you waiting for? Get inspired by our recipes, chop the cabbage and get cooking. Just make sure you don’t overcook it – unless, of course, you prefer the smelly sensation.

Recipes from the office:

Written by: Aljaž Malek

Plant profile

Potato

One of the most eaten staple crop in the world (the fourth, right after rice, wheat and corn). There are several funny and interesting stories related to this plant: queens weared its blossoms in hair, people invented new ways to cook it by accident and created whole feasts consisted only from it. From century to century, the potato became more and more essential, ended up as the first vegetable to be grown in Space. But did you know that the potato could at the same time be an exciting source of vitamins and toxic?  

Potato Domestic Potato Solanum Tuberosum Flowers

 

Let’s start from the very beginning. In 1536 Spanish conquistadors conquered Peru and one of the “treasures” they brought back to Europe were potatoes. People looked with suspicion at this plant they have never seen before. Some even believed that eating potatoes could cause leprosy. Nonetheless, it took only 40 years for potatoes to spread all over Europe. Obviously, peasants found out that it’s easier to plant and cultivate this crop compared to oat and wheat.

Probably the first image which comes to your mind is a big portion of French fries. Statistics show that only in the USA two-thirds of all amount of available potatoes (115.6 pounds in 2013) were consumed in the form of French fries, potato chips and frozen (processed) products.

Potato is usually considered as unhealthy food, leading to weight gaining, diabetes and heart disease: mashed with butter, fried in boiling oil or served with sour cream. Delicious? For sure! But there are other ways of cooking it  in order to keep its nutritional value. It’s obvious that cooking potato with cheese, sour cream or as French fries is not the best way. But which is better: boiled, baked or steamed? Nutritionists say: baking causes the lowest amount of nutrients to be lost. Steaming comes next and is followed boiling. Cooking peeled potatoes leads to a significant nutrition lost, so it’s recommended to consume this vegetable with the skin.      

potato_2

Baked potato is rich in fiber (8% of daily value), vitamin C (45% of daily value), vitamin B6 (10% of daily value) and potassium (18% of daily value).

What does it mean for your health?

  • potassium helps to lower blood pressure;
  • fiber can clear cholesterol from blood;
  • vitamin C acts like an antioxidant and can support immune system;
  • vitamin B6 is crucial in maintaining neurological health, creating important brain chemicals.

It’s important to highlight that potassium and fiber can be found mostly in potatoes skin.

While having plenty of health benefits, potatoes can also be dangerous for people with diabetes and obesity. This vegetable is high in simple carbohydrates – elements which consists from only one or two sugars. Because of it’s simple chemical structure, these carbohydrates utilized by our bodies quickly and often leads to a faster rise of the blood sugar. Which means that you can easily gain weight.

potato_1

Also, it is very important not to consume sprouting or green potatoes. Green meat under the potatoes’ skin means that solanine (a toxic component, dangerous even in a small amount) is present. High level of potassium is dangerous for individuals with damaged kidney as it is unable to filter potassium from the blood, which can cause enormous harm for the whole organism.

But it’s not the reason to exclude potatoes from your diet completely. As usual you just need to keep the balance, review your habits and find some alternatives (non less delicious) for the French fries.  

Diana Podgurskaia

Plant profile

Cinnamon

cinnamon-stick-514243_1920December…Holidays, Christmas markets and smell of cinnamon embrace and follow you everywhere. Some of us can’t imagine our favourite pastry without this aromatic spice. Nowadays cinnamon is regarded as the second most popular spice in Europe[1], right after black pepper.

Like many other spices, cinnamon was as expensive as silver and could be used only by kings and nobilities several ages ago. Just like tobacco, cinnamon was considered as medicine and used to heal everything from coughing to rheumatism. But unlike tobacco consuming cinnamon really has health benefits, proved by nowadays’ evidences.

1 tablespoon of cinnamon contains (% of daily values, based on 2000 calories diet)[2]:

calories 19
Calcium 8%
Iron 4%
Dietary fiber 16%
Vitamin K 3%
Manganese 68%

Take into consideration that there is no cholesterol, fat or sugars. Exciting 68% of daily necessity in manganese. What does manganese mean for an organism? It helps to form strong bones, helps metabolize fat and carbohydrates, regulate blood sugar, it’s essential for normal brain and nerve function. More than that it’s a component of antioxidant enzyme, which helps neutralize free radicals that can damage cell membranes and DNA. Sufficient level of manganese helps to prevent diabetes, arthritis and epilepsy[3].

cinnamon-1894991_1920

What else can you get from cinnamon? Different sources point to these possible benefits:

May help lower the risk of heart disease, cancer and brain function – cinnamon is rich in flavonoids, which are highly effective in fighting these kinds of diseases.

Protects heart health – special compounds of cinnamon can fight so-called bad cholesterol, which is one of the most common risk factors of heart disease.

Fights diabetes – cinnamon is known to have anti-diabetes effect, as it can lower the level of blood sugar and can help to improve sensitivity to hormone insulin. Some studies have shown that people can experience positive effects by taking cinnamon extract[4].  

Protects brain function – antioxidant found in cinnamon can help to protect neurons, normalize neurotransmitter levels and improve motor function.

May be protective against cancer – cinnamon appears to be toxic to cancer cells, as studies say that cinnamon is a potential activator of detoxifying enzymes, protecting against further cancer growth[5].

Fights infections – thanks to cinnamon’s essential oils it can be a natural antibiotic, antimicrobial and antiviral agent.

Protects dental health – the extracts of cinnamon can fight the bacteria causing bad breath, tooth decay and oral infections. Because it removes oral bacteria, cinnamon can be used as a natural freshener.

Also, thanks to antioxidants cinnamon is good for skin health. And because of its natural sweet taste it can be used as a sugar substitute for sweets, tea and coffee.

star-anise-with-cinnamon-sticks

All these benefits are a reason for adding cinnamon to your daily diet, but it’s important to remember about the balance. Cinnamon has been found to be toxic in large amounts. If you choose to include cinnamon into your everyday diet, you shouldn’t eat more than 6 grams daily for more than 6 weeks[6].

And as a nice addition: smell of cinnamon can lift you up and put you in a better mood! So it’s definitely worth to start your day with the smell of this wonderful spice.

Diana Podgurskaia

[1]http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266069.php

[2]http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/spices-and-herbs/180/2

[3]http://foodfacts.mercola.com/cinnamon.html

[4]https://draxe.com/health-benefits-cinnamon/

[5]https://authoritynutrition.com/10-proven-benefits-of-cinnamon/

[6]http://www.organicauthority.com/health/11-health-benefits-of-cinnamon.html