Fruits and vegetables are an essential part of our diets and dishes. They add color, flavor and lots of nutrients to everything we cook. This week we will talk about Apples, Asparagus and stone fruits.
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Asparagus is one of the easiest vegetables to clean, its very nutritious, it cooks quickly and looks great on a plate. Nutritionally Asparagus contains only about 4 calories per spear and contains lots of nutrients like Vitamin C (like most vegetables) Fiber, Potassium, and a compund called Rutin that helps strengthen your capillary walls.
Asparagus is grown mostly in Washington, California and Michigan (growing up I use to pick Asparagus along the canals in southern Idaho). It takes about 3 years to grown and be harvested, but is actually best when harvested between 6 to 8 years. Don’t get confused though, the Asparagus that you buy at the store is not 3 years old, the plant it is harvested from is (or older). Kind of like an orange or apple tree, you can’t harvest fruit off of the trees until after at least a few seasons. The base Asparagus plant is actually a kinf of fern and the part you eat is known as the crown. When you see the “Asparagus crowns” in the stores we most often refer to them as the “Asparagus spears.”
One things about Asparagus you may have noticed or heard of is that it makes your urine smell peculiar. Yes, that is true. It makes the smell of urine “noticeable” because of a compound called methlymercaptan which is a sulfur-containing derivitive of an amino acid that is noticeable smelling after being digested. Not all people experience the breakdown that cause the smell, so count yourself lucky if you are one of those people.
Apples are as they say (“an apple a day keeps the doctor away”) good for your health.
Apples have been shown to help prevent some types of cancer, keep you from getting alzhiemers and help lower your LDL (bad cholestral).
Most people don’t know this but apples float (since they are about 25% air), China produces the most apples of which there are over 7500 varieties with red and golden delicious being the most popular.
Similar to Asparagus, an Apple tree won’t grow apples right away, in fact, they won’t start bearing fruit until they are at least 4 or 5 years old.
The skin is actually the healthiest part of the apple and contains more antioxidants and fiber than the rest of the fruit.
Apples are so naturally sweet they are used as a natural sweetener in many different products. So don’t be surprised to look on the label of one of your favorite drinks or sweet snacks and see apples or apple juice as an ingredient.
Avocados are the ultimate stone fruit. The basics for stone fruits are that you have to cut around that big “stone” in the middle and pull the fruit in half to remove that pit. With avocados you can just hit the pit with your knife and the pit will stick to the kife and pull out. Unfortunately peaches, plums, cherries and others require you to work a little harder. I end up just cutting these in quarters in stead of just in half (like with the avocado)to effectively get the stone out.
Stone fruits make great natural snacks and give off a fragrant smell when ripe (especially peaches). To pick a nice avocado, peach or nectarine look for bright colors, smooth skin and for the flesh to be firm, but give just a little bit as you push on it.