Category: Produce

Fearless Cooking with Nopal Cactus

Growing up in the Sonoran Desert I was surrounded by all the spiny, thorny, sharp things called cacti with names like Saguaro, Cholla or Jumping, Organ Pipe, Barrel, and Prickly Pear.

Prickly pear is one of the most prolific of all the cacti and highly adaptable. Like most cacti, once the thorns are removed, it is edible. I knew that cactus could be eaten and, with a grandmother who spent time in Mexico, it would be a natural assumption that I learned how to cook with this plant. As I cooked by her side I was not shown the secrets of how to prepare and cook either prickly pear (the fruit) or Nopal (the leaves).

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Article Roundup: Summer Produce

Summer is a great time for produce of all sorts. While the exact growing season will vary according to climate, there are fruits and vegetables available at farmers markets, grocers, and possibly in your own backyard throughout the season. Chef Johnna has looked into the history of a variety of produce, showing you where each plant originated and how it was used over the centuries.

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The Magic of Mushrooms

Mushrooms are a part of our human heritage, our collective consciousness. Ancient cultures used psilocybin, the “magic” mushroom, to open the “gates of heaven” and communicate with the gods. Fungi grows in every part of the world; in crevices, on trees, in cow poo. They’ve been used for over 3,000 years in Chinese medicine as a way to prevent cancer and heart disease and promote longevity.

Recipes for cooking mushrooms can be found as early as the 4th century A.D. in the collection “Apicus, Cooking and Dining in Imperial Rome.” Cooking techniques can be found referenced in ancient Egyptian tablets and mushroom motifs are prolific in the pre-Colombian art of the Olmec civilization of Mesoamerica

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Why Are You Crying Chef? All About Onions

Humans love onions. And onions love us. Dill is grown around the world. It is used in everything from borscht to tofu. It has interesting medicinal properties as well.

They are one of the world’s earliest domesticated crops. Nine million acres are devoted annually to growing this staple crop. They are also one of the most consumed foods in the world. Americans eat an average of 18 pounds of onions per person per year.

Why do we love them so much? They are tasty, yes. It may not be obvious when eating them, but sugar is one of the main compounds present. During the cooking process that sweetness rises to the top and creates “caramelization.”

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Don’t Overlook Celery

March is a month-long celebration of celery, so here's what you need to know about this often overlooked veggie.

Celery has been consumed by humans for a long time now. It’s that vegetable that we grab at the store, because we were taught to by our parents or grandparents, and then it lives in the crisper (the vegetable drawer) long past its expiration date (value of vitamins), until it goes limp and brown and finally gets thrown away. Why is celery purchased then ignored? Deep in our genetic bones we know that celery IS good for us. At some level we know that if we eat it, we are helping our bodies in some way.

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Cabbage, The New Super Food

It has a crunch, it plays well with many other vegetables, we eat it by the pound, for Fourth of July Picnics, and BBQ parties, but what is the story behind this humble vegetable that is usually associated with corned beef? 

Cabbage has long been cultivated by humans. We’ve spent several thousand years selectively gardening cabbages so that there are a handful of well-known varieties. Brussel sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower have been selectively bred for the tight florets they produce. Green and red cabbage provide larger heads with tight leaves. And then there’s the loose leaf cabbage known as kale.

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Sweet Potato or Yam: Which One Do You Eat?

The terms sweet potato and yam seem to be used interchangeably, but are they the same plant? The answer is no. The sweet potato comes from the Americas (Peru and Ecuador), and the yam is indigenous to Africa and Asia. Unless you are shopping in an international market, chances are what are labeled yams here in the U.S. are really sweet potatoes.

The sweet potato is indigenous to the South American continent. And like its distant cousin the potato, it originally comes from Peru.

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Winter or Summer? Choose Your Squash

Have you ever faced the produce section in the grocery store and wondered about all that squash? The different varieties, how to cook them, what they even are? And what about that pumpkin you carved a few weeks ago for Halloween? Was that actually edible?

The cooking method remains the same. Bust them open-- carefully! -- with a very sharp knife. Clean out all the seeds, chunk them up and then roast or bake them in an oven. You can then transform the squash into soups, purees, pies, and other delicious dishes for meals.

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The Great Traveling Potato

potatoes

The great potato

Whether you bake, boil, fry, saute, puree, or otherwise cook the potato, here is some information that you might not know about this starchy tuber that we love to make into french fries and potato chips.

The potato’s beginnings: The potato originated in Peru in the High Andes, and was not only a staple food for the Incans, but served medicinally as well. The varieties we know today can be traced to the Country of Chili, but all DNA testing shows proof of an origination in Peru. It is said to have been cultivated as far back as 4,000-10,000 years ago.

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